Already one of largest vineyard owners in county, it has growing line of top vintages

The Trione family has been farming wine grapes in Sonoma County for four decades, putting stakes down in three of the most desired appellations in all of California -- the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Coast -- and becoming one of the largest family-owned vineyard operations here, with 659 acres planted.

That they finally got the bug to make their own wine is no surprise. The real question might be, why did it take so long?

Patriarch Henry Trione, now 92, is considered a crucial part of Santa Rosa's post-World War II history as both an entrepreneur and active philanthropist. He founded Sonoma Mortgage Co. in 1948, which eventually merged into Wells Fargo Bank. In 1972, he bought 5,000 acres to create Annadel State Park.

Trione was also involved in the creation of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, a previous investor in the Oakland Raiders and, over a period of 16 years, the owner of Geyser Peak Winery.

His sons, Mark and Vic, the co-founders of Luther Burbank Savings, have long run the grape-growing operations, called Vimark Vineyards, from their 246-acre Home Ranch on the east side of Highway 101 in Alexander Valley, a legacy of their Geyser Peak Winery days that they retained after its sale to Fortune Brands in 1998.

Seeing the chance to update a landmark 1908 stone building next to the ranch, they built the Trione Winery in 2005, with Mark's daughter, Denise, running sales and marketing, including the tasting room. Her husband, Kris Hicks, is the vineyard operations manager. The first harvest at the new winery took place in 2008.

As they are still selling the vast majority of the grapes they grow to such local wineries as Geyser Peak, Sonoma-Cutrer, Duckhorn, Sebastiani and Kendall-Jackson, the focus for the Trione Winery is on making a range of wines from sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and zinfandel, a family favorite.

"We offer a lot of variety at good value," said Mark Trione. Their 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir sells for $35, relatively low for the appellation, grape and the quality. This wine has a sublime earthiness, with silky black-cherry and sage flavors.

The Trione 2007 Alexander Valley Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon, $65, is a very special wine, crafted from the family's Cloverdale Ranch. It's strong and ripe with soft tannins and flavors of clove, blackberry and black currant.

It was awarded a gold medal and Best of Class honors at the recent San Francisco Wine Competition, where Trione's 2008 Syrah also won gold.

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