The Chandon Wine Company is an abandoned winery complex in New York. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in November 2010.


History

Grape vines were introduced to the Finger Lakes region of New York in 1829 by the Rev. William Bostwick, whose father-in-law gave the young couple the vines as a gift. 1 The minister planted the Catawba and Isabella table grape vines, which had come from the Hudson River valley, in his rectory garden. As the vines matured, he donated the cuttings to his parishioners. The area quickly became the center of grape culture.

Table grapes were shipped via the Crooked (Keuka) Lake to the Erie Canal and onward to New York City. 1 By the mid-1800’s, vineyards had spread throughout the region and canal barges were transporting loads of up to 65 tons of table grapes to commercial distribution centers. It wasn’t until the 1860’s that wine grapes were grown successfully in the region due to the colder climate.

The Chandon Wine Company was established in 1865 by Clark Bell and Guy H. McMasters along Crooked Lake with a capital stock of $250,000. 1 It was the second bonded winery in the Finger Lakes region. 1 2 12 Wine grapes were planted on 225 acres the winery owned in what became the Bell and McMaster Vineyard. 1

Following the European tradition of building into a hillside for natural temperature control, a four-story Italianate styled structure built between 1865 and mid-1866 included barrel vaulted wine cellars in the basement, laboratories, and bottling facilities. A wharf, warehouse and steamboat landing were built along the lake.

The winery included a brandy production line. 3 The wine industry in its infancy distilled all wine that was not fit to drink into brandy to fortify those that were.

The Chandon Wine Company hired Charles LeBreton as the superintendent of wine making. 1 LeBreton, a native of Nantes, France, was a winemaker at Roederer Champagne Cellars in Rheims, France before coming to the United States. Under his direction, the winery developed its first champagne made from the Labrusca grapes native to New England. It was bottled under the Imperial label.

By 1870, Chandon had produced 120,000 bottles of Imperial champagne and 50,000 bottles of wine. Over 10,000 bottles of Imperial were sold within the year. 12

The winery reorganized in 1881 as the New Chandon Wine Company. 1 At the time, Jules Crance, who was born in the Champagne District of France, joined New Urbana as the chief winemaker.

Capitalizing upon Chandon’s many awards it had won at expositions and fairs, the company applied for the Gold Seal trademark and discontinued the use of the Imperial label in 1887. 1 12

The company prospered until the passage of the National Prohibition Act on January 16, 1919, which prohibited the production of alcohol. 1 12 Most wineries went out of business but New Chandon reorganized as the Gold Seal Products Company and produced sacramental wines for churches. It was later granted a permit to make champagne for the same purpose. Gold Seal also made wine for tonic medicines which were sold to Smith, Kline and French Pharmaceuticals.

Post-Prohibition

Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933. 1 In 1934, the company was again renamed to the Chandon Wine Company.

Edwin Stewart Underhill, Jr., president of the winery, recruited Charles Fournier from the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in Rheims, France to serve as Urbana’s winemaker and production manager. 1 Fournier introduced several notable French-American hybrid grape varieties, such as the European Vitis vinifera grape, and pushed for the production of champagne.

Fournier, with Russian born winemaker Alex Brailow, experimented with fermentation processes aimed at producing sparkling wines from Labrusca grapes. 1 The Charles Gournier Brut Champagne was introduced in 1943 and received a Gold Medal at the San Francisco State Fair in 1950. It was the first time that a New York state champagne received such an honor.

All of the stock in the Urbana Wine Company was sold to a group of businessmen from Buffalo and Hammondport in January 1951. 1 Fournier was made president of the company.

Fournier brought Dr. Konstantin Frank to help advance the effort to grow traditional European grapes in the Finger Lakes. 1 To do so, they brought native American rootstock from Quebec to plant and graft with the European grapes. This allowed the grapes to grow in a cooler climate and to be resistant to phylloxtera louse, a grape lice that had decimated vineyards worldwide.

In 1956, Urbana Wine was sold to a San Francisco concern headed by Louis Benoist, president of Almaden Vineyards. 12 The winery was renamed Gold Seal Vineyards in 1957 1 12 before being sold in 1958 to a New York City group headed by Paul Schlem and Arthur Brody. 12

At the time, Gold Seal was one of the largest and oldest champagne cellars in the nation. 1 The cellar had storage capacity to house three million bottles of champagne and 750,000 gallons of still wine.

Urbana Wine Company

Gold Seal was sold to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons in 1979, which continued to operate the facility under Gold Seal. 1 11 Seagram and Sons acquired Taylor Winery from the Coca-Cola Company in September 1983. 11

Both Gold Seal and Taylor were operating well under capacity, which led the decision by Seagram and Sons to shutter the Gold Seal Winery operations on May 12, 1984. 11 The company retained the label and vineyards but moved the operations to Taylor Winery.

Post-Closure

In October 2012, owners Linda and John Giglio announced plans to convert the abandoned Gold Seal Winery into a resort. 10 The proposal included converting the structures into shops, restaurants and lodging, with room for a spa and entertainment. A Provence-styled villa would also be added independently.

The couple had been looking for a location to turn into a meditation center and came across the former winery, then assessed at $340,000. 10 The costs of the acquisition were recouped by selling casks and barrels found on the premises.


Buildings

The Chandon Wine Company erected a four-story, 54×110-foot Italianate style building in June 1865 that was used for the production and storage of wine. Designed and built by Robert Green Snow, the building featured rubble with cut stone quoins, sill and lintels and cost $35,000 to complete. The basement featured two cellars, each 100×22-feet.

Later in the 19th century, the building was used for champagne tierage and wine barrel storage. 2

Also constructed in June 1865 was the Brandy Building, so named as it was for the production of brandy to fortify wines. 3 Designed and built by Robert Green Snow with cut stone arches and stepped parapeted gables and measuring 24×30 feet, the structure was enlarged by another 48-feet in 1892. The Brandy Building was later used as a carpenter shop.

As the winery boomed, more room was needed for the tierage of aging champagne and additional cooperage for still wines. 4

Designed and built by Robert Green Snow in November 1884, a four-story addition was constructed to the south of the original circa 1865 building. 5 Another four-story annex, also designed by Robert Green Snow, was erected to the south of the circa 1865 building in 1887. 4

The circa 1884 and 1887 buildings included a champagne fusing room for the fermentation of champagne. 1 A second story porch was added in 1915 4 that served as a tasting room. 1 A portion of the third floor was converted into offices in the 1930’s. 4

A three-story vat building, to store bulk still wines, was designed and built by Robert Green Snow in 1890. 6

Another addition was designed and constructed from November 12, 1902 to August 14, 1903 by Robert L. Snow, the son of Robert Green Snow. 7 The Second Empire styled building 1 served for the storage of still wines and office space, 7 and included a tasting porch. 1 The building became exclusively office space in the 1970’s. 7

The winery built a two-story still wine storage building in 1909 8 and a three-story still wine storage building in 1912. The circa 1912 annex, used for champagne storage and bottle washing, 1 received a covered loading dock in the 1950’s.

A steel frame building was added in 1980 for the bulk storage of wines, followed by the erection of another loading dock. 1

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