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History of Oak Family Vineyard & Ranch Estate

Cecil Wiley Oak's original cabin.

Cecil Wiley Oak's original cabin still standing

Cecil Wiley Oak's Orginial cabin from 1750.

Cecil Wiley Oak's original cabin still standing

Oak Family Vineyard & Ranch Estate covers over 71,965 acres of hills, mountains, lakes, and prairies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. From cliffs to rolling valleys covered with Oak, Manzanita, and Pine trees along with many other plants and a wide range of animal life.

The Oak Family researched their story back to 1742 when Carl Cecil Oak, one of four Blacksmiths in town — the youngest at 17, was forced into the treacherous wilderness to the north, an area that everyone just went around, by the other three blacksmiths. Carl navigated his way through the dense forest and rough terrain to eventually find fertile valleys and self-sustaining resources. He survived on the vegetation in the area and built a dwelling. Eventually made it back into town and came back with supplies to get him through the winter. The following spring he planted crops and never went into town except for the one time to win the heart of his dream girl, Marjorie Camiel Weimer. He told her about this Garden of Eden hidden inside the wilderness. Of course, she did not believe him at first.

Cecil and Marjorie raised a family of four and educated them themselves. Carl taught them about how to live in harmony with their surrounding wilderness. Marjorie taught them reading, writing, and mathematics. They would go into town to attend events. Marjorie's family visited as often as they could since it was a long trek to the homestead. Carl spent his last years navigating a perimeter of the wilderness and setting up boundaries to mark their territory and set a claim to the land before his death in 1802. Since there were very few that would enter the “Haunted Woods” — as many people call it — and those that did would turn back a few miles in, or never return at all. No one opposed the claim. If they only knew what was beyond the “Haunted Woods,” things might have been different. The family states, “Carl walked every acre of the 71,965 acres that he claimed and would have been more, but Marjorie became sick, and Carl stayed by her side, and after she passed, he gave the deed to his eldest son Cecil Wiley Oak.”

Production Still from Petite Chardonnay with Lori Grback & Gary L. Conover portraying Cecila & Richard Oak back in 1965.

Cecilia & Richard Oak
played by Lori Grback & Gary L. Conover
Photo © 2011 - 2024 Mark Hoffman and Aria Pictures

Production Still from Petite Chardonnay of Cynthia Gatlin portraying Agnes Eva-Jean Washington circa 1983.

Agnes Eva-Jean Washington [we can never get a picture with Samuel, he is always busy, and hides from the camera]
played by Cynthia Gatlin
photo © 2011 - 2024 Patricia Collins & Aria Pictures

In the spring of 1818, tired of the torturous path into town, Cecil with the help of his younger brothers Jasper and Cedric, began the construction of a winding leveled wagon path down the Miner’s Cavern, which exists today as the primary way in and out of the Estate. Cecil created a trust between him, his sister Delila, and his two brothers, making them part-owners on the property.

Cecil married Penelope Constance Gratton from Canada who's parents died as they were traveling to Texas in hopes to find riches from the black gold. Penelope and a small group made it to town and had no way of surviving. Cecil invited them to the homestead and offered work to them for a place to stay. Cecil and Penelope had a son, Carl Richard Oak before Cecil passed away.

Oak Family Vineyard & Ranch Estate.

Oak Family Vineyard & Estate Ranch landscape
Actual location is Lucchesi Vineyard & Winery Grass Valley
Photo © 2012 - 2024 Doug Hammer and Aria Pictures

With hundreds of streams and creeks throughout the property and many lakes, there is no shortage of water for the abundant flora and fauna that call Oak Family Vineyard & Ranch Estate home. The Yuba River, once known for its gold panning from 1830 - 1925, also runs through the property.

The property was passed down to Edward Elias Oak, son of Carl Richard and Edna May Thoulin. Edward married Mary Ann Holmes and passed it to his son Simon Wiley Oak. Simon married Vivian Adella Imogene and they had a two daughters, Charlene Adel Oak and Claire Chasity Oak. Simon passed the property on top both Charlene and Claire, but Charlene married David Winston Henry and moved to New York. Claire married Weston James Grady, but hyphenated her name to Claire Chasity Oak-Grady in memory of her family history. Claire also insisted/requested that one of their male children, if they had any, would keep the surname of Oak to carry on the family name. Winston embraced the idea. Weston was honored to be apart of the Oak Family tree that he developed a community named Double Oak and became the mayor.

Claire made her income from making available the vast forest to builders of all likes, as well as leasing gold claims along the streams and the Oak's part of the Yuba River. Local lore — and papers found in the attic — state Claire asked for an ounce of gold for every 10 ounces the miner’s panned — and they found plenty. Some have often pondered why the Oak family did not mine the property themselves?

Claire and Winston had one male child, Albert Simon Grady-Oak, before Winston passed away in a mining accident in the city of Double Oak. Albert, who went by his middle name Simon, no one knows for sure why. It has been told that when asked about it he would reply with, "You will do as Simon says, or things may not be the way it is." Or something like that. It changed as the years went on. Mary Bessie Fox, Albert's, or Simon's wife, states that he would always tell her, "A never ending love I know it is, my love for you that Simon says."

In 1947, Richard James Oak was born to Albert Simon and Mary Bessie Oak. At the age of 18, in the spring of 1965, Richard purchased 300 acres of the family estate — some say it the family gave it to him, but the records show a little of both. Richard planted grape varietals with help from his friend Samuel George Washington educated in viticulture. Richard went to college to earn his degree in viticulture and business, which is where he met and married Cecilia Ann Hanson, yes, the brother of Gary Donald Hanson, whom Richard was also good friends with before meeting Cecilia.

Production still from Petite Chardonnay of Gary L. Conover, Lori Grbac, and Jacob Ambrosini portraying the Oak Family Family as Richard, Cecilia, and Michael - circa 1970.

Oak Family Family Richard, Cecilia, and Michael - 1970
played by Gary L. Conover, Lori Grbac, and Jacob Ambrosini
photo © 2011 - 2024 Patricia Collins & Aria Pictures

They sold their first Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir grapes in 1968, which was only 120 tons, but for the ranch, it was the first step into realizing their self-sufficient lifestyle. A much more abundant harvest came in 1970; by then, they had several other varietals that they offered. That same year, Michael Robert was born to Richard and Cecilia, making it 10 generations of Oak's residing on the property since 1818.

Since its beginning, Oak Family Vineyard & Ranch Estate has raised the bar for quality, flavor, and value, plus the pure joy of sharing a grape or two with friends and family.

Production Still from Petite Chardonnay of Gretta Sosine, Gary L. Conover, Michel Klemp, and Karly Avva portraying the Oak Family a as Teresa, Richard, Michael, and Chardonnay - copyright 2024.

Oak Family Teresa, Richard, Michael, and Chardonnay - circa 2011
played by Gretta Sosine, Gary L. Conover, Michel Klemp, and Karly Avva
photo © 2011 - 2024 Patricia Collins & Aria Pictures

Cecilia passed away from cancer in 1989, and Samuel Died in 1991.  Gary Donald Hanson took over more responsibilities and in 1998, Marilyn, Gary's wife, joined to help with the business end.

In 2004, an order for 70 percent of their product came from a company in New York; this was an unusual request, but they paid a premium and did not haggle over the price.

In 2011, we added two new additions to the Oak Family, Teresa Marie, wife of Michael Robert, and Chardonnay Syrah, their daughter. Michael returned from his extended journey away to share the joyous news.

This is not a real location; it is created for the movies Petite Chardonnay (2012) & Chardonnay.