Chinese Laborers Built Sonoma's Wineries. Racist Neighbors Drove Them Out

7/12/2017 - Associate Professor of History Cecilia Tsu on NPR.

In Sonoma Valley about an hour north of San Francisco, there are many reminders of the immigrants who built California's wine industry: tasting rooms that look like Italian villas or signs bearing French names. But you won't see any vestiges of the group that made up an estimated 80 percent of the workforce that first put Sonoma vineyards on the map: the Chinese.

Cecilia Tsu, a history professor at the University of California, Davis who studies Asian-Americans in the West, points out that winemaking is much more labor-intensive than wheat or other crops grown earlier in the state.

"Chinese immigrants were indispensable on multiple levels," says Tsu. "They built roads; cleared land for farming; planted, pruned and harvested grapes. They did backbreaking, physical labor, as well as horticultural work that required significant knowledge and skill."

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