The Finne Winery

by Bob Dempel, February 17, 2016

The Finne Winery was built in the 1880’s and was probably the oldest winery at that time in Mendocino County. Louis and Margarette Finne came to Redwood Valley in the 1870’s from Europe. Margareta came from the area of Alsace France. I cannot fine where Louis came from. They purchased some property in Redwood Valley and Louis built a winery. The marriage produced two sons, Fred and Will. Fred Finne stayed on the ranch helping raise grapes, fruit and hay. Will moved to the East Coast.

FinneWinery

Fred Finne and his wife Mary had a son Hilmar and a daughter Blanche. Blanch who was born in 1910 and recalls helping her Grandfather Louis Finne pick the grapes. They would be picked in 50# wooden boxes. Blanche was paid 5 cents per box for picking. Blanch would then help her grandfather move the grapes to the winery where they would be crushed. The grapes would be put in a large vat and people would put on rubber boots and climb into the vat to stomp on them. The resulting wine would be put into oak barrels and loaded onto a wagon and hauled down to the railroad station at Calpella. Transportation of the trailer was provided by a horse named Chub. At Capella the barrels were loaded into freight cars headed to San Francisco.

In 1921 or 1922 the winery burned down, Blanch was at school and as she was walking out of the school house she saw black smoke coming up towards her ranch. A neighbor had decided to burn a pile of brush. Along came a whirlwind and moved some of the hot embers from the brush pile to the top of the wooden roofed winery and landed on some leaves which promptly caught fire. The entire winery burned down.

Blanche lived to be 100 years old and died just a few days short of her 101st birthday. The memorial service was held at the Ukiah cometary on her 101st birthday.

Fortunately Blanch participated in an oral history in 1999 conducted by the Mendocino County Museum. The interview includes 5 pictures of the Finne house, ranch and winery. I have been given a copy of the oral history by Blanches’s daughter Yvonne Richey Westberg.

The winery is long gone but the descendants of the Finne family are still present in and around Redwood Valley.

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