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A brief history

The Pleasant Valley Wine Company, located near the village of Hammondsport, New York, is the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes region.
On March 15, 1860, Charles Davenport Champlin and 12 local businessmen consolidated their holdings under “Articles of Association for the Manufacture of Native Wine” and, with $10,000 capitalization, built the first winery in this region.

Pleasant Valley Wine Company was designated as Bonded Winery No. 1 in its State and Federal districts.

All winemaking operations were carried out by Jules and Joseph Masson, noted French-born winemakers of the time, in still-used wooden and stone structures, with adjacent cellars carved deep into the hillside. Eight of these Pleasant Valley Wine Company buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

During the winery’s first year of operation, 18 tons of Isabella and Catawba grapes were harvested, yielding 220 gallons of wine per ton. In 1867, this wine was awarded honorable mention at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the first American Champagne wine to win an award in Europe. In 1873 in Vienna, the winery’s champagne was awarded first prize and its first European medal, since then the Company’s champagnes have received numerous European gold medals and other awards around the globe.

Because of the internationally recognized excellence of Pleasant Valley Champagnes, and because of the similarities of climatic and soil conditions between the area and the Champagne district of France, Pleasant Valley came to be called the “Rheims of America.” When the U.S. Postal Service opened a branch at the winery in 1870, it used the postmark, “Rheims, N.Y.,” which was used until 1945 when rural delivery took its place.

In March 1871, Mr. Champlin sent a case of champagne to his close friend, Marshall P. Wilder, who was a well-known wine connoisseur in Boston. After introducing it at a dinner party at the Parker House, Wilder declared it to be “the Great Champagne of the Western World.” The champagne was thus dubbed “Great Western.”

Shipping records of the 1860s, 70s, and 80s are filled with such prestigious accounts as S.S. Pierce, Macy’s, Park Tilford, George F. Heublein, Palmer House of Chicago, Parker House of Boston, and individuals such as Professor Henry W. Longfellow of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pleasant Valley wines appeared on the lists of the most fashionable restaurants. They were even heartily recommended by doctors for their medicinal qualities.

After Repeal in 1933, the Company progressed steadily. Charles D. Champlin II, grandson of the founder and dean of American champagne makers of his time, managed the operation until his death in 1950. The family retained control of the business until 1955 when it was sold to a company run by Marne Obernauer, a businessman from New Jersey, who officially renamed the winery Pleasant Valley Division of Great Western Producers. In 1961, the winery was acquired by The Taylor Wine Company, its next-door neighbor, which was itself acquired first by The Coca-Cola Company in 1977, then Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1983, and finally Vintners International Company, Inc., in 1987. Having survived Prohibition and several ownership changes, the winery returned once again to local family control in 1995.
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Established in 1860

8260 Pleasant Valley Road
United States


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