MONT LA SALLE VINEYARDS
Brother John Hoffman (whose given name was Stanley S. Hoffman, to distinguish him from his brother, John Hoffman, who later became Vice-President of Mont La Salle Vineyards, in charge of production) was assigned to the winery at Mont La Salle in 1934, and was joined there a year later by Brother Timothy Diener. These two men were responsible for the commercial growth and remarkable success of the winery operation in the 1940's and 1950's. Brother John died in 1962, and was succeeded as President of Mont La Salle Vineyards by Brother Gregory Schiefelbein, who had joined the winery operation in 1946. Brother Timothy, renowned Cellar Master, retired in 1986 after more than fifty years of wine making.
Brothers employed in the operation of the winery were members of the Holy Family Community, residing at Mont La Salle until 1981, at which time a home in nearby St. Helena served as the residence for several of the winery Brothers. Brother Cassian Frye, President, and Brother Timothy, Cellar Master, continued to live at Mont La Salle. Later, the winery Brothers moved to De La Salle House in Napa. In 1989, the Provincialate residence and community at Mont La Salle became home to the entire group of winery Brothers, and the Napa residence was sold.
In the 1960's, a five-phase program was designed for relocating the winery operations from Mont La Salle to property owned in South St. Helena. A warehouse was the first building to be constructed, followed by a second warehouse and the crushing operation facility. Phase Three saw the transfer of production and public relations to the St. Helena location. Meanwhile, winery tours and tasting operations were discontinued at Mont La Salle. The fourth phase involved moving the bottling machinery, and Phase Five was completed in January 1987, with the construction of a new administration building on the northeast section of the St. Helena site. The winery leased its facilities at Mont La Salle and forty acres of land to Hess Collection Wine Company, which undertook major renovations of the buildings and surrounding property.
Brother David Brennan, FSC, former Provincial of the San Francisco District, became President of Mont La Salle Vineyards in 1982, and initiated the third, fourth and fifth phases of the winery relocation. In 1987, Brother David appointed Mr. Richard Maher President of Mont La Salle Vineyards, along with his responsibility as President of Christian Brothers Sales Company. Brother David continued to serve the winery as Chairman of the Board and CEO, succeeding Brothers Cassian Frye and Frederick Portillo.
The dire effects of the Great Depression reached Mont La Salle in 1936, when De La Salle Institute declared bankruptcy, unable to redeem bonds issued in 1930 for the construction of Mont La Salle. Brother Jasper Fitzsimmons, who succeeded Brother Gregory Mallon as Provincial, weathered these stormy years, finally reaching an acceptable agreement with the bondholders. The success of the winery business in the 40's and 50's made it possible for De La Salle Institute to remove its bankruptcy status. Winery operations were expanded, and property adjoining Mont La Salle was acquired for additional vineyards and for water, bringing the total acreage to just fewer than 500.
In 1957, the vineyard and winery operations were incorporated as Mont La Salle Vineyards and, like any privately owned business, paid taxes. Ownership of the winery buildings and vineyards was transferred from De La Salle Institute to the new corporation. The Institute subsequently became a tax-exempt corporation that owned the residence and school buildings at Mont La Salle, as well as several schools operated by the Brothers in California. De La Salle Institute received royalties from the sales of Mont La Salle Christian Brothers wines and brandy, which helped support the District Administration, the training and retirement of the Brothers, and subsidized the schools owned by the corporation.
In 1988, Mont La Salle Vineyards began negotiations for the sale of the winery operations, including the label and vineyards. The sale was made to Heublein, Inc. in May 1989 - In turn, four (4) former Christian Brothers' winery executives purchased the Mont La Salle altar wine brand.