Dewey Baldocchi was a spritely gentlemen with a long history of wine industry involvement. His parents were Italian immigrants arriving in California around 1903. His father, Peter Baldocchi, worked his way into the wine industry starting at Fountain Grove Winery. After a number of years he purchased land on Piner Road west of Santa Rosa, and established a vineyard and small winery. He sold the majority of his grapes to Sam Sebastiani on a conversation and a handshake.
Grape growing was a struggle. He could not believe that his adopted country would adapt the Volstead Act and after numerous false starts at Repeal of Prohibition, finally threw up his hands and had the winery's tanks drained. Against their father's desires Dewey and his brother Romeo restarted the winery preparing for Repeal, they were some of the first with wine to sell. Unfortunately, they soon discovered "bathtub gin" and other Prohibition creations had altered the American taste in alcohol, and the dry red wine they specialized in, Zinfandel, was not popular. Surviving through the re-establishment of wine and the Depression era was tough enough, but the introduction of the Prorate Act motivated Dewey to become directly involved in the battle for Northern California grape growers.
Dewey was President of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Protective Organization, which involved Nick and Charles DeMeo as legal counsel against the Prorate Act. They went to court to separate the Dry Wine Counties from the San Joaquin Valley grape growers and eliminate the influence of Prorate on the northern region. He was again called into service during World War II to deal with the Office of Price Administration and the War Food Administration, and went to Washington, D.C. for four annual meetings representing California grape grower interests and keeping up the price of grapes.
During the interview he and Joseph Vercelli cover the many wineries in his area of Sonoma County Ã¢ the area to the west of the city of Santa Rosa. He presents a vivid description of life as a wine grape rancher including a memorable late harvest, (moldy grapes and all), winemaking on a limited budget and his adventure at bottling and selling his own label resulting in his wife, Irene, selling wine at a dollar a bottled gallon from a converted Model T Ford garage.
This oral history is one in a series of interviews undertaken in the early 1980's by Joseph Vercelli and "Puch" Puchilowski.