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When Prohibition took effect in 1920, only a few 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 stonewall the intruding authorities. For the state's winemaking families―many of them immigrants from Italy―surviving Prohibition meant facing a crucial decision―give up their idyllic way of life, or break the law to enable their livelihood to survive.
Sosnowski's intimate history provides us with a new view into Prohibition America, away from the flappers and speakeasys of Chicago and New York, and into the lovely hills and valleys of wine country, where families hid vintages and prayed for the days when they could resume the craft that they loved. When the Rivers Ran Red tells of the extraordinary adventures of the stalwart efforts of immigrant families―the Seghesios, the Foppianos, the Nichelinis and the Cuneos―who saved one of America's most beloved traditions.
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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.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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 into a fast-moving wave that churned up an angry froth. The small crowd of men, women and children who stood watching was stunned into silence. Then their eyebrows lifted in astonishment as thousands upon thousands of gallons of liquid began to stream past their feet. Moments later they gasped as the flood bubbling around them grew deeper and wilder. Instinctively they screeched a communal yell of terror and, in one great convulsion, whipped around and charged away, fathers and mothers pulling children almost out of their sweaters as they dragged them out of harm’s way. They turned to look back only when they felt they were far enough to gaze at the terrifying spectacle in safety.
As the ruby waves kept rolling past them, a vast dark stain spread wider and wider across the countryside. It soon poured into every ditch and depression in its path. Small puddles grew into red lakes. Before the deluge was over, it had poured for almost two days. But this first day was the one that took everyone by surprise.
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