The state of having or establishing an indigenous relationship with
a personal affinity for a particular culture, society or place.
Many of you may know that Leonetti Cellar was founded by my parents in 1977 as Walla Walla’s first commercial winery. What is far less understood is that the presence of our family in Walla Walla spans over a century long into the deep silt loam of this valley. My father was incredibly fortunate to know his grandparents, Francesco and Rosa Leonetti quite well, although I did not, their spirit was imbued within me throughout my entire childhood. I grew up making weekend and summer trips the short distance down the old dirt road to the Leonetti farm they established in 1906, the same site where my father would come to plant his first commercial vineyard in 1974. My great uncles George and Bill Leonetti eventually became the tenants, caretakers and inheritors of this precious plot of family ground. Through these trips and time spent with my uncles, I acquired a certain perspective and reverence for our family heritage that guides me to this day.
In fact, my respect for my heritage only continues to grow. In this interesting age we now live in, where the world is “literally” at our fingertips, making the opportunity for true discovery so elusive, I often find myself in awe of that adventurous spirit that pushed my great grandparents, like so many other immigrants to come to America and pursue their dreams. Having only letters from previous immigrants full of promises of opportunity, the clothes on their back, and a heart full of hope, they set off on their journey. My great grandparents chose this path knowing they would never see Italy or their hometown of Serra Pedace again; they were on a one way journey to a new life they could only imagine to be better and more prosperous. This journey would take them by boat from the province of Cosenza, Italy, across the Atlantic, through Ellis Island, and then directly overland to Walla Walla. Then, through enterprise, diligence, faith, and pure tenacity, they transformed a 20 acre piece of land into a farm producing our valley’s bounty and a large family.
The farm had an unknown little gem for its time — a south facing hillside of an acre and a half and it was with that same hopeful vision and tenacity, that my father would establish an entire industry for our valley out of the back of a ’67 Chevy pickup with a few hundred cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling bare root grapes that he planted there. Building off the inspiration he gleaned from his grandfather’s bubbling fermentations in the dirt floor basement, the only logical thing to do to honor his family’s roots would be to name the winery Leonetti Cellar.
My parents worked with this same inspiration and passion to have a better and more prosperous life. And my sister and I were the lucky benefactors to see firsthand that hard work is the true key to success. Some think that second generation winemakers have it easy. I think it is much more difficult as I have assimilated my forefather’s spirit of relentless improvement and the seeking of new opportunities. Our team works tirelessly to continue to improve on a defined “classic” that my parents have created. It is through our work that you will be witness to new and exciting opportunities that my generation will employ to continue the longevity of Leonetti to many generations after me.