The Early Years
In 1879, with only fifty dollars in his pocket, Giacomo Peirano, a grape farmer from Genoa, Italy, immigrated to San Francisco, CA, in the hopes of fulfilling the American dream of striking it rich with gold during the historic Gold Rush age. Soon realizing the days of really collecting a big share were no longer in sight, he decided to take whatever he had left of his fifty dollars and moved to Lodi, CA.
At the time, Lodi was the home of many mining camps. Recognizing the excess of miners, yet the lack of merchants in the region, Giacomo, who was hungry and quickly running out money, scrounged up whatever cash he had left and opened up a mercantile store where miners could get all sorts of daily supplies and necessities. The idea turned out to be an ingenious money maker and before he knew it, Giacomo was on a boat back to Italy to reunite with his adoring wife to be, Maria. It was on this trip that he came across an idea which, unknown to him, would become the most important family jewel for centuries to come. Along with his smitten bride, Giacomo brought with him Italian Zinfandel vine cuttings from his family’s vineyard. Upon his return to Lodi, he purchased 300 acres of land. He proceeded to propagate and then plant the Zinfandel vines, creating one of the first vineyards in Lodi. The vines expanded to cover seventy-five acres of the farmland. Tending to them like they were his children, he spent long hours in the vineyards diligently working to help the fruit reach its optimal level of ripeness. He hand pruned and harvested every vine with precision care. Quickly, caring for the grapes became a family affair. Maria watched over the mercantile business, which helped to pay for the vineyards, while Giacomo was out in the fields with his five young sons Charles, William, George, Fred, and Frank. This was the beginning of a family tradition that would last for generations to come.
The Peirano family had much to be thankful for. Their mercantile business was doing well, and the vineyards had grown to be a profitable venture, but the family was soon to endure the greatest pain they had ever experienced. At the age of ten, Fred Peirano was kicked in the head by a horse and died as a result of his injuries. Then, as if that was not enough, Frank died of blood poisoning at the age of twenty. Giacomo and Maria were grief stricken and struggled to keep it together for the sake of their other three children. To cope with their grief, they threw themselves into their mercantile and farming businesses. Giacomo and his remaining three sons diligently worked in the vineyards from morning till night while Maria occupied her mind with the shop.
World War I
Around 1914, after many years of devotion to an industry that earned him great respect, Giacomo Peirano hung up his farming hat and retired. He passed down the 300 acres of land along with the mercantile business to his sons, Charlie, William, and George who carried on the family traditions with great pride. George and Charlie were the most involved with the vineyards, and William oversaw the mercantile business. Soon after, Charlie was called to fight in World War I from which he received a Purple Heart after becoming injured in the line of duty. During this time, William and George held down the fort.
In 1920, the government passed a law that would last for thirteen years prohibiting the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcohol across the majority of the states. This era is infamously known as Prohibition. For many grape farmers and winemakers, this turned into a financial disaster that they were never, fully, able to recover from. For the Peirano family, this industry disaster resulted in advantageous conditions for their farming practice. Since they were in the business of farming Zinfandel vines, which had yet to gain attention at the congressional level as a viable source for “wine” grape production, the Peirano family bootlegged the fruit of their labor in mass quantities to Italian home winemakers in New York and Canada, providing added prosperity for almost a decade.
The Great Depression
Though they were able to turn the era of Prohibition into a financial gain, a nationwide epidemic soon to follow did not treat them as kindly. The Stock Market Crash of 1929, which notoriously resulted in the Great Depression, proved to be tough times for the Peirano family who suffered through the economic downturn like millions of other hardworking people worldwide. There were times of starvation, fears of losing their land, and mounds of uncertainty about the future. Eventually, with great determination and the help of World War II stimulating the economy, they were able to persevere and hold on to their land, making it through the most difficult financial period in Peirano family history.
World War II
Around this time, Charlotte, Charles’ daughter met a charming, young man, Randy Randolph, during a junior high school graduation dance. They went to Lodi High together and became high school sweethearts. Upon graduation, he joined the Air Force and was trained on the B-17, B-24, and B-29. During basic training, he and Charlotte married. She traveled with him to different Air Force academies, until he was sent off to World War II. Upon his return, they moved to Tahoe and planned to purchase a sea plane and fly mail to and from Tahoe. Everything changed when a friend of theirs, world famous World War II pilot, Tex Rankin, crashed and died en route to Charlotte and Randy flying their demo plane. In wake of the catastrophe, they decided it was in the best interest of the family to halt plans for the flying service. At this time, George was becoming gravely ill. Charlotte and Randy moved back to Lodi and helped to run the vineyards. In 1951, George passed away and Randy began learning the ins and outs of the business from Charles. Eventually, Randy took over with the help of Charlotte, further continuing the family lineage in the vineyard business. They would drag around their young son Lance, present day owner of Peirano Estate Vineyards, through the vineyards and began teaching him at the age of four the art of winemaking. By the age of six, Lance was driving tractors, setting the stage for another great Peirano to harvest great winemaking grapes.
In 1992, Lance Randolph, the fourth generation of Peirano to farm the 300 acre estate, began making Peirano wine simply for himself and to prove Lodi could produce desirable wines. After considerable praise for his ability to make elegant wines, he decided to start bottling and selling Peirano wine using his estate grown grapes. Since then, Peirano has won numerous awards for producing top of the line wine using many of the old techniques valued by Giacomo Peirano.
The history of Peirano Estate Vineyards is a tale deeply rooted in Lodi history and the importance is felt by every member of the Peirano family. Legend has it that Lodi was named after Giacomo’s famous racer horse, Alta Genoa, he brought from Lodi, Italy. Over the years, the vineyards have grown to not only include the same naturally rooted, head trained Old Vine Zinfandel imported to the United States by Lance’s great grandfather, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Viogner, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Malbec as well. The difficult times in the Peirano family history, did prove to be challenging but showed their tenacity through desperation and hard times. How, you might ask, were they able to persevere? As Lance Randolph says, “A family that works together stays together, and the vineyards are a big part of our family. It’s as simple as that!”