Yesterday, I had the pleasure of finally meeting perhaps one of the most world-renowned wine critics of our time, Mr. Antonio Galloni and his partner Alessandro Masnaghetti (Italian Cartographer) at our family ranch in Kenwood, CA.
I was very excited to finally meet Antonio; however, slightly nervous as you never know what a man’s personality can be like. He is someone highly regarded for his amazing palate, ability to taste so many wines at once, and truly analyze them accurately time and time again as well as for his incredible talents as a wine writer. I was asking myself: “will he be approachable?”; “will he really listen?” and does he really care about our family’s history that brought us to where we are today as well as the other great families that have contributed to the recognition Sonoma Valley has gained as one of the great wine regions of the world?”
Well, from the moment Antonio and Alessandro stepped out of the car, I knew I had just met two amazing men, the complete opposites of pretentiousness. Antonio stepped out of the car with a big smile and said, “Steve Ledson? Antonio Galloni” as he extended his hand and gave me a firm handshake and then his partner said, “Steve? Alessandro Masnaghetti, it’s a pleasure to meet you!”
Antonio immediately picked up on our old gas station with the 1929 Model A flatbed truck sitting at the gas pumps. Antonio started clicking off pictures with his phone saying “this is so cool” as he continued to glance around. He then saw the old barn and asked how old it was? I said, “about 170 years old.” “Wow! Amazing!” he replied.
We then strolled over to the carriage house where Great Grandpa used to store his old cars throughout his life, and where we now keep the special old tractors that remind us of so many great times growing up and working on the ranch.
Antonio again started snapping pictures of the three old tractors there, a 1948 Ford 8N, a 1951 Ford 8N, and a 1936 Twenty-Two Caterpillar, asking: “What year is this one?, what year is that one?, and what about this one?” I said, “Antonio, you seem so passionate about all of the old buildings and tractors, where does that come from?” He said, “Well, I have always loved history, I find it very exciting.” This in turn invigorated me as I have been the historian in my family beginning as a little boy always asking my Dad, “how are we related to them, or whose old car was that Dad, or when did Grandpa purchase this ranch?” I have researched our family history back to the early 1700’s with some information dating back to the year 1000. The halls of our tasting room, known as “The Castle”, are lined with family pictures telling a story of our family over the last 150 years, a lot of it here in the Sonoma Valley. So, you can image how excited I was sharing our family history with Antonio who exhibited the same passion for history as I do. Not many people today care much about history; it is just not important to them.
We then made our way over to the shop where we have my cousin Clifford Rich’s 1957 Studebaker Flatbed truck. Antoni again started taking pictures inside and out, asking lots of questions like “whose truck was this?”, how are you related?, etc.”
There in the middle of our shop where Great Grandpa and so many of our family worked and shared life stories and experiences, Antonio and Alessandro laid out a map they had put together of the entire Sonoma Valley on the bed of the old truck and proceeded to go through our family history and properties with me piece by piece, property by property, beginning with the turn of the century, asking me many, many questions. They asked me about different ownerships of land here in the Sonoma Valley, checking the accuracy of their mapping, and re-confirming all of our Sonoma Valley vineyards as well as other family’s vineyards.
My curiosity got the best of me and I needed to know more about why Antonio was doing this mapping project of our Sonoma Valley. He told me that he has mapped different vineyard regions throughout the world, most recently in Napa Valley. He went on to say that when he is asked to judge a wine or write about a wine, he feels like he needs to know more about the vineyard, its location, the history of the vineyard, and much more. He starts with mapping the area and then gathers a little history of the region. I asked, “Why you are devoting so much time to Sonoma Valley? There are so many other wine regions in the world.” Antonio said, “Sonoma Valley is very special to me, it offers a lot of interesting history, amazing vineyards, great people, and some talented winemakers producing outstanding wines.”
Each and every one of us here in our beautiful little Sonoma Valley should be extremely proud and grateful that Antonio has taken on this project. Now that I have met him and see the passion he has not only for history in general but for our Sonoma Valley, I don’t think there could be a better person to bring our valley to the forefront by showing the amazing viticulture going on today and for years to come.
I want to thank Antonio for all of his time and hard work putting together this incredible map and for recognizing Sonoma Valley as one of the greatest wine regions of the world. A very special thanks as well to Maureen Cottingham, Executive Director of The Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance for making this happen. Maureen was aware of the mapping Antonio did in the Napa Valley so she looked into the outcome of that project and the quality of Antonio’s work and was extremely impressed with what she saw. She then reached out to him to see if she could interest him in mapping our Sonoma Valley.
Thanks again, Maureen!