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Trentadue Winery - Sonoma County


‘Perhaps the most amazing red wine made in California,” says an impressed Robert Parker Jr.

In 1959 after twenty-five years of farming fruit orchards in California’s Santa Clara Valley, the Trentadue family decided it was time to move on. “We were pushed out by the subdivisions,” says patriarch Leo Trentadue. “You can’t farm properly with housing tracts and businesses all around you,” he adds. Indeed, for that area is now the heart of California’s so-called “Silicon Valley,” home to some of the world’s leading high-tech companies.

With the thought of continuing his fruit farming elsewhere in California, Leo began searching the Central Valley where some of his former neighbors had previously relocated. After looking in vain for several months, his attention was diverted to Sonoma county. An uncle who was already farming there, suggested that he look at a ranch that was for sale. The property was comprised of 117 acres of prune and apple trees, and about 50 acres of unusually mature grape vines. In fact, these vines were planted back in the 1880s and were producing small yields of highly concentrated, excellent quality fruit. With the purchase of the ranch in 1959, Leo Trentadue had suddenly become a grape farmer.

The Trentadue farming enterprise completely changed its focus from fruit orchards to grape growing. Over the next ten years, the Trentadues added over one hundred additional acres and planted a multitude of varietals. All of the grapes were sold to neighboring wineries. “We’ve been selling fruit to wineries like Ridge, Seghesio and Asti for years,” reveals Leo. “They all encouraged me to start my own winery and finally I did,” he explains. In 1969 he converted an old barn on the property into a makeshift winery until a permanent structure was built several years later. “We were just playing around at first,” he says half kiddingly. “We made about 3,000 gallons of 5 or 6 different varietals and it was snapped up virtually overnight!”

Knowing they were on to something, Leo continued to expand the winery operation. Amazingly, at one point Trentadue Winery had 23 different wines offered for sale! Then the onslaught came. As California wines became widely popular through the 1970s and 1980s, the competition heated up and wine production in the state mushroomed. “The big wineries with the big money moved in and changed the entire character of the business,” says Leo. Bending with the times, the Trentadues knew they needed to revamp their operation.

In 1990 the winery replaced all of their old winemaking equipment with state-of-the-art machinery. They brought in all new barrels, hired a new winemaker and down to the last detail, redesigned their label. A smart decision was made to pare the wine offerings down to a more manageable seven. Trentadue Winery was now lean and mean and ready for the nineties.

Leo Trentadue and wife, Evelyn are both still active in the winery. Their son Victor oversees the vineyards as well as the winery day to day operations. Victor literally grew up among the vines, working in the vineyards after school and during harvest for as long as he can remember. Together, Leo and Victor have more than 60 years combined hands-on experience in the vineyards, perhaps more than any other wine producer in the state. Underscoring this expertise is Victor’s responsibility for managing a nearby 188 acre vineyard for Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. And in 1995, Victor was one of a small handful of vintners chosen to travel to Russia to share information with that country’s emerging wine community.

Other members of the Trentadue team include one of their two daughters, Annette, who works in the tasting room and helps organize special winery events. Wine industry veteran Chris Gebhardt handles the winemaking. In 1972 Chris started his career at United Vintners, in a research and development capacity. He worked his way through the ranks at such wineries as Beringer, Souverain and Geyser Peak, learning every element of winemaking from vine to wine, before taking the reins at Trentadue.

Production at Trentadue Winery is about 25,000 cases. They are primarily a red-wine winery, giving emphasis to Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a special red blend they call “Old Patch Red.” Conceived 15 years ago, Old Patch Red is a unique blend of the several varietals contained in the vineyard on the property that was planted 115 years ago. The vines are planted intermingled in the vineyard. Grape farmers of that era used to blend the grapes just as they were picked in the field instead of at the winery. Often, five or six varieties were planted and harvested right next to each other. The Old Patch Red “field blend” wine consists of roughly the same amount of four red grapes—Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Carignane, and Alicante Bouschet. Due to the sporadic nature of how the different vines were planted, the exact percentage of each cannot be determined. What can be determined though is the resulting superior quality wine ultimately produced by this unique patch of vineyard. Robert Parker Jr. calls Trentadue’s Old Patch Red, “perhaps the most amazing red wine made in California.”



Leo Trentadue - Winemaker

In Italian the word ‘Trentadue” means ‘thirty-two,” thus the 32 designation on the wine label. Speculation is that the family name comes from a group of 32 emigrants who settled in their home town area of Bari, Italy centuries ago. Leo’s father was born in Italy in the late 1890s. At the age of 16, he and his family came to America at a time of growing strife and threat of war in Europe. After various odd jobs and a stint in the Army, Leo’s father was preparing to go back to his homeland. ‘That’s when he spotted a ‘Come To Sunny California’ poster” Leo recounts. ‘He had nothing to lose so he went to California and never left!” he adds. By the mid 1930s he was able to buy some ranch land near San Francisco that he converted to fruit orchards.

‘I grew up working in those orchards,” recalls Leo. ‘Most of my childhood, everyday after school and every weekend. So at the time I wasn’t real anxious to keep doing that for the rest of my life.” After finishing high school, Leo spent a few years in the Army. Still not entirely enthusiastic about the prospects of farm life, he enrolled at San Jose State University to earn a degree in horology (the science of measuring time and the art of watchmaking). He subsequently bought a jewelry store and ran it for several years until 1954 when the pull of the land finally brought him back to the family orchard farm. A few years later succumbing to urban sprawl, Leo and his family sold the orchard farm and moved to Sonoma.

Leo and his wife Evelyn live on the vineyard property in Sonoma that they purchased in 1959. Although they easily could have, they are not interested in becoming a big winery operation like a lot of their neighbors. Their goal is simple. ‘We want to continue making good wines,” states Leo. ‘and maintain the farm lifestyle to which we are accustomed.”

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