Cedar Knoll Estate History: Newly Discovered Revelations About Henry & Peter Hagen

12/3/2015 7:13:25 AM

AS PART OF the Palmaz Family’s unceasing dedication to historical and archaeological research and preservation of the Cedar Knoll estate, we recently came across an unpublished academic manuscript from 1965, A History of the Napa Viticultural District, by Ernest P. Peninou.

Peninou, who died in 2002, was a notable midcentury viticulturalist and winemaker (at Madrone, Almaden and Fountain Grove Vineyards) who wrote and co-wrote several related works: the 450-copy limited edition A Directory of California Wine Growers and Wine Makers in 1860 With Biographical and Historical Notes and Index (with Sidney S. Greenleaf, Tamalpais Press, 1967); A History of the Orleans Hill Vineyard & Winery of Arpad Haraszthy & Company (Winters Express, 1983); and A History of the Sonoma Viticultural District (Nomis Press, 1998).

In Napa Viticultural District, Peninou wrote about Cedar Knoll — which is now, of course, the Palmaz Vineyards Estate — and his work offers several new insights about the property’s history. He alludes to the likelihood, for example, that the estate’s founding owner, William Woodward, was the one who named the property Cedar Knoll; it had previously been accepted that Hagen had named it, though Peninou is ambiguous.

His manuscript also shed light on the involvement in Cedar Knoll Vineyards, winery and distillery of Hagen’s brother, Peter. We previously knew only that Peter and Henry had owned a cigar business in San Francisco — though where specifically, and what the business did, were heretofore unknown — but the fact that the brothers were partners in the wine-and-spirits business until Peter’s untimely demise was entirely new to us. There are plenty of other illuminating tidbits, too; here’s a portion of the original text:

“North of the city of Napa, on the east side of the Napa River and east of the present Silverado Trail, some fine vineyards began to spring up in the 1870s. Two miles north of town, Hagen Road runs east from the Silverado Trail into hilly country. The road was named for Henry Hagen, a German from Mannheim who arrived in California in 1852. Hagen settled in San Francisco and became the owner of a cigar and tobacco shop at the corner of Pine and Montgomery streets.

After selling the shop, he went to work in the wine cellars of his brother-in-law, Charles Kohler. Having gained this exposure to wine, in 1877 Hagen and his brother Peter purchased from William Woodward the 70-acre Cedar Knoll vineyard and winery at the base of a steep mountain slope about three miles up Hagen Road. In 1879 the Hagen Bros. made 15,000 gallons of wine.

By 1881 Henry had expanded the vineyard to 120 acres and come into sole ownership, for Peter had died and he had purchased his brother’s interest from the latter’s widow. Having learned the art of winemaking from Charles Kohler, and using grapes from the superior varieties he had planted on rolling ground, Hagan produced some notable wines. His fermenting house and the two storage cellars dug into the hillside had a capacity of 100,000 gallons, and he had also a sherry house and a distillery.

He sold his products mainly through his old employer, and it was the latter’s nephew Hans Kohler who was named administrator of the estate after Hagan’s death in 1895. Hagen was a bachelor, but he was survived by a number of close relatives who attempted to continue to operate under the name Estate Winery. They were soon, however, in financial difficulties and sold out to Ferdinand E. Hestal, a wealthy San Francisco real estate broker.”