A new exhibit at the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco - with strong ties to Saint Mary's College - examines how generations of Italians influenced the stellar growth of the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties.
"Planting Roots, Reaping the Harvest" was created by Paola Sensi-Isolani, an SMC professor of anthropology and sociology for nearly three decades, with the help of Saint Mary's graduate Lisa Pieraccini '88. The Hearst Art Gallery's preparator, Jim Whiteaker, designed the exhibition as well as its brochure containing vintage photos of the biggest names in the California wine industry.
"The exhibit is for people who are interested in wine in general so they can see how this area came to produce some of the best wine in the world," Sensi-Isolani said. "And it's also for people who want to see beautiful historic and contemporary photographs on the evolution of wine-making."
"Planting Roots, Reaping the Harvest" runs from Oct. 11 through Jan. 28, 2007, and features more than a half-dozen events, including an informal talk about home winemaking by Integral Program tutor and SMC alum Denis Kelly '60 at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 29.
"There will be many ways for people to see a tradition that's centuries old, and we want the exhibit to be as hands-on as possible," Sensi-Isolani said.
Italian immigrants began making and distributing wine in Northern California in the 1880s, and the exhibit begins with the earliest contributions from the likes of Pietro Simi, Samuele Sebastiani and Andrea Bartolucci. From there, the images and stories show how the industry survived prohibition and the Great Depression, started to thrive following World War II and developed into the booming industry seen in Napa and Sonoma today.
"Many Americans don't realize that drinking wine was not common in America until the Italians started introducing it," Sensi-Isolani said. "They had to educate people about wine, and how it is associated with fine dining and refined living. There have been many luminaries over the years who have helped develop the industry."
The exhibit is the first step in Sensi-Isolani's research on the subject for a book she plans to write on the Italian immigrants' impact on the Northern California wine industry.
"It's amazing to look at the struggles of people like the Simi brothers, who couldn't even read, but still managed to be very successful within the wine business through hard work, which is so inspiring," Sensi-Isolani said. "Italians are often overlooked in the wine industry, but they played a large role in shaping what we see today."
The Museo ItaloAmericano is located in the Fort Mason Center, Building C, in San Francisco. The exhibit is free to the public, and the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment on Monday and Tuesday. For more information, go to:
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