It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of the matriarch of our family, Clementina Biale, four days before her 88th birthday.
Clementina was the oldest of nine children, born to Filippo and Cecilia Calvi in Prunetto, Italy. Her youth was spent tending to her siblings, vineyards, silkworms, cows, goats, and outdoor bread ovens; mending clothes, shucking chestnuts, and making sure the traveling olive oil salesman didn’t cheat her family by adding water to the 5-gallon jug!
As was typical for Italian peasants growing up between the World Wars, Clementina finished school at 5th grade. Despite her personal aspirations to become a teacher, she then worked full-time on the family farm. Hardships and very physically demanding work notwithstanding, Clementina speaks with great fondness of the agrarian life and the joy of a large family–which is a good thing, because she would soon marry Aldo! In 1953 Aldo