Rotta Winery. Left to right: Mervin Rotta, ranch hand, Bob Giubbini, Joe Rotta, and Clement Rotta.
Rotta Winery Bond Number 3976. 1953.
The Rotta Winery, located at 250 Winery Road in Templeton, was operated by three generations of Swiss-Italians: the first generation by brothers Joe and Clement Rotta, the second by Clement’s son Mervin, the third by Clement’s grandson, Michael Giubbini and his wife. The ownership by members of the Rotta family spanned from 1908 to 1976 and then again from 1990 to 2013. Grape growing and winemaking operations by the Rotta family are thought to have been established around 1917 or shortly thereafter. Known for its jug Zinfandel wine, the winery developed a strong following among Southern California surfers, Cal Poly students, and the Hippie generation who continue to talk about their visits and memories of Romilda Rotta to the present day.
Contributions to San Luis Obispo County Wine History
The Rotta family was the first Swiss-Italians to plant Zinfandel vines in Templeton, and the second to establish a winery. The Rotta Winery was one of the few wineries in California to remain open during Prohibition, and the second winery to be bonded and resume commercial operations after Prohibition in Templeton. The winery tasting room was built out of a 7,000-gallon redwood fermentation tank and was known for selling Zinfandel wine by the jug for $2.25 per gallon with a 50 cent discount if you brought your own bottle or jug. It was the first winery with a commissioned historic structures report to determine the historic significance of the buildings and the early Central Coast Architectural style.
Rotta Winery – Early History
The vineyards and winery that we know today as the Rotta Winery were established by Adolphe Siot (1858-1925), a farmer who purchased the land in 1891 from the West Coast Land Company. The West Coast Land Company was a real estate development company formed by businessmen, landowners, and politicians anticipating the coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 and set out to develop the southern portion of Rancho Paso de Robles. Their goal was to establish a train depot in Templeton for the transportation of cattle and crops to markets in Northern California, the Midwest and on the East Coast. The land Adolphe purchased was located about three miles west of the town of Templeton among the rolling hills with calcareous soil. His 140-acre site was remote and isolated at the time. Adolphe is recognized as the first farmer to plant Zinfandel vines on land in the Templeton Gap and the first to make Zinfandel wine in the Templeton Gap, although it is not known how he distributed it.
In 1891 excitement was building about grape production in the region. By 1888, wine was an important commercial product. Local records show that butter and cheese were the top agricultural crops followed by wheat, barley, beans, and wine. Most farmers planted a variety of crops and maintained their own vegetable gardens, orchards, livestock, and poultry. As grapes became an important commodity, many vines were planted in the 1880s.
The Wine History Project has not yet been able to document the exact date when the Rotta vineyards were originally planted. Adolphe Siot sold 120 of his 140 acres to Gerome (Joe) Rotta in 1908. The Great Register of San Luis Obispo County of 1912 lists Adolphe as a vineyardist in Templeton, so it is likely that he continued to live next door to Joe Rotta while farming his remaining 20 acres of land. Family stories passed down through the generations told that Adolphe helped Joe plant his own Zinfandel vineyards. We do know that Adolphe did mentor and advise Joe Rotta and his family on caring for the Zinfandel vines and making wine.
Gerome (Joe) Rotta, who emigrated to the United States from the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland in 1905, purchased 120 acres from Adolphe Siot in 1908. The Wine History Project has not yet found documentation showing whether there were buildings or a vineyard on the 120-acre property when Joe purchased it, nor that Adolphe’s vineyard and winery were included in that sale. The 120 acres are described in local records as covered with trees and native vegetation. (We do know that Adolphe Siot consulted with Joe Rotta on the planting of Zinfandel vines on Joe’s newly purchased property sometime between 1912 and Adolphe’s death in 1925.)
Joe cultivated the land’s rolling hills with a mule-drawn plow. The vines were dry-farmed and head-pruned. It is likely that the grapes were actually planted as a field blend. Muscat grapes were planted in addition to the Zinfandel vines. The Wine History Project believes that the vineyards were planted after 1917 because there is no mention of vineyards in the 1917 publication, History of San Luis Obispo County and Environs, California, with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county and environs who have been identified with the growth and development of the section from the early days to the present, by Annie L. Stringfellow Morrison and John H. Haydon.
