Wine Industry Vintner and Patriarch Leo Trentadue Passes Away at 88
Geyserville, CA: On Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, at the age of 88, Sonoma County vintner and World War II Veteran Leo Trentadue passed away of respiratory heart failure.
Born on July 30, 1925, in Cupertino, California, Leo was raised on his family’s apricot ranch. Always the humble farmer, Leo Trentadue is best known as the wine patriarch of Trentadue Winery in Alexander Valley of Sonoma County. He was a devoted family man, and his passing will be deeply felt by all who knew and appreciated Leo’s brave and magnanimous spirit.
In 1959, Leo and his wife Evelyn Trentadue decided to leave their Santa Clara County roots, and headed north. They settled on their 150-acre ranch of plum trees, and 60 acres of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignan vines. Today, those original vines are still producing excellent fruit, three generations later, on this 225 acre Alexander Valley estate.
Leo Trentadue is also known and appreciated as a celebrated war hero. Leo was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his World War II participation. At the age of 19, Leo was drafted by the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter he boarded the S.S. Mauritania, bound for Liverpool. From Liverpool, he was put onto another boat for Cherbourg, west of Omaha Beach. It took his troop three days—without food—to cross the Channel. This was August of 1944, and where he stayed for two months at the front line.
When Leo Trentadue celebrated his 79th birthday in 2004, it was with a trip to the verdant forests of northern France, exactly 60 years later. Taken with his wife Evelyn and son Victor, according to his earlier accounts, “This is where I was nearly put into the earth by German bullets . . . several times. I might have done well in a casino, in those days. You could certainly have called me ‘Lucky.’ But of all the times I should have been killed, I was most lucky when a bullet went through my left bicep. Had I turned the other way, it would surely have gone through my heart!”
Leo had particularly fond memories of this trip. Quoting earlier recounts, “Everyone says that the French hate Americans, and I will admit that some Parisians may be a little curt. But as soon as we got out into the country, especially where the fighting was all those years ago, we were treated like royalty. People came up to us, saying, ‘If it hadn’t been for you, we’d be speaking German today.’ There were as many as four memorials each day. At Blamont, where I was wounded, we attended a special ceremony. They feted us with food and wine at every event. The red wines were much lighter than ours, and you could drink them almost like beer. What really surprised me was that there were still concrete World War I bunkers—my father had served in the US Army at Verdun, not too far from where I was wounded—that looked like they had been in use yesterday.”
Had that been the case, wine country would have had to forego the excellent, justly famed “Geyserville” Zinfandels; not only from Trentadue, but also from Ridge Vineyards. Together, it was they who initially put those wines on the map.
The deceased is survived by his wife Evelyn Trentadue, son Victor Trentadue, daughters Annette Trentadue, and Leanne Allen. Daughter-in-law Cindy Trentadue. Son-in-law Gary Allen. Grandchildren are the following: Steven and Tyler Trentadue (Victor Trentadue’s children), Crystal Kovanda (husband is Andrew Kovanda), and twins Brittany and Tiffany Allen.
Preceded in death is Annette Trentadue’s daughter Nicole Biagi, who passed away several years ago.