We share the following story about Sangiacomo Family Vineyards in loving memory of our dear friend, Angelo Sangiacomo, who sadly passed away on February 27 at the age of 92. Throughout a nine-decade career, Angelo guided his family through the transition from farming orchard fruit to growing wine grapes, establishing Sangiacomo Family Vineyards as one of the most respected family-owned winegrowing businesses in California.
In celebrating his father’s life, his son Steve said, “Our father was a role model in every way; he led with his genuine spirit to inspire his family, most importantly his children and grandchildren. We cherished his guidance to be the best people we could be along with the fortitude to lead our family business into the next generation.”
For almost a century, since Vittorio Sangiacomo purchased the 52-acre fruit tree property that would one day become the renowned Sangiacomo Home Ranch, the Sangiacomo family has been a part of the fabric of the Sonoma County agricultural community. Today, a third-generation of the Sangiacomo family, siblings Mike and Steve Sangiacomo, and brother-in-law Mike Pucci lead a team of more than 100 talented employees to guide an acclaimed vineyard program that spans 1600 acres spread across 14 vineyards in four Sonoma County appellations.
Our founder, Steve MacRostie, first met Steve, Mike, and Mia’s father, Angelo, in the early 1980s during Steve’s 12-year tenure as the winemaker for Hacienda Winery. Back in those formative years of the Sonoma wine industry, Steve and Angelo would share knowledge and best practices as they honed their respective crafts as winemaker and winegrower. Not surprisingly, when Steve established MacRostie Vineyards & Winery in 1987, he made our debut Chardonnay using grapes from his friend Angelo’s vineyards. We have proudly sourced fruit from the Sangiacomo family ever since, making them our longest and most trusted vineyard partner.
For the Sangiacomos, the enduring relationships they have formed have been a key part of their success, as has the wisdom passed down through generations. “Back in the early days, when my dad, Angelo, and Steve MacRostie became friends, they were learning together,” says Steve Sangiacomo. “That open, respectful communication between winery and grower is still at the heart of what we do. My siblings and I learned from our dad, and at MacRostie, Heidi learned from Steve. There is a continuity there that makes a huge impact on quality. In terms of a collaboration between winery and grower, I don’t think there is a better example than MacRostie and Sangiacomo.”
While the Home Ranch was the first property acquired by the Sangiacomos, in 1952 they also purchased the Catarina property in Carneros. Like many of California’s great winegrowing families, the Sangiacomos didn’t start out growing grapes. Instead, they first made their mark farming orchard fruit, and for a time were one of the largest pear growers in California. In the late 1960s, after the pear market plunged, the Sangiacomos began focusing on grape growing, and in 1969 they planted their Green Acres Vineyard. Over the next decade, they continued to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and by 1981 the conversion to vineyards was complete.
In the years that followed, the Sangiacomos continually reinvested, using their experience and acumen to select, purchase and plant new vineyards. Over the past two decades, as these sites have gotten older, the Sangiacomos have focused on replanting and revitalizing each vineyard by combining the best modern practices and plant material with wisdom gained through generations of farming. They have also made sustainability a core value of their family-owned-and-operated business, with all 1600 acres currently holding sustainable certification through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
Here at MacRostie, we currently work with five Sangiacomo vineyards: the Home Ranch, Catarina, Kiser, El Novillero, and Tall Grass. Grapes from these sites contribute to many of our finest and most successful wines, including our flagship Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, our pinnacle The Key Chardonnay, as well as sought-after vineyard-designate Sangiacomo wines. “Heidi knows our vineyards and blocks so well, and she knows what she’s looking for in terms of the character and style of the wines she makes,” says Steve. Heidi echoes these sentiments. “There is such a comfort level working with the Sangiacomos. They know what I’m looking for, and I know what they are trying to achieve. Even when we’re negotiating contracts, it’s clear that we only want the best for each other. That’s trust.”
Each of the five vineyards MacRostie works with offers something unique. “Our 110-acre Home Ranch is where it all began, and it holds a special place in our hearts,” says Steve. “Located by Sonoma Creek, with well-drained alluvial soils, it produces a richer style wine. Kiser, which MacRostie has been working with for decades, also yields a wine with great depth and concentration, and offers excellent minerality. At El Novillero, where we have low-vigor soils and lots of wind, the wines are more acid-driven and structural. Catarina is another site that provides plenty of structure and richness, and Tall Grass—one of our newer vineyards—is a rising star in terms of producing Pinot Noir with vibrant fruit, structure, and great acidity.”
With a century of experience farming in Sonoma County and more than 50 years of winegrowing wisdom, the Sangiacomos are recognized for their leadership within the community and for the phenomenal quality of their grapes. “While the grape growing and winemaking industries have changed a great deal over the past fifty years, the values that define the Sangiacomo family have remained very consistent,” adds Heidi. “They are amazing farmers who are committed to excellence, and because of their history and experience, they bring so much consistency and attention to detail to their farming. We always know that their fruit will be great and they are so easy to work with.”
As part of their collaborative approach, the Sangiacomos host an annual tasting for all of their winery clients, which include many of the most revered names in California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. During these events, winemakers gather to taste wines, share food and compare notes about the different Sangiacomo vineyards and wines. “After a hiatus during the pandemic, we are really excited to host these events again,” says Steve. “For us, they represent the camaraderie and collaborative spirit that make the Sonoma County wine industry so special.”