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San Joaquin Valley Wine Pioneer Angelo Papagni, 95, Passes Away


March 3, 2017

1st Recipient of San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers’ Lifetime Achievement Award, Angelo Papagni, passes at 95

Angelo Papagni, innovative and dynamic pioneering California farmer and winemaker, passed away on Monday, a few weeks before his 96th birthday, in Fresno.  Noted for a lifetime passion for all things related to the vine, Mr. Papagni leaves a legacy of defying conventional wisdom by bringing celebrated California wines to the world, from grapes only grown in the San Joaquin Valley.

Living from birth in Fresno, California; the son of Italian immigrants, Mr. Papagni’s life coincided with the dramatic growth and maturation of the California grape and wine industries. An innovative leader in California viticultural practices, he and his team drew upon generations of traditional European farming practices while working with the latest in new technologies for creating better, more mature, table, wine and cannery grapes across the San Joaquin Valley.

Led by his life’s dedication to continual improvement, he built one of the first modern wineries in California to take full advantage of the natural flavor and strength of Valley grapes while producing California wines that pundits believed could not be made outside of the Napa Valley.  Indeed, his Papagni Vineyards helped pioneer not only cleaner California wines, but grape concentrates and other beverages using grapes as the primary ingredient.  Renowned for Alicante Bouschet, he succeeded in producing fine, enjoyable – drinkable – wines from the likes of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Charbono and Zinfandel – to name just a few of the varieties grown in the created microclimates under the hot Valley sun.

A community leader, higher education proponent, and devoted family man, he is survived by his wife of 72 years, Blanche, their four daughters, one son, and their spouses, six grandchildren and their spouses, and five great-grandchildren, and an extended network of family, associates and friends from coast to coast.  Services will be next week in Fresno.

The Association is proud to salute the prototype for our Lifetime Achievement Award honorees by setting the bar for “Positively Contributing to the Health and Well-Being of the San Joaquin Valley Wine & Grape Industry”.  This California wine pioneer always looked forward to the ever increasing prestige of our California industry, with an understanding that its core foundation starts in the vineyards planted in his beloved Valley soils.