Skinner Vineyards

James Skinner grew up in Scotland, became an engineer, and in 1842 brought his wife, Jessie, and oldest son, James Jr., to Massachusetts. Like many American immigrants, he made his way west during the Gold Rush.

And, like many miners, he started near Coloma, where gold was discovered, then moved up the streams and rivers of the low Sierra foothills. Unlike many gold miners, James did well enough to buy land and create Skinner Ranch in what is now the town of Rescue. In the 1860s, it was named Skinners, California, and remains an unincorporated township that still appears on most maps.

The ranch had livestock and crops and ran along a well-traveled road that became the Pony Express Trail (now Green Valley Road). In 1861, James began making good use of his transportation hotspot – he planted vineyards and founded the J. Skinner Native Wine and Brandy Co.

It was one of the first commercial vineyards in California and by 1883, one of the largest. It had a huge stone cellar that could store 15,000 gallons of wine (more than 6,000 cases). James, the engineer, also built a multi-story, cutting-edge distillery with a boiler room powered by a six-horsepower engine. J. Skinner Winery operated into the early 20th century. He was also a benefactor of his community, supporting his neighbors and donating land for public use, including the plots where the current Rescue fire station and post office now stand.

James planted the popular grapes of the time that grew well in his region – including Mission, Zinfandel, and several grapes of southern France such as Grenache, Carignane and the now-obscure Petit Bouschet (the only remaining clone in the world is the Skinner Clone). All of those legacy grapes varieties are again planted on the land of our modern Skinner Vineyards & Winery, and the focus of winemaking now, just as it was for J. Skinner Native Wine and Brandy Co., are the grapes of southern France known as Rhones.

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Skinner Winery Photos

Skinner Winery
Skinner Winery
Skinner Winery