Gerome (Joe) Rotta (1885-1958)
Gerome (Joe) Rotta was born in Roncola, in the Province of Bergamo, Italy on November 16, 1885. The name on his birth certificate is Girolamo Rotta according to Ancestry.com. This area in Italy is high in the Alps and known for its dairy farming culture. Joe was the eldest of three brothers who were born in Roncola. Their mother, Adelaida, died there in 1895 when Joe was just 10 years old. The family emigrated to Switzerland soon after her death, and his father remarried. Joe grew up in the small village Gudo, near Bellinzona in the Canton of Ticino in Switzerland.
Joe’s father, Giacomo Rotta (1857-1926), was in the dairy farming business both in Italy and in Switzerland. Upon reaching adulthood, both Joe and his brother Clemente Rotta emigrated to the United States. (Their youngest brother, Emilio, stayed in Switzerland and lived his entire life with his wife, children, and grandchildren nearby.) Joe learned his dairyman and farming skills from his father in Switzerland. He attended public schools and received a good education. He assisted his father on the family farm before he emigrated to the United States in 1905, arriving in San Francisco.
When Joe first arrived in the United States, he worked for a year, first in Vallejo and then in Marin County at local dairies. Joe’s younger brother, Clemente, had emigrated to California earlier than Joe and had found work in St. Helena in the Napa Valley. Joe joined his brother there, and together they opened and operated a French bakery. After several years they sold the bakery and moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1908.
Joe identified himself as a Swiss-Italian. He married a Swiss woman, Annetta Carminati (also known as Anitta Carminetti), who was living with her parents in the same small village of Gudo in Switzerland where he grew up. Anitta Carminati (1884-1970) emigrated to California in 1907, but her parents did not join her. Joe and Anitta married in the City of Napa in 1909. Joe had purchased the 120 acres from Adolphe Siot in 1908 before his marriage. Annie L. Morrison and John H. Haydon, in their book History of San Luis Obispo County and Environs, say this about Joe Rotta’s land. “By the hardest kind of labor, he has brought 45 acres under cultivation, and from the fruit of this little farm he derives a profitable income which is supplemented through teaming and hauling.”
The Rottas were farmers and grew grain and raised livestock and dairy animals. They had their own vegetable garden and chickens. They built their home and various out-buildings over a period of time. Joe and Anitta, contrary to popular belief, did not bring the Swiss winemaking tradition to Templeton. They were from a dairy farming tradition and learned to plant vineyards and make wine from their neighbor Adolphe Siot who was French by birth. Joe and Anitta most likely planted their vineyards around 1918 or 1919 with the help of Adolphe who may have given them their initial vines. He taught them to plant and manage the vineyards using dry farming techniques and head-prune in the European style.
Joe and Anitta decided to move onto other pursuits and sold their land, vineyards, and winery to Clemente and Romilda Rotta in 1925, however, Joe continued to help his brother with harvest and the vineyards when needed. Joe and Anitta raised four children and ultimately settled in Santa Maria. Joe died in Santa Maria on April 28, 1958. Anitta outlived him by 12 years and died in Santa Maria on June 13, 1970.
Clemente Rotta (1890-1963)
Joe’s brother Clemente Rotta (as known as Clement in America) was born in the same village as Joe in Roncola, Italy on October 30, 1890, and both men had been raised on a dairy farm in Switzerland. Clement emigrated to San Francisco and Napa before Joe arrived in the Bay Area. Clement married Romilda Jeresa Cavagna, and she became a beloved “wine legend” during the next five decades as the Rotta vineyards were planted and the winery established. Clement and Romilda would have two children, Irene and Mervin, and four grandchildren, Robert (Bob) Joseph Giubbini, Michael (Mike) Giubbini, Richard (Ricky) Paul Giubbini, and James Allen Giubbini.
Clement and Romilda were always enthusiastic about the vineyards and winemaking. Clement purchased the winery from his brother Gerome (Joe) in 1925. Clement, like his brother, was mentored by Adolphe Siot and was taught the vineyard techniques of dry farming and head pruning the vines in the old-world style. Adolphe also taught Clement how to make wine, with the first vintage most likely produced and consumed by the family. Romilda was a natural when it came to customer relations, selling jug wine, and marketing the Rotta label. Her grandsons, Bob and Mike Giubbini, remember her delicious recipes, especially the spaghetti and risotto with starlings, and her work ethic in the gardens and in the winery. She trained them in many of their winemaking and bottling tasks.
Prohibition was well underway before Clement and Romilda took over the vineyards and winery in 1925. During Prohibition, the production and transportation of wine were allowed if the wine was sold for permitted purposes, including religious or medicinal. Permits were required for each purpose. If a household wanted to produce less than 200 gallons for their own use, a permit could also be obtained by the head of the household to do so.
