11.28am, Wednesday 5th September, 2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, USA
Morning, folks, today we’re in the Grand Ballroom at one of the fabulous old hotels in the San Francisco downtown – The Palace. We are one of the wineries represented in California by the family-owned Henry Wine Group, and today is their big extravaganza complete-portfolio exhibition – “Taste The World” – for the San Francisco and surrounding area trade. Tomorrow we do the same thing in San Diego, then Friday the roadshow rolls into Los Angeles … and we’re back in San Francisco for the weekend.
But let’s just leave Wednesday 5th September 2012 for one moment, and hop into the time machine, and slide back 119 years to exactly the same spot in 1893. Friday May 12th 189, to be exact.
Because on that exact day, the chap who was on much the same mission then as I am today happened to arrive in San Francisco as the first stop on what was to become an 18 month epic adventure in promoting Yalumba to the ‘new’ world of America and Canada, as well as the established market ‘old- world of the British Empire.
Who was this chap, you ask?
He’s my favourite ‘Indiana Jones’-style horticulturalist ancestor of the current-day owners of Yalumba – Fred Caley Smith. He was only 26 years old but already a recognized expert on fruit tree diseases, and he was on this massive trip on behalf of his father, Sidney Smith, son of Yalumba’s enterprising founder, Samuel Smith. That makes Fred the older brother of Walter Smith – grandfather of our current day owners – brothers Robert and Sam Hill Smith.
Are you still with me?
OK. So Fred Caley Smith arrived on a steamer from Australia on Friday 12th May 1893, coming in underneath where the Golden Gate Bridge would eventually be completed in 1937, picked up the Harbour pilot, and docked at the Port of San Francisco. He rode up to The Palace Hotel in a horse and carriage, with his trunk arriving later from the ship. The tarrif at the time was 14 shillings a night – about $3 US at the time – quite expensive even then, so Fred stayed for 4 days and then found a much better boarding arrangement across in Bush Street for the remainder of his time in town. Nothing changes in 119 years – we’re always trying to travel as economically as we can!
So today we’ll be showing our wines to the trade, and back in 1893 Fred was showing wines, canned fruit, jam and fresh fruit – because Yalumba had orchards as well as vines and our own cannery. That’s why Fred went on the fruit side, and his younger brother Walter went on the wine side. So I’d better get over to the Ballroom, the doors open in 10 minutes, we’re all set to go .. only today we’ll have Fred looking over our shoulder! Happy Days!