Thursday, February 17, 2022

Plants to Food - Disgruntled Employee & Murder led to 1st Woman Winery Owner in 19C Napa Valley

Hannah Weinberger / Photo from the St. Helena Public Library

The Wine Enthusiast tells us that Napa’s modern wine industry began in the 1960s, but viticulture and winemaking were integral to the economy before Prohibition. Women had worked growing grapes and making wine for centuries before Hannah Weinberger earned the distinction of becoming California’s first female winemaker during the 1880s.

Weinberger’s husband, John, was shot dead in March 1882. As a result, she assumed control of his winery and filled his role as director of the Bank of St. Helena. In 1889, she crossed the Atlantic to appear at the World’s Fair in Paris as the only California female vintner to win a silver medal in the wine competitions...
Little is known about Weinberger’s early life. She was from Ohio, listed as Hannah Rabbe from Cincinnati, and she married John Christian Weinberger in 1871. This is according to Mariam Hansen of the St. Helena Historical Society, who created a timeline of her life in 2016.

The Weinberger property grew to 35 acres before John was “murdered by a disgruntled employee who had been making unwanted advances to daughter Minnie,” Hansen says. An 1889 ledger from Wines and Vines of California, noted Hannah Weinberger, along with 17 other women, on their list of cellar masters and vineyardists.