Historic Zentgraf Winery

On September 13th, 2008, the Clarksville Region Historical Society hosted a tour of the historic Zentgraf adobe and wine cellar. We would lke to thank the Gerkin family, the current owners, for their generous hospitality and making the tour posible. Our special thanks to family member Jack Shaffer for all of his helping to set up the tour preserving the adobe and its history.

The adobe is located on Deer Valley Road just a half of a mile off of Green Valley Road.

PDF icon Click here to view a PDF of the Tour Program, prepared by Dr. John E. Thomson, PhD.

camera icon Click here to view pictures taken by Fran Thomson.

Below is a biography of Jacob Zentgraf, along with a historical account of the Zentgraf House, Winery and Cemetery.

According to author-historian Paolo Sioli in his Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County (1883), Jacob Zentgraf was born in Saxe-Weimar-Eisnach, Germany, August 12, 1821, the son of George and Mary Zentgraf, who were natives of the same place. When Jacob was 16 years old he learned the stone-cutting trade from his father. Jacob continued to work at his trade in Germany until he emigrated to the United States in 1852.

Jacob first settled for a few months in Butler, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg. He came to California in 1853 via the Nicaragua route, and landed at San Francisco on December 11, 1853. He soon began gold mining on Weber Creek.

In the fall of 1854 Jacob and his brother Antoine bought what is now known as the Zentgraf property. A Mr. Stevens had planted thirty-two grape vines on the place in 1849, and Jacob proceeded to set out additional vines. According to Sioli, all the other nearby vineyards of early days were furnished from it.

In 1857 Jacob bought out his brother, the farm then consisting of about 520 acres of land on which there was an abundance of water. So much water that, in 1926, Jacob’s son-in-law, Louis Klumpp, who married Joanna Zentgraf, successfully protested an attempt by a neighbor, J.T. Ramsay, to appropriate some of the water that flowed from the Zentgraf spring near the house into Sweetwater Creek.

Jacob married Mary Fisher, a native of Germany, in August of 1858. They had nine children: seven sons, George, John, Gabriel, William, Lambert, Jacob, and Frank; and two daughters, Johanna and Mary. None of the sons had sons of their own, so the Zentgraf name was not carried on in the family.

Author Joanne Burkett recounts on the El Dorado County, CAGenWeb (2008), that when Jacob built the Zentgraf house in 1871, the outer walls were more than a foot thick. Inside walls were hung loosely from the ceiling, where they were attached by hooks. This arrangement made it a simple chore to swing the walls up and attach them to the ceiling with more hooks, thereby effectively turning the house into a hall that could then be used for parties and dances. The Zentgraf house became the area’s gathering spot, and folks came from miles around to attend the dances that took place under its roof.

The 1880 U.S. Census for White Oak Township (as it was then known) lists eleven Zentgrafs then living in the house: Jacob, then 60 years old; Mary, 43; George, 21; John, 19; Gabriel, 19; Johanna, 16; William, 13; Lambert, 11; Jacob, 9; Mary, 7; and Frank, 6. Jacob gives his occupation as “Farmer,” his wife Mary as “Keeping House,” with the occupations of the sons and daughters variously described as “Farmer,” “At Home,” “At School,” with no entries for the three youngest children. George M. Zentgraf is listed as the Enumerator of Enumeration District 23 at the top of the census page.

The 1900 El Dorado County Precinct Register shows eight Zentgraf men whose address was “Green Valley” eligible to vote (recall that the 19th Amendment was not passed until 1920): Jacob, age 80; George F., 42; John, 40; Gabriel, 39; William, 36; Lambert, 34; Jacob H., 31; and. Frank, 25.

The 1910 U.S. Census shows five Zentgrafs living in the house: Jacob Sr., age 88; John, 48; Gabriel, 46; Jacob H., 38; and Frank J., 34. Jacob lists his occupation as “None,” while the sons list their occupation as “Miner.”

In the 1920 U.S. Census, the only Zentgraf shown living at the house was Jacob Zentgraf, age 48.

The Zentgraf House is now private property.

According to the the El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission, the Meyer-Zentgraf Cemetery, also known as the Buckeye Flat Cemetery, is located behind the Buckeye School in Shingle Springs. This cemetery is closely associated with the Franz Meyer and George Zentgraf families (who were related by George's marriage to Annie Zentgraf), but it is actually the cemetery of the town of Buckeye Flat. The Meyer-Zentgraf family plot is a feature of the cemetery.

Franz Meyer was the owner of Meter’s Hotel on the line of the Placerville and Sacramento Valley Railroad. The hotel was later operated by members of the Thomas Or family and renamed as Ore’s Hotel. The location is at approximately the middle of what was the Town of Buckeye Flat, an historic town that predated even the Town of Shingle Springs by perhaps as long as a year or more. The cemetery is now located on private property.

Paolo Sioli reports that in 1857 Jacob produced 1,800 gallons of wine that sold for $1.50 per gallon. He reported that, “Mr. Jacob Zentgraf, on Sweetwater Creek, Green Valley, keeps one of the oldest vineyards in the county, which he has endeavored to enlarge and improve considerably every year.”

Sioli also says that Jacob set up a small distillery in 1859 to make brandy that he sold for $2.50 per gallon, and that the winery produced from twelve to fourteen barrels of brandy and from four to six thousand gallons of wine.

In 1866, Jacob Zentgraf is shown on the list of persons liable for excise tax for Division No. Three Collection District Four of the State of California as operating a distillery at White Oak and liable for excise tax in the amount of $10.00 for the month of December 1866.

Legend has it that Zentgrafs sold their brandy to agents in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the town that in 1899 was the scene of the disastrous flood. Johnstown is near Pittsburg, and Butler, Pennsylvania, where Jacob first lived upon first arriving in the country, so the story may have basis in fact.

Due to the prosperity of his vineyards, in 1871 Jacob was able to afford to build his luxurious adobe home which still stands today.  Presently the home and the wine cellar (sometimes referred to as the winery) are split across both sides of Deer Valley Road in El Dorado County. The cellar still stands, but no vineyard or winery remains.

Note: This information is taken from sources thought to be accurate, but C.R.H.S. cannot be responsible for any errors or omissions.
Zentgraf adobe building
The historic Zentgraf house in Clarksville, CA, in 2008.

Zentgraf family
The Zentgraf family, 1888.

Zentgraf winery
The Zentgraf winery.