When I started to explore the backgrounds of two more multigenerational family wineries along the Wine Road, I didn’t expect them to have much in common. Yet, the more I dug into their family histories, the more I realized the same fundamental beliefs made them successful—a vision of what could be, a strong work ethic, and the ability to work hard and get it done.
The Rochioli family landed in the Russian River Valley after emigrating from a small village outside Lucca, Italy in 1911. From a very young age, Joe Rochioli, who was born in Italy, worked the land along with his father in their new country. The land wasn’t their own, and Joe dreamed of owning his own land one day.
In 1934, Joe and wife Neoma welcomed son Joe, Jr. into the world, and soon leased a 125-acre property called Fenton Acres. Joe Sr. was a farmer and raised hops, string beans and prunes. Like so many of the Italians in the area, Joe Sr. also planted some grapes, which were sold as blending grapes for jug wines to either Gallo or the California Packing Corporation.
Born with Different Visions
My the mid-1950s, Joe Sr. was able to buy Fenton Acres, fulfilling his dream of owning his own land. He needed to produce a good income from the land, and there was a limited market for wine grapes in the 1950s and ‘60s. Grapes were sold as mixed whites or mixed red, for which you might get $100/ton, so Joe Sr. continued to produce hops, string beans and prunes. Joe Jr. had other aspirations—he wanted the land to produce premium wine grapes—but would have to wait awhile to fulfill his vision for the land.
Another Generation Joins In
Joe Jr. persevered and eventually was able to plant Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. His vision to grown premium quality varietals proved wildly successful, and soon local wineries were interested in buying Joe Rochioli grapes. Joe Jr. and a couple of partners made wine under the Fenton label, but that changed when Tom, Joe Jr.’s son, wanted to leave his finance career and return to the land. Tom put together a winery business plan, which Joe Jr. agreed to, including changing the name of the property to Rochioli Vineyards.
In 1987, Rochioli released their first estate wine, a 1985 Pinot Noir, which was named “The Best Pinot Noir in America” by the Wine Spectator. Rochioli Vineyards’ legacy was born and has continued since that moment, but this doesn’t mean Joe Jr. and Tom sat on their laurels. The hard work was just beginning. Tom and his wife Theresa went to Burgundy, learning more about how terroir and individual vineyard blocks can reflect in a wine. With this focus in mind, Tom set about expanding the wine lineup. Joe Jr. continued to manage the vineyards and sell grapes to local wineries like Williams Selyem, while Tom managed the winery business and made the estate wines, and Theresa handled office management and tasting room duties. This small yet mighty team accomplished so much, growing the brand and its reputation for stellar quality.
On to the Fourth Generation
Fast forward a few decades and two more family members have joined the business. When Tom and Theresa’s daughter Rachael graduated from college, she learned the trade side of the business while working for one of California’s largest distributors as a chain sales representative in Southern California. When she moved back to Sonoma County, she got a tasting room position at another local winery to learn the hospitality side of the business. In 2018, Rachael started working at Rochioli as the Hospitality Manager, and today she is the General Manager. Being the general manager of a small winery (and yes, Rochioli Vineyards is a small winery) means you wear most of the hats that keep the place running. If you visit Rochioli, there is a good chance you might see Rachael, or she may even be helping out in the tasting room if it’s a busy day.
Ryan Rochioli, Tom and Theresa’s son, grew up splitting his summers playing baseball and working harvest. Shortly after graduating college, he got a job as a cellar assistant at a local winery. After some time there, his passion for beer and brewing took over and decided to move to San Francisco where he worked at two well-known breweries, earning his position as a brewer. Just before harvest of 2021, Ryan was ready to move back home and join the family business. He now works full time as the assistant winemaker and looks forward to continuing the family legacy.
And There is More
There is much more depth to the Rochioli story, especially regarding all the amazing contributions Joe Jr. has made during his very long career as a winegrower in Russian River Valley. I’d recommend you check out Rochioli the next time you’re looking for a winery to discover or re-explore in the Russian River Valley. The highly acclaimed wines, the spectacular views, and the amazing family stories will be worth making a reservation.
