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Third Generation Grape Grower Fred Abruzzini Has it All

To be an Abruzzini living on Abruzzini Hill Road, you know there’s going to be some history attached to this Italian family name. And, not to disappoint, it turns out that their experiences are rich with interesting facts that have played a major role in a very well known and prestigious wine company.

As it turns out, Fred Abruzzini’s grandfather started working at Beringer Brothers making their wine during prohibition.

Yes, I did write making wine during prohibition. And, it was done legally. During this dry time there were only seven wine companies in the Untied States that were allowed to continue making wine. This was done under the auspices of the US government, because the Catholic Church needed sacramental wine to conduct masses. This was a period in US history that the separation of church and state had an interesting relationship.

So, who legally produced wine during this dry spell? The ones in red have survived to this day. The ones in red (members of the Catholic Church) are gone forever, except in the written word.

  1. Beringer Brothers, Napa Valley (1876 to present)
  2. Christian Brothers, Napa Valley (1882 to 1989)
  3. Concannon Vineyards, Livermore Valley (1883 to present)
  4. Sacred Heart Novitiate Winery, Los Gatos, CA (1888 to 1986)
  5. Solano Winery, Green Valley, Solano County (1893 to early 1950s)
  6. St. Stanislaus Novitiate, St. Louis, Missouri (1898)
  7. Beaulieu Vineyards, Napa Valley (1900 to present)
  8. San Antonio Winery, Los Angeles, CA (1917 to present)

Fred Abruzzini’s grandfather was a first generation Californian (approximately in the 30s), with his great grandparents coming from Canada. The generation before that ~ his great, great grandfather came from Italy. This would make that time around the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Fred’s not the keeper of the family genealogy, but has a rough idea of his family’s migration dates.

According to Fred’s family history, his grandfather worked as a winemaker for 46 years, with 24 of them being at Beringer. Also, during this time, his grandfather started what would be considered Napa Valley wine tours, beginning and coinciding with the 1939 Treasure Island World’s Fair. Fred said that the winery created a phrase, “All roads lead to Beringers,” and Hollywood answered the call. His grandfather talked about taking Clark Gable and other luminaries on tours, tastings, and wine maker dinners. Hospitality began with taking advantage of the 1939 World’s Fair being so close to St. Helena.

His grandfather leased the land on what has become the family property on Abruzzini Hill Road in the 1940s, while Fred’s dad was in the service. He his dad got out of the service and returned to California. Fred’s father took over the lease, bought the land, and raised Fred on what is still today his mother’s property.

Fred Abruzzini has been a grape grower in Suisun Valley since 1980. His method of doing business is very old school; so, what might seem like an interesting way of doing business today, is in fact a business model that’s been handed down with lots of integrity and trust in the process.

Fred Abruzzini is managing four pieces of property for land owners, all on Clayton Road in Suisun Valley:

  1. A & J Custom Farming
  2. Ralph Brown and Dwight Peterson ~ there are 22 acres here on adjoining properties
  3. Linden Knoff ~ 2.5 acres, near the fire house
  4. T.C. Grimmel ~ 12 acres

He also manages 80 acres for his mother in Gordon Valley, with more of a mixture of cultivars on this property, but with his four properties above, not including his mother’s land, Fred’s become a Merlot specialist. He’s only grows this variety in Suisun Valley.

The soil type in mostly clay. The latest plantings happened in 1999, and at that time it was popular to have rows 10 feet apart, with eight feet between each vine. He admits things are changing in viticultural practices, but these vines were planted during a time of giving vines more room, and until it’s time to replant, these vines are doing well under his watchful eye. Fred uses vertical trellising, does as much leaf pulling as is good for the vine, and drops crop. What he does is dictated by his buyers.

Business Model:

  • Get 20 year contracts to manage land for Suisun Valley land holders
    • The land holder has a share of the money raised each year from the crop’s tonnage.
    • Fred plant’s the vineyard, using all of his own resources to do that.
    • At the end of 20 years, the land’s vineyard goes back to the land owner.
    • Fred can re-contract the land, unless the owner wants to manage on his own.
  • What decides how the vineyard will be planted
    • Grapes to be purchased with other contract owners tell Fred what they want.
    • Everyone wanted Merlot, which has made him a Merlot specialist.
    • Contract buyers tell Fred how to manage the vineyards, in order to get the quality fruit they desire.

Fred’s practices are done so with the intention of growing the absolute best possible wine grapes that he can. According to Fred, “Everybody wants quality now, or you just can’t sell your grapes.”

Fred has a son who’s a fire fighter full time, but helps Fred with (mostly) his harvest work. It’s a safe bet that when it’s time for the next generation of wine grape growers to be in the Abruzzini family, the land will be handed down to someone who knows exactly how to fill those dusty, well worn shoes.



6 Responsesto “Third Generation Grape Grower Fred Abruzzini Has it All”

  1. paul troutner says:

    Great story great history and fond childhood memories

  2. THOMAS B. ABRUZZINI says:

    I wrote a bio of my second cousin Fred
    Abruzzini which I will share with any one who will E Mail at abruzzini64@aol.com.
    I also have bio’s on B.Cribari, his uncle
    Tom Abruzzini

  3. Anthony Joseph Benevento says:

    My grandmother Vera Abruzzini was Fred Abruzzinis sister. Fred was my uncle i remember him as a kid. Great guy to say the least. Wanted to get some ideas where i might look for more info on my family. Thank you Anthony

  4. Sherry Hirschler says:

    I went to school with Patty and Debbie. Cindy was older. Holy Spirit in Fairfield. Same family? Remember birthday party and sliding down hills on cardboard, it was so beautiful there.

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