The softer side of wine |

The softer side of wine

I have always said that what happens around a bottle of wine is every bit as interesting as what’s in the bottle. I recently shared an experience that reminded me just how true that can be.

I first met Adolph Locatelli in 2004 when I was researching local wine history. Adolph’s father, Adolpho Locatelli immigrated to Nevada County from Italy in 1919 ultimately opening a winery in Chicago Park in 1933.

Last month I wrote a column about Italian varietals and in the process mentioned the Locatelli Winery. That is where this story becomes interesting.

I received a call from Deanna Goins. She lives in Oregon but happened to be in Nevada City the day the column, which included a picture of Adolph Locatelli, appeared in The Union. “That’s my grandfather,” the voice on the phone exclaimed. “Does he still live around here? Is he still alive? Do you know anything?”

Deanna was born in Nevada County. Her mother married Adolph’s son, Adolph jr. A subsequent divorce when Deanna was two and a move, first to Sacramento and then to Oregon, eliminated any connection with the Locatelli side of the family.

Until she happened to be in Nevada City on the exact day her grandfather’s picture ran in the paper.

I hadn’t talked to Adolph since 2004 and didn’t know if he was still alive. Now I was curious. I couldn’t find him in the phone book. On a lark, I drove to Chicago Park to see if I could remember where he lived. But I didn’t even remember the street name.

I toured the general neighborhood with no success. On a second pass, with nothing to lose, I stopped at a house to ask. Remarkably, they knew Adolph. He lived down the street and around the corner. Still, I wasn’t sure I could find him.

As I turned the corner, I spied an old man resting on a garden cart by the side of the road. “Adolph?” He looked at me as if to say, “what took you so long?” like he had been waiting for me all morning.

He remembered me, and his long-lost grand daughter. Yes, I could give Deanna his telephone number.

Within two hours of Deanna’s initial call, I was calling her back saying not only was her grandfather alive, he was waiting for her call. Not only would this be a reunion forty years in the making, she had five of her kids with her who had never, ever, met him.

That should be the end of the story except for two additional details. First, coincidentally, the house where I stopped was, in fact, the old Locatelli property. They had purchased it from him, which was why they knew him. I simply hadn’t recognized it. There was no doubting it because on my way out I spotted the old, gnarled grapevines where I had taken my original picture of Adolph in 2004.

Second, I couldn’t stop wondering how that reunion went. I finally called Deanna to ask.

“It was great to make the connection, both for me and my children. It’s wonderful to learn about the Italian side of my heritage.”

It goes to show, you just never know what treasures surround a bottle of wine.

Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer, teaches wine classes at Sierra College, and is a California State Certified Wine Judge. Go to to see the Kaleidoscope wine classes offered locally this fall, or by phone at 530-913-3703.

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