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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for November 17, 2000


Winery of the Week

The Wizard of Mendocino


The wizard of Mendocino, John Parducci, has been making wine—and very good wine—for longer than most of us have been alive. Parducci wines have always been among the best quality-for-value wines in California. Larry Walker, San Francisco Chronicle

A Fast Start

On July 4, 1933, 14-year-old John Parducci left Ukiah, California for Hoboken, N.J. He was to receive and sell the 40 carloads of Parducci grapes his dad and brothers shipped to the Eastern market. This saved the N.J. agent's fee of $25 per car. $25 x 40 .= $1,000, which was big money in the Depression. John later said in his understated manner, "I got quite an education."

Let's go back and see how all this came about.

Parducci Milestones—First, the cast:

1. Grandfather John Parducci who owned a vineyard and winery in Tuscany; we'll call him John Sr.

2. Adolph, John Sr.'s son.

3. Adoph's son John, whom we'll call John Jr.

At the turn of the century, John Sr. left Italy with his wife and settled in San Jose. Four sons, including Adolph were born.

1907—The Parduccis become homesick. Six-year-old Adolph is back in Tuscany with his parents, where he learns how to make wine with a Tuscan touch.

1917—Sixteen-year-old Adolph returns to California. Soon he meets and marries Isabella. They have four sons, a vineyard, a winery, and then a big fire! This was at Cloverdale in Sonoma county.

c.1928—Land is so expensive that the family, including John Jr., moves to Ukiah in Mendocino County.

1933—Adolph and his four sons complete what today is Mendocino County's oldest winery. There were rows of 50-gallon barrels with spigots. Customers would bring their own jugs.

1944—The Parduccis are among the first in California to put the name of the dominant grape on their wine labels.

1960—Adolph retires and John Jr. is the winemaker. By 1964 the team is planting the first Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendocino county. John successfully changed the winery from jugs to premium production.

The reputation for good wines at a good price continued, and annual production reached 100,000 cases by 1972. Family ownership ended on the 40th anniversary of the winery, 1973. Now the new owners have just completed a multimillion dollar upgrade. They are the Thoma family, Carl and Marilynn. Both are creative Stanford MBA grads with a great affection for the Mendocino region, and a determination to make Parducci even bigger and better. WineDay will be reporting on their latest releases soon.


We opened with a quote from Chronicle critic Larry Walker. Let's close with another about John Parducci. "The old wizard has come up with a new trick, a Charbono-Petite Sirah good that one glass will never be enough. Bravo!"

Contact—Office of Jill Beaverson, (707) 463-5386, FAX (707) 581-1860

Robert Benson's Great Winemakers of California
Pat Latimer's Sonoma and Mendocino Wineries


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created November 2000