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Wednesday Warblings
We Lose A Real Pioneer

By Charles Olken

We tend to know the names of the famous pioneers, whether from the 1800s like Harazsthy and Masson and Concannon or those from Post-Prohibition like Martin Ray and Andre Tchellistcheff, but we sometimes lose sight of those who may be less well-known but have blazed important trails and are also part of the fabric that makes up what has become a vibrant wine scene here in California. Such a man was Leo Trentadue. His influence on the great wines and leading wine people of California is less spoken of, but now, in his passing, we need to reflect on all that he has given us. The commentary below is taken from a note offered by the family. It tells us of his place in California winedom and wants nothing more from me save my thanks to Mr. Trentadue for pointing the way.

“On Sunday, January 5, 2014, at the age of 88 years old, Sonoma County vintner and World War II Veteran Leo Trentadue passed away of respiratory heart failure.

Leo Trentadue is, without question, one of THE most important figures in the modern wine business. Born July 30, 1925, in Cupertino, California, Leo is a WWII veteran, receiving a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service to our great nation. Leo married the love of his life, Evelyn Consani, and in 1950 the two of them pursued their passion in viticulture.

Leo’s first foray into wine was in 1952, where he and his new bride, happened upon a 52 acre parcel with an old, abandoned winery and vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, dating and traced back to 1885. That parcel was the old Montebello vineyard and winery. Leo and Evelyn bet $24,000 and their futures on that vineyard, barn, house and view of the ocean. And with that purchase, the legacy began.

Always the humble farmer, Leo Trentadue believed Zinfandel was the grape that could produce serious varietal and vintage wines worthy of critics, enthusiasts and people who enjoyed wine as part of their everyday lifestyle. He forged a good, strong friendship and business relationship with Paul Draper who, like Leo, also believed in Zinfandel and in the terroir in Northern California.

In 1959, Leo and Evelyn moved north to Geyserville to lay the groundwork and framework for building one of Sonoma’s most important viticulture and wine businesses which eventually expanded to 240 acres and a successful winery.

Leo and Evelyn eventually sold all of the 52 acres of the Montebello estate to Paul Draper in 1986. Leo and Paul’s friendship and business relationship endured some 60 years and to this very day, Ridge Vineyards still looks to the Trentadue Estate to buy the Zinfandel that goes into the Geyserville wine.

Leo Trentadue’s legacy for California wine and indeed, the US wine business is one of the great legacies of the modern wine business.”

Amen to that.

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So Sad....
by TomHill
Posted on:1/8/2014 10:29:09 AM

Thanks for the head's up on Leo, Charlie. So sad. Over the yrs he made some pretty rustic/old-timey reds that I thought were pretty tasty. I always enjoyed visiting the tasting room as it was loaded w/ all kinds of gee-gaws and kitschy knick-knacks to it seemed like being in a time-warp from 30 yrs earlier.

   Believe he made a wine labeled "32" that I liked, but don't recall the sory behind it. Help me out here, old-timer!!



by Charlie Olken
Posted on:1/8/2014 10:41:29 AM

Hello Tom--

I was unaware of the Montebello relationship between Leo Trentadue and Ridge. That alone puts in the pantheon of wine history.

As for the name fo the wine, it is simply the translation of his last name. Trentadue is 32 in Italian, a language that obviously is not spoken in the New Mexico deserts or in Kansas City.

Leo Trentadue
by Marshall Newman
Posted on:1/9/2014 10:19:02 AM

Hi Charlie,

Nice tribute to a fine wine man. His vineyard always was well tended and the tasting room was fun. Tom, in answer to your question, Trentadue made a "Chateau 32" bottling in 1969, a sweet red made from botrytised Zinfandel, and there appear to have been other Trentadue "32" bottlings over the years, though nothing quite so unusual as the original.


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