Amandus Nicholas Kasimatis.

A career in California viticulture : oral history transcript / 1987 online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryAmandus Nicholas KasimatisA career in California viticulture : oral history transcript / 1987 → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Regional Oral History Office University of California

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California

The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series

Amandus N. Kasimatis

With an Introduction by
Maynard A. Amerine

An Interview Conducted by

Ruth Teiser

in 1987

Copyright (cj 1988 by The Regents of the University of California


Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing
leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history
is a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an informed
interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is transcribed,
lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee.
The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, indexed, bound with
photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library
at the University of California, Berkeley and other research collections
for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not
intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events.
It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to
questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the University of California and
Amandus N. Kasimatis dated 30 August 1988. The manuscript
is thereby made available for research purposes. All
literary rights in the manuscript, including the right
to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the
University of California, Berkeley. No part of the
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library
of the University of California, Berkeley.

Request for permission to quote for publication
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office,
486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720,
and should include identification of the specific
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages,
and identification of the user. The legal agreement with
Amandus N. Kasimatis requires that he be notified of the
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited
as follows:

Amandus N. Kasimatis, "A Career in California
Viticulture," an oral history conducted in
1987 by Ruth Teiser, Regional Oral History
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 1988.

Copy No .

TABLE OF CONTENTS Amandus N. Kasimatis


INTRODUCTION by Maynard A. Amerine v



The Education of a Horticulturist 1

Kern County Grapes and Tree Fruits 3

Wine Grape Varieties 6

The Giumarras and the Di Giorgios 9

From Farm Advisor to Viticultural Specialist 10

Brandy and Concentrate 11

Viticulture and Enology at Davis in the 1950s 13

Research and Field Stations 16

Rootstocks, Trellising, and Mechanical Harvesting 18

Eutypa Dieback 22

International Interests 24

Cost Data Sheets 25

Grape Varieties: Changing Interests 26

Pinot Noir, Camay Beaujolais, and Napa Camay 30

Soil as a Factor in Wine Quality 32

Growers and the Cooperative Extension 33

Specialists' Programs and Wine Grape Day 35

Work as a Consultant 37

Foundation Plant Material Service 38

Raisins 40

Wine Institute Activities 40

The A. S. E. V. 41

Vineyard Changes, 1948-1987 42


APPENDIX I - Bibliography 46

APPENDIX II - Overseas Activities 50



The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 through the action and
with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a state marketing order
organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 1983 it was reinstituted as
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series with donations from
The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. The selection of those to be
interviewed is made by a committee consisting of James D. Hart, director of
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca,
president of the Wine Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard
A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of
California, Davis; Jack L. Davies, the 1985 chairman of the board of directors
of the Wine Institute; Ruth Teiser, series project director; and Marvin R.
Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on
California grape growing and wine making that has existed only in the memories
of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the early years of
this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of particular value
because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of not only the industry
itself but also the orderly recording and preservation of records of its
activities. Little has been written about the industry from late in the last
century until Repeal. There is a real paucity of information on the
Prohibition years (1920-1933) , although some commercial wine making did
continue under supervision of the Prohibition Department. The material in
this series on that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as yet treated
analytically in few writings) will be of aid to historians. Of particular
value is the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from his
own point of view.

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State Library,
and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in
many cases unique materials readily available for the purpose.

Three master indices for the entire series are being prepared, one of
general subjects, one of wines, one of grapes by variety. These will be
available to researchers at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral
History Office and at the library of the Wine Institute.


The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed significantly
to recent California history. The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is
under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the director of
The Bancroft Library.

Ruth Teiser
Project Director
The Wine Spectator California
Winemen Oral History Series

10 September 1984
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley


Interviews Completed by 1988

Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 1974

Maynard A. Amerine, The University of California and the State' s Wine
Industry 1971

Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies
1988 "

Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of
Fruit Industries, Inc. 1972

John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry 1986

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, The

California Wine Industry During the Depression 1972

William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology 1967
William A. Dieppe, Almaden is My Life 1985
Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984
- Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley 1986

Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry
197 4~

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture 1988

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and
Other Wine Enterprises 1971

