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Days of Wine and Onions: Garrett & Co and Virginia Dare

Feb 22, 2011 10:50 AM | 16 comments

Original Virginia Dare Extract Company invoice for flavorings dated Apr 15, 1936. Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection.

One of the more interesting companies to have occupied premises in Bush Terminal is Garrett & Co, makers of Virginia Dare wine and flavoring extracts. Long-time readers of Brooklynology may remember a post called the Grapes of Brooklyn in which I drew attention to early efforts at viticulture and wine-making in Brooklyn. Garrett & Co kept the flag of Kings County oenology flying  for 45 years, from its quarters in Building 10 in the Sunset Park industrial complex.

WINE MAKING First stage in the process at Garrett & Co. Inc, 882 3d Ave., showing the grapes receiving an initial crushing before they fall into the fermenting cask Left to right and bottom are Max Loewenstein of 119 W. 106th St., Manhattan; Lawrence Triolo of 102 Harrison Place, Ludwig Schniermacher of 618 Decatur St. and Mario Noto of 23 Moffatt St. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 15, 1950

The firm was founded in 1835 in North Carolina. Around 1920 it moved to Brooklyn and the minute it arrived, New York State went dry and prohibition forced Virginia Dare to reconsider its business model. And they did reconsider, with a vengeance. An Eagle article dated June 26, 1920 describes what it calls one of the "Wonders of Brooklyn," the process by which Garrett & Co, wine makers, managed to survive and even prosper during the prohibition years. The company continued to make wine, but they took out the alcohol and did their best to retain the wine's flavor.  The extracted alchohol was used to make pure fruit and vegetable flavors ranging from vanilla to onion.  In this way the plant continued to turn out over 15 million quart bottles of Virginia Dare non-alcoholic "wine" a year, as well as 20,000,000 bottles of flavoring extract.  So rapidly did the flavoring business grow that Brooklyn became a leader in the field, and the company opened a new plant in St. Louis.

FERMENTATION--The portable crusher removed, juice and pulp in fermentation are shown above.

The company added another string to its bow in its efforts to survive the prohibition era. A lawsuit filed in 1928 accused Garrett & Co. of violating the Volstead Act by  selling concentrated grapes with instructions for making wine at home.  Government witnesses--with how much enthusiasm we are not told--followed the instructions to prove that a real, full-flavored wine could result from the process.  Judge Simon Adler  of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York ruled that  Section 29 specifically permitted wine making in the home and therefore Garrett & Co's activities were not illegal: they could carry on selling home-winemaking products and the temperance faction could take a hike.

...left to right, Julius Fiore of 1101 65th St. and Anthony Zinzi of 305 5th St. shovel out pulp after fermented juice has been drained.

One can only imagine the jubilation that must have erupted in South Brooklyn on repeal of prohibition in 1933. By 1941 the company was producing "champagnes" as well as its regular wines, and employing about 200 people. Grapes brought in from New Jersey were made into wine at the plant, and wine imported  from California and North Carolina  was bottled there. The sparkling wines were made from New York State vineyards at Penn Yan.  By 1945 the company held 10,000 acres of vineyards in New York, N.C. and California; that year it bought  the plant of the Italian Vineyard Co in Guasti California.

NO WASTE--Pulp, received from above and through chute at left, is layered in cloths and completely drained by hydraulic press at right, after which residual waste (poace) is barreled as refuse. Left to right: Patrick Porco of 1032 62nd St. and Vincent Manitta of 87 Madison St. make a layer, spreading the pulp, including skins, before enfolding with overhanging parts of cloth; John Mandato of 946 41st St. and Thomas Policastro of 760 3d Ave. empty pomace from a press cloth into barrel...

In 1965 the company's wine business was purchased in a royalty arrangement by Constellation Brands. However, the flavoring extract side of the business, conceived as a way to circumvent prohibition and incorporated in 1923 as an independent entity, continues to operate out of Brooklyn to this day. 

 Above, left to right, Angelo Poulos of 6211 5th Ave and Louis Calabrese of 262 12th St at filter through which all wine is passed to remove last traces of sediment.

FINISHED PRODUCT--Through glass piping the finished wine is fed to bottling machines at rear. Filled and stoppered, bottles are moved onto a conveyor belt carrying them to a succession of workers who affix labels and ornamental metalized caps over stoppers before bottles reach packers at end of conveyor. Packers package bottles in cartons of 6 and 12 and move them by floor truck to storeroom.

Comments

7/1/2011 10:25:37 PM #

Interesting to read more history of the old family business, especially having recently visited Guasti and the surrounding area.

Lynn Meyer

10/16/2011 3:01:36 PM #

I'm the owner of an antique Virginia Dare wine bottle made sometime in the 1800's.   The bottle states Established 1835 and it refers to being in Norfolk, Virginia.

