In the early days of the California Gold Rush in 1849, Albert Mosely claimed 180 prime acres in the hills rising above the South Fork American River. The DGV Estate is now situated on 80 acres of Mosely’s claim. In 1850, Mosely helped shape Gold Rush history by establishing the first hotel in El Dorado County,intended to serve the miners flooding into the area. The Bay State House was built from a pre-fabricated home that sailed from the Maine manufacturer around the horn and up through Sacramento. The hotel and stagecoach stop provided miners with the opportunity of supply replenishment, a warm bed and a stable with room for 24 horses. To the south, the vineyard is bordered by the Gold Hill Wakamatsu Colony, a place with a compelling and inspiring cultural history: it is the landing place for the last of the Tokugawa Samurai defeated in the Boshin civil war of 1868-69. The colonists, including a 17 year-old girl named Okei, arrived in California with a great shipload of mulberry trees, tea plant seed, fruit saplings, paper and oil plants, and crops including rice and bamboo to establish the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. Purchasing the Gold Hill ranch in June of 1869, these samurai class citizens and Okei Ito established the first Japanese Colony in the United States.
Many of the original structures on the site remain intact, including the newly restored Graner House, Okei Ito’s gravesite, numerous artifacts, and agricultural plantings. This site is testament to Japanese history, California’s agricultural economy, and the American tradition of bringing together people of diverse cultures in the common pursuit of freedom and prosperity.
The Gold Hill Wakamatsu Colony was acquired by the American River Conservancy in 2010. Says California Congresswoman Doris Matsui, “To many Japanese Americans, the Wakamatsu Colony is as symbolic as Plymouth Rock was for the first American colonists. The Gold Hill Wakamatsu Collaborative now has the historic opportunity to acquire this land and preserve the legacy of these early Japanese Americans.”
Upon her death in 1871, Okei Ito became the first Japanese citizen to be buried on American soil. Okei's gravesite overlooks the DGV estate from the south side of the Wakamatsu colony. Okei, with her brave example of the immigrant spirit, has become a popular folk hero in both Japan and the United States. We have honored Okei Ito by making her the namesake of our flagship premium Syrah.
A portion of all profits from this wine are donated to the American River Conservancy Wakamatsu Colony Preservation and Restoration Project.The National Park Service placed the Wakamatsu Colony site on the National Register of Historic Places at a level of “National Significance.” The vision of ARC and its project partners is to create a public park at the Wakamatsu Colony site that protects Okei’s gravesite, establishes a memorial garden, creates trails and a house museum within the historic farmhouse, and develops a demonstration and production farm that displays the valuable contributions that Japanese Americans have made to California agriculture and to the United States as a nation of diverse peoples.