Like the Rochioli family, the Trentadues also immigrated to California from Italy, but they landed in the Santa Clara Valley when it was covered with acres of orchards rather than the high-tech sprawl you find there today. Joseph Trentadue, who farmed cherry and apricot orchards, used to drive to Healdsburg to purchase grapes for the family’s home winemaking.
Escaping Urban Spawl
In 1959, Joseph’s son Leo and his wife Evelyn realized life in the Santa Clara Valley was quickly changing. The orchards were being ripped out and replaced with homes and offices, so they decided it was time to move their growing family north and start afresh. Evelyn had family in Dry Creek Valley, so being familiar with the area, they selected a ranch just north of Healdsburg and south of Geyserville. The ranch was already planted with 150 acres of plum trees, harvested as prunes, and 60 acres of old Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane vines.
Vineyards Grow, A Winery is Born
By 1960, looking to their future with a vision to what could be, Leo and Evelyn were removing plum trees and planting more grapes. As the vineyard grew, they sold their grapes to other local wineries. By 1969, with the encouragement of a family friend who was also a local winemaker, the Trentadues established their winery to showcase their own grapes.
A Family Affair
The new winery was definitely a family affair, with Leo, Evelyn and their children doing it all—vineyard operations, winemaking, bottling, marketing and sales, and more. A favorite family story tells of Leo putting wooden blocks to the tractor pedals so eight-year-old Victor could work in the vineyard after school and during weekends and summers. Hard work and dedication were woven into the fabric of Victor’s life, just as they had been taught to Leo by his father. As a teenager, Victor tried his hand at cellar operations and quickly realized working among the vines was his true calling.
Trentadue Siblings Carry on the Family Business
Today, Victor Trentadue owns a vineyard management company that oversees all 225 acres of the Trentadue vineyards in Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. He also manages the winery operations for his family. Annette, Victor’s sister, found her calling on the business side as the winery’s office manager. Victor and Annette’s youngest sibling, Leanne lives in the Los Angeles area and continues to support the brand in Southern California.
The Next Generation
Just like their father, Victor’s two sons grew up around the winery and vineyards. Steve Trentadue officially started working on the bottling line when he was 16, and became a fulltime employee with Victor’s vineyard management company in 2006, sharing his dad’s love of the land. Tyler Trentadue joined the winery in 2016, working in the cellar and learning winemaking from the ground up. Recently Tyler has ventured into marketing the family wines when he traveled to represent the brand at an out-of-state event. We may be seeing more of Tyler as he ventures into other aspects of the family’s business.
When you drive up Trentadue Winery’s tree-lined driveway, the beauty of the setting is accented by buildings reminiscent of a Tuscan villa. The stunning events center offers the storybook location for a wedding, and will host Steve Trentadue’s wedding this summer. Very fitting that the family will gather to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of the labors of generations past and present.
Time to Explore for Yourself
Along with having deep roots steeped with Italian heritage, Trentadue, which means 32 in Italian, has wines worth seeking out. With access to the Trentadue vineyards exceptional grapes, their long-time winemaker has been producing award-winning wines vintage after vintage. From Italian and Bordeaux varietals, old vine Zinfandel, delicious blends, chocolate-infused port, and more, a visit to Trentadue will bring you joy both with the visual beauty and the delicious flavors you’ll enjoy sip after sip.
Multigenerational Family Wineries
Together we’ve explored over a dozen multigenerational family wineries along the Wine Road, and the list doesn’t end there. But, rather than keep going on, it’s time for you to start exploring the wineries along the Wine Road for yourself. Be curious. Ask questions. Dig deeper. There are endless stories of how each winery got its start, who owns it now, how things have changed or stayed the same.
As winery consolidations continue, please support the dwindling number of family owned and operated wineries along the Wine Road. They are this area’s past and hopefully will be here for future generations to enjoy, too.
If you’d like to read about other multigenerational family wineries along the Wine Road, here are the links to the earlier installments:
Cover photo courtesy of J. Rochioli Vineyard & Winery