The Rockin' H Ranch is one of the most unique in the entire wine country, with a history of viticulture dating back to the late 1979's. This property was once part of General Vallejo's rancho or land grant, and it is said that he built the sea wall, wharf and munitions depot along the banks of the Petaluma River. This sea wall and wharf are still intact today!
William Bihler, the next owner of the property, was the first to successfully plant hundreds of acres of Zinfandel and Malvoisie grapes. A Santa Rosa newspaper claimed that in the early 1880's, the Bihler Vineyard was the largest single ownership vineyard in the country.
In 1891, the ranch was purchased by one of California's most prominent businessmen, Comstock Silver Baron, Senator James G. Fair. He built a large brick addition to the original winery right on the river bank, perhaps to facilitate the shipment of his wines in large draft steamers, via the river to San Francisco, then on to his new, "Fairmont Hotel".
By 1915, due to an unfortunate Phylloxera infestation, and prohibition, most vineyards in the Sonoma/Napa Valleys were lost.
During the days of Prohibition, the large enclosed brick winery became a storage warehouse for potatoes, but in the evenings the place was transformed into a "speakeasy"! Undaunted revelers would arrive by boat and secretly partake in alcoholic libations well into the night. What a time in history this must have been.
The Fair Ranch at Lakeville was later sold by the family, after Fair died in 1894. A.W. Foster, a principle owner of the Northwestern Pacific Roailroad bought it. When Foster passed away, the ranch was divided into smaller ranches and sold off.
When Sid and Gigi arrived, the property was in a terrible state of disrepair. For the past 20 years they have undertaken this monumental task of refurbishing the ranch to its former glory. Vineyards were re-introduced, the horse facility expanded and updated, and the 1890's Victorian home and other buildings restored.
The home on the river was constructed within the shelter of the remaining three 20" thick brick walls. These ivy covered walls are the only remnants left of the old Fair Winery. It has been remodeled into a Spanish Mission style home with Western touches throughout.
It is their hope is that this house and its grounds will be enjoyed for the next 100 years. Though properties like this are always a work in progress, they feel they have succeeded in their restoration endeavor.
MARIANO G. VALLEJO
1808 ~ 1890