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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


P. C. Rossi

A native of Italy, P. C. Rossi was born in the vicinity of Turin, about fifty-six years ago. His family for generations have been grape growers and wine makers in that favored country of the vine. After leaving the grammar school he was sent to college, where his principal study was chemistry. During his vacations, which in Italy invariably occur in the vintage season, the boy enjoyed himself in helping the wine makers, thus starting at the bottom of the industry and each year gaining more and more actual experience in the art of wine making, to which he had taken such liking.

After graduating with honors from college in 1875, Mr. Rossi decided to go to California, and in San Francisco he opened the Rossi drug store. A few years after his arrival he married into the family of the well-known merchant, Justinian Caire, owner of the Santa Cruz Island, near Santa Barbara. His wedded life has been indeed happy, and he is the proud father of ten children.

Shortly after the organization of the Italian-Swiss Colony, it was the good fortune of Andrea Sbarboro, the founder, and the officers of the corporation to invite Mr. Rossi to visit their new vineyards, which had been planted at Asti, in Sonoma county. Although the vines were young, his experienced eye saw the very advantageous position of the vineyards, situated as they were on rolling hills, with the soil and climate so well adapted to growing of grapes that would make as fine wine as that produced in Piedmont, his native province. He immediately joined the corporation, and the directors, seeing his remarkable knowledge both in the vineyard and in the cellar, soon elected him president and manager of the Colony, which office he still retains.

Mr. Rossi, in addition to having the technical knowledge required by all true wine makers, has also the natural gift of a wonderful palate, which is of as much value to a wine tester as a tea tester. He has been known to sample wines made from five different kinds of grapes, and has detected by the flavor the quality of each kind of grape used in making that particular wine, thus having a wonderful facility for blending different wines.

Mr. Rossi’s skill in wine making was shown in 1892, when a sample of the Colony’s wine was sent to the Exposition of Genoa, Italy, where it obtained a gold medal. The same year a gold medal was also awarded to the wine of the Colony at an Exposition in Dublin, Ireland, in 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1894 at the Mid-Winter Fair in San Francisco, and in 1895 the same prize was awarded the wine at Bordeaux, France; also, in 1900, at the great Exposition in Paris; in 1904 at the Exposition in St. Louis, Mo., but the honors which Mr. Rossi prizes most are the gold medals, together with the Grand Prix, awarded the wines of the Italian-Swiss Colony at Asti and Torino, Italy, in 1898, and at the Exposition of Milan, Italy, in 1906-07, where a jury, at a banquet held after the closing of the exposition, selected California wines produced at the Asti Colony to enjoy at the table.

The importance of the Colony has grown year by year, and from the tract of fifteen hundred acres which were originally planted at Asti, Sonoma county, the Colony has now four vineyards and wineries in the northern part of the state, where are made the best dry wines of California, and also four vineyards and wineries in the southern part of the state, where are produced the fine ports, sherries, muscats and other sweet wines, together with the choice California brandy.

In 1909 Mr. Rossi was in France and visited the Champagne district. While in France he met a Frenchman, M. Charles Jadeau, who had been for thirty years making champagne for several of the principal house s of the Champagne district. Mr. Rossi asked this Frenchman if he would not like to come to California, where he assured him he had the wine that would produce the same kind of champagne as they made in France. Mr. Jadeau’s curiosity was aroused and he agreed to accompany Mr. Rossi to California. On his arrival he tasted the different wines and declared that if the Colony would put up an appropriate building, under his supervision, and procure all the machinery in France required for the proper bottling, corking and racking of the champagne, he would undertake to make as good champagne at Asti as that made in France. Thereupon, a concrete building was erected, partly underground, so as to keep an even temperature, all the paraphernalia required for storing, aging and bottling the champagne were procured., and two hundred and fifty thousand bottles were filled and placed on the racks. Recently, when the wine had almost completed fermentation, three bottles were tested by connoisseurs and all were agreeably surprised and said: “At last we have found the means by which California is going to compete with France even in champagnes.”

Mr. Rossi is a man of full health and vigor―a man of such industry and activity that he hardly knows what it is to be tired. He is wrapped up in his art―the art of winemaking―which is his life work.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011