Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
When the Rivers Ran Red

When the Rivers Ran Red

An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America's Wine Country

Vivienne Sosnowski

St. Martin's Press




Today, millions of people around the world enjoy California's legendary wines, unaware that 90 years ago the families who made these wines--and in many cases still do – turned to struggle and subterfuge to save the industry we now cherish. When Prohibition took effect in 1919, three months after one of the greatest California grape harvests of all time, violence and chaos descended on Northern California. Federal agents spilled thousands of gallons of wine in the rivers and creeks, gun battles erupted on dark country roads, and local law enforcement officers, sympathetic to their winemaking neighbors, found ways to run circles around the intruding authorities. For the state's winemaking families--many of them immigrants from Italy--surviving Prohibition meant facing impossible decisions, whether to give up the idyllic way of life their families had known for generations, or break the law to enable their wine businesses and their livelihood to survive. Including moments of both desperation and joy, Sosnowski tells the inspiring story of how ordinary people fought to protect to a beautiful and timeless culture in the lovely hills and valleys of now-celebrated wine country.


A trickle of dark liquid began to flow, slowly at first; hesitating a little, then with a deep-throated roar it became a torrent so mighty it was as if the heavens themselves had been ripped open. When the deluge hit the ground the red liquid roiled...


Praise for When the Rivers Ran Red

“Sosnowski's fascinating account of how Napa and Sonoma winemakers struggled to survive during the national insanity known as Prohibition fills a giant hole in the history of American wine. Wine lovers everywhere should thank her for tracking down survivors, many now in their 90s, who provided rich accounts of what it was like to live through that terrible nightmare. A tale well told, Sosnowski has a fine touch.” —George M. Taber, bestselling author of Judgment of Paris

“Rich, moving and evocative, Sosnowski's exquisite writing brings to life a chapter of American history that has largely been forgotten. Anyone who enjoys California's legendary wines will absolutely adore When the Rivers Ran Red. A book to be savored, word by word. Were this a great bottle of wine, it would deserve 5 stars out of 4.” —Don and Petie Kladstrup, bestselling authors of Wine & War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure and Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times

“Sosnowski's When the Rivers Ran Red will defeat the misconception that fine California wine represents a recent phenomenon. This fast paced, crisply written account of California winemakers' battle to survive Prohibition breathes new life into this precious American tradition and shows in gripping detail how deep these vines' roots run in the soils of lovely Napa and Sonoma Valleys.” —William Echikson, author of Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

“Intensely moving, fast-paced, horrifying and inspiring in turns, When the Rivers Ran Red is a beautifully written, deeply researched story of liberty and tyranny, the love of life and the sickness of its enemies. I shall remember it every time I visit California wine country.” —Hugh Johnson, bestselling author of The World Atlas of Wine, The Story of Wine and the Pocket Wine Book series

“The tentacles of the Volstead Act were powerful and far-reaching. In telling what happened in California's valleys during the difficult years of Prohibition, Vivienne Sosnowski puts a human face on the misery and desperation, but shows the courage and ingenuity that has ultimately led to the triumph of the State's wine growers.” —Gerald Asher, Gourmet magazine, and author of The Pleasures of Wine and Vineyard Tales

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Vivienne Sosnowski

Vivienne Sosnowski has been an editorial director of newspapers, including the Washington, D.C., Examiner and the San Francisco Examiner. A gifted photographer whose portraits of wine country pioneers were the genesis of When the Rivers Ran Red, she divides her time between a home in the vineyard county of Sonoma and another in Vancouver, Canada.

Vivienne Sosnowski

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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