A Primer to Making Wine on the Rancho La Puente

At this time of year in the nineteenth century, the Los Angeles region’s vineyards were busy with activity as field laborers picked and pressed grapes, which were stored in casks for the production of wine. William Workman, who raised grapes from the 1840s, built brick wineries in the mid-1860s for making wine and brandy. Late in Workman’s life, his grandson, Francis W. Temple served as winemaker. After Workman’s death in 1876, Temple purchased the Workman House and some land, including the vineyard. He continued winemaking with some success until his early death in 1888.

An interesting document in our collection is “How to Make Wine,” a three-page primer penned by Temple during his ownership of the Homestead. He provided instructions on working with white wine, red wine, port and sweet (Angelica) wine. He also discussed using sulphur as a purifier, went into some detail about different types of barrels, and provided other information about the process.

A page from a ca. 1880s manuscript on wine making by Francis W. Temple.
A page from a ca. 1880s manuscript on wine making by Francis W. Temple.

For example, with white, Temple observed that “grapes should be washed, pressed and the juice immediately poured into pipes [barrels] . . .  Fill the pipes to within six inches of the top to allow the wine fermenting room.” Once fermentation was completed, “fill the pipes with wine as far advanced in fermentation as itself, and keep them full all the time.”

The wine, moreover, “should be changed as soon as clear which is usually about Jan[uary]. It should be changed a second time in the spring in or near May and then it is ready for use.”

The way to make red wine was “that the juice is left [in] butts or tubs one week after mashing that it may obtain its color, instead of putting it in pipes immediately.” Otherwise, he noted, “in every other aspect, however, treat it the same.”

For Angelica, or sweet wine, Temple stated that once the grapes are mashed, “put the juice in pipes, putting nearly 25% of brandy in the pipes before [the] wine.” The brandy sweetens the wine and also prevents fermentation.

Regarding the use of sulphur to purify the wine, Temple cautioned that it should never be used in a brandy barrel without steaming it first “if you do not want to appear befor[e] the judgment seat of God, [and] until you have bent your knee in humble supplication for the forgiveness of you[r] sins.”

Within a short time of Temple’s death, the viticulture industry in the region was shaken by diseases and a poor economy and it does not appear that wine was made at the Homestead much beyond 1888. In 1913, wine-making equipment was removed from the wineries when the Homestead became a slaughterhouse for pigs and packing houses for canning fruits and vegetables.

The buildings were renovated for entertainment and a garage by Francis’s brother, Walter, who owned the ranch from 1917 to 1932 and were used for entertainment and housing by later owners, including a military academy and convalescent hospital. The hospital owners, however, concerned that the structures were unstable, razed them in the early 1970s.


Thanks to Assistant Director Paul R. Spitzzeri for the write up. If anyone tries one of Francis’s recipes, he’d like a sample—just don’t forget the sulphur!

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