Osvaldo and Ferruccia Particelli

Osvaldo Particelli

Interviewer: Jan Bradley
Interview Date: February 10, 2015 at the Particelli home.

JAN BRADLEY: This is Jan Bradley and I am interviewing Oswaldo Particelli and Ferruccia Particelli with Ray Particelli, their son, translating. The date is Feb. 10, 2015.

OK. So, I would like to know when you came to St. Helena and what made you come to St. Helena? Why St. Helena?




RAY PARTICELLI: (In Italian). (Three discussing dates (In Italian)

RAY PARTICELLI: They came in 1967, and they came to St. Helena because my Uncle Nelson, his brother, my dad’s brother, had started…


RAY PARTICELLI: …working at Napa Valley Olive Oil. Not started the business, started working there.

JAN BRADLEY: So, what did you do when you first came? Where did you live when you first came?

RAY PARTICELLI: Um, I mean, I have the answers. Do you need them to tell me or can I tell you?

OSVALDO & FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: (In Italian, discussing living in San Francisco before coming to St. Helena, and what to discuss first. Decided to talk about St. Helena.)

RAY PARTICELLI: They lived above the store. There was a couple of bedrooms up there. They had a bedroom and I had a bedroom. And from the first day they came, they came to work at the store.

JAN BRADLEY: Were you born here then?

RAY PARTICELLI: No. My sister was. I was born in Santa Rosa in 1961. My sister was born here in ’67.

JAN BRADLEY: So, they came to the country in …

RAY PARTICELLI: 1960. Yeah. Arrived from Italy in 1960.


JAN BRADLEY: So, tell me, what was St. Helena like when you first came? And what was the Olive Oil Factory like when you first came?

RAY PARTICELLI: Translating question into Italian.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Era espeta. Era 3,000 people.

RAY PARTICELLI: He said there was about 3,000 people.


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. Little stuff. Like when they’d go to church they knew everybody.


FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Now, every Sunday is new, new, new.

RAY PARTICELLI: A lot more concentration of Italians back in the day. Yeah. All it takes, it’s amazing, you walk the cemetery… it’s amazing how many Italians are in there.

JAN BRADLEY: And back then did the Olive Oil Factory just do the olive oil, and were then you still crushing the olives there?

RAY PARTICELLI: (In Italian translating.)

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: No, no. Never. That the old man, Guidi.

RAY PARTICELLI: Guidi did the oil. And the store was a smaller version of what it is now. It had already converted from just manufacturing olive oil to an Italian grocery. 


RAY PARTICELLI: He was saying that during the war, the government, I don’t know who, the government was taking the olive oil from the store, for whatever reason.


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, that’s what Guidi said. We don’t know.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: You remember Guidi?

JAN BRADLEY: I do. I do remember. So, when did Guidi start the business? Or when did he…

RAY PARTICELLI: Roughly, ’31, 1931.

JAN BRADLEY: And he actually started it.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. It was… The history that we have is basically a bit of oral history as well. The barn was built in the 1890s, and it was the barn for the house that is on the property. From what we’ve heard from some old timers, it was a barn for feeding and you had one dairy cow that used to roam there, where the vineyard is. And then in ’31, Guidi bought it and turned it into the manufacturing of olive oil.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Before this… (In Italian)…
RAY PARTICELLI: (In Italian) (I said that)
FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: (In Italian) (Laughter)

JAN BRADLEY: So, when did you bring the Lucchesis over?

RAY PARTICELLI: (In Italian) (When did Pulio arrive?)
OSVALDO PARTICELLI: (In Italian) (Pulio arrived…)

RAY PARTICELLI: We could call Narcisa and find out…

JAN BRADLEY: Or I can ask her…

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, you can ask her. Yeah, you can punch that in.

JAN BRADLEY: So, evidently the business grew, and you prospered. So, when did you move here (to their home at the end of McCorkle)?