The first Bond Number of the Rotta Winery was registered as #2641766. According to Clement’s grandson, Michael Giubbini, Clement sold wine to Mission San Miguel and may have sold to local parishes as well during Prohibition. Grape juice was also sold to local customers and the Basque community in central California.
Clement Rotta had two Morgan horses, Molly and Maggie, which they used for plowing the steep hills of the vineyard. Clemente plowed once a year, using one horse at a time. The plow was hooked to the horse with two straps. He would plow a few feet at a time, and circle each vine. Maggie was an ornery horse and used only for plowing. Molly was much tamer, and Clement’s grandson, Bob Giubbini, remembers riding Molly around the property.
As soon as Prohibition ended in 1933, Clement applied to have the Rotta Winery bonded under the new regulations. Rotta Winery was registered as #3976 with the R.A.A. Act Permit W854. He was the second in San Luis Obispo County, after the Pesenti family, to receive a permit. As neighbors, the Rotta and Pesenti families had their mailboxes side by side in the Templeton Gap on Chicken Ranch Road and retained close personal relationships for decades.
Clement built his own winery in 1937. The winery was cut into the hillside below the steep vineyards. There are no records or timelines of construction, but the buildings are significant in their unique Central Coast design. Three gables, probably constructed at different times, have wood louvered vents in the center of each. The central gable may have been the first of the three constructed with a limestone retaining wall built at the back against the hill. The central gabled building was built with a second level, and a door opening onto an exterior space. The west gable section was the cask room containing barrels and storage.
The winery was designed so that trucks could deliver the grapes on the upper east side to a long shed with a gable that ran east and west. The fermentation bays, crush pads, and bin storage were located on this level. The grapes were harvested and brought in through the door on the top floor. They were crushed in a ratchet-operated press. The juice produced on the top floor was fermented in concrete tanks on this upper level. The wine flowed by gravity to the 8,000-gallon redwood tanks located on the lower floor of the winery. According to the historic structures report, the winery was built with stone walls on the north side against the hill and wooden rafters and walls on the west, south, and east walls.
A later addition was added in front of the gables with three wooden sliding doors and one double-sash wood frame window. This one-story addition contained an office, a tasting area, and a place for bottling of wines. The washroom was used for bottle and barrel washing. The bottles were washed with the water collected in the cistern built into the rear wall. The footings for the winery were constructed with poured concrete and cinder block. The entire structure and outbuildings were painted white.
Clement cared for his vineyards and produced wine for many years until he was severely injured in a Jeep accident and became wheelchair-bound. The winery had always involved the support of the entire Rotta family. Clement and Romilda’s son Mervin joined his parents to work in the vineyards and the winery. Clement died on July 10, 1963, in San Francisco.
Rotta Wine Jugs
San Luis Obispo County was famous for the production of Zinfandel wine in the 1880s. The Rotta Winery sold wine directly to the public from the tasting and barrel rooms, and right after Prohibition ended the wine could also be found in the LePergola Liquor Store owned by Caterina and Sylvester Dusi in San Luis Obispo at 978 Morro Street. By the 1930s wine was often sold to customers in half or full gallon glass jugs. Regular customers often brought their own jugs or homemade vessels, and Romilda filled them directly from the winery’s redwood tanks or oak barrels. If she was not available, customers could fill their own jugs and leave the money, $2.25 per gallon, in the cigar box on top of the barrel. As the Rotta Winery’s reputation spread throughout the Central Coast and Southern California, Rotta Winery became a destination for the growing base of customers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
The Rotta wine jugs had a white rectangular Rotta label with a border curving just inside the edges outlined in blue with Rotta Winery printed boldly. Later, a grape bunch was added to the middle of the label and the words California Zinfandel Wine were printed below. In 1973, Sunset Magazine and Lane Magazine & Book Company published a beautiful edition of California Wine. This Sunset Pictorial describes three wineries in San Luis Obispo County, “Owing to the urban pressures against vineyard land in the Cucamonga district near Los Angeles, much of the future of wine in Southern California appears to lie with new vineyard acreages developing in Santa Barbara County and in San Luis Obispo County near Templeton. The two regions are only 20 [sic] miles apart. At this juncture, three small wineries near Templeton serve a local trade with wines from the region: Pesenti, Rotta Winery, and York Mountain Winery.”
Romilda Rotta (1895-1976) and Family Life
Clement’s wife Romilda Jeresa Cavagna was born on May 30, 1895. Romilda became a legend in San Luis Obispo County; she was an excellent cook, a remarkable gardener, loved animals especially the little fawns of wild deer, and was the marketing face of the Rotta Winery. She greeted the customers, poured glasses of Zinfandel for tastings, filled bottles and handcrafted jugs with the famous Zinfandel wines.
