Photos Courtesy of the Families
Winery names like Mondavi, Martini and Sebastiani are household names among wine drinkers. Italian Americans established these wineries in California in the early 20th century and their brands grew big over time. So big, in fact, that they became acquisition targets for the largest wine companies in the country and lost their founding-family connections.
Names like Barra, Graziano and Testa are not nearly as well-known, but these and other Italian-American families in Mendocino County have kept their heritages intact. Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation winemakers continue to farm their vineyards and fill their cellars, making high-quality wines in the warm inland hills and valleys surrounding the city of Ukiah.
This region became a rural Little Italy from the 1910s through the 1960s, as new immigrants settled in and around the small towns of Hopland, Redwood Valley and Calpella. They got to work, went to mass, married into each other’s families, had the occasional squabble and created their version of the American dream.