RAY PARTICELLI: When Guidi had the business first, it was first basically just an olive oil manufacturing and the bulk of his clientele, the bulk of where he distributed his oil was in The City (SF) so… And he had brothers in the Filbert District that had Guidi Brothers Market. A little market.


OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Octavia and Filbert

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, at the corner of Filbert and Octavia in the Marina. So, he would bring the product down there and he would sell it. And what started happening was that the locals knew that, you know, he was making trips to The City so they would put orders in for staples, Italian staples that were hard to come by. I mean, you know, Italian food now is pretty mainstream, but back then it was ethnic food, you know. So, he would bring oil down and then deliver stuff back to people. So, what he started doing was he started bringing back a little bit more, so he could throw it in his building. Some salamis and cheeses, so he would have it and people wouldn’t have to order it and he’d go down to The City. So, it kinda went full circle and turned into more of a grocery store in that regard. But the problem was it was just kinda his friends and him. So, I mean, he’d work two or three days, do the oil, and then he wouldn’t work at all, you know for weeks.

So, when my uncle came, he was there seven days a week. And then all of a sudden, if you needed some pasta or something, you could run down there, ‘cause they’d be open. And again, in ’67 my mom and dad joined him, and just established the consistency and stuff of someone always being there.

And then you know, we got lucky in a couple of regards. One, Italian food became very, very popular; everybody loves Italian food. And then, secondly, the olive oil we made was always really nice and fairly priced. And then, kind of a big deal for us, a big break for us, for my family, was when the Heart Association endorsed olive oil, as a healthy fat. So, it went, you know, everybody using butter, to people started, “Oh what’s all this olive oil about?” Olive oil was a very, very ethnic food, you know. Now it seems ridiculous, because it’s so mainstream, but in the ‘60s, you know, the Spanish, the Greeks, the Italians…       I mean a lot of people didn’t know what to do with olive oil. So, once it was endorsed by the American Heart Association, it kinda got..


RAY PARTICELLI: People’s attention, as far as all these healthy people and stuff who started to try it. And that made a huge impact.


JAN BRADLEY: And that was when?

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: (In background in Italian)

RAY PARTICELLI: That was about probably the ‘70’s. Mid ‘70’s when that kind of stuff started happening. You know the government started, not dictating, but suggesting what was healthy and what was not healthy, and it was kind of a big deal for the American Heart Association to come out and say that.

JAN BRADLEY: When did you, Ray, first start working in the store?

RAY PARTICELLI: I graduated in 1979 and I didn’t want to come straight to work. I mean I knew I wanted to come here, but I didn’t want to go from a senior, doing everything I wanted every day of my life, to working six days a week, peddling cheese and olive oil. So, I took a year and went to Sac State in 1980, and it was never for school for the sake of school. I mean I knew I wasn’t going to get a degree; I knew I wasn’t going to go for four or five years or whatever. So, the next year, in ’81 is when I joined.


RAY PARTICELLI: We came down, my folks bought this property (at the end of McCorkle) in ’77. So, it’s kind of a neat story in itself. We, from The City, came up and lived… Guidi had the same properties we do now, but none of them were vacant. My uncle lived in the house where Miguel lives now ( ed. note: 810 Charter Oak), and there was another tenant in Neidy’s house ( ed. note: 812 Charter Oak) and then there was a St. Helena police officer who lives where Leo lives now (— McCorkle). So, for the first…
(Questioning in Italian)


RAY PARTICELLI: For the first seven or eight months that we lived here full time… I mean there’s truly is an immigrant story. They came over in 1960 owing money. The reason they came is because my father’s uncle had a job here, had a job in Fulton. Remember the poultry processing plant right there in Fulton, like if you go from here to the coast. And that’s where he worked, and he promised them… he didn’t promise them, but he said that his boss would guarantee them work if he came over here, both of them. So, they came and they did that for a couple of years. And then there was an opportunity to move to The City with more Italians, and he (Osvaldo) did masonry work and my mom stayed, my mom stayed…


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, the terrazzo, like that granite top there. That’s what he did for a few years. And my mom still stayed actually with the chicken place.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Different. We make like a TV dinner.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, they do airplane… put stuff together for airplanes and stuff. While they were in The City, Nelson had started working up here, and they started getting busier and busier, just from the amount of time. He was now open 7 days a week. So, people started being able to plan on coming.


