The sparkling wines of California rival the best French Champagnes today, but their place at our tables came about through careful craftsmanship that began more than a century ago. The predecessor of today’s California bubbly was Eclipse Champagne, the first commercially successful California sparkling wine, produced by Arpad Haraszthy in the mid- to late nineteenth century. In A Toast to Eclipse
, Brian McGinty offers a definitive history of the wine, exploring California’s winemaking past and two of the people who put the state’s varietal wines on the map: Arpad and his father Agoston Haraszthy, the legendary “father of California viticulture.”
Inspired by his father’s dream of making California one of the world’s great viticultural regions, Arpad Haraszthy (1840–1900) pursued that goal at a time when the best grapes for making California wine had yet to be discovered, when the best locations for vineyards had not yet been established, and when the public could hardly believe that good wine could be made in a country overrun with gold miners and desperados. As a young man, Arpad spent two years in the Champagne country of northeastern France, studying the classic methods of French sparkling wine manufacture, before bringing his knowledge home to California.
As McGinty shows, the story of the award-winning wine Haraszthy created is also the story of San Francisco during its heyday as the largest, most dynamic city in the American West. McGinty reveals new information about California varietals and winemaking districts, and probes the controversy about whether Agoston Haraszthy introduced the Zinfandel grape to the Golden State. Aficionados of wine and of California history will find this narrative insightful and refreshing, and all readers will gain an appreciation for Arpad Haraszthy, Eclipse, and the delicate process of making a wine sparkle.