Re: Bulk Grape Loads

Justin Kahn

Dear Andreas
Several possibilities occur to me: I would think bulk shipments of grapes for winemaking probably peaked during the 1920's, owing both to a decline in significant numbers after that of Italians and other ethnic groups who emigrated directly from areas where home winemaking was common (the highest numbers of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe entered during the decades immediately before WWI, after which immigration restrictions began to seriously limit their entry). Second and third generation ethnics would probably have been much less likely to produce home-made wine.
Second, this trade flourished during Prohibition, when heads of households were permitted by law to make a certain quantity (I forget the numbers now) for domestic use; commercial production of wine was essential illegal from 1919 through 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt took office and encouraged repeal of a bad (because unworkable) Constitutional amendment.
While home wine-making surely continued after, say, 1940, it was so labor-intensive that few other than traditionalists or hobbyists found it worthwhile. And I think beer traffic was always considerably greater than wine (Americans generally always being more beer-drinkers than oenophiles), although someone else would have to dig out statistics to prove or disprove that.
It is interesting that you discovered a firm bottling wine under their house label (I think it safe to say that this represented the lower-end of the market) in Vermont; however great their trade in a housebrand (and I think it was probably not all that great), as either Tony or Richard suggested, a real wine car contains a LOT of wine.

Jace Kahn, General Manager
Ceres and Canisteo RR Co.

I have found out that a former customer of "my shortline", Vermont's Barre & Chelsea,
was also involved in a similar kind of activity: Calmont Beverage Co. in Barre, VT
started importing wine from California in 1941 and bottled it in Vermont. They
obviously were the first company to do so in Vermont.

The company website ( states: "... came up with the
idea to bring barreled wine to Vermont, via rail, and bottle it here under the
Calmont brand name (a contraction of California/Vermont)." Would wine have been sent
in barrels in reefers or would it have been transported in tank cars?

In the "Barre & Chelsea Industrial Guide" issued in August 1953 Calmont Beverage is
listed as having a B&C spur track and the main commodity received was "malt
beverages" (i.e. beer). Could this be an indication that (bulk) wine transport had
stopped by that date? Or was it just an indication of more important beer traffic?

In the past we had been discussing grape shipments to Barre, VT for DIY wine making.
When would these shipments have ended, when the bulk shipment of wine to Vermont
started in 1941? Or did wine (and grappa!) making in Vermont communities with a high
percentage of Italians (like South Ryegate) continue after that date?
Andreas Kuehnpast
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