The sign in the driveway of the Teldeschi ranch in Dry Creek Valley says, "Parking for Italians Only." Inside the house, the same rule seems to be enforced. The kitchen is commandeered by Caterina Teldeschi. Tomato sauce is simmering on the stove, along with steamed vegetables and rolls of sauteed beef.
Teldeschi VineyardsOn 70 acres in various parts of Dry Creek Valley, the Teldeschis grow Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane, some Cabernet, a little Gamay, some Malvasia, Cinsault and more. "We have some Palomino and French Colombard, too," says John Teldeschi, Frank & Caterina's secondo maschio (second son) "I leave it out for the deer and turkeys. That way they don't eat the other stuff." The vines range in age from one year to ninety years. "Three-quarters of them were planted by my dad," says John, "and most of them are Zinfandel. Zinfandel was his favorite. He always thought it would be what it is today."
John's father, Frank Teldeschi, died in 1985. He came to California from Italy in 1929, following in the footsteps of his forebears. Frank's grandfather Michele arrived at the turn of the century from Casabasciana, a Tuscan village northeast of Lucca, where the family raised chestnuts, olives, and hemp.
When Michele arrived in California, he went to work as a vineyard manager for the Sargenti Brothers in Dry Creek Valley. John describes the situation as similar to that of Mexican farm workers today: The men lived in labor camps and traveled back and forth, gradually sending for other family members. A few years after Michele arrived, his son Lorenzo came to work as a cook for Sargenti Brothers. Eventually the two managed to start a small winery on Lytton Station Road, selling their product to Petri, a large bulk-wine purveyor similar to Gallo or Almaden. In time, Lorenzo returned to Casabasciana to procure a wife; he married a girl named Eugenia and they had a son, also named Michele (later "Mike").
When World War I broke out, Lorenzo enlisted in the Italian army. When the war ended, he was missing in action and presumed dead. A funeral service was held for him in Casabasciana. One week later, he came walking into town. Franco (Frank) was born the following year, and Lorenzo returned to Dry Creek Valley in 1922.
Mussolini made it hard for Italians to emigrate, so it wasn't until 1929 that Lorenzo could send for the rest of his family. Five years later, he and his father Michele died within a few months of each other. Frank left school at 14 to work in the vineyards with his brother Mike; both of them served in the U.S. Navy during World War Two, after which they bought a ranch together in Dry Creek Valley.
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