What was the Russian River like back in 1956, when you and your husband first moved here?
Everything was prunes in those days. In the springtime, the ground was covered in the white blooms from the plum trees—it was like the snow had fallen. No one back then paid anything for grapes—$50 a ton. It hardly paid to pick them. Anyone who had actual vineyards, like the Pedroncellis and the Seghesios, they just sold bulk wine to Gallo.
When did you plant the Bacigalupi Vineyards?
In the early ’60s. My husband was a dentist, and one of his patients was a farm adviser for grapes in Sonoma County. We asked him, “If you were to plant a new vineyard here, what would you plant?” and he said, “Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.” We had never heard of those grapes. Pinot Noir? Nobody was growing that.
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Back then, was Healdsburg a vacation destination?
Oh, absolutely not. It was just a little cow town. Couple of motels, no hotels. A hotel—gosh, that would have been really uptown! And certainly no tasting rooms. Though, when we were in college we used to go up to the Pedroncelli winery—it was one of the few around back then—and bring four empty gallon jugs. Mr. Pedroncelli, the old man, would fill our jugs, and we’d take them back to San Francisco. Dollar a gallon. Beautiful Zinfandel!