“Growing smaller” would seem to be an illogical concept, but it has made perfect sense for the Seghesio family of Sonoma County.
The Seghesio winemaking story began in 1886 when Edoardo Seghesio left behind his family’s vineyards in Piedmonte, Italy, seeking a better way of life in America.
Edoardo had heard about the Italian Swiss Colony in northern California, and decided that would be his initial destination. The Colony offered immigrants room and board in exchange for a three-year employment contract. At the end of the contract, workers were paid a lump sum – in effect, a stake in a home or a business of their own.
Edoardo’s talents caught the eye of the Colony managers, and he quickly worked his way up to the ranks of winemaker. He stayed well beyond his three-year commitment, and in 1895, he and his wife Angela purchased a home in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.
What actually had caught Edoardo’s eye was not the home, but the 56 acres of land that surrounded it – land that was perfect for grapevines. The couple planted Zinfandel, the variety that has proven to be the Seghesio family’s lifeline through four generations.
Still working for the Colony, Edoardo worked on building his own winery during the evening hours. It made for some long, exhausting days, but by 1902, the Seghesio Winery was completed.
Six months before the enactment of Prohibition, believing that it couldn’t possibly last, Edoardo purchased the 4-million-gallon Italian Swiss Colony for a song. He had to go into debt to do it, however, and when Prohibition lingered, Edoardo was forced to take on partners. He ended up selling his shares in 1933.
The next year, Edoardo died. But Angela endured and gradually built up the Seghesio Winery. She passed away in 1958, but her sons carried on and, into the mid-1970s, were producing 1.7 million gallons of wine annually.
The first wines bottled under the Seghesio label came from the 1983 harvest. Ten years later, 130,000 cases were being made.
But when the next generation was given control of the winery, they decided to focus on quality by dropping production to just 30,000 cases.
They retain that commitment to this day, crafting estate wines almost exclusively – including some from the vineyard Edoardo and Angela planted in the late 1800s.