TN: 1875 Angelica Port (old California rarity) tasted

1875 ANGELICA PORT (OLD CALIFORNIA RARITY) TASTED - Reposado Restaurant, Palo Alto, CA (1/27/2010)

A group of us decided to go in on this California rarity when it was offered by BP Wine a couple weeks back. One of us, George Kautzman, had already tried a bottle of the same stuff recently with his buddy Rod Berglund, of Swan Vineyards, and turned us on to the BP offering. When the bottle arrived, a week later, Mischa Travers, who made the purchase for the group, reported that the fill on the oversize bottle–900 or 1000 ml?-- was pretty impressive, but that the bottle had leaked a bit in shipment and the top of the cork was wet (there was no capsule, just the remnants of what looked like it might have been a wax seal). He also reported that the stuff that leaked smelled good and appeared not to be oxidized. We decided we should convene as soon as possible to check this out, rather than risk further air damage that might be occurring, signaled by the leak. The soonest a large portion of us could get together, along with a few other invited guests, was last night, so we popped it then, and George was in attendance to compare it to the other bottle he’d sampled. According to George, this bottle had a little more VA and a sharpness on the nose that he didn’t get on the other bottle. Nonetheless, he and the rest of us enjoyed this little piece of California history very much.

For those who haven’t heard of Angelica, it’s the name of sweet wines made in California from the Mission grape, now established by DNA matching to have been the same as a Spanish variety known as Listan Prieto. Until about 1850, these were the only grapes planted in California. Angelica was the fortified wine produced with these grapes. I’d only tried a couple of relatively young–1970s–examples of Angelica in the past, thanks to George.

Prior to opening the Angelica, we sampled some lovely mature Burgundies. I’ll report about those separately.

George pictured left, then Mischa, Richard, Jill and Mark

  • 1875 Cucamonga Vineyard Angelica Wine Isaias W. Hellman Private Stock - USA, California, South Coast, Cucamonga Valley
    Bricked medium cranberry red color with clear meniscus; fascinating, VA, coffee liqueur, chocolate, raisinette nose; tasty, rich, chocolate, orange, raspberry, coffee liqueur, raspberry syrup palate with good acidity; long finish (bottled from wood in 1921; reminiscent of both a mature Port, but with greater color – no doubt due to the 46 years in wood before bottling – and a mid-1800s vintage Madeira Bastardo, i.e., vintage Madeira from a red grape, with the acidity of a Terrantez or Verdelho) (97 pts.)

Extra large Angelica bottle, compared to normal size Burgundy bottle

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I imagine Tota is jealous he missed this bottle.

Fascinating! Thanks for posting.

I’m curious – when do you think it was labeled? The vineyard designation suggests recent decades, no?

That’s a good question. It’s hard to say exactly when it might have been labeled. The Isaias W. Hellman whose name is on the label, together with the words “Private Stock,” was L.A.'s first banker, a philanthropist, and a founder of USC. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on him: Isaias W. Hellman - Wikipedia" onclick=";return false; He died in 1920, and the label indicates the wine was bottled in 1921, perhaps as part of the division of his estate that year. The label might well have been put on when it was bottled. I know George and/or Rod, as well as Mischa, tried to do some research on this bottling but haven’t been able to find out much more about it.

The Cucamonga Vineyard Co. apparently goes back to at least 1902, and lists the existence of several documents relating to the producer, including a “1977 evaluation of 1875 Angelica.” (During Prohibition, the producer changed their name to California Medicinal Wine Company.) A genealogy site,, has this entry about Cucamonga Vineyard:
“Cucamonga Vineyard consists of about 160 acres of vines that for some years have been in full bearing. It contained in 1871 some 150,000 vines. A large [sic] by the old vineyard company, and by new settlers, many of whom are planting the raisin grape. The soil is quite free from alkali. The vineyard, with the buildings and apparatus appertaining thereto, is owned by Los Angeles capitalists. Within a few months, in 1883, applications were made to cover all the public lands in the vicinity-some 4,000 acres. The " center " of the settlement, named Cucamonga, is about two miles north of North Cucamonga, which is on the line of the Santa Fe Railway.”

At any rate, since Cucamonga Vineyard was a well established entity by 1921, I think the label could either have been printed in 1921 when the wine was bottled, or any time within the next few decades after that.

BTW, I see that K&L is currently offering another bottle of this wine for $400. (Our bottle cost substantially less than that.) Here’s the blurb from their website: “Southern California pioneer and financier Isaias Hellman had a nose for wine. One of the leading investor’s in Alhambra’s San Gabriel Wine Company in the late-1800s, Hellman was also said to have been the owner of Cucamonga Vineyards, the source of this 1875 Port.”

Yes, I am.

I have some younger (50s and 60s…1950s and 1960s) Angelica in the cellar and bottle of 1875 California “Port” from Louis Lewin & Co (not Hellman). Looking forward to opening it soon. It is labeled “Port” and not “Angelica” though I suspect it is the same wine.


Fascinating history lesson, great tasting note and story. Cheers.

Hi Frank!

There were several members of our group of “regulars” who were unable to make it to this tasting. I have every confidence that we will somehow, sometime, score another bottle of this magical elixir. If that happens, I’ll try to petition the group to allow you into our “sanctum sanctorum” to experience this baby with us . . .


Just checked, turns out that was a 940ml bottle at a normal fill level. Strange stuff.

Oh yes, the wine was very interesting too. Showed relatively young, probably could have passed for something in the 40s-60s age range. For everyone out there that has cases of this in their cellars, no rush to drink it, it’ll age another 25-50 years without breaking a sweat.

Tremendous! Thanks for posting.

According to Charles Sullivan’s Companion to California wine, the Cucamonga Vineyard Co. was also known as the Padre Vineyard Co. and dates back to the 1870s. Also, the Cucamonga area was planted to the Mission grape in the 1830s. Madeira-like wines were first made there in the 1850s. Large-scale planting began in 1901, and by 1915 there were 15,000 acres planted. Predominantly fortified wines.

There’s a mention in “The California Wine Industry, 1830-1895” regarding Eisen (Fresno) in 1885: “Further south, the Cucamonga ranch, with a capacity of 130,000 gallons of wine, was competing with Eisen for the sweet wine market of California and the United States.” (This is a reference to a different winery in the area.)

Frank - this book noted the styles of sweet wines produced by Eisen as port, malaga, tokay, angelica and muscatel.

George, count me in!

Wes, thanks…so my bottle is probably a different wine. No idea if it will still be good, but it should be fun to try.


There’s a lot of gray in the definition of those terms, but “Angelica” was generally a blanc de noir of Mission fortified mid-fermentation. The term “white port” was also used, and often the same thing.

A “port” from 1875 was almost assuredly made from Zinfandel… From what I see, that’s (1870s) when CA ports appeared and when it was discovered Zin could make a pretty good fortified wine. It doesn’t appear the best of these were on the same level as the best Angelicas.

Couldn’t find anything on Lewin. (But the one book doesn’t include producers in the index!) Any more information on the bottle?

I think I have a picture of the bottle and label somewhere. I’ll try to post it later.


I expect that bottle capacity would be 946 ml, otherwise known as 1 quart.

Sweet! I’m so glad I got to read the tasting notes so soon after this bottle left us. I was SOOO tempted to buy this for myself. A wonderful piece of history. Glad it showed so well. Thanks for the notes!


Sounds like an ideal quantity for a bottle of wine. Curse that damn metric system!


Thanks for the great additional info.
I was wishing you’d been able to be there for the tasting. If we can snag another one, you’ll have to open it with us.