Clement and Romilda had two children. Their son, Mervin Arthur, was born in San Francisco in 1924. He worked in the vineyard and winery for most of his life, although he farmed other crops and was involved in transporting a variety of crops, including Christmas trees, to market. Mervin married but had no children. Clement and Romilda’s daughter Irene was born in 1916 in King City. She married Joseph Virgil Giubbini, a pharmacist, and moved to the San Francisco Bay area. Irene gave birth to four sons. One of them, Michael Giubbini, would continue the family tradition of growing grapes and making wine under the Rotta label in the 1990s and into the twenty-first century. The four Giubbini grandsons worked in the Rotta Vineyards and Winery during the summers and school holidays in the late 1950s and 1960s and enjoyed warm relationships with Uncle Mervin, Great-uncle Joe, Grandfather Clement, and the farmhands Joe and Luciano.
Mike remembers Grandma Romilda Rotta had her own vegetable garden. It was large and included chicory, parsley, corn, zucchini, pole beans, and tomatoes. There were little wild canaries that his grandmother loved, and Mike was paid 25 cents by his grandmother for each bird he caught for her to keep in cages nearby. She loved them.
Joe and Luciano worked with Clement and Mervin Rotta in the 1950s and were considered farm hands rather than vineyard workers or managers. Joe was hired first in 1951. Luciano was hired second and also worked hauling grain in Creston. Michael Giubbini remembers that Luciano loved Mexican peppers and that his grandmother Rotta would buy them for Luciano.
Both farmhands lived in a small one-room building on the farm, known as the farmhands quarters. There was a potbelly stove located in the back corner of the small room which was used for cooking as well as heat. Luciano was the one who cooked on the potbelly stove. During deer hunting season, Luciano would skin the head of a deer, and cook it in a pan on the stove. The farmhands would eat the eyeballs and the brain according to Michael. The water faucet for washing up was outside. There were two windows on the same side of the building on the back wall. Mike remembers the farm hand’s quarters as a great place for a little boy to play with the old chairs, old plates, utensils, and bottles.
Romilda had a large chicken coop also with at least 15 chickens. The chicken coop was located across from the farmhands quarters. Michael remembers his grandmother had an old tree stump that she used as a chopping block. She would catch a chicken and use a machete to cut off its head on the chopping block. Then she would boil the entire chicken to soften the feathers before she plucked it.
She also raised pigeons and doves for family dinners. The doves were often captured in the grain fields as the birds liked to build their nests on the ground. During harvest the large doves would fly up and the babies would be rescued before the tractors reached them. Grandma Rotta raised them with loving care.
Bob Giubbini remembers The Templeton Sales Yard as a landmark occasion. Every farmer attended the event, and it was a gathering place where stories were exchanged and friendships renewed. There were sales of small animals like rabbits and pigs on “small animal days” which soon ended up on the dinner table. The pigeons that Grandma Rotta raised may have been purchased there. Every Saturday a cattle auction took place. Bob attended with Grandfather Clement and Uncle Mervin to bid on cattle. Bob remembers the excitement of the events and conversations exchanged there.
The Rottas did not own any property in the Creston area but they did help harvest the crops farmed by their neighbors who lived across the road in Templeton, brothers Claude and Dick Booker. They were orphans and neither man ever married. Mike remembers them as crusty old guys. They had a tractor and pull harvester as well as an antique gas pump which the young boys enjoyed. They farmed acres in Creston and were known as very hard workers. Claude used to play softball next to where the Pioneer Museum is now with Mervin Rotta. Bob and Mike remember their Uncle Mervin telling them that everyone worked together and helped each other harvest, prune and plant. There was a very strong sense of community and camaraderie among the farmers in Templeton.
Rotta Winery and Tasting Room in the 1960s and 1970s
Wine production at Rotta was limited to a few varieties, primarily Zinfandel, but there were small productions of Muscat, Chablis, and Burgundy. Zinfandel was the regional favorite, and four variations of Zinfandel were produced: Old, Regular, Medium, and Sweet. The “Old” Zinfandel was aged for 17 years in a 7,000-gallon redwood tank before bottling, and therefore had a slight flavor of redwood in the wine. The “Regular” Zinfandel was aged in the redwood tank for thirteen years and described as a “rough country wine.” The “Medium” was most often purchased as jug wine. The “Sweet” was a dessert wine. All wines were bottled in screw tops, unusual for the time. Tastings of all the wines were offered to visitors in plastic cups in very generous servings. Grandma Romilda would pour the wine directly from a barrel.
