William Bonetti passed away on September 7, 2020 in Healdsburg at the age of 94. Raised in the northern Italian alps and educated at the venerable Conegliano School of Viticulture, he brought a traditional and formal winemaking background to America at the age of twenty-two. Mr. Bonetti worked as a chemist with E. & J. Gallo and Cresta Blanca the Central Valley, where he met the love of his life, Giuseppina, who was visiting from Switzerland, and they enjoyed a long and happy marriage until her death in 2018.
Mr. Bonetti was hired by Robert Mondavi as the winemaker at Charles Krug in St. Helena, where his only child Lisa was born during the height of the crushing season. At Krug, Mr. Bonetti innovated new methods to press grapes while cold, to transfer wine with inert gas, and to barrel ferment Chardonnay — the first such undertaking in America. From Krug, he was hired to design and operate the new Geyserville Chateau Souverain facility in 1973, where he helped pioneer the production of fine wines in Sonoma County.
Mr. Bonetti’s crowning achievement was the design and operation of the Sonoma-Cutrer in 1981. He brought to bear his wealth of knowledge and experience to produce world class Chardonnays, where he hosted the first Focus on Chardonnay colloquiums, to stimulate open industry discussions. Mr. Bonetti retired from Sonoma-Cutrer where he left a legacy not only in Sonoma County, but in the California wine-making industry. He received many professional accolades and honors and in 1987 joined the Wine Spectator’s “California Wine Pioneers.” Humble and understated, Mr. Bonetti worked in the European model, and firmly believed that “in order to permit a wine to express its heritage, the winemaker cannot allow himself to intrude.”
William Bonetti’s family eventually expanded to include his son-in-law Stephen (Brad) Gospe, who learned to make wine and champagne at home using simple practices. William and Giuseppina shared their love of art and cooking with their beloved grandchildren Spencer and Tatiana, and holidays always included hand-rolled pasta. Summers were spent with the family in the mountains at the little cabin near Big Trees State Park, in Calaveras County, which William furnished with his hand-crafted furniture in the style of the Tyrolean Alps.
A prodigious hiker in his younger years, William felt fortunate to enjoy walks in the Healdsburg Open Space Preserve until the end. The family would like to thank the many kindnesses they received from the Healdsburg community, especially the Senior Center. Father Sean of St. John’s Catholic Church will officiate a private funeral mass later this month.