KOHLER & FROHLING
California's Pioneer Wine House
Charles Kohler was a dreamer. As a young man, Kohler achieved success in Germany as a violinist, yet he yearned for something more. In 1850, at age 21, he emigrated to New York. Again, despite success there, he saw entirely new and different opportunities out west. He arrived in California in 1852, in the waning days of the Gold Rush.
In 1853, supporting himself with his violin, Kohler remained in San Francisco to build the wine venture, while Frohling traveled to Los Angeles to look for suitable properties. By this time there were perhaps as many as 100 vineyards in the greater Los Angeles area that were producing wines for local consumption.
In 1854, Frohling found an ideal spot, a 12-acre vineyard along the Los Angeles River and wired Kohler, "I've bought a vineyard. Send me $4,000." They began making wine in 1854, with that year's crop of mission grapes, making Kohler & Frohling the first commercial winery in the state.
With innovative ideas, Charles Kohler not only grew his own firm into international importance, he also helped foster the state's wine industry. He was quick to recognize the dangers of crop disease and quick to replace infected plants with resistant root stock grafted with new foreign varietals. Kohler & Frohling instituted practices to not only improve the wines, but to improve the winemaking process to elevate the standards of the state's products.
Savoring the Heritage of California's First Commercial Winery
In the decades after the California Gold Rush, Kohler & Frohling was the best known name in the California wine industry. The firm's fine wines graced the tables of homes and restaurants throughout California and the U.S. and had a major New York distributor as well as international clientele. Kohler & Frohling survived pestilence, crop diseases, recessions and even the 1906 earthquake and fire, earning an honored place in California history.
Kohler & Frohling Wines became the first winery to ship wine to New York. It ultimately sold throughout New England, down the Eastern Seaboard and even in Missouri and Louisiana. In 1858, Kohler & Frohling wines were declared Best Wines at the California State Fair.
Kohler and Frohling headquarters, 626 Montgomery Street, the current site of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.