The tasting room had shelves of bottles and jugs for sale. The jugs were collected from local restaurants in cardboard cartons labeled Hires Root Beer, washed, refilled with Rotta Zinfandel, and relabeled. Some of the bottles collected from local restaurants had first held Coca-Cola syrup before being repurposed and labeled for Rotta Wine.
Romilda Rotta became famous for her personality as the principal sales representative for the winery. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s people from all over California drove to Templeton to purchase their wine by the jug or the gallon. Grandson, Michael Giubbini painted the hand-carved sign nailed to a tree outside the winery. There were no official hours of operation. Customers just showed up, day or night, and pulled into the driveway. There was an old-fashioned bell on the ground, similar to those found in gas stations in the same era. As soon as it rang, Romilda was out the door and at the gate to serve customers. For those who missed the bell on the grounds, there was a large brass bell that hung in the tasting room. If customers brought their own container, Romilda discounted the wine by 50 cents. Surfers from Southern California, San Luis Obispo County locals, and Cal Poly students were faithful customers. The Basque farmers from the Central Valley also traveled many miles to visit Rotta Winery and drink their favorite Zinfandel.
Around 1970 a new tasting room was constructed by taking apart one of the 7,000-gallon redwood tanks in the fermentation room and reassembling it in front of the winery with a door cut into the side for entry. Mike Giubbini recalled his own experiences as a young boy who was small enough to have the job of climbing through the small tank openings in the smelly redwood tanks with a long-handled brush to scrub off the cream of tartar deposits on the inside wall of the redwood tanks.
The Rotta family farm thrived from 1908 until 1976, and the Rotta real estate holdings grew to include 600 acres in the county. There was a family parcel just east of Vineyard Drive (formerly Chicken Ranch Road) in Templeton. The Rotta family also owned 250 acres which included an area where there is now a school. They bought the land in 1950 for $15,000; it was covered in oak trees. They took out the oaks with a Tractor HD 10 and planted grain, not vines.
Romilda’s Passing and Rotta Winery Struggles
In 1976 Romilda Rotta died, 13 years after she lost Clement. Her grandson, Mike Giubbini had moved into her home to keep her company when he enrolled in Cal Poly in 1971. Mike worked with his uncle Mervin and Romilda to keep the winery and vineyards going. He had hoped his grandmother Romilda would leave the vineyard and winery to her children so that it would stay in the family although he knew his parents were not interested in farming or owning a winery. Paso Robles had not yet started to grow or develop the reputation of a rising star in the world of wine. Romilda’s children, Irene and Mervin, felt that the grandchildren would find that owning the vineyard and winery would be too challenging so they listed the property for sale.
The property was sold to new owners, John and Della Mertens shortly after Romilda’s death. They named their new winery Las Tablas, built a new home, winery and tasting room. Unfortunately, years of litigation ensued with great acrimony between the Mertens and the Rotta family shortly after the sale. It took almost a decade and expensive legal fees before Mike Giubbini could recover a portion of the original vineyards and winery.
Grandsons of Clement and Romilda Rotta
Clement and Romilda’s daughter, Irene, had four sons. Each one was named for a Catholic Saint. Robert (Bob) Joseph Giubbini was born in San Francisco, California on October 4, 1941. Michael (Mike) Giubbini was born in Palo Alto, California on May 10, 1953. Richard (Ricky) Paul Giubbini was born in Palo Alto on June 7, 1955. James Allen Giubbini was born in 1956 and is now deceased.
Robert graduated from high school in Menlo Park in 1959. He worked on the Rotta family farm, vineyards, and winery all through his childhood on vacations and during the summer. He learned how to drive the 1945 Willys Jeep, a stick shift. His grandfather had a World War II four-wheel-drive army truck which he used to haul grain. After he graduated high school, Robert continued to help on the Rotta Family farm. In the 1960s he remembers driving a self-propelled Harvester down Vineyard Drive to the 101 over a rolling landscape. He remembers jumping and bouncing over the hills. In 1962 Robert married, and in 1966 he graduated with a degree in accounting and became a CPA.
Mike worked on the farm, in the vineyards, and in the winery during the 1950s as a child but did the real farming work from 1963 through 1976. Mike remembers his first farming experiences driving the International 403 harvester. His job was to drive the 16-foot header on roads when Highway 101 was a single lane each way. Mike loved the Tempelton area. His father was a pharmacist. Michael enjoyed the rural countryside, working on the farm and watching his grandparents tending and harvesting the vineyards. Mike moved to the area after high school, attended Cal Poly, and settled in Templeton. He chose a career where he could work outside. He went to work for the California Forestry Department and rose to the rank of Fire Captain.