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley

Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry

Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy 1973

" Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara
Valley Winery 1986

Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Indsutry 1985

Myron S. Nightingale, Mr -ing Wine in California. 1944-1987 1988

Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976


Antonio Perelli-Minetti. A Life in Wine Making 1975

Louis A. Petri. The Petri Family in the Wine Industry 1971

Jefferson E. Peyser, The Law and the California Wine Industry 1974

Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry 1974

Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines

Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry 1971

Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian. A Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape
Industry 1977

Elie C. Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker 1988

Andre Tchelistchef f , Grapes. Wine, and Ecology 1983

Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers 1974

Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971

'Albert J. Winkler. Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971) 1973


INTRODUCTION by Maynard A. Amerine

The Land Grant Colleges were established by the Morrill Act of 1862.
In 1873 the Agricultural Experiment Stations were authorised, primarily
to conduct the much-needed experimental work that was necessary in order
to improve agricultural practices. To bring the results of these
experiments directly to the farmer the Agricultural Extension Service
was set up in 1914 in the various states. Its goal was to bring the
latest recommendations of the Agricultural Experiment Stations directly
to the farmers and to farm- related industries (such as dairy products
and food preservation). In this it has been a signal success.

In this interview Kasimatis shows us not only what a significant

role the Extension Service has played in the California grape and wine

industries, especially since World War II, but also the leading role
which he played.

He started as a horticulturist in Kern County in 1948. There he
cooperated in experiments on plums and worked with the huge Kern County
table and wine grape industry. Two significant aspects of Kasimatis's
career become evident: first, his ability to become a friend and
cooperator with the fruit and grape growers and, second, his realization
that local experimental plots were necessary to test the recommendations
of the Agricultural Experiment Station under local conditions. His
enthusiastic inquisitiveness appealed to the growers and played a role
in his popularity and success .

In 1955 he was offered the position of viticultural specialist,
still in the Extension Service, in the Department of Viticulture and
Enology at Davis. Here his assignment was state-wide. He worked with
the farm advisors in the various counties. He also joined in field
studies with members of the Davis staff and with farm advisors in some
of the counties. Here he became the source of information on grape
growing for the growers of the state, either directly or through the
county farm advisors. In this interview Kasimatis mentions dozens of
grape growers with whom he conducted experimental trials on pruning,
pesticides, fertilizers, rootstocks, virus-free material, weed control,

At Davis he worked as the conduit through which the results of
research reached the county farm advisors and the growers. His annual
meeting with the viticulturally- interested farm advisors from the
grape-growing counties was one method of doing this. He was also
responsible for the Davis Grape and Wine Grape Days. The cost data
publications were collaborative efforts of the farm advisors and
Kasimatis. They brought to the growers, particularly to new grape
growers, the latest information on costs of production.


Along the way he gives us information about the ups and downs of
wine and table grape varieties, and some of the reasons for this. We
also learn about the problems of grape growers in the nine or more
counties which he has visited and where he has studied specific problems,
many of which have been of interest to California growers. Finally
there are some perceptive remarks about the Foundation Plant Material
Service as it affected the distribution of virus-free grape cuttings to
nurseries. His support of this service no doubt helped it become such a
success .

This is the record of what a good farm advisor does, particularly
one with a research interest, which Kasimatis certainly had.

Maynard A. Amerine

24 August 1988

St. Helena, California


INTERVIEW HISTORY Amandus N. Kasimatis

The interview with A. N. Kasimatis was held on two successive days,
February 22 and 23, 1987, on the University of California's Davis campus
which had been his headquarters from 1955 until his retirement from his
unique position as Extension Viticulturist in 1984. He reviewed the
transcript the following spring, made a few amplifications requested by
the interviewer, and added the record of his work outside the United States
which forms Appendix II.

Our thanks to The University of California Press for permission to
reproduce as Appendix I Mr. Kasimatis 's bibliography which appears in its
1986 book, Bibliography of Publications by The Faculty, Staff and Students
of The University of California, 1876-1980, on Grapes, Wines and Related
Subjects compiled by Maynard A. Amerine and Herman Phaff .

Educated at UCLA and Davis in horticulture, Mr. Kasimatis served as
assistant farm advisor in Kern County for seven years before being given
responsibility for advising grape growers throughout California.

