Rachel Ann Seghesio, who grew up around the vineyards of Alexander Valley and became the matriarch of the Seghesio wine clan, died of a stroke Thursday night. She was 80.
Seghesio had been in good health and was recently welcoming consumers and industry visitors to food-and-wine pairings at the family’s Healdsburg winery, which has been a consistent source of outstanding Zinfandel. “She was one of those people who made you feel better when she walked into the room,” said Cathy Seghesio, who is married to Rachel Ann’s son, Pete Jr.
Born Rachel Ann Passalacqua on Feb. 28, 1930, she was the daughter of grapegrower Emil Passalacqua and grew up on the family ranch just north of Healdsburg. In 1956 she married Eugenio Pio “Pete” Seghesio, who passed away in 2004.
The couple epitomized the notion of opposites attract. She was calm and gracious, while he was outgoing and gruff. In the early days, Rachel Ann weighed the grapes and kept the payroll, while raising her two children, Camille Seghesio and Pete Jr. In addition, she taught in Sonoma County schools for five years.
Seghesio is one of the last of a generation that witnessed the evolution of the California wine industry from the adversity of Prohibition to the booming modern era. “She was one of the guiding lights there,” said family friend Jim Pedroncelli of Pedroncelli winery. “She was a very gentle lady.”
Seghesio is survived by her two children and two grandsons.