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Stege Area Winery

In 190l Mr. Guilio Rossi came to California from his native Italy and settled in the Stege Junction area. He started working for Stauffer Chemical Company when he arrived in this county. In 1907 Mr. Rossi sent for his wife, Mary, and their son Joseph, and in the later years he was associated with his son in the real estate and insurance business. He purchased property at Potrero and San Pablo Avenue, then commonly known as Stege Junction, but now part of El Cerrito. [Editor's Note: This area was called Stege Junction because the streetcar line that went to Stege left the mainline on San Pablo Avenue at Potrero Avenue.]

He erected a house on the property to move his family into and also a grocery and merchandise store which later in 1909 burned down. In 1908, Mr. And Mrs. Rossi had a daughter born to their family whom they named Edith. After the fire he rebuilt and opened a liquor store, continuing until the 18th Amendment went into effect. He was appointed by the government to look after the wine under bond in his place of business.

He had built a large building on the property which he made into a winery. They crushed an average of three carloads of grapes a day and had a capacity of 60,000 gallons. They imported grapes from all over the valley and also had their own vineyards near Modesto. Besides making wine they sold grapes to various Italian people throughout the bay area for their own use. They also shipped as many as 118 carloads of grapes back east each year.

During the days of prohibition, the winery was shut down except that they were allowed to sell a given amount for religious purposes. Large cement tanks had been constructed beneath the floor so in case of a leak or explosion, they could then drain the wine to keep the building from flooding. [Editor's Note: Prohibition ran from 1920-1933.]

In 1925 Rossi remodeled one of the buildings and they opened an athletic club which was used for fights, dances, and other entertainment that was enjoyed there in this large building. Out in front of the club stood a number of large beautiful palm trees. The Rossi family had also operated the Lafayette Park for a while and Mr. Lavigne promoted outdoor fights in this park.

During World War II the El Cerrito City Club was organized by Vic Figone, Louis Navellier, Clarence Brensel, Harry Bossi, and a number of others. The club enjoyed a busy program and was located in the Rossi Hall until a fire destroyed the Rossi building in 1947. The Cerrito City Club now has their own beautiful building at Kearney Street and Potrero Avenue. [Editor's note: the Cerrito City Club closed in l998.]


Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
Copyright El Cerrito Historical Society, June 2006