A century later, a look back at Prohibition in Sonoma County

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Congress ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution on Jan. 16, 1919, marking the dawn of Prohibition across the United States. Although the law would not go into effect until the following year, the legislation had long-term impacts in Sonoma County, where burgeoning beer and wine industries were just taking flight.

To stay afloat alcohol-related industries had to think outside the box. Hop growers sold their wares to European brewers. Grape growers switched to prunes and other crops. Winemakers produced sacramental wine or turned to bootlegging.

Still, many vintners and brewers could not stay profitable. Of the 17 Dry Creek Valley wineries producing in 1919, only seven reopened after Prohibition.

The Volstead Act, passed in October 1919, enforced the 18th Amendment, making it illegal to produce or sell alcoholic beverages — except for family consumption. As a result, home brewing and winemaking took off.

Alicante Bouschet and Grand Noir grapes were shipped to East Coast consumers. California Zinfandel growers saw their acreage increase during Prohibition years.

Ratified on Dec. 3, 1933, the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition and opened the doors for the taxation of alcoholic beverages throughout the U.S. A case of Korbel champagne from the Guerneville cellars was among the many thank-you gifts shipped to the White House after the repeal.

Click through our gallery above to learn more about the Prohibition years in Sonoma County.

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