Grandson Micheal Giubbini and Rotta Winery Continued Adversity
After court battles and litigation with John and Della Mertens who purchased the Rotta land and vineyards after his grandmother’s death, Mike was able to retain 40 acres of the original Rotta farm in 1990. He planted 15 acres with Zinfandel vines and 5 acres in Cabernet Sauvignon. He later planted 8 more acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 8 acres in a new varietal, Merlot. The vineyard became known as the Giubbini Vineyard. Mike focused more and more on cultivating Zinfandel vines and sold his grapes to Castoro Cellars until 2002. Castoro Cellars Winery designated his vineyard, Giubbini Vineyard, on their label.
Mike and Steve Pesenti became partners in the business venture to refurbish and reopen the Rotta Winery in 2002. In 2003, Mike Giubbini retained the firm of Steven D. Pults, A.I.A, and Associates at 3450 Broad Street in San Luis Obispo to prepare a Historic Resource Inventory and Preliminary Structure Evaluation for the Rotta Winery at 250 Winery Road in Templeton. The research was done by Betsy Bertrando of Bertrando and Bertrando Research Consultants at 267 Foothill Blvd, San Luis Obispo and completed in July. In December, the San Simeon Earthquake struck. The quake was 6.6 in magnitude and damaged the winery extensively.
In February 2004, Mike and Sharon Giubbini retained Betsy to prepare documentation showing the effects of the earthquake on the existing old winery buildings. They were unable to rebuild the old winery but selected a site nearby where they built a state of the art facility with over 5,000 square feet. The winery was completed in 2006. A new winemaker, Mark Caporale from Napa Valley is hired as a winemaker and replaced Steve Pesenti. Rotta winery became a tourist destination. The Financial Crisis of 2008 profoundly affected the wine industry in San Luis Obispo County. Cash flow and the sales of wine declined significantly. Mike sold to new owners in 2013.
Rotta Family Timeline
1857: Giacomo Rotta is born on August 6 in Roncola Italy. (He will become the father of Gerome and Clement Rotta.)
1884: Anitta Carminati is born on May 28 in Godo, Switzerland. (She will become the wife of Gerome Rotta in America.)
1885: Girolamo (also known as Gerome Rotta and Joe Rotta) is born on November 16 in Roncola, Italy to Giacomo and Adelaida Rotta.
1889: Erminio (Emilio) Rotta is born February 18 in Roncole, Italy to Giacomo and Adelaida Rotta.
1890: The family moves to Godo, Bellinzona, in the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland.
1890: Clement Rotta is born on October 30 in Roncola, Italy to Giacomo and Adelaida Rotta.
1891: Adolphe Siot purchases Lot 234 (located in Deed Records Book 11 on Page 345) for $485.40 in Templeton from the West Coast Land Company. He is listed in County Records as a farmer.
1895: Romilda Jeresa Cavagna is born on May 30. (She will marry Clement Rotta.)
1895: Adelaida Rotta, the mother of Joe, Emilio, and Clement Rotta dies in Godo, Switzerland.
1901: Adolphe Siot is listed as a farmer in the San Luis Obispo Register.
1901: Adolphe Siot establishes his winery.
1905: Gerome (Joe) Rotta arrives in San Francisco from Switzerland. His father, Giacomo, was a dairy farmer and Joe finds employment in a dairy in Vallejo and then at another dairy in Marin County.
1905: Joe joins his brother, Clement, in St. Helena in the Napa Valley to establish a bakery.
1907: Anitta Carminetti arrives in California from Godo, Bellinzona, in the canton of Ticino, Switzerland.
1908: Joe and Clement sell their bakery in St. Helena.
1908: Joe Rotta purchases 120 acres of land from Adophe Siot. Joe and Anitta develop the farm, plant their garden and purchase chickens and livestock.
1909: Joe Rotta marries Miss Anitta Carminetti in Napa, California.
1912: The Great Register lists Adolphe Siot as a vineyardist. Joe Rotta is not listed.
1912-1920: Winery is built of stone with a retaining wall against the north side of the building which backed up to the hill. The rest of the structure was wood. The bunkhouse, garage and storage sheds were built of wood around this time also. Redwood tanks, made in San Francisco, for fermenting wine, smaller barrels for storing the wine, and a ratchet press are among equipment purchased.
1915:Clement Rotta and Romilda are married on October 16.