Although he had not grown up on a farm, he proved remarkably
understanding of farming problems and particularly those of grape growers.
His practical advice on subjects as wide-ranging as soil preparation,
recommended rootstocks, which grape varieties to plant where, the
relationship between crop load and wine quality, plant diseases, and
vineyard costs was based upon sound research and advice from his fellow
farm advisors and the faculty of the Davis Department of Viticulture and
Enology. Annual meetings that he organized brought recent research to
growers' attention. His expertise took him to international conferences,
and since his retirement he has continued participating in those and
consulting with growers on many of the same problems he addressed while
Extension Viticulturist.

Ruth Teiser

12 September 1988

Regional Oral History Office

486 The Bancroft Library

University of California at Berkeley

Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library


University of California
Berkeley, California 94720


(Please write clearly. Use black ink.)

Your full name

Date of birth _ /O I ~f 3-\


Father's full name

Mother's full name_

Your spouse

Your children






Where did you grow up?
Present community

. 5-


\ 6,5. / ? ^ 7



Occupation (s)

/? 5"fT ;

Areas of expertise ^t^ yAt/-<-XLx <T/ <l>**4uu "

' t/ ' '

Other interests or activities



Organizations in which you are active


t&y ks\-/

The Education of a Horticulturist
[Interview *1: February 22, 1987]

Teiser: Where and when were you born?

Kasimatis: I was born in San Luis Obispo on October 5, 1921. I only lived
there for a short time, about a year, and my folks moved to the
Los Angeles area to San Pedro where I was raised.

Teiser: Did you have any special interest as a youngster that would

have led to your career?

Kasimatis: Not really, no. No, I didn't find that until later.
Teiser: Were you a good student?

Kasimatis: Yes. I graduated from High School at San Pedro and

then went on to school for one year at Compton Junior College
and then to UCLA, I was there for several years and then I
signed up with the navy and went into the service.

Teiser: You came into adulthood just at the time when young men didn't

know what the world was going to be like.

Kasimatis: Really. Really. Well, I signed up in the navy reserve which
meant that I was able to continue school for another year and
then we were called up in July of 1943. I was in the service
but we were allowed to go back to school and I was sent back to
UCLA, except I was in uniform and I lived with other men of my
age and position in a fraternity house that they had
commandeered. I stayed there all through the summer.

In October, I was selected to go back to midshipman's school
at Columbia University. So we went by train across the country
and I went to midshipman's school there and was commissioned in
February of 1944. Then I went overseas in the navy in the
Pacific. I stayed in the navy until June of 1946, when I was
released, and then I came up to school here in Davis in the fall
of 1946.

Teiser: In all that time, had you done anything connected with


Kasimatis: When I was at UCLA I majored in subtropical horticulture there.

## This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 45.

Teiser :

Kasimatis :





Kasimatis :

Kasimatis :

So that was when your interest really began?

Yes. That's when it really began and I worked as a student in
the orchards there. That was really the beginnings right there.

How did you happen to become interested in it?

I just had a feeling for plants and I wanted to get into the
College of Agriculture. I really had no idea where I was going,
though. Of course, at UCLA the only major they offered was in
subtropical horticulture, which for me was fine at the time.
And I've never regretted that training that I had there. It's
been very useful to me.

Was there anything about grapes in it?

No, not really,

The focus was on citrus and avocados, primarily

When you came here then in '46, to Davis, what was your

I enrolled in the horticulture program here. There was no
viticulture major as such, and I enrolled in the horticulture
program and got my degree in horticulture in June of 1947. But,
in the meantime, I had taken all the viticulture courses that
were available. After I graduated I stayed on here for another
summer and then another semester, so I didn't leave here until
February of 1948. I was a graduate student for that one
semester there.

Whom did you work with here?

[Albert J.] Winkler was the professor of viticulture then,
and he taught the courses that I took in general viticulture and
in variety identification/ recognition. There weren't very many
courses offered. They still had a non-degree program then, and
Professor [Harry E.] Jacob taught the non-degree program.

Did you work closely with anyone?

No. I worked in pomology with Dr. [Hudson T.] Hartman
primarily. That was on Saturdays and during the week as an

A lab assistant?


And you corrected papers?

Kasimatis: Yes.

Teiser: During those years you were still interested in horticulture as

a whole?

Kasimatis: Oh. yes, yes. I had a broad interest at that time. In fact,
after I graduated and finished up that graduate work, I looked
for various jobs in horticulture; I didn't narrow it
specifically then.

