20 Most Admired Grapegrowers in North America

November 30, 2015
Vineyard & Winery Management

Steve and Mike Sangiacomo


As California’s family wineries and vineyards are gobbled up by large corporations, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards remain a shining example of a successful and adaptable family winegrowing operation.

After emigrating from Genoa, Italy, in 1927, Vittorio and Maria Sangiacomo bought a ranch near the town of Sonoma, where they grew pears, apples and prunes. In 1969, the family planted its first vineyard.

In the 1970s, the expansion of the grape program was led by the second generation of Sangiacomos: siblings Angelo, Bob, Buck and Lorraine. During the next 25 years, they continued to update their farming practices and increased the quality of their grapes as they developed each new vineyard block.

Now, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards is run by the third generation, led by brothers Mike and Steve Sangiacomo. Together, they farm 1,600 acres of vineyards and more than 100 sites in the Carneros, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast regions.

With most of their business coming via word-of-mouth recommendations and handshake deals, the Sangiacomos have never needed to advertise their fruit. They’re known for never cutting corners, and constantly striving to deliver the best-possible grapes to their clients.

Sonoma’s Gundlach Bundschu winery was the first to bottle a vineyard-designated Sangiacomo wine, in 1979, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards followed in 1981. Today, more than 50 producers purchase Sangiacomo grapes and 35 produce vineyard-designated wines bearing the family name. These include La Follette Wines, Steele Wines, Ram’s Gate Winery, Ten Acre, Neyers Vineyards and Eric Kent Wine Cellars, among others.

Blocks are custom-farmed to meet the needs of individual clients, whether they’re looking to showcase distinctive flavor profiles through vineyard-designated wines, or to create a consistent core of complex flavors from vintage to vintage by blending fruit from multiple blocks.

Even with the company’s long history, the Sangiacomos’ farming practices are not stuck in the past. The family continuously conducts vineyard trials on everything from clone and rootstock combinations to vine spacing to advanced trellis systems. Through the decades, the family has changed its methods from straight cultivation to sustainable farming, reducing the use of pesticides, planting cover crops between rows and utilizing owl boxes for rodent control.

“The Sangiacomos have always made me feel like an important partner, even though I am one of the smaller guys,” said Greg La Follette of La Follette Wines. “I have always truly appreciated their care and attention. Perhaps the best thing about them is that they are the most integrity-filled family I have ever met. They are among the best people in our industry

Tagged: Vineyard and Winery Management, 2015

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