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Sunday, May 19, 2024

UC Davis Library, California Vintage Wine Society to create archival collection

The collection will detail the history of the California Vintage Wine Society, a social club for people who appreciate great Californian wine

By JENNIFER MA — campus@theaggie.org 

The UC Davis Library and the California Vintage Wine Society are currently working together to compile an archival collection that will consist of letters, photographs and menus that date back to the 1960s. These memorabilia will ultimately contribute to a commemorative book that details the history of the society for their 60th anniversary next year.  

Although the library is involved in supporting the university’s viticulture and enology department and claims to be the greatest wine library in the world, this collaboration came to fruition through multiple coincidences. 

“One afternoon in January of 2017, while returning to my office near the Maynard Amerine Room on the third floor of Shields Library, I saw a pair of legs extended from behind a bookshelf,” Axel Borg, the UC Davis Library’s distinguished librarian emeritus for food and wine, said. “Not knowing what to expect, I rounded the corner and happened upon a man, lying on his back on the floor, reading a book. When I identified myself, the man jumped to his feet and began to pepper me with questions.”

Borg said he discovered that the man, Ned MacDonald, who was the president of the Northern California Chapter of the California Vintage Wine Society at the time, was looking to use the grape and wine collection in the Amerine Room to teach members of the society about different wines.

While this chance encounter led to a friendship and partnership between the UC Davis Library and the California Vintage Wine Society, it took another coincidental discovery for this archival collection to come about.

The components of the archival collection were originally three scrapbooks from Mike Henry’s closet which Paul Tuttle, the chairman of the Wine Committee for the California Vintage Wine Society, shared with the library’s team. Henry’s father, Warner Henry, was a founding member of the society, and the scrapbooks include prominent names and faces in the wine industry.

“I ended up having a visit scheduled with UC Davis to go come up for the tour of the library, meet the whole group that’s involved in [the wine] library,” Tuttle said. “I brought those [scrapbooks] with me to the lunch. We were trying to figure out how to get them digitized, mainly for the benefit of members.”

The idea of digitizing the scrapbooks then transformed into the idea of a commemorative book to mark the 60th anniversary of the society.

“To build on the history presented by the scrapbooks, the library engaged society members in a ‘scavenger hunt’ contest to see which members could hunt out the most interesting event programs, menus, notes, photographs, etc. from their closets and attics,” Kevin Miller, the UC Davis Library’s head of archives and special collections, said. “We’re also planning to augment this material record with new oral history interviews with long-time California Vintage Wine Society members to further preserve the stories and history of the society and its activities.”

Although the UC Davis Library already has 30,000 books in more than 50 languages and materials in every medium regarding wine, having an archival collection like this is still important, according to Tuttle. 

“There’s a saying that […] says ‘who knows only his own generation remains always a child,’ so it’s very important for us to understand where we came from,” Tuttle said. “It helps guide us in the future.”

Miller echoed Tuttle’s sentiments on the importance of an archival collection like this. 

“We want our collections to tell the complete story of wine in California,” Miller said. “The California Vintage Wine Society’s collection fills in another gap here. Ultimately, the better our collections, the closer we come to meeting our mission to serve the research and education needs of UC Davis students, faculty and the interested public.”

Written by: Jennifer Ma — campus@theaggie.org    

An earlier version of this article stated that Paul Tuttle found the scrapbooks in Mike Henry’s closet. The article has been updated to correct the error. 


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