A Look Into Enid Sales and Sonoma’s Victorian Vineyard

5 mins read

In 1947, San Francisco planners proposed to renovate the Western Addition. It was a neighborhood that was known for having an extremely high crime rate, poverty, and some of the worst living quarters. People lived in murky cubicles, damp basements, and rooms that were the size of closets. The liberals wanted to replace Carmel’s hand-me-down dwellings with high-rise apartments.

The proposal from the Redevelopment Agency meant Black ministers and some Japanese-American residents would be evicted from their homes and replaced by upper-income white people. The sprawling Victorian homes were also bound to be demolished. 

To many visitors these days, Carmel may seem like a place that’s out of its time. But back then, it became a battlefield between Enid Sales and the liberals. 

Enid Thompson Sales, a prominent preservationist and polymath, was well-known for campaigning to save over 350 of San Francisco’s old Victorian homes and keeping their residents from facing eviction between the 1960s and 1970s. 

Sales, who became the first woman in the state of California to earn a general contractor’s license, mounted a tough fight against Clint Eastwood after he made plans to tear down Carmel’s historic buildings. 

In a career that stretched well past five decades, Sales established a movement that would later define the importance of historic preservation. 

For over a decade, Sales fought to preserve Carmel’s architectural gems and its historic past. Although she was a woman who stood at 5 feet 4, Sales was feared by her opponents. She was willing to do anything, file any number of lawsuits, to achieve her goal. 

Sales’ effort, which began in the mid-1960s, had successfully preserved over 350 Victorian homes. Several of the homes saved during the movement became some of the city’s best-known streetscapes. 

The Architectural Heritage also joined Sales in moving 13 Victorian homes across town to save them from being demolished. 

While Sales is known for her movement and the feats she accomplished, she is also known for establishing a vineyard that has become one of Sonoma’s oldest and most distinctive sites for Pinot Noir. 

The vineyard, which turns 50 this year, is known as the Cohn Vineyard. The vineyard is owned by Joe Anderson and his wife Mary Dewane who purchased it in 2002 as part of Benovia, their wine company. According to Anderson, Sales’ presence was still seen and felt throughout the vineyard. 

The Cohn vineyard remained a footnote in most accounts of Sales’ life. She bought the plot of land following her divorce with jazz critic Grover Sales. The vineyard, which rests 850 feet above Westside Road, became the home to Enid’s craftsman cottage. 

In 1970, Sales and her partner decided to plant Pinot vines by hand. She grafted the vines onto a St. George, which was not favored due to its low yields at the time. However, St. George later proved to be a wise decision after a 1980s epidemic wiped out much of the state’s wine grape acreage—all but the rootstock Sales grafted her vines in. 

The vineyard’s red, iron-oxide soils helped manifest an explicitly finished wine that conveyed the dusty and stony flavor of the red earth. 

The Cohn Vineyard, which was relatively unknown, rose to fame after its 2004 Cohn Pinot Noir earned 96 points in Wine Spectator. The wine became a household name to high-level connoisseurs and its style of ripe Pinot Noir defined an era of California winemaking. 

Under the stewardship of Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, the Cohn Vineyard had undergone revitalization. The vines, which had grown “tired” after years of over-irrigation and harsh chemicals, had been replaced. The practices that came post-Enid ownership were also converted to organic farming practices, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.  

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.

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