Leo Trentadue, patriarch of a prominent Alexander Valley winemaking family, died of heart failure on Jan. 5 at home in Geyserville, where he built a respected wine brand. He was 88.
Born in San Francisco, Trentadue served in the Army during World War II. He was stationed in France and earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
After the war, he enrolled at San Jose State University, where he met Evelyn Consani. The couple married in 1950 and began farming fruit trees in Sunnyvale.
Ten years later, the Trentadues moved to Geyserville, where they purchased a 208-acre ranch and planted a vineyard.
An inveterate tinkerer with a penchant for new ideas, Trentadue introduced advanced irrigation practices to the Alexander Valley. He was among the first since the Prohibition era to plant new vines in Sonoma County.
"He was a respected man and one who pioneered our industry," said Tom Gore, director of vineyards for Constellation Brands. "He was a pillar and helped build what we have in the Alexander Valley."
In 1962, Trentadue began planting new carignane vines, which are now among the oldest producing carignane vineyards in America. The Trentadue carignane, ranked among the top in the state, is one of Trentadue's award-winning wines, said Miro Tcholakov, director of winemaking at Trentadue Winery.
"Leo told me that he wanted to make good wines in this place," Tcholakov said. "He said 'I want to show people what we can do.'"
For years, Trentadue sold grapes to Cupertino-based Ridge Vineyards, said CEO and head winemaker Paul Draper, who met Trentadue in the 1960s and remained friends. Draper said Trentadue was a fabulous grape grower and produced a memorable zinfandel.
"Leo was just a great viticulturist," he said. "We could always depend on Leo to produce the highest quality."