Sonoma pioneer Louis J Foppiano has died at the age of 101.
Foppiano, who died in hospital last Friday, took over Foppiano Vineyards – the oldest continuously-operated family winery in Sonoma County – at the age of 13 on the unexpected death of his father.
He helped create the Russian River AVA and was one of the first California wineries to use Russian River on its labels.
With other Italian wine families like the Pedroncellis, Seghesios and Sebastianis, he organised the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association (now Sonoma County Vintners), serving 12 years as its president, and was a founding member of the Wine Institute where he served 45 years as a director.
As the quality of California wines improved in the 1960s, Foppiano shifted from making ‘Burgundy’ or ‘Chablis’ to varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot and what became its signature wine, Petite Sirah.
His son and heir Louis M Foppiano said in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, ‘He was a son of the Depression…tight-fisted,’ adding, ‘He had a lot of friends… he enjoyed life.’
Foppiano passed on control of the winery two years ago at the age of 98, making Louis and his sister Susan Valera co-trustees, a move which caused some difficulty in the family.
Earlier this year Louis and Valera, following three days of legal proceedings, resigned their positions as co-trustees of the winery.
Todd Arterburn, president of Foppiano, said at the time, ‘Louis J.’s having only given up the keys to the kingdom at age 98 created a lot of estate-planning issues which collided with the execution of his trust.’
Foppiano was predeceased in 2002 by his wife Della. He leaves Louis, Susan and grandson Paul, vineyard manager at the winery.
Written by David Furer