RAY PARTICELLI: So, Guidi was done. He didn’t want to work anymore. I knew him my whole life and my whole life he was old. I mean he died in his mid-90s you know. So, thirty years ago, you know… well now he’d have been a hundred and something. But thirty, forty years ago he was seventy already, you know.  So, they (Osvaldo and Ferruccia) would come up. They would do their job five days a week and catch the last Greyhound bus from The City to St. Helena. And they’d get off of the bus and they, you know, and then they’d work all Saturday and Sunday here at the store. And then they’d catch the last bus out Sunday night back to The City, and do their job at the City for five days.


RAY PARTICELLI: They just work night and day. And then at one point, when this started showing that it was going to be a consistent job, you know, as far as, it worked.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Uno momento. (More in Italian).

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, and in the meantime, so they were coming up here, they were working their job five days a week in The City and then coming up here, working weekends up here. And then my grandfather, my Dad’s dad, got sick, was diagnosed with throat cancer. So, we actually were going to go to Italy and take care of him, while he was dying. So, being that, they were going to give up their place in The City because the trip to Italy was going to be for an indefinite amount of time.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: We don’t know if they got money over there.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, so to continue to pay rent, there just wasn’t that kind of money.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Raggianti let you (us) put all furnishing in the barn.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, Fanucci’s grandfather, Raggianti, who lived there for a hundred years, he let them put all their furniture and stuff in that back barn by your guys back yard. And the idea was that they would go to Italy and take care of that and when they came back from Italy, instead of going back to The City, they would just come straight to St. Helena. And they did. We went to Italy for about six months and then… we came back and moved into the top of the store. Then my uncle went, his (Oswald’s) brother went to spend the little bit of time…

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Oh, the first time, we do know have much, nothing like now.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: (In Italian) (laughing)



RAY PARTICELLI: So, he… When we got back to (from) Italy, we moved into the store and my uncle left and spent a few months in Italy with his dying father who ended up dying. My grandfather ended up dying, and then… So, we put eight months, eight to ten months lived on top of the store, and then the house where Leo lives now became vacant. So, we moved into there.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Excuse me. I coming from Italy I expecting Leo. I no feel good, my mama said, mi di (?), now you no feel good, what’s a matter? Pretty soon I know, pregnant.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, so that was 820 McCorkle. We lived at 820 McCorkle until ’77, when we moved here which is 591 McCorkle. Then, I was here until I got married, then I moved to 821 McCorkle, right across the street from the house I grew up in. So, my life, since the early sixties was four addresses on McCorkle.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: We want to keep it this way. (Laughter)

JAN BRADLEY: And then your boys now…

RAY PARTICELLI: My boys now are working at the stores, at both the stores. So that’s three generations, four generations of Italians. And you know everybody… the most common mistake of our older clients, people who have been coming a long time, is thinking that Guidi was related to us. You know, because he lived with us for 25 years. He lived with my uncle Nelson for the first seven or eight and then when Nelson retired and he moved off the property, Paul and Narcisa moved in. And so, they inherited him. So, he’s lived with us…He’s now passed, obviously, but he spent about 25 years of his life with us, so everybody thinks that that’s my grandfather, and then my dad and then me, and now my kids. So, they see my kids… I mean, my whole life, I’ve heard, “Oh you’re the third generation.” And it gets to the point where you’re just, “yeah, I am…” you know. So now my kids are hearing, “Oh, you’re the 4th generation”. And they’re going through the same thing I did. Some people they tell, “Oh, Guidi wasn’t related to us.” And to some people, they just let them assume, let them go with it.

JAN BRADLEY: I can ask you (Ray). What do you remember about…? What are some of your fond memories about St. Helena when you were growing up? Or what do you (Ferruccia & Osvaldo) remember about life in St. Helena when you first came, other than just working in the store?


