40 Years Later, Trentadue Remains a Family Winery

    Richard Nixon had just been sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.

     “Midnight Cowboy” was paving new ground in American cinema.

     The New York Mets — miracle of miracles — won the World Series.

     And a bunch of musicians got together for a festival dubbed “Woodstock.”

     The year was 1969. Ten years earlier, the Trentadue family had arrived in Sonoma County, long before the region had gained a reputation as “wine country.” Life-long, hands-on agriculturists, Evelyn and Leo Trentadue decided to flee the developers encroaching on their apricot and cherry orchards in Sunnyvale, the area known today as “Silicon Valley.”

     To preserve their way of life, these hard-working Italian ranchers purchased 208 acres of land in Sonoma County’s then remote Alexander Valley. There was little market for the region’s dry-farmed apples, prunes, pears and grapes in the late 1950s, so land was cheap and plentiful. Scores of ranches were for sale but, because it was blessed with an excellent combination of climate, soil and water, Leo settled on this particular piece of property.

     But it would be 10 years before the family would build and open a winery. It finally happened in 1969 — an undeniably pivotal year in American history.

     Trentadue has long had a reputation for openness to new ideas. Over the years, this inveterate tinkerer has been among the first to experiment with what would result in a number of viticultural and wine industry innovations. For instance, horse-drawn plows and dry farming were still practiced when the Trentadues arrived in the Alexander Valley. Leo introduced advanced irrigation practices common to his former home in Santa Clara County.

     The Trentadues were among the very first to plant new vines in Sonoma County since the days of Prohibition. Italians love their red wines, especially hearty reds like Carignane. In 1962, the Trentadue family began planting new Carignane vines in addition to the 68 acres of old vines already growing on their ranch. Now more than 35 years old, these vines are among the oldest producing Carignane vineyards in America. The family remains steadfastly devoted to this grape, and their wine ranks among California’s best.

     Understanding the importance of growing only those grape varieties that excelled in his vineyards, in 1974 Leo installed half-acre blocks of eight different varietals. The quality of the Sangiovese was extraordinary, so all other vines were replanted to this famed variety from Tuscany. Because Evelyn and Leo share a Tuscan heritage, it is not surprising that in 1984 Trentadue was the first producer to release a 100% varietal Sangiovese.

     In 1987, Trentadue encouraged his winemaker to experiment with fortified wines. An excellent Petite Sirah Port resulted, among the very first of its kind. The wine was well received, so a Merlot Port was added to the line. Both wines have consistently earned top awards, including a Gold/Best of Class at the 1997 National Orange Show.

     The winery’s story cannot be told without mention of the Trentadues’ remarkable long-term relationship with Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. Their personal history began in 1952 when the Trentadues became Paul’s neighbor in Santa Clara, after buying an old abandoned wine estate at the end of Montebello Road. Draper began buying fruit from their ancient vines, striking up a friendship that continues to this day.

     Both Draper and the Trentadues know a good thing when they see it. Draper was quick to benefit from the Trentadues’ aptitude for viticulture. The Trentadues have similarly benefited from Draper’s wine business savvy. Indeed, it is Draper who encouraged the family to take advantage of their location and establish an estate winery.

     Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Trentadue Winery remains a family enterprise, with third-generation Trentadues deeply involved in the operations, and fourth-generation members helping out between school assignments. In an era of corporate ownership, it’s nice to know that some family wineries continue not only to survive, but to thrive.

WINERY 4-1-1

Trentadue Winery

19170 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, CA 95441

707-433-3104

Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Group Reservations: bob@trentadue.com

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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