My Material Life

The Mystery of the Champagne Fountain

A few years ago I was looking up an area not far from my house on Yahoo maps and I swear to you, the words “Champagne Fountain” were printed on that map! Of course, I can’t find them now, but at the time I thought I must be dreaming – could such a Shangri-La really exist?  So close to my house?  Why didn’t I know anything about it?

My husband reminded me that years ago there was a Paul Masson winery at that location and that we’d been there with college friends in the 80s.  I just didn’t remember anything about a champagne fountain and believe me, I would have remembered that!  So it remained a mystery to me – until last week.

While I was looking up something else on the internet I ran across photographs of the Paul Masson Champagne vaults from its glory days.  I had no idea that such a stunning example of mid-century modern design ever existed here.  The Bertoia chairs in the tasting hall alone take my breath away.  The site must have been a shadow of its former self by the time we got there.  Internet reports say it was abandoned in the 1980s and razed for a new housing development in the 1990s.

In this next photo, I realized I’d probably found my champagne fountain.

This abstract sculpture/fountain symbolizing champagne was by the sculptor, Gurdon Woods who was the director of the California School of Fine Arts.  The rotunda behind the fountain featured a mosaic depicting the history and uses of wine from ancient to modern times (the vaults opened in 1959) by the Spanish artist Jose Moya Del Pino.  Seems incredible that none of this exists any longer, doesn’t it?  Surely some of the art was saved?  I wonder.  Luckily, Paul Masson’s Mountain Winery still exists though mostly as a concert venue these days.  My internet search referenced a book I found at the library called Gift of the Grape. It was published in 1959 and contains the history of Paul Masson and wine-making in California.  It even has some black and white photos of the champagne vaults taken by Ansel Adams.

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