California Cooler was the first commercially produced wine cooler in the United States. In 1976, Lodi High School graduates Michael Crete and R. Stuart Bewley created the alcoholic drink by mixing tropical flavors, such as pineapple, grapefruit, and lemon-lime with white wine and a little bit of club soda. In 1981, the fruity, low-alcohol (4%-6%), California Cooler was being sold nationally in 2 liter bottles and in a four pack of 12 ounce bottles. The wine cooler craze of the 1980s helped to stabilize California’s wine industry at a time when supply was high, but demand was low.
By the mid-1980s, the wine cooler industry boomed with similar products produced by Canandaigua Wine Company’s Sun Country Cooler, E & J Gallo Winery’s Bartles & Jaymes brands, and Seagram’s Golden Wine Cooler. By 1985, California Cooler was selling 12.3 million cases a year, worth $125 million. That same year, Crete and Bewley sold the company to liquor giants Brown-Forman Inc., owner of Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, and other spirits brands. An initial investment of $140,000 had blossomed into a more than $200 million payout.
The San Joaquin County Historical Society accepts donations of artifacts, photographs, and documents on behalf of the County of San Joaquin. Donations to the collection are accepted based on their relevance to the social, political, agricultural, industrial, technological, economic, and cultural heritage of San Joaquin County.
For more information about donating artifacts contact Julie Blood, Collections and Exhibits Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.