The Bootleg Cabin

Rachel and I made our first attempt to check on the Bootleg Cabin soon after the 2015 fires.  It’s a rustic trip for a 4-wheeler, and the result was a mission aborted.   Thus we never got to see if it was still standing… until yesterday.

No reasonable person would build a home at the end of the road to this cabin.  With sharp drop-offs and passages too narrow for most vehicles, the path is best suited for hikers and mountain bikes.  But even those rarely travel back to there, as proved by the creeping of shrubs and trees across the path.

So why would anybody bother to build a cabin at the end of such a muddy and treacherous trail?

Because when you’re making illegal alcohol during prohibition, obscurity is your friend!

Rachel on a mission to find the Bootleg Cabin

The story of the cabin intrigued our family immediately in 1999 when we toured the property that became Six Sigma Ranch.  It was so well preserved (probably because it’s impossible to find) that you could envision the bootleggers living there, with furniture, books and newspapers on the table.   In fact, most of those items were still there when my brother and I found the place years ago.

As a tribute to our bootlegging predecessors at the ranch, we first created the Bootleg Sauvignon Blanc in 2009, a serious, mouth-filling and aromatic take on our traditional Sauvignon Blanc.  The style, fermented partly on the skins and aged in oak, gives a rustic richness that I can only imagine would resemble the products made by the original bootleggers.

But maps of the 2015 fires in our area suggested the cabin might be gone, and that’s why Rachel and I packed a bag and jumped on mountain bikes to find out.

Most of the trip is beautiful, with green grass and streams in all directions.  It’s not until the last few miles that things get overgrown and challenging.  But this time we were determined to reach the home site.

The barn by the Bootleg Cabin

We were relieved to find the barn that goes with the cabin in perfect shape.  Somehow the fire had spared it. But another 50 yards down the trail, the cabin had not been so lucky.

The ruins of the Bootleg Cabin, after it burned down.

Like so many original California homesteads, the building had been reduced to a stone fireplace and pieces of tin roof.

Now we know, at least, and the end of the Bootleg Cabin almost makes our rustic Sauvignon Blanc tribute to it more satisfying.

Christian Ahlmann

7 thoughts on “The Bootleg Cabin

Monica May 2, 2018 at 10:34 am

Oh my word, I’m suddenly so sad. A piece of history gone. But thanks for sharing! Do you have photos from the last time you saw it?


    christian May 2, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Monica, we do somewhere, but I can’t find them! The last time we went out there, we got a picture of a large rattlesnake waiting for us under the front steps! I’m thinking we will build a replica some day, a little closer to the tasting room, as a tribute for a picnic wine tour =) Christian


Janell Pekkain May 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm

I wondered about that cabin! Bittersweet indeed. Thanks for sharing.


Fran Ransley July 22, 2021 at 8:54 am

It’s very possible I saw that cabin in the mid-70s. There were several remote homestead cabins in the Jerusalem, Jericho, Noble Ranch and Morgan Valley area that were not too difficult to access on horseback. We never entered any of these old dwellings, even if they appeared to be abandoned, but when riding through we might stop and rest in the shade and speculate on the lives of people who had occupied these places. We always closed gates and left things as they were, so as not to disturb the ghosts or annoy property owners.


    Christian Ahlmann July 22, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Fran, what a fun story! Thank you for your comment. – Christian


Joann Maxwell July 23, 2021 at 11:44 pm

How far is it to hike to?


    Christian Ahlmann July 24, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    Joann, it’s about 6 miles, but it’s a bit too complicated for a hike. Lot’s of washed out roads and awkward gates that don’t open well. We would be happy for you to hike other areas of the ranch, though =)


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