Contra Costa County Wine Heritage

In efforts to help keep the “Advanced Search” button from overload, I would like there to be a thread devoted to the unique winemaking and grape-growing history of Contra Costa County.

Personally, the Antioch and Oakley area holds immense appeal. Many vineyards are ancient, own-rooted, and dry-farmed. The Delta winds, warm days, and deep sandy soils yield wines with rich fruit flavors, fine-grained tannins, and fresh acidity.

Please share your experiences with Contra Costa wines, history, and trivia!

Ancient Carignane Vines.jpg
*** EDIT ***


· James Kennedy’s: “Oakley and Antioch Vineyards Map”
April 6, 2020

· Thread Post: “Vineyard Directory”
February 7, 2017

· Thread Post: “Old Contra Costa Parcel Maps”
Nov 20, 2021

Maps & Records Information:
UC Berkeley Library
GeoData Repository

Search Results: “Contra Costa County, CA”

County of Contra Costa
Assessor’s Office

Assessor Maps & Property Information:

· CCMap Interactive Tool

· ParcelQuest Lite

Contra Costa County
Dept of Conservation and Development

Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections (CORE) Department website:

· Birth-Death Records

· Marriage Records

An older, fascinating article that still echoes the vulnerability of vineyards of a certain age:

East Bay Times
“Oakley’s Disappearing Vineyards Showcase Past, Point to Future”
by Hannah Dreier
March 22, 2010 (updated August 15, 2016)

"…Contra Costa County has lost two-thirds of its vines in the past 100 years, and Lucchesi estimates that 50 percent of Oakley’s vineyards have been uprooted since the 1980s.

"Money talks, and these farmers are just going nuts,’ said Linda Ghilarducci, a Liberty High School teacher who owns 23 acres of vines in town.

"Joe Dewart [Duarte], 71, sold his vineyard to developers in the early 1990s and used the proceeds to buy a local shopping center. He passes the homes that stand on his former land every day and describes the sale as bittersweet.

"…The few remaining farmers seem to hope their children find a more stable profession.

“‘When my father saw (development) coming, he thought we would go to college,’ Lucchesi recalled. ‘They wanted us to do something else because it’s hard to make a living farming.’

“Still, some grape growers have no intention of leaving the area if they can help it…”


On a recent Facebook/Instagram post, someone shared with the Internet that the eBART rail lines are expected to threaten some of Antioch and Oakley’s old vineyards. The City of Oakley development/current projects webpage has a phrase inserted multiple times in building plans to the effect that all heritage agricultural sites will be preserved to the best of the City’s ability in hopes of honoring the community’s history.

Of course, this can be ignored when convenient, but I am baffled by the prior efforts (described below) that were expended to save old vineyards IF, moving forward, other historically significant vineyards are to be steamrolled…

Extreme and Not-So-Extreme Efforts to Save CoCo Vineyards:

Drew, you have come out next year as HVS is doing CoCo.
In other news the '14 Turley Duarte is a winner!

1 Like

Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company alerted me to a recent SF Chronicle profile of the “Evangelho Vineyard” and its namesake, Mr Frank Evangelho:

Frank Evangelho SF Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
“In Contra Costa County, a Vineyard That Defies All Odds”
by Esther Mobley
June 23, 2016

Edit: The following link includes the author’s Tasting Notes of several producers’ “Evangelho Vineyard” wines:

San Francisco Chronicle
“Tasting Notes: The Wines of the Evangelho Vineyard”
by Esther Mobley
June 23, 2016

I was doing some “research” on eastern Contra Costa County’s grapegrowing history and found a book mentioning a gentleman named Joseph Ruckstuhl.

In the early 20th Century, Joseph Ruckstuhl owned one of the largest vineyards in the area. This property was located North of “Old Highway 4” and East of Bridgehead Road. The book states that the site was eventually sold to the DuPont Company.

Cline Family Cellars owns the surviving old-vine plantings surrounding Oakley’s old DuPont facility (“Big Break Vineyard” & “Bridgehead Vineyard”).

However, I presumed that Old Highway 4 referred to Oakley Road, which would indicate that the “Ruckstuhl Vineyard” occupied what now is the “Continente Vineyard”, the vineyards of the DuPont site, and/or other parcels of century-old vines.

Does anyone know the truth of this matter?

Can anyone tell me where “Old Highway 4” runs?

