History of the Order
The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine traces its existence to the ancient days in France when knighthood flourished, rules of honor prevailed, and chivalry was the order of the day. Until the 13th Century, poisoning was almost an occupational hazard of royalty and their guests. At this time, the first wine knighthoods were established by royal decree and were known as the "Conseil des Eshansons," a council of Master Cup-Bearers. These first wine knights grew the vines, made the wines, and tasted the wines, guaranteeing their purity for royalty. Out of this beginning evolved the etiquette of the table, the marriage of wine with food, and even to this day, the tasting of wine at the table before serving guests.
Wine knighthood ended in France with the French Revolution. However, by 1855 France realized the need for great wines and began the process of classification of growths, reestablishing the nobility of vine stocks. Through the years that followed, different regulations were passed, including the "Appellation Controllee" which, in effect, meant a warranty of quality to aid wine lovers. On July 1, 1901, France passed a decree that regulates associations of this type.
The Americas designation was granted by the "Federation Internationale des Confreries Bachiques." It encompasses 38 Brotherhoods from France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan. Norman Gates was declared the first Grand Commander for America by the "Federation Internationale des Confreries Bachiques" serving from 1964-1995. Michael D. Doukas was then elected and led the Brotherhood until 2006.
The Origination of the Monterey Chapter of the Knights of the Vine
In 1976, Mr. Bill Cowan, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, California, invited Mr. Bob Little of Simpson's Restaurant, Carmel, Dr. John Nardone, Mr. Bart Bechtel and myself (David Armanasco) for luncheon at Simpson's to discuss the formation of the Fourth Chapter of the Knights of the Vine (KOV) in the United States of America. Bill Cowan was a convincing, energetic and enthusiastic gentleman who knew the interest of those involved with wine and food in the mid 70's could feel his vision for a local chapter of the KOV.
The inaugural celebration took place February 5, 1977 at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club with great pageantry and flair! The Grand Commander and Grand Officer from Sacramento conducted the very first assemblage and I had the honor of being inducted as the Master Commander. Joining me as founding officers of the Monterey Chapter were Master Vice Commander, John Nardone; Master Secretary, Frederick Dame; Master Treasurer, Bart Bechtel; Master Historian, William E. Hammonds; Master Scribe, Frederick Rainer; Master of Food Experience, Robert V. Little; Chief Master of Ceremony, Alan Fields; Master of Ceremony, P. Deen Rowe and Master Cup Bearer, Edward Stark. The inaugural celebration inducted thirty Knights and Gentle Ladies into the order. Also involved in the formation, were Brother Norbert Korte of the Novitiate Wine Cellars and Richard Culver who worked for Merv Sutton at Nielson's Market.
Those involved in forming the Monterey Chapter were dedicated to the principal that there should be a minimum of seriousness and maximum of fun and humor. Wine after all is meant to celebrate, share and complement fine food, and the original Cadre of the Knights of the Vine had little difficulty accepting that responsibility!
The Knights of the Vine beginnings on the Monterey Peninsula were filled with creative imagination. The first assemblage opened the way for many exciting venues, gatherings and great wine as the Chapter immediately gained momentum and became highly desired by those in love with discovering the wines of California and America.
-Monterey KOV's first Master Commander, David Armanasco