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Little wine maker in Newcastle

By: Susie Brown
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Remember the jingle "The Little Wine Maker?” well I would like to introduce to you a real winemaker: Giovanni (John) Saladana of Newcastle.

Born in 1858 in Grosotto, Italy, life was difficult for this young lad, an only child, orphaned at a young age and raised by his uncles. However, he was determined and not afraid of hard work. Not being able to read until he was 20 did not stop him. He wanted to go United States and when he entered Ellis Island 1882 with $7, he took one dollar and bought on English-Italian dictionary.

His new life and new journey had begun. He found varies jobs, first in Illinois (coal mine), then California cutting wood in Siskiyou County. He earned $600 he used to purchase four horses and a wagon to haul the wood to the railroad.

He continued to save his money mounting to $1,500. However, he had become ill with back mountain fever and headed south, where he settled in Newcastle. He rented the W.J. Wilson ranch, and there began his long love of growing fruit; cherries, peaches, plums, and apples. His health problems did continue but eventually he grew stronger. Giovanni's Motto his work hard

and save your money!

Life took on a new meaning when he married a lady from an Italian family from the area named Magadalena Caller. He built a lovely two story home on Threlkel and they raised three sons: Emile, Albert, and John.

1896 was a big important year for he and his family. Giovanni became a U.S. Citizen, he also began his wine business. He planted his vineyard off Taylor Road west of town, with 2,800 grape vines. That is a lot of work, as some of you know.

He cultivated them, trimmed and trimmed, and waited for them to produce.

This Newcastle winery was ready.

Jerald Saladana, the son of Albert, and grandson of Giovanni recalls how the men would make the wine in the basement or cellar of the winery barn that remains today. Albert told Jerald he was about 20 years old when he would delivery the wine to customers, One place he recalled was Verdi, Nevada. They were proud of their wine.

When prohibition went into effect in 1919, he pulled vineyard out and returned to growing his delicious fruit. I believe if he could see our acres and acres of lovely grape vines he would be proud.

So the next time you folks go wine tasting in our foothills, take a circle drive around Threkel Street and witness the wine barn and the home of the winemaker Giovanni created. He passed away January 1936 and his wife in 1939, they are both buried in the Newcastle Cemetery.

Susie Brown is a Newcastle resident.