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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Isaac DeTurk

As an old pioneer settler in Sonoma county the name of Isaac DeTurk needs no introduction to her citizens, particularly those in Santa Rosa, where as the founder and proprietor of the Santa Rosa winery he gained a reputation which made his name and brand of goods household words. For many years his parents had been residents of Berks county, Pa., and in that county his birth occurred in 1834, and until he was four years of age he lived in his native state. At this age his parents removed west as far as Indiana, locating in Morgan county, where parents and son made their home together until the winter of 1858-59.

A new era in the life of Isaac DeTurk began with the winter above mentioned, for it was then that he came to California and began the industry that assumed such large proportions during his lifetime. Seeing the possibilities for successfully manufacturing wine where the grape flourished as plentifully as he found it in Sonoma county, he ventured to establish the first plant of the kind in the county at Santa Rosa. This he did in 1859, at the same time planting a vineyard of twenty acres in Bennett valley, later increasing the size of his vineyard to fifty acres. His choice of vines was about equally divided as to Mission and Zinfandel and yielded from three to three hundred and fifty tons of grapes annually. A desire to branch out on a larger scale led him to dispose of his holdings in Bennett valley in 1885 and the same year he purchased twelve hundred acres in Los Guilicos valley, where he planted a vineyard of one hundred acres, adding to this from year to year until he had one of the largest vineyards in this part of the county. For the storage of his products he built the first wine cellar in Bennett valley in 1867, which at the time was ample in size to accommodate all of the wine which he wished to store. With the rapid increase of his business this soon became too small and was consequently increased until it accommodated one hundred thousand gallons of wine.

In 1878 Mr. DeTurk erected the first buildings in the Santa Rosa winery and the same yar manufactured one hundred thousand gallons of wine. From year to year the output was steadily increased, in the early '80s amounting to between three hundred thousand and four hundred thousand gallons of wine and about fifteen thousand gallons of brandy All of the foregoing was the product of from thirty-five hundred to five thousand tons of grapes. It was at this point in the history of his plant that it was necessary to increase the storage capacity of his wine cellar to accommodate one million gallons. His specialties were clarets, reisling, sherry and port wines, and grape brandy. All of the buildings connected with the Santa Rosa winery were built of brick and equipped with all known modern improvements at the time. Mr. DeTurk wisely selected the western part of the city for the location of his plant, having there unexcelled shipping facilities. Since hjis demise the business has been absorbed by the William Hoelscher Company of San Francisco, who operate the business from Healdsburg.

It is a conservative statement to say that Mr. DeTurk was one of the most prominent and progressive men who have ever made their home in Sonoma county. That he was interested in a vital way with many of the important enterprises of this part of the state may be seen from the statement that he was the state viticultural commissioner for the Sonoma district, was identified with the Sonoma County Agricultural Association, and the Stock Breeders Association, in all of which he was also a director from the time of their inception. Socially he was identified with the Athenian Club of San Francisco. That Mr. DeTurk was held to be one of the foremost men of Sonoma county was just praise, for he was ever on the alert to forward her interests, helping by personal work and also by liberal financial assistance.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011