That’s right, October is National Italian American Heritage Month. First celebrated in 1989, it was proclaimed by then President George H. W. Bush and endorsed with subsequent proclamations by Presidents Bill Clinton in 1993 and Barack Obama in 2010 and by Congress. It should not come as a surprise then that the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) celebrates its anniversary gala every year in October in Washington, DC.
The celebration was created to “honor the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States, particularly in the arts, science, and culture.” According to the mission statement of the Committee to Observe October as Italian American Heritage Month, its “goal is to inform the public about the contributions made by Italians and Italian-Americans to our civilization, especially in the arts, the humanities and the sciences, and to celebrate the impact that Italian culture and language have had and continue to have on our lives as Italian-Americans.”
In addition, events are held throughout the month celebrating and educating the public about Italian American history and culture. If you are wanting to really get into the celebrations, National Pasta Day is apparently October 17, and for those who don’t get enough pasta that day, World Pasta Day is October 25. (Visiting either of those URLs will immerse you in a “lotta” fun pasta facts!)
The US Census Bureau estimates there are over 16 million Americans of Italian ancestry, and other sources say between 17 and 18 million. The Library of Congress has a detailed history of Italians in the United States, chronicling their early arrivals during the colonial period through the 20 th century. Unsurprisingly, notable Italian Americans include architects, performers in the arts and entertainment, sports figures, law enforcement officers, military officials, scientists, academics, and of course, food professionals.
Rarely categorized in the lists of notable Italian Americans, however, are members of the Italian wine community who came to America with a long memory of their grape-growing and winemaking heritage, determined to make a go of it in their new land. The US is full of Italian American vintners, and not just in the well-known wine country in California—they can be found all across the nation. Dick Rosano, longtime wine columnist for the Washington Post now turned mystery novelist, celebrated these
immigrants in his heartfelt 2000 book Wine Heritage: The Story of Italian American Vintners. From the famed friendship between Filippo Mazzei and Thomas Jefferson through the well-known Gallo and Mondavi families, he recounts Italian American vintners’ lives and their passion. Here is a sampling, most from his list of nearly 150 profiles.
- Anthony Road Wine Company, Penn Yan, NY
- Arciero Winery (now Eos), Paso Robles, CA
- Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, VA
- Bargetto Winery, Soquel, CA
- Basignani Winery, Sparks, MD
- Delicato Vineyards, Manteca, CA
- DiGrazia Vineyards, Brookfield, CT
- Ferrante Wine Farm, Geneva, OH
- Leonetti Cellar, Walla Walla, WA
- Ponzi Veinyards, Sherwood, OR
- Robert Biale Vineyards, Napa, CA
- Sebastiani Vineyards, Sonoma, CA
- Signorello Vineyards, Napa, CA
- Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas
- Villa Ragazzi, Napa, CA