UC Davis Wine Historian to Tell Wine’s Story Through Vintage Labels

Part of Exhibit at California Historical Society

A label for Jean Bart Pink Champagne
Labels like this will be featured in a March 15 presentation on the history of California wine. (California Historical Society)
Exquisite sherry wine label
      From the California Historical Society

UC Davis wine historian James Lapsley will use vintage wine labels to share the colorful history of California wine at a public event at the California Historical Society in San Francisco on March 15.

His talk — illustrated by 20 vintage labels from the collections of the historical society and the UC Davis Library — is featured during the historical society’s exhibit Vintage: Wine, Beer, and Spirits Labels from the Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing, continuing through April 16.

​Lapsley, an internationally known author and winemaker, will tell the story of how California wine — and its place in our lives — have been transformed. His presentation will trace its history from the days when the Gold Rush drove a new thirst for domestic wine, to its rebirth following Prohibition, to today’s world of seemingly endless consumer choice.

Stony Hill wine label
From the collections of the UC Davis Library

Attendees will be able to explore the historical society’s exhibit featuring hundreds of wine, beer, and spirits labels as well as ephemera and stock label catalogue books from the now-forgotten Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company of San Francisco.

The exhibit includes an interactive display of Label This, a web application through which the UC Davis Library is inviting the public to help transcribe historic wine labels.

Wine will be poured by winemaker Chris Kajani of Bouchaine Vineyards, a member of the UC Davis Alumni Wine Program.

Logo for California Historical Society

More about Vintage

Designed during the terrible privation and unrest of the Great Depression, Lehmann’s labels graced hundreds of thousands of bottles of mass manufactured, highly alcoholic wines and liquors, invoking deliciously unrealistic fantasies of peace, plenty and the high-class life. Marrying design with consumer ideology, the Lehmann labels represent a forgotten high point of American commercial art.

More about Label This

The web app is designed to crowdsource the transcription of more than 5,000 historic wine labels from the UC Davis Library’s collections and create a searchable database so the labels are more accessible to wine historians, researchers and wine lovers everywhere.

The labels were collected by Maynard Amerine, a former UC Davis professor of viticulture and enology who is generally considered to be the driving force behind the post-Prohibition wine industry in California. The labels date from the late 1800s to the 1950s and include both historic wineries still in operation today and others that no longer exist.

Media Resources

Jason Herrington, California Historical Society, 415-357-1848 ext 209, jherrington@calhist.org

Jessica Nusbaum, UC Davis Library, 530-752-4145, jlnusbaum@ucdavis.edu

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

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University Society, Arts & Culture