Kern County Grapes and Tree Fruits

Teiser: How did you happen to go to Kern County?

Kasimatis: I went to Kern County because there was a job opening there as
an assistant farm advisor, and the job was in horticulture. At
that time there was only one position in horticulture there so
that person had to cover both grapes and tree fruits, including
citrus; so I had a very appropriate background for the job. But
I went there because there was a job opening there.

Teiser: And your duties, then, were what?

Kasimatis: My duties were, as part of Agricultal Extension Services (as it
was known then), as an assistant farm advisor, to work with
growers of the horticultural crops in Kern County. That meant
primarily educational activities as well as some adaptive

Teiser: What were the growers growing mainly?

Kasimatis: The main crop there was table grapes, that was the emphasis.
Wine grapes were grown but they were sort of incidental. The
wine industry in Kern County at that time was really almost a
salvage type operation

Teiser: Di Giorgio?

Kasimatis: Di Giorgio, and Giumarra, and Perelli-Minetti, and just across
the line was California Products, Horace Lanza.

Teiser: I've interviewed two Di Giorgio cousins and Antonio Perelli-

Minetti and Horace Lanza.* From their point of view, there was
an economic factor a market balance between table grapes and
winery "salvage."

Kasimatis: Yes. It was a sweet wine industry then in the San Joaquin

Valley so the two fitted together. But the primary crop was
table grapes; the early-producing grapes were centered in
the Arvin area, and then the later-producing ones were focused
around the Delano area.

The packing house culls, mostly poor appearance (small
berries, as well as vineyard stripping/unharvested bunches
allowed to reach full maturity) were fermented for dessert wines
or for the production of high-proof alcohol used for fortify
dessert wines to 19-21 percent alcohol.

Raisins were grown to a very limited extent in Shafter and
Wasco. Of the deciduous fruits, why, the Japanese plums were
the biggest crop and Di Giorgio was heavily involved in those and
in that Arvin area. Early growing peaches were just beginning
to come in then in Kern County. Apricots had already sort of
come and gone and Japanese plums were the focus. The citrus
industry was limited to the Edison area of a thousand, twelve
hundred acres, so it was fairly small.

Teiser: It was J.A. Di Giorgio who was interested in the plums, wasn't


Kasimatis: Yes, yes.

Teiser: Did he work closely with you?

*Robert Di Giorgio and Joseph A. Di Giorgio, The Di Giorgios. am
oral history interview conducted 1983, Regional Oral History
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California,
Berkeley, 1986.

Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Winemaking, an oral history
interview conducted in 1969, Regional Oral History Office, The
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1975.

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi,
California Grape Products and Other Enterprisies, an interview
conducted 1969, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1971.

Kasimatis: Yes, he did. I had a strange experience. Of course

Di Giorgio had a vast operation near Di Giorgio, California, and
then up in the Delano area. They were not only large but they
were leaders in the industry. When I first came as a farm
advisor, I remember one experience. I was still finding my way
around and I had gotten almost lost on Di Giorgio property. The
superintendent-Max, whose last name escapes me, came up to
me and wanted to know what I was doing and told me politely to
get off their property. I always remembered that, because he
was followed in the job very shortly thereafter by another man,
Joe Lyttle, who was considerably different and was extremely
cooperative with the University and with Extension, extremely
cooperative So I did quite a bit of work with them and had a
very strong relationship.

Teiser: Among the people whom you worked with, was there any difference

between large and small farmers? Was either group more
receptive to your help?

Kasimatis: Well, of course Kern County doesn't have, or never did have very
many small farmers there. They tended to be large. No, I think
that, as far as working with people, I don't think there's
basically any difference. I think if there were differences,
there were differences in the matter of interest and in the
matter of being able to adopt new things more quickly.

Teiser: What was a typical sort of project that you worked on with, say,

Di Giorgio any crop?

Kasimatis: One of the first ones I worked on was in plums. They had a
problem particularly on Santa Rosa plums which was their
largest variety, that at maturity these plums had very neat
holes in them. That's the best way to describe it; they weren't
ragged; they weren't the result of any mechanical injury or
feeding, but they were actually holes like big dimples. Ed

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryAmandus Nicholas KasimatisA career in California viticulture : oral history transcript / 1987 → online text (page 1 of 6)