History

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Our History

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1860
Pleasant Valley Wine Company founded
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1873
Pleasant Valley’s Great Western Champagne wins gold medal in Vienna
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1962
The Taylor Wine Company purchases Pleasant Valley Wine Co. and goes public
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1983
The Coca-Cola Company sells The Taylor Wine Company to Seagram
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2002
Pleasant Valley Wine Company, owned by the Doyle family, purchases the historic Great Western Winery
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1867
Pleasant Valley wins first award in Europe for American sparkling wine
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1919
Prohibition begins РPleasant Valley makes sacramental sparkling wines
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1977
The Taylor Wine Company (including Pleasant Valley Wine Company) acquired by The Coca-Cola Company by merger
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1995
Mercury Aircraft acquires the Taylor and Pleasant Valley/Great Western winery facilities and leases the Great Western Winery portion to Doyle Acquisition Corporation dba Pleasant Valley Wine Company
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2013
The Pleasant Valley Wine Company purchases the Great Western and Widmer brands from Constellation Brands.
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Pleasant Valley Wine Company

The Pleasant Valley Wine Company, located near the village of Hammondsport, New York, is the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes region.

On March 15, 1860, Charles Davenport Champlin and 12 local businessmen consolidated their holdings under “Articles of Association for the Manufacture of Native Wine” and, with $10,000 capitalization, built the first winery in this region. Pleasant Valley Wine Company was designated as Bonded Winery No. 1 in its State and Federal districts.

The original winery was constructed on land whose price had soared from $10 to $100 an acre in one decade! It was built on a slope owned by Mr. Champlin overlooking Pleasant Valley, two miles south of Hammondsport. All winemaking operations were carried out by Jules and Joseph Masson, noted French-born winemakers of the time, in still-used wooden and stone structures, with adjacent cellars carved deep into the hillside. Eight of these Great Western Winery buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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During the winery’s first year of operation, 18 tons of Isabella and Catawba grapes were harvested, yielding 220 gallons of wine per ton. On August 17, 1862, the first recorded shipment, 100 gallons of wine, left the winery. Business thrived. While the Civil War brought supply and labor shortages, as well as price increases and transportation difficulties, the enterprise was sufficiently successful in 1865 to invest in champagne-producing equipment. Twenty thousand bottles of Sparkling Catawba were made that year. In 1867, this wine was awarded honorable mention at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the first American Sparkling wine to win an award in Europe. In 1873 in Vienna, the winery’s champagne was awarded first prize and its first European medal; since then the Company’s champagnes have received numerous European gold medals and other awards.

Because of the internationally recognized excellence of Pleasant Valley Champagnes, and because of the similarities of climatic and soil conditions between the area and the Champagne district of France, Pleasant Valley came to be called the “Rheims of America.” When the U.S. Postal Service opened a branch at the winery in 1870, it used the postmark, “Rheims, N.Y.,” which was used until 1945 when rural delivery took its place.

In March 1871, Mr. Champlin sent a case of champagne to his close friend, Marshall P. Wilder, who was a well-known wine connoisseur in Boston. After introducing it at a dinner party at the Parker House, Wilder declared it to be “the Great Champagne of the Western World.” The champagne was thus dubbed “Great Western.”

Shipping records of the 1860s, 70s, and 80s are filled with such prestigious accounts as S.S. Pierce, Macy’s, Park Tilford, George F. Hueblin and Brother, Palmer House of Chicago, Parker House of Boston, and individuals such as Professor Henry W. Longfellow of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pleasant Valley wines appeared on the lists of the most fashionable restaurants. They were even heartily recommended by doctors for their medicinal qualities.

On March 8, 1893, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company was registered as a New York State corporation, with the Champlins and Massons holding 205 of 400 outstanding shares of stock. Adding further excitement, on July 4, 1908, Glenn Curtiss made the first pre-announced airplane flight on the Pleasant Valley flats directly below the winery entrance.

The good news that Pleasant Valley had sold more champagne in the first six months of 1919 than in any previous year was marred on July 1 by the enactment of Prohibition. The winery was left with an inventory of 70,000 cases of champagne and substantial quantities of still wine. Yet it survived the 14 years of Prohibition on sales for sacramental and medicinal purposes.

After Repeal in 1933, the Company progressed steadily. Charles D. Champlin II, grandson of the founder and dean of American champagne makers of his time, managed the operation until his death in 1950. The family retained control of the business until 1955 when it was sold to a company run by Marne Obernauer, a businessman from New Jersey, who officially renamed the winery Pleasant Valley Division of Great Western Producers. In 1961, the winery was acquired by The Taylor Wine Company, its next-door neighbor, which was itself acquired first by The Coca-Cola Company in 1977, then Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1983, and finally Vintners International Company, Inc., in 1987. Having survived Prohibition and several ownership changes, the winery returned once again to local family control in 1995.

Present

Currently, Pleasant Valley has the capacity of over 14 million gallons at its 425,000 square foot facility in Hammondsport, NY along with 500 acres of vineyards. Along with the well known favorites, Pleasant Valley houses, bottles and stores wine for other wineries. An investment in a high-speed bottling line was added to increase production of both Pleasant Valley brands but also others in the region.

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