RAY PARTICELLI: You know, things like Sons of Italy, you know that kind of civic event, was a little bit different from back then because you literally knew everybody. For my parents, one of the kinda cool things was that there was a ton of Italians. My dad, both my folks have been here since 1960, and my mom does ok but my dad doesn’t speak very well in English. An he’s very, very social. So, it’s not too..


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, once a month there would be some sort of civic gathering, you know. And they just knew everybody. And that’s the same thing for me. It was just a little bit different world.


RAY PARTICELLI: We always fished as a family. You know, we’d run up to Conn Dam. They’d plant trout, and you’d catch your trout, crappie, and your catfish and blue gill, and your bass and a decent amount of game. I mean, for most Italians, especially ones just off the boat, hunting and fishing, the outdoors is kind of a part of their heritage.

You know this valley’s very, very reminiscent to Tuscany, both in climate and geographically. There’s a ton of similarities, which always made them feel good. You know it’s always been that kind of pastoral life, a little bit. You know, kind of outside, get your hands dirty. You know they came from a different world. During the Depression in Italy, and the war and stuff. You know one of the things that’s kind of humorous is fishing. Catch and release just didn’t exist. So, my kids will go fishing and they’ll catch a hundred fish and come home with maybe one or two for my folks because they really want to eat them.


RAY PARTICELLI: You know that just doesn’t make sense. I mean they literally had to fish and hunt and gather…


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, to survive. Our little town in Italy was incredibly poor and got hit incredibly hard during the war and stuff.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Right. (In Italian).

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. He’d get up at three in the morning in Italy and he’d go hunt for birds that were not much bigger than sparrows, and for every three that he would give them, they would give him a loaf of bread to take home. So, that mindset, and then seeing my kids go out and catch a hundred bass and not bring any home is just… It’s funny. You know, I think if the world continues to go another million years, I don’t think there will ever be a generational difference, and the amount of stuff that occurred in the world, as did in their generation. I mean, I remember in my lifetime, they’d call over to Italy and there’d be one phone. It would be like at Bill’s house. And then Bill would send runners out to get either my grandmother or my grandmother here. You would call and it would be like just calling the one phone in town and they would run and get whoever you were trying to get a hold of. Not a car in town, you know, nothing. And that’s in his lifetime.


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, in Italy… I don’t know if this is getting off the track a little bit.

JAN BRADLEY: No this is good. We like any kind of history.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, I mean, 15, 16 years old, they’d just drag wood up out of the forest and cut and split and send it back down. I mean, it was just a different world, you know. We talk about it quite a bit, because we’re fortunate. We sit three generations down for almost every meal. I mean, you know, my kids still eat here every day. We eat here. So, they hear it, but they have no idea. They just… and I don’t have any idea. I mean I have no idea of what that level of commitment… and not knowing where your next meal is coming from. I mean, no one on the planet has hunted more than me, but we do it for fun. It’s different when you gotta get up, and if you don’t get anything, and nobody eats. So that part of the world changed when they got here. I mean, here it was never like that. It was a lot of work, but it was never like that. There was always everything they needed. And that was kind of, obviously, a cool thing.

JAN BRADLEY: So, what was the town in Italy where you came from?


JAN BRADLEY: Corsagna.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. Just north of Lucca.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Little town outside of Lucca. About 800 people.

JAN BRADLEY: Up in the mountains?



JAN BRADLEY: And you were both (Osvaldo and Ferruccia) born there?

RAY PARTICELLI: Actually, my father was born in Rio de Janerio.


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. My grandfather, his dad…My grandfather’s generation was just the generation that started splitting between North America and South America. I mean, prior to that, South America was where a lot of Italian immigrants went because they had a foothold there. There had been some predecessors there, so there was some history of Italians there, and there was work there. They just went where the work was. My grandfather’s generation, again, his (Osvaldo’s) dad’s generation, some of them started coming to North America. And obviously some came before that, but from our area, it had been mostly South America. He (Osvaldo) and a lot of his friends still, not many of them left now, but they were Italians born in Brazil.

