100 years since Prohibition in Sonoma County

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On Jan. 16, 1919 Congress ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, marking the dawn of Prohibition across the United States. Although the law would not go into effect until the following year, the legislation had long-term effects in Sonoma County, where burgeoning beer and wine industries were just taking off.

To stay afloat, alcohol-related industries got creative to stay profitable. Hop growers sold their product to European brewers overseas. Grape growers switched to prunes and other crops. Wine makers produced sacramental wine or turned to bootlegging. But the changes were not enough for many vintners and brewers, of the 17 Dry Creek Valley wineries producing in 1919, only seven reopened after Prohibition.

The Volstead Act, passed in October of 1919, made the 18th Amendment enforceable, making it illegal to produce or sell alcoholic beverages except for family consumption. As a result, home brewing and winemaking took off. Alicante Bouche and Grand Noir grapes were shipped to East Coast consumers. California zinfandel growers saw their acreage actually increase during Prohibition years.

The ratification of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 3, 1933, ended Prohibition and opened the doors for the taxation of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States. A case of Korbel champagne from the Guerneville cellars, was among the many thank you gifts shipped to the White House after the repeal.

Click through our gallery above to learn more about the Prohibition years in Sonoma County.

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