*** EDIT ***

I found some additional information on the Ruckstuhl family’s property:

Google Books
Images of America: Antioch

Antioch Historical Society
C. Bohakel, P. Hiebert, E. Rimbault, & C.A. Davis
Acadia Publishing, 2005

Internet Archive
Pacific Wine & Spirit Review
, Vol 51
Nov. 30, 1908 - Oct. 31, 1909


According to a 1908/1909 copy of the Pacific Wine & Spirit Review, Joseph Ruckstuhl of Oakley harvested 80 tons of grapes.

In a follow-up thread post, more details are shared about late 19th Century grape-growing in Antioch and Oakley. Parcels owned by the Ruckstuhl, Viero, and Trembath families are identified on an 1892 map detail of eastern Antioch/western Oakley.

California Revealed
Collection: “Contra Costa County Historical Society”
“Contra Costa County Tax Assessor’s Maps”
All Parcel Maps:
“Contra Costa County (Calif.). Assessor’s Deputies”

Antioch/Oakley Maps

*** EDIT ***

The December, 2020, City of Oakley’s plan for construction of the Logistics Development, just to the South of Big Break Regional Shoreline, includes the December 12, 2018, Job #1073-010, legal description of several historic land parcels in NW Oakley. Included are the “Ruckstuhl Parcel”, the “Miller Parcel”, the “Biancalana Parcel”, etc:

“Exhibit A-1 - Legal Description of the Entire Property: Lands of Chemours Company FC, LLC, Document No. 2015-0016164, Oakley, California”
(PDF download)

Contra Costa County Historical Society website:

Antioch Historical Museum website:

Contra Costa Interactive Map website:

Antioch Prospector website
Antioch Interactive Map

University of Texas at Austin
GeoData Library
Contra Costa County Maps

Note: A book exploring Oakley’s recent history was published by Carol Ann Jensen of the East Contra Costa Historical Society & Museum in Knightsen.

Google Books
Oakley Through Time
by Carol Ann Jensen
Published by America Through Time, 2019
112 pages

My dad is an Antioch native and my great grandparents lived in this area. I believe Old Hwy 4 was what is now Main Street running east of Hwy 160. That would have run through Oakley and down into Brentwood.

Also, a friend I grew up with lived at the intersection of Oakley Rd and Neroly, which is covered in old Zin looking vines.

Nowadays, there’s vineyards all through there, not sure what’s what though.

Thanks, Eric! [cheers.gif]

Looking back at my notes, I think you hit the nail on the head:

“Old Highway 4” = Main Street

Therefore, “Ruckstuhl Vineyards” = Cline Cellars’ properties (“Bridgehead” and/or “Big Break”)

Alan Lucchesi of Mule Head Growers manages the Cline Cellars’ Contra Costa vineyards nowadays, as well as many other Oakley plantings.

Oakley’s DuPont Plant website: “History”

The old DuPont facility was “cleaned up”, meaning that none of the surrounding old vineyards that produce the Cline red wines should make you glow in the dark. :wink:

*** EDIT ***

As the former DuPont facility has been demolished and property ownership has changed, I wanted to preserve its history.

“The History of the Chemours Oakley Site”
"In 1955, DuPont purchased over 500 acres of land along Bridgehead Road (in what was then considered part of the City of Antioch) in Contra Costa County California. The property was bordered by the San Joaquin River to the north, Burlington Northern railroad tracks to the south, Big Break Road and the Big Break Marina to the east, and Highway 160 to the west.

"DuPont operated a manufacturing plant on the site from 1956 to 1997. At the height of the facility’s operations, DuPont employed nearly 600 people. The facility was originally built to make the gasoline “anti-knock” agent tetraethyl lead; however, DuPont began manufacturing refrigeration cooling compounds called Freon® shortly after the facility began operation. In 1963, DuPont expanded its operations again to include the production of titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in a variety of household products.

“DuPont stopped all production activities at the former manufacturing facility in 1998 and demolished many of the buildings in 1999. In October 2013, DuPont announced that it was going to separate its Performance Chemicals segment from its other businesses. On July 1, 2015, all remedial obligations for the site were transferred to Chemours. Chemours is working with the DTSC to remediate the site with the intent of returning the site to productive use that will benefit the Oakley community. Three parcels (the Western Development Area, Eastern Development Area, and Focus Area [FA] 1) have already been released for unrestricted development. Soil remediation in the portion of the site referred to as FA3, is complete.”