JAN BRADLEY: But then you (Osvaldo) went back to Corsagna.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, yeah. That’s where his folks were from. His folks were from there, too. And that’s where she (Ferruccia) was from. And then after a while, his mother went back and just his dad and him and his brother were over there working, but his mom was back in Corsagna. So, he went back and forth a couple of times.

JAN BRADLEY: So, I’m going to ask Ferruccia. Why did you decide to marry Osvaldo?

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: I don’t know (laughter). I ask myself! (Laughter)

RAY PARTICELLI: Biggest mistake of her life. (laughter)

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Ferruccia beautiful girl.

JAN BRADLEY: Oh, I imagine, yes.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Beautiful girl. Twenty year. (Laughter)

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: I met him, but I 19 year-old, so…

RAY PARTICELLI: She was 19. He was 36. 17-year disparity.


FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Yeah, very nice. (Laughter)

JAN BRADLEY: (To Ray) So you didn’t work at all in the store when you were in high school?

RAY PARTICELLI: No. Well, you know, I helped out if something needed to be done, but until I started working, I didn’t work. My sister and I, we didn’t…


OSVALDO PARTICELLI: I worked 13-14 hora day for year, year, year. And no have a day off. Four days: Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year, Easter.

RAY PARTICELLI: Easter. Four days a year (off).

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Pretty soon we started one day off.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. They didn’t have days off for years and years and years. And then they started having Wednesdays and Thursdays off.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: And every time we get a day off, we go clean it. We have a place in Napa, and we go over there and clean it. Wednesdays and Thursdays, Mondays now.

RAY PARTICELLI: For years, and I remember this vividly, growing up, their day off was spent… When they finally started getting a day off, my uncle got like a, my uncle got Wednesdays and my folks got Thursdays. And most of our Thursdays were spent… We, along the way, had invested in some, had built some apartments in Napa and in Santa Rosa and stuff. And their days off were spent going and cleaning the apartments. It was crazy.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Yeah. Sometime you go fish early in the morning, come back and go…

RAY PARTICELLI: As a kid, I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t mow their own damn grass or sweep up. I mean it was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. So, we’d go over in the car and take care of stuff and then every two or three weeks we’d go over in the truck, when there was a truckload, you know. Throw it in the back of the truck, all the trimmings, the prunings, the lawn, the clippings, the leaves. As a young kid, I just couldn’t understand why they had to give up their day off to go clean up after somebody.

JAN BRADLEY: (To Ferruccia and Osvaldo) So, when did you retire from the store? I know, not completely…




OSVALDO PARTICELLI: (In Italian)… Oh, at 65


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, he was about 65.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: But, No he go work anyway ma.                                                                                             

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, he worked, but that’s about when my sister started working, about 25 years ago.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: My take Social Security.


RAY PARTICELLI: My mom actually worked until she just dislocated her shoulder a few months ago. That’s kind of been her retirement. She hasn’t been using her right arm, so she hasn’t been able to do anything.


JAN BRADLEY: (To Ferruccia) And you still work babysitting. When the kids were real little, I know that you would babysit them a lot.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Yeah, and making lunch and dinner for our kids.

JAN BRADLEY: (To Ray) So you went all the way through school here in St. Helena?

RAY PARTICELLI: I went to St. Helena Parochial, then I went to Justin. I graduated from Justin Sienna. My dad wanted me to stay in town; my mom wanted me to get a Catholic education. The religion is a big part of the life.

(A visitor drops in. They speak (In Italian) for a bit, then she goes into the other room.)

JAN BRADLEY: Well, is there anything else that you would like to share? I mean we got a lot of information just in this short time.

RAY PARTICELLI: Is there anything you want to get in on?


