Behind the Bottle
The last of its kind
"I've got one of the last vineyards left in Antioch." Frank stands as the final descendant among the Portuguese farmers who gathered on the sandy shores of Contra Costa County during the late 1800s, finding echoes of their homeland. Back then, the region boasted dozens, perhaps hundreds, of vineyards, all established by Portuguese hands. In the 1930s, Frank's father secured a plot for the Evangelho family, tending to it until 1963, when Frank assumed the mantle. As San Francisco's urban expansion encroached upon Contra Costa County, these heritage vineyards dwindled. Yet, Frank stood firm, rejecting offers from developers, and facing off against the city and power companies, all to safeguard what he believes is one of California's last surviving heritage sites.
"We're talking about some of California's only heritage vineyards.
This is our state's history." - Frank Evangelho
Spread across the Evangelho's 36 acres, ancient vines stand head-trained, resembling small bushes, a stark contrast to the meticulously trellised rows of modern vineyards. Within Frank Evangelho's sandy pastures thrive Mataro, Zinfandel, "two Muscat vines," and Carignane vines.
On top of California's most revered viticultural lands now perch Burger Kings, residential communities, and an ominous PG&E plant. Yet, Frank Evangelho remains resolute. A decade ago, when the city seized several of his acres under eminent domain for a project left unfinished, Mr. Evangelho became an advocate.
"They just didn't get it," Frank explained to us, "we're talking about some of California's only heritage vineyards. This is our state's history." Thankfully, more individuals are beginning to acknowledge its significance. These grapes are universally lauded as the state's finest. Here, roots plunge 40 feet deep in search of water, yielding ultra-ripe, harmoniously balanced fruit.