1916: Irene Delores Rotta, daughter of Clement and Romilda, is born on July 10 in King City, California.
1924: Mervin Arthur Rotta is born on September 30 in San Francisco, California.
1925: Joe and Anitta Rotta sell their land, home, vineyard and winery to Clement and Romilda Rotta.
1930: Basket Screw Top Press is used in the winery.
1934: Winery was bonded as No. 3976.
1941: Robert Joseph Giubbini is born to Irene and Joseph Giubbini on October 4.
1944: James Allen Giubbini is born to Irene and Joseph Giubbini on October 12.
1951: Clement Rotta hires his first farm hand to work in the vineyards. His name was Joe.
1952-1953: Wine Growers Report of Wine Produced shows that the total gallons are 27,904. The License Fee is $75.00 The fees are as follows:
5,000 gallons or less: $ 20.00
5,000 to 20,000 gallons: $ 40.00
20,000 to 100,000 gallons: $ 75.00
100,000 to 200,000 gallons: $100.00
200,000 to 1,000,000 gallons :$150.00
1953: Michael Dennis Giubbini is born to Irene and Joseph Giubbini on May 10 in Palo Alto.
1954: Clement files with the Treasury Department for a new Bond to supersede Bond No. 2641766. The Bond is for $35,500.00, dated January 5th.
1955: Ricky Paul Giubbini is born to Irene and Joseph Giubbini on June 7.
1955: Rotta Winery becomes a Member of the Wine Institute on March 1st.
1958: Joe Rotta dies on April 28, in Santa Maria.
1959: Robert Giubbini graduates from high school in Meno Park
1959: Robert works on the Rotta Family farm, vineyards and winery all through his childhood to 1959 on vacations and during the summer. He learns how to drive the 1945 Willys Jeep, and how to drive a stick shift. His grandfather had a World War II four-wheel-drive army truck which he used to haul grain.
1959: Robert attends San Jose State but flunks out and enrolls in Junior College.
1959 to 1962: Robert continues to work on the Rotta Family Farm, vineyards and winery on vacations and during the summer. In the 1960s Bob fondly remembers driving a self-propelled Harvester down Vineyard Drive to Highway 101 over a rolling landscape. He remembers jumping and bouncing over the hills.
1960s: Customers include the Basque sheepherders who would bring their barrels and have them filled with Zinfandel wine.The unfiltered hearty Zinfandel is an excellent example of a good old-fashioned Italian country wine. A gallon of wine sells for $2.25 according to Michael Giubbini, grandson of Romilda.
1960s: Customers serve themselves in the barrel room. Old-timers would fill their own gallon jugs and leave the 50 cents in the cigar box on top of one of the barrels.
1963: Seller’s Permit for sales taxes issued in July 1963.
1963: Clement Rotta dies On July 11 in San Francisco.
1963: Romilda struggles to keep the winery operation running. Her grandsons Bob and Mike Giubbini work on the farm during school holidays and summers. There were several farmhands who continue to work.
1965: A new residence is built on the property for Romilda.
1967: Romilda’s son Mervin and his wife, Jean, move onto the property and manage the vineyard, the winery, and the other crops. Richard Sauret always helps Mervin prune and harvest in the Rotta Vineyard. Richard remembers that grapes in the vineyard were not Mervin’s favorite crop to farm.
1968: Emilio Rotta died on July 18, in Bellinzona, Switzerland. He and his wife lived in Switzerland during their married life. Their children also lived there. None of them immigrated to the United States.
1970: Annita Rotta, Joe Rotta’s wife, dies on June 13, in Santa Maria, California.
1970: One of the 7,000-gallon redwood casks is converted to the tasting room. The tasting room had a 55-gallon barrel with the Zinfandel wine ready for tasting. Romilda placed jugs on the barrel and those customers who came to taste filled the jug and enjoyed the wine.
1970s: Customers include hippies. “During the hippie days, a lot of people came up here and got the organic wine. We never added anything to it. The wine was touted as natural and organic by the era’s flower children so the appearance of natural elements like the occasional leaf or spider leg was applauded.” Quote by Vicki Dauth, Paso Robles Press, Wednesday, May 15, 2002.
1971: Mike Giubbini moved to San Luis Obispo County to attend Cal Poly State University. He continues to help Romilda with the vineyard and the winery. He lives at the house with her while attending Cal Poly.
1971: The 1971 Sunset Magazine California Wine Book dedicates one page to San Luis Obispo County stating, “All the county has only 400 acres of vines, centered on Templeton where three wineries crush most of the crop. These are neither large nor widely known these days, but they do have a colorful history. The specialty is always Zinfandel. The names are Pesenti, Rotta, and York.”