RAY PARTICELLI: I’ve got to say that I feel, I kinda feel bad, the history kinda went their way instead of St. Helena. The biggest thing about St. Helena was just the tempo of life was always really nice. And little stuff. You’d get in trouble, but you’d get in trouble like you know, and the cops would slap your hands and threaten to tell your dad. You know, I mean, that kind of thing. I get that they’re handcuffed and they can’t do that kind of thing anymore, but it’s a different mindset. Everybody was a neighbor. Everybody was somebody that you had history with. And now, you know, it’s such a beautiful place to live, that people just want to be here, which is great, you know. The success of my family’s business has been due to a large part of location, just because we’re in the Napa Valley. But it’s a different world. I mean it’s a different world on a lot of levels. 

You don’t know everybody anymore. And then it’s just a different mindset, you know. We were, literally, a hardworking agricultural society where nobody was entitled. Everybody went out and got what they needed and worked for it, and this and that. Now, everybody’s entitled. It’s just crazy to me. I mean I coached high school basketball for 32 years consecutively. This is the first year that I haven’t. And one of the reasons that I stepped out was just that. The same changes that have happened in the valley have happened with the kids that I have coached for almost my entire life. I just don’t understand it. I have a hard time with it, you know. I don’t know how everybody feels entitled. Nobody goes out and earns anything anymore. That’s somewhat disappointing, when you see the valley… you know… But again, part of the family’s success is because we’re in such a beautiful location. And, because we are in such a beautiful location, millions of people want to be here and be a part of it, and so they come.

JAN BRADLEY: Speaking of beautiful locations, your whole landscaping here… it’s like stepping back into Italy.


JAN BRADLEY: We walk by here, and we walk the vineyard sometimes and come back around here and see the bocce court, and the chickens. It’s beautiful!

RAY PARTICELLI: And that’s one of the things, too. It’s authentic. You know, now people try to get it…

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: We have a lotta mess a long time.

RAY PARTICELLI: This is just all they know. This is how they… this is who they are. This isn’t, you know, a designer coming in and saying, “Let’s make it look like Tuscany.” Or “Let’s give it a feel of old Italy”. This is what it is because this is who we are. And that’s kind of reflected in how the valley has changed. You know, now people pay somebody to make it look like you’re old St. Helena. You know the old St. Helenans looked old St. Helena because that’s who they were. There was no million-dollar designer saying, “We’ll drop that wagon wheel over there and put the old press there, and you know, you want to make sure you get some mustard greens growing off the side of your house.” I mean, people plant olives and then spray them so they don’t grow fruit. I mean, to me that’s the epitome of what’s happened to the valley. You know, you plant an olive tree, which is a gorgeous tree, and you spray it so it doesn’t bear fruit. Well, that’s because you want it to look like something, not because you…And that, to a certain extent, I mean that literally sums up the change in the valley. You know, they love the agriculture, and they sterilize them, because it’s inconvenient. But they want the look of it, you know. 

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: We cannot stand it because for this much olive oil (shows a little bit with fingers), we go around for two, three hours.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Incredible. The difference.

RAY PARTICELLI: (In Italian). You know, they don’t want the olives on the ground because it stains their white carpets in their farmhouses. Well, again…

JAN BRADLEY: Farmhouses don’t have white carpets.



RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, and what farmer is going to sterilize his fruit? But again, the reason our house is worth a million dollars is because there’s ten people in line who want to buy it.


RAY PARTICELLI: So, I’m not knocking it, but that’s definitely is a change in the valley. I mean, literally, an agricultural valley that people sterilize stuff because it’s inconvenient is a bit ironic. There’s no question about that.


JAN BRADLEY: Osvaldo, did you do a lot of this work here (indicating the house and gardens) yourself?

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: No, not any more. Now maybe twenty, so, four or five years…


RAY PARTICELLI: He’s 90 years old. He did it well into his late 80’s. A lot of the maintenance… A lot of this stuff was here. This was a great property. The Pappases owned it before we did. For years and years and years they would have the Greek… The Greek picnic was on this site. But most of the fruit trees and stuff, my dad put in. It goes back again to being part of the land. And land was an important thing back in Italy.


