Red Mountain Vineyard - California Wine History -

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Red Mountain Wine

by Diane Schell

The Famous Red Mountain Vineyard, famous for its fine wines and brandy, was founded when Abraham Schell (1817-92) partnered with George H. Kraus (1825-68), a German viticulturist who had started planting vines in Stanislaus County, California. Kraus died shortly after and Abraham became the sole owner. He was a banker and lawyer and served as a state Viticultural Commissioner along with Agoston Harazsthy. 

Abrahams nephew Herrick Schell (my Great-Grandfather), came across the Isthmus of Panama from NY to help with the vineyards and ranch. They planted 10,000 imported vines in 1865 and blasted a long wine cave into solid rock.

Quality and purity were of the utmost importance to Abraham and Herrick in building their brand and reputation.

Red Mountain Vineyard was the biggest exporter of wine on the west coast during the mid 1800 and early 1900‘s. Later, the Gallo brothers took the Red Mountain name for one of their wines. “There was a Red Mountain winery up above Oakdale. We did not own it. They closed during Prohibition. We just used the name” (E.Gallo interview with Modesto Bee).

Thus, the famous name and reputation of Red Mountain, so carefully built up to represent ‘fine wine of superior quality’ was later used for cheap jug wine.

In 2012 we were very excited to find a family diary from 1865 (below) and opened it to a page that describes the earliest beginnings of this once great winery on the very date the partnership with Kraus was formed (Dec. 5th 1865). It describes plowing the fields with horses and ordering the vines

(see below). 

A newspaper article about Red Mountain Winery can be found here

The existing historical marker on Schell Rd can be found here.

A history of Stanislaus County, CA  and how Abraham Schell came to California click here.

What the Knights Ferry area is like today.

A GunStock Table designed in honor of Herrick R. Schell here

More below.

Development of the Vineyard and Winery

EquineWine Publishing

EquineWine Publishing

Story and images photography

© Diane Schell-Engdahl 2012

unless otherwise noted

All rights Reserved

May not be used without permission

A Big Thank You to:

Jim and Shannon of the Knights Ferry Museum,

Special Thanks to Barbara at The Oakdale Heritage Museum and Janet at the McHenry Museum in Modesto.

A very special Thank You to Joanne and Virgil Thompson and Bob Brunker Sr.

for the wonderful personal tour of the old Schell winery and wine cave.

Thanks to Glenn Burghardt and to Mike Schonhoff.

Image permission kindly granted by: Dom at Hyde Park Country Auctions, NY for 1st wine jug image. Next 2 images of 3 gal ceramic wine jug from Red Mountain Winery Jug 15.5" H, circa 1872-1892 by Brian at MidWestAuctions


The Official Red Mountain Vineyard

Our Family Brand

and Bottle with Label (below)

My Great Grand Father Herrick Schell on his stallion.

Here I’m riding Archer my horse, first time under saddle.