East Bay Times
“Oakley: Entire 348-acre DuPont Property to be Sold to Industrial Developer”
_by Aaron Davis
October 11, 2016

Local News Matters
“Oakley Breaks Ground on ‘Job Magnet’ Logistics Center”

by Sam Richards, Bay City News Foundation
January 31, 2020

The Press
“Complex Coming to DuPont Site in Oakley”

by Kyle Szymanski
January 2, 2020

Chemours Oakley (DuPont) Site website:

Here are a few online resources I have found on Contra Costa County, with special attention to the Antioch/Oakley area:

Romick in Oakley blog
“Saving Oakley’s Heritage”
March 31, 2011

The “Oakley Vines” section of this blog includes the successful transplantation of old Alicante Bouschet vines from one site to another!

History of Contra Costa County, California; with Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified with its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present

The Ruckstuhl name does not appear anywhere in the above text, but the Continente and Dal Porto names do.

by Marti Aiello
Arcadia Publishing, 2004 (128 pages)

The Continente family is mentioned in the above photo-history of Pittsburg, CA.

Co-CoFermented blog
May 1, 2010 entry

This valuable blog’s early posts are predominantly involved with the locating of famous, old vine sites around Oakley.

Oakley Chamber of Commerce
“History of Oakley”

Antioch Prospector
GIS Map Tool for the City of Antioch

City of Oakley’s Dept Planning & Zoning: Development Maps and Lists

Big Break Oakley EOI Site

Oakley DuPont Site

Articles on East Contra Costa Vineyards & Wines:

Mercury News
“Oakley Takes Steps to Preserve Its ‘Ancient Vines’ Vineyards”
June 26, 2012

Mercury News
“Study to Help Oakley Leaders Balance Growth, Ag Preservation”
June 2, 2014

Mercury News
“Oakley Steps into Debate Over Saving Old Vines Versus Habitat Restoration”
January 31, 2014

Mercury News
“Photo Book Preserves History of Ancient Vines”
November 16, 2011

Mercury News
“Oakley Finds New Home for Century-Old Grapevines”
February 22, 2011

Mercury News
“Oakley Considers Program to Preserve Agricultural Land”
October 26, 2010

East Bay Times
“Oakley’s Disappearing Vineyards Showcase Past, Point to Future”
March 22, 2010

East Bay Times
“Family Wants to Promote Oakley Vineyards”
April 22, 2008

SF Gate
“Growth By the Glass In Oakley: Vineyard Revival Emerging Amid Stores, Subdivisions”
August 15, 1997

SF Gate
“Where the Heck is OAKLEY? In Contra Costa County, and Few Know That Some of California’s Best Wineries Have Been Buying Grapes Here for Decades”
May 22, 2003

Other County Departments & Online Tools:

County of Contra Costa website
Document Center (includes annual Ag Reports):

County of Contra Costa website
County Home: Search

Contra Costa County Clerk Recorder site
Fictitious Business Name:

Contra Costa County Clerk Recorder site
Record Index Search:
(Records from 1/1/1986 to present date are available)

Contra Costa County Conservation & Development
Property & Zoning Research (Laserfiche):

Contra Costa County Conservation & Development FrameFinder:

“Web map application provided by UC Santa Barbara (USSB) Map Library. Search for and download for free more than 400,000 individual aerial photographs online from 1926 to present day.”

Contra Costa County Public Works Dept

  • Recorded Maps (Subdivisions, Minor Subdivisions, Records of Survey and Corner Records)
  • Assessor Parcel Books which are annotated with additional map references
  • Archived Assessor Parcel Books which include superseded pages

Thanks Drew, great article–and you know my proclivity for the Mouvedre from that site :wink:

In this 2015 Food & Wine article, Ray Isle provides a brief exploration of at-risk Old Vine Vineyards - including the elusive “Salvador Vineyard”:

“Are vineyards just farmland, or are they cultural treasures? F&W’s Ray Isle goes inside the fight to save some of California’s oldest grapevines from the bulldozer.”

Food & Wine
“The Battle for America’s Oldest Vines”

by Ray Isle
March 31, 2015

"…The Salvador vines were planted by Portuguese immigrants in the late 1800s, like most of the old vineyards in Contra Costa County, a once-rural area that is now an East Bay commuter suburb. The soil they grow in is sandy, the texture of dunes; the stumpy, gray, knotted vines push their roots down through it, 40 feet or more, in order to produce tiny bunches of intensely flavorful grapes. Passalacqua uses those grapes for the Turley ‘Salvador Vineyard’ Zinfandel, a fragrant red wine with a slightly feral spiciness that makes it unlike any other Zinfandel I’ve run into.

"…For [Tegan Passalacqua], vineyards like Salvador aren’t merely old but historic; their value extends far beyond the per-ton cost of their grapes. ‘They remind me that what we do is agri-culture,’ he says, ‘instead of agri-business.’