RAY PARTICELLI: It was an old walnut orchard. Walnuts and prunes, when we bought it, outside the fence. I remember as a kid, coming down here and picking walnuts and prunes and getting 25 cents a box.


RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. It was right after we bought the place, we harvested… they harvested the prunes, the big Santa Rosa prunes and brought them to Sunkist in Santa Rosa, for the dehydrator. 


RAY PARTICELLI: No, no, not the big ones… the little ones, the little prunes, like Sunkist has those prunes. And we didn’t know anything, or they didn’t know anything about it. They were ripe; they picked them and brought them over.

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: It was so hot, and we picked…

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, you know, it was a hot St. Helena summer, and they killed themselves picking prunes. And they brought them over there and the guy says, “Go ahead and turn around, and the first ditch you see, go ahead and dump them.”

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Osvaldo make grappa.

RAY PARTICELLI: So, we brought them back home and made grappa. It really is the proverbial, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

FERRUCCIA PARTICELLI: Osvaldo make grappa.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: No, no… (In Italian).

RAY: (In Italian).


JAN BRADLEY: So, do you sell your grapes or do you make your own wine?



RAY PARTICELLI: We sell them. Right now, we sell to Markham. We sold to Coppola for a long time and then he went all estate after he bought that second vineyard. So, he was buying our grapes just as a favor because he was a dear friend of ours, so he was continuing to buy them. You know, Geyserville, where Stefano had that restaurant, The Rustic. And it didn’t make sense for him to pay Napa Valley prices when he’s got that bunch of grapes over there. So, Brian del Bondio is a friend of ours as well, with Markham, and he had his people come down and check the vineyard, and taste the fruit and taste the wine, and he was happy with it. So, we’ve been contracted to Markham for a few years.

JAN BRADLEY: So, you don’t make your own wine anymore?

RAY PARTICELLI: We do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We do a little bit. I mean, you know, there’s 30 tons out there, so we can trim a little bit. And we have a smaller vineyard of a few different varietals that we were going to mix in with the Cabernets and stuff. And my brother-in-law, Michael, has grapes in Napa and stuff, so for the amount of wine we make, we’ve got plenty of grapes. So, we can pilfer a few here and there and make our table wine.

JAN BRADLEY: (To Osvaldo) So is your philosophy like Raggianti: “The key to long life is a glass of red wine every day” ?

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, He’s brandy. He has his Campari. He watches his clock, and like right now, in 17 minutes, he’ll have his first drink of the day at 11:00.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Every day I have my…

RAY PARTICELLI: You have your Campari tonic and a shot of brandy on ice. And then after that, he’ll have about this much (showing with fingers) brandy, and sip and nurse it until lunch. And then he won’t drink again until about 5:00 at night, and he’ll do the same thing before dinner.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: You know my grandfather, my grand, grandfather, everything no good. They die. Both die.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, they both died drunk.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: I have my beer in the hour, we drink it. Fifteen minutos.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah, 11:00. Never before 11, and never during the day. He has his two drinks before lunch and two before dinner.

JAN BRADLEY: And I know family is very important. You have big family gatherings.

RAY PARTICELLI: Yeah. Every day.

OSVALDO PARTICELLI: Thirteen people.

RAY PARTICELLI: We have two meals a day together, most days. Literally, 90% of the time. Like today, it will be me and Jules and my sister and Michael. And then Stefano is in Napa, and my other son, Dante, will be here. My daughter’s here when she’s not in school, or not working or whatever. I think it’s been important. I think it’s had a big input on my kids, having them sit down with their grandparents and hearing stories and seeing values. I mean, it’s a different world. There’s no question. Of values, of morals, you know, from their day to today. And I think just telling people about it, you know, in one ear and out the other. But seeing it and living it every day…It’s not going to change them a ton, but it’s planted seeds that are a good thing, in my mind.

JAN BRADLEY: Well things seem to be heating up here, so I think we’ll stop.