The Zio Tony Ranch is named after Lee Sr.’s uncle Tony who was the first in the Bondi family to be born on American soil. Zio Tony, Zio meaning 'uncle' in Italian and pronounced 'tseo', was a very charismatic man with a big booming voice who loved a good time. When Zio Tony passed away in 1971 his nephew, Lee Martinelli, Sr., took over management of the estate. The love of his family's heritage land was too great for Lee to sell the property and in one short season, he went from High School teacher to Apple Farmer. Eventually, this apple orchard was converted to vineyards, as the market for apples grew unbearably soft. The vines are planted on rolling hills made up of Gold Ridge soil, with Clones consisting of 95, 76, and 548.
The 2013 growing year was the second dry year in a row for Sonoma County. It was an especially dry spring and warmed up early, so the vines got an early jump on the season. Bloom came along in early May and the temperatures were perfect for berry pollination. The clusters ended up setting an abundance of berries. We had to do quite a bit of cluster thinning to maintain our desired crop levels and to get some sunlight and air movement into the canopy. Harvest came early as well. Fortunately, we had cooler temps about midway through, which slowed down picking and allowed us to catch up on things - including sleep! Harvest was complete after 7-8 weeks.