1973: Michael Giubbini and Sharon married. Michael drops out of Cal Poly to pursue a new career.
1974: Jason Michael Giubbini is born to Michael and Sharon Giubbini on August 13.
1974: Mike chooses fire fighting as a career and is employed by the Forestry Service for 30 years. Around this time Irene Giubbini and Mervin Rotta make the decision to sell the Rotta Winery. They “thought it would be too hard on the grandkids to run a winery,” according to Mike Giubbini.
1976: Romilda Rotta dies on September 24, in Templeton, California.
1976: James Allen Giubbini, son of Irene and Joseph Giubbini dies on October 26.
1976: The following description written in 1976 is printed in the Sunset publication California Wine Country, February 1977, “Rotta Winery, one mailbox from Pesenti, has a longer history. The winery is housed in a white barn-like structure. Visitors can amble through with a guide who will point out which parts go back to founder Siot and then end up with a practical tasting of the Zinfandel and other wines.”
1976: Rotta Winery is sold to John and Della Mertens. They renamed the winery Las Tablas.
1979: Irene Giubbini, daughter of Clement and Romilda Rotta, dies on April 4, in Palo Alto.
1979: John and Della Mertens, owners of Las Tablas Winery, are upgrading outworn cooperage and equipment. They are also renovating the winery. The Mertens are producing the same wines as the Rotta Winery had made: Dry Zinfandel, off-dry Zinfandel, sweet Zinfandel, and a Muscat. They have added a new white wine, varietal unknown. The tasting room is housed in the 7,000-gallon redwood tank attached to the front of the main aging cellar.
1990: Michael Giubbini repurchases some of the original winery and vineyard property and begins to rebuild the vineyards. He replants the 37-acre old family vineyard with 20 acres of Zinfandel, some of the vines on their own rootstock and some on St. George rootstock. He also plants some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. Mike moves from producing the old field blend in the vineyard to produce varietal wines. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are now on his labels.
1990 to 2002: Mike Giubbini’s Zinfandel grapes are sold to Castoro Cellars with the Giubbini vineyard designated on the bottle.
1995: In March, journalist Vicki Dauth writes that the old winery with its redwood tasting room still stands on Winery Road west of Templeton but has not been in operation since the late 1970s.
1995 to 2013: Mike and Sharon Giubbini live in Romilda’s home constructed in 1965.
2001: With the rapid expansion of the Paso Robles AVA, Mike Giubbini decides to resume operations at Rotta Winery.
2002: Michael Giubbini applies for a bond to reestablish the Rotta Winery.
2002: Drawing of the original winery is produced.
2002: Mike and Steve Pesenti become partners in the business venture to refurbish and reopen the Rotta Winery.
2003: Mike moves ahead with plans to reopen the original Rotta Winery. He hires the firm of Bertrando and Bertrando to prepare the Historic Structures Report. Mike hopes to establish the historic importance of the winery as he seeks to apply for building permits.
2003: Robert Giuibbini and Jason Giubbini work with Mike in the vineyards.
2003: Steve Pesenti is named as the winemaker at Rotta Winery.
2003: San Simeon Earthquake rocks SLO County in December and damages the Rotta Winery. The magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the Central Coast and severely damages the original winery buildings.
2004: In February, the firm of Bertrando and Bertrando prepares an addition to the structural report chronically the earthquake damage.
2006: Rotta Tasting Room Bar opens at Cider Creek in Templeton.
2006: With financing and permits in place, a new Rotta winery with state of the art construction and equipment is completed on the original winery site.
2006: Mark Caporale from Napa Valley is hired as a winemaker. He was raised in a family of Zinfandel winemakers who make wine for their own enjoyment. He allows nature to do the work and does not actively intervene in the process.
2007: Mike builds a new tasting room.
2008: The Financial Crisis of 2008 spreads worldwide, slowing global economic growth and causing hardship for millions in the United States.
2010: Mark Caporale, the winemaker, becomes Mike’s partner. They make 10,000 cases from the 2009 harvest. Most of the grapes are sourced from Mike’s 20 acres of estate Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Many of the gnarled vines have grown on the steep hillside for more than fifty years, farmed in the old head-pruned, dry-farmed old-world tradition.
2010: Mike Giubbini is honored at the annual Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival as this year’s Zinfandel Blend Master working with 33 Zinfandel wines donated by participating wineries to create the Collaborative Zinfandel Blend. It is poured and auctioned at the Saturday event.
2013: The Rotta Winery is sold for an undisclosed sum.