After Heublein took control of United Vintners, most of the sales and marketing staff, which had been responsible for United Vintners success, was dismissed and replaced. Wine sales began to decline for a number of reasons, with a corresponding decline in grape requirements. The Italian Swiss Colony label and the “Little Old Winemaker,” the bulwark of United Vintner’s sales, were dropped and never used again. A series of merger disagreements lead to numerous contract disputes during the next decade. Heublein’s failure to adhere to the requirements stated in the supply contract, while simultaneously authorizing United Vintners to buy non-Allied member grapes in the market place, led to tension between the parties.
Fearing a boycott of their Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, Heublein applied tremendous pressure on Allied’s 1,600 members to contract with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union to harvest all of their grapes. When Allied’s board and members resisted this action, a series of adversarial meetings ensued between Allied growers and Heublein representatives. Suits and countersuits dominated the next several years.
In 2003 Bronco Wine Company purchased the Escalon site where Petri first expanded in 1916. The Bronco Wine Company owns more than 60 brands of wine like Charles Shaw ($2 buck chuck to Trader Joe’s shoppers) and Crane Lake. So if you’re feeling like a glass of Petri Wine, you may have already drank something close to it without knowing it.
More information from Media Heritage
As promised, more about the Sherlock Holmes connection. In 1939 Petri Wines became a sponsor of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and had a robust lineup of wines ranging from red, white, rose, sparkling, aperitif and dessert wines. Two years before Petri canceled sponsorship of the program Louis Petri became President of the company and that’s when Petri Wines started on its way to becoming one of the biggest wineries in the United States. Listen to the first minute of the Sherlock Holmes radio show to hear the Petri Wines commercial.
On the right is an old-time favorite commercial from Italian Swiss Colony with “That little old winemaker.”
For a more in-depth look at United Vintners and Petri Wines pick up a copy of “A History of Wine in America”
Also available is a PDF document about Allied Grape Growers and United Vintners history