Ranch History

 
 

Sei Querce Vineyards was established in 2010 with the purchase of the Fay Ranch in Geyserville, California. In 2012 the adjoining Ellis Ranch was bought to bring back together the Fay Ranch with the Ellis Ranch, the Fay Ranch being previously a part of the larger Ellis Ranch. In both purchases, we were fortunate to buy the ranches directly from the heirs of the original Ellis Ranch, which was sectioned off over 140 years ago from two larger Mexican rancheros. The legacy of the men and women who have lived and worked on these ranches is of good neighbors, community leaders (including Sheriff John Ellis) and caring stewards of the land.

Previously operated as sheep ranches, prune farms and vineyards, today Sei Querce Vineyards is known as a producer of premium organic wine grapes and fresh organic fruits and vegetables, with an occasional wild mushroom thrown in. Our long term aspirations are to operate at an uncommonly high level of sustainability while producing quality fruits, vegetables and winegrapes.

The two original Mexican ranchos—Rancho Tzabaco and Rancho Caslamayomi were created under the system of Mexican Land Grants in 1843 and 1844, respectively. The respective grantees were German Pina and Eugenio Montenegro.

The story of Rancho Tzabaco rings of the raucous early days of the wild West following the cessation of California to the United States in 1848 with Sr. Pina being murdered by squatters, the Rancho being taken over by the military governor, title being transferred to a lawyer and land speculator for an unspecified favor, continued squatter uprisings, frequent fandangos for the residents, and a long and unsuccessful court battle by an illegitimate daughter of Pina attempting to reclaim title.

The story of Rancho Caslamayomi is also one of colorful characters and their escapades. Before receiving the grant, Montenegro rose quickly from a customs guard to a senior captain, helped in part by his selection of wives. Following the grant of the rancho to Montenegro, he made a quick flip of the property to a Scottish merchant and diplomat who lived in Mexico and whose father wrote the first history of California in English (without having ever seen California). Before title could be patented under US property law, Montenegro, reneged and made a second sell of the rancho to a different buyer. After 22 years, Forbes was given final title to the rancho. In the meantime, members of Forbes family, still resident in Mexico urged England to take coastal California as satisfaction for Mexico's unpaid debts to England. During this period members of the Forbes family participated in a subsequent three-way land grab against two other claimants involving a quicksilver mine on the rancho. This resulted in what The New York Times called "one of the most remarkable civil trials in this or any other country." The case involved Mexican property laws, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the United State Supreme Court, which appears to have rendered a Solomonic rule that split title to mining property below the ground from the mining property on the surface.