"…The reason these old vineyards were destroyed is, of course, economic.

"When a vine is around 20 to 25 years old, the amount of grapes it produces starts decreasing. By the time it hits 80 or 100, its crop will be very meager indeed, and if you’re a farmer getting paid by the ton for your fruit, that’s a problem. Also, California’s extremely old vineyards are almost always planted with varieties that pay less in the first place.

“…The Historic Vineyard Society’s long-term plan is to create tax breaks that would give farmers a financial incentive for keeping old vines in the ground, but currently, the group is working mainly to raise public awareness, partly through events such as dinners and vineyard tours and also by political lobbying…”.

Historic Vineyard Society website:

These are all from the “Pato Vineyard” (Paw-toe) in Oakley. The images were originally posted in Facebook by MTP of Bedrock Wine Company, which has a 10-20 year lease on the property:

Neyers also makes a great 100% Mourvèdre and 100% carignane from this vineyard. It’s such a great site!

Thanks for mentioning these wines, Kevin!

I bought a 3-pack from Neyers Vineyards in December:

  • 1 x “Evangelho Vineyard” Carignan
  • 1 x “Evangelho Vineyard” Mourvedre
  • 1 x “Sage Canyon” Red Wine

Most tasting notes on Cellar Tracker encourage me to hold on to the bottles for a few years prior to drinking.

Neyers Vineyards website:

The “Evangelho Vineyard” is located in northeast Antioch, with railroad tracks and PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station - formerly Contra Costa Unit 8 Power Project - to the North, and East 18th Street to the South.

California Public Utilities Commission PG&E 1998 Divestiture Plan
Map of NE Antioch Land Use:

Jancis Robinson website
Wine Writing Competition 2021
“Evangelho: The Vineyard at the End of the World”
by Chris Howard
August 30, 2021

Oakley Road Vineyard:

Thanks for the picture, Larry!! :slight_smile:

I am curious about the development along Carpenter Road in Oakley. A random comment on the Romick blog leads me to believe that this site was once a vineyard in Oakley.

Does anyone have any information about the location? Can you confirm that it was a vineyard?

Cool thread Drew, I’m pretty damn stoked to get my first Bedrock Evangelho Heritage this fall.

I think the region suffers from neglect (particularly from consumers, but apparently from some growers, as well).

The Evangelho Vineyard itself is an incredible site, and the wines I have enjoyed from different producers reveal a broad range of styles across the flavor spectrum. The Dirty and Rowdy and the Bedrock vineyard-designates are special stuff!

Cline Cellars’ “Small Berry” Mourvèdre is sourced from a section of the “Big Break Vineyard” in northern Oakley, East of the now-defunct DuPont facility.

I found the old “Cline Times” archived website from the 1990’s. The Tech Notes for many vintages of Cline bottlings are listed therein.

Below are notes for the “Small Berry” vineyard Mourvèdre:

"VINEYARDS: The ‘Small Berry Vineyard’ is a small 9-acre block that has consistently produced one of our most complex and concentrated Mourvèdres. Always a major component of our previous ‘Reserve’ Mourvèdre bottlings, this vineyard-designated wine exemplifies the unique characters of the variety while showcasing the elegant flavors that are contributed by the phylloxera-resistant sandy soils, described as our singular Oakley terrior. The vines in this block are 100-plus-years-old and were originally planted on their own roots, which makes this one of California’s most historic vineyards.

Cline Cellars has chosen to dry-farm these ancient, head-pruned vines in the ‘Small Berry Vineyard’, continuing a practice employed by the Italian and Portuguese immigrants that planted this vineyard well before the turn of the century.”

Cline Cellars 1999 “Small Berry” Mourvèdre: Tasting Notes link

Image: “Big Break Parcel Map”

Here is what the old Cline Cellars website says about the “Big Break Vineyard” itself:

"VINEYARDS: The ‘Big Break Vineyard’, named for Big Break Road which runs adjacent to the block, has traditionally produced one of our most powerful and individual lots of Zinfandel. An early ripener, ‘Big Break’ Zinfandel is year in and out among the first lots of grapes we pick; 1995 was no exception.

“The combination of extremely sandy, well-drained soils; dry-farming; century old, head-trained vines and the unique band of cooling air from the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers that favors Oakley’s best vineyard sites create a synergy of elements that is ideal for ripening Zinfandel and expressing the full character of the fruit.”

Cline Cellars 1995 “Big Break Vineyard” Zinfandel: Tasting Notes link

Cline Family Cellars website:

Just FYI.