I would be interested in knowing more.

My daughter's father named her middle name Virginia Dare as it was his mother's name... Virginia Dare Wood. (Wood is married name. Her's may have been Marsh?)

Thank you.

Nancy Zoloth

3/10/2012 9:36:34 PM #

I recently found an old Virginia Dare bottle an thought it was so neat I brought it home. It was set up on a stump where people had been using bottles for target practice, what a shame.
I am in Colorado. I wonder if it came from the california plant

Logan

3/29/2012 6:35:14 PM #

I found a Garrett & Co. Inc. Virginia Dare Wine bottle, It says New York on it. (1/2 Gal) I was wondering if anybody would know what it is worth if anything.

Don Heasley

4/10/2012 5:30:47 PM #

I have a one gallon jug with embossed with vines and grapes and the logo for Garretts American Wine, design patent applied for , 2 on the left and L-780 on th right side of the bottom of the jug.  It has two round handels at the top of the neck.  My mother has had it for years on her shelf in the kitchen.  Can anyone give me more info.  Thanks Dee

Dee

4/13/2012 8:48:38 PM #

I mforgot to tell you, my mother lived in Asheville, North carolina.  So I am guessing the jug came from the first plant around 1835.  Still waiting to hear from anyone!  Thanks Dee

Dee

6/24/2012 10:34:54 AM #

I have a small extract bottle with Virginia Dare Extracts on 1 side and Garrett and Co, Inc on the other side. It was found in the woods of a home in Fairfield CT in the 60's.

For those who may not know, Virginia Dare was the first English speaking child born in this country. Her parents along with many others came to Roanoke Island, NC around 1585 from England. Years later when more ships came to the island all the people from the 1st venture had disappeared, known as the Lost Colony.
Connie in Manteo,NC

Connie

6/30/2012 10:43:47 PM #

I found a screw cap,  I would guess not that old bottle of garrett & co. inc. Virginia Dare Wine Bottle with cap attached.
established 1935
Reg. us. Pat off. Refilling Prohibited New York
Contents 4/5 Quart.
Under the emblem it has like a small nipple sticking out. werd
I thought it was cool and brought it home.  Is it worth anything??

ron chouinard

7/23/2012 6:34:45 PM #

I have also just found a 1 9/16 pts bottle LOGO garrett & co Virgina Dare New York and St. Louis Established 1835 Registered Trade Mark refilling prohibited AT THE TOP of the bottle has Garrett logo with shield and in ribbon has american wines Any help on this   Thank You..

luther gilliam

8/13/2012 3:15:27 AM #

I also have found a bottle as described in luther Gilliam's post on 7/23/2012.  There is dirt in the bottle but the cap is on and don't want to open it.  I got it in a box at an auction in Bloomfield, Ky. and it is now in Louisville, Ky,  any help please send email.  Thank you. Bennie Sheeley

Bennie Sheeley

8/22/2012 9:48:36 PM #

My dad worked for Garrett and Co in Guasti for 19-1/2 years.  We lived in company housing in Guasti.  All the houses were painted green.  We called it Garrett Green.  Great place to grow up.  Thousands of acres to wander around with all the kids whose parents also worked at the winery.  The Barden family ran the place.  Mrs. Barden was a relative of Garrett (maybe a daughter).  Her daughter would let me ride her horse, Virginia Dare.  Great times.

Ellen Castellini

9/20/2012 9:42:52 PM #

I have a wine bottle  with Garrett's American Wine on the front; Garrett's and contents one half gallon on the front; bottom has E on the left and 4 on the right and 1087 on the top. The yellow cover on the top has Garrett & Company, inc., since 1835, Makers of Virginia Dare and other fine wines, New york. Is it a collectable worth hanging on or is it just another glass bottle?

James Steber

10/4/2012 8:29:29 PM #

i found a bottle 1835 purple glass.COLORADO

Tom

1/30/2013 5:32:42 PM #

I have a paper label, I was going to email you a picture of it.

Pat Terrell

1/31/2013 4:31:20 PM #

I have a one gallon bottle.  Garrett & Co. Inc. Est. 1835.  It has Pioneer American Growers.  I would like to know if it is of any value.
Thanks,
Cornelia Brumfield

Cornelia Brumfield

5/4/2013 3:37:39 PM #

This is the bottle I have:4/5 Quart. Garrett's American. port wine. Bottle is full unopened. alcohol content over 18% under 21%. B.W. No.11 Brooklyn New York The label is about 95% there, and a partial tax stamp as well. Bottom of the bottle  #5 also has number holes stamped into the label, however I can only see three of the numbers. I would like any and all info on this bottle. Thank you for your time. Tara kaufman

Tara Kaufman