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."
The Trentadues had two daughters, Annette Trentadue and Lisa Allen, as well as a son, Victor Trentadue, who have carried on the family winemaking tradition.
"He taught me everything I know," said Victor Trentadue. "He was a workaholic and always put his nose to the grindstone. He was a fair man and very likeable, a great father. He was always there for us."
Draper remembers being invited to large Italian family dinners with Leo Trentadue in the kitchen.
"He was a great cook," Draper said. "Leo in front of a big stove, it was a place he loved to be. The big family rituals with marvelous food and friends and family, it was wonderful."
Trentadue loved to hunt for mushrooms in the Alexander Valley and fish and garden. On weekends, he frequented garage sales and auctions looking for curios to collect.
He is survived by his wife, Evelyn, daughters Annette Trentadue of Geyserville and Lisa Allen of La Crescenta, son Victor Trentadue of Geyserville and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. John's Catholic Church, 208 Matheson St. in Healdsburg.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Memorial Hospice of Santa Rosa.