Evolution of the ECWTM
In 1983, Dean Walters began the practice of his trade as Vintage Antiques, focusing on wine and Champagne-related antiques and collectibles. Occasionally, interesting and beautiful artifacts and ephemera from California’s early wine trade passed through the business. Mysteries surrounded these curious artifacts as substantive accounts of our state’s early wine history were difficult to find.
Dean bought and sold these historical artifacts early on, but it soon became apparent that these were meaningful pieces of California’s early wine history. He began setting aside ephemera, photographs, wine bottles, advertising, and more, not yet having a plan in mind. In discussions with like-minded friends, a concept evolved in the late 1980s. California needed a museum devoted to its amazing wine history!
Few similar projects have been undertaken. Alfred Fromm, chairman of Fromm & Sichel, Inc., opened the San Francisco Wine Museum in 1974, featuring worldwide wine history and artwork. Their museum which closed just a few years later had an impressive collection representing mostly Europe’s wine history, but little of California’s. Dean’s long-time friend and fellow wine antiques dealer, Jim McCormick once sought investors who might purchase his impressive collection of vineyard & wine-making equipment and wine-related ephemera, to form the California Wine Museum. Jim’s dream faded a few years ago as interested parties came and went, but never fully committed to the project.
Jim reluctantly decided to sell his collection piecemeal when Dean found support from friend and fellow collector, John O’Neill, who expressed interest in purchasing much of the California wine trade material from Jim’s collection. Many fine pieces were acquired, consisting of advertising signs, photographs, wine bottles, and more.
By 2012 the archives had grown substantially, the Early California Wine Trade Archive (ECWTA) emerged, and a website was created to promote the project. In 2015, the Early California Wine Trade Museum (ECWTM) was incorporated as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit.