Angelo Sangiacomo, a founding partner of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, died at home Feb. 27, 2023. He was 92.
He oversaw the expansion of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards to its current status as one of the largest family-owned, premium winegrowing businesses in California with over 1,600 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County.
His biggest challenge arrived early in his career when he successfully steered the family through the perilous transition from farming fruit-tree orchards to growing winegrapes following the decline of the pear market in Sonoma County beginning in the 1960s. Angelo, along with his three siblings, planted the family's first vineyard, Green Acres, in 1969 and bravely looked toward the future of the wine industry.
He had the foresight to see that grapegrowers --- like winemakers -- could reap the benefits of brand building.
Angelo helped pioneer the creation of California vineyard-designated and single vineyard wines. The 1979 Gundlach-Bundschu Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyards was amongst the first Californian wines to carry a vineyard designation on its wine label. Today the family sells grapes to more than 80 premium wineries, many of which produce wines that carry the Sangiacomo Vineyard designation.
Angelo recognized the importance of carving out prestigious viticultural areas and was instrumental in the creation in 1982 of the Carneros appellation spanning the southern tips of Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
In his easygoing manner, he was a master marketer. He understood that his family's success was inextricably linked to that of his winery clients. Under his direction, the family pioneered customized grapegrowing, leading him to seek out high-end winemakers looking for growers willing to indulge their every whim. He was one of the first to accommodate winemakers' requests to deliver small lots of grapes, pick specific rows of grapes, and farm according to their specifications.
He aimed for long-term partnerships often sealed in a handshake agreement at the kitchen table over a home-cooked Italian meal. His belief that one should "dance with the one that brought you" meant he never faltered in his loyalty to his clients, who, in return, stuck by his side when the chips were down. Endearing even in difficult times, he always offered others the benefit of the doubt.
Never losing sight of the future, Angelo carefully set the stage for the business to thrive for generations to come. As a young man, Angelo understood that the business must expand to support several siblings and to enable his children to have a place at the table. He shrewdly scaled the business by prioritizing investment in land; making do with used equipment; working long days; and continually sacrificing for the future.
The first ten years of Angelo's life coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression. Unlike many who steered clear of risk-taking after the Depression, he was not afraid to take a chance, but only after a most thorough calculation of the risks. His financial education began at a young age at the nightly dinner table, where his parents discussed their struggles to keep the family business afloat through the Depression. Even as a young boy, he always knew the market price for pears which sold during this period for as little as $20 per ton. He began working in the fields at the age of six, picking and packing pears and figs for shipment.
He is survived by his wife, Diane, children Michael Sangiacomo (Whitney), Mia Pucci (Michael), and Steven Sangiacomo (Connie); sister Lorraine Sangiacomo and brother Victor "Buck" Sangiacomo (Susan); and seven grandchildren.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated on Monday (3/6)