Winemaking legend John Parducci, a champion of Mendocino County viticulture for the better part of eight decades, died Tuesday at his home east of Ukiah. He was 96.
Parducci, who traveled alone cross-country at the age of 14 to sell his family's grapes during Prohibition, was the first to put Mendocino County and, later, the Anderson Valley, on wine labels.
Family and friends described him as a skilled winemaker and great salesman who helped put his home county on the winemaking map.
John Parducci (1918-2014)
"I would call him the godfather of Mendocino wine country," said Mendocino County Supervisor Carre Brown, a rancher and longtime friend of Parducci.
"He was a pioneer," said friend and Potter Valley rancher Janet Pauli, who once worked for Parducci.
Parducci essentially died of old age, family members said.
"He'd been in declining health the last couple of years," said his son, Bill Parducci.
In the 1990s, John Parducci lost a legal fight to regain control of the winery founded in 1932 by his father, Adolph. More recently, he continued to be involved with McNab Ridge Winery near Hopland, which he operated with his grandson, Richard Parducci, until just a few years ago.
Richard Parducci, McNab Ridge's winemaker, said his grandfather wound down work when his mobility took a turn for the worse. His back was worn out from working hard all his life, and he had trouble walking, his grandson said.
With assistance, he remained living in his home with his wife of nearly 77 years, Margarett Parducci.