April 26, 1955 —
The Del Valle family's 1867 winery at Rancho Camulos.
Rancho Camulos was primarily a cattle ranch from 1842, when Ygnacio del Valle inherited the western section of the 48,000-acre Rancho San Francisco and stocked it with cattle, until 1857, when Ygnacio bought the adjacent 13,339-acre Rancho Temescal to the north (Piru area), moved the cattle there, and planted the Santa Clara River Valley's first commercial orange grove on the former cattle range.
Other siblings inherited the rest of the Rancho San Francisco. After the family lost it to foreclosure ... here's the short story. Back then (as now), ranchers borrowed the money they needed each year to raise their stock. Then, when they brought their beef to market, they'd repay the loans. Well, the drought of 1863-64 that followed the torrential rains of 1861-62 killed the Del Valles' stock, so they couldn't pay back the loans. The bankers foreclosed — but Ygnacio, a big-league L.A. politician, worked a deal to keep the 1,500-acre Camulos section.
While all of this was happening, Ygnacio and his son Juventino, the ranch manager, planted 90 acres of wine grapes and obtained a license to distill brandy. In 1867 they built a 1½-story brick winery near the 1853 adobe home, which basement had been used for wine storage. By 1870 the Del Valles were operating the biggest of four commercial wineries in the greater Ventura area (San Buenaventura Township).
"It was the wine grape that brought the first real commercial success for the Del Valle family. Camulos wines and brandies enjoyed a good reputation throughout Los Angeles and Santa Barbara" (Triem & Stone, Rancho Camulos: National Register of Historic Places Nomination, 1996).
They also planted almonds, wheat, corn and barley. Triem & Stone cite an 1891 source that reported: "The rancho is divided about equally into farming and grazing land. The pastures raise horses, horned cattle, sheep and hogs. ... Here are grown excellent crops of wheat, in quality very superior, also bountiful crops of barley, rye, oats, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, melons and all kinds of vegetables. ... The vineyard here is of 50,000 vines, which for many years have yielded 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of wine per year. From an orange grove of 2,000 trees, 1,200 boxes of fruit were shipped last season. The returns are handsome from 500 walnut trees, as also from the oil and pickled olives from a fine grove of 1,000 olive trees. Almost every kind of fruit grown in the United States is raised here."
By 1900, citrus was emerging as the king. From 1908 to 1917, then-manager Ulpaino del Valle planted Valencia oranges as well as apricots and walnuts on former grazing land. By the time August Rubel bought the property in 1924 — Camulos has been owned by just two families since the end of war for Mexican independence from Spain — the grapes and almonds were gone, and the Rubels eventually replaced the walnuts and apricots with more oranges.
According to Triem & Stone, as of 1996, six hundred acres were under cultivation as follows: 500 acres of Valencia oranges, 40 acres of lemons, 30 acres of grapefruit, 20 acres of navel oranges, and 10 acres of avocados.
As for the 1867 winery, it became a storage room, and then the Rubels turned the upstairs into a Ramona museum (check the Camulos section on SCVHistory.com for that story), complete with Del Valle family artifacts. The building has been red-tagged (uninhabitable) since the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
RA5503: Download original images here
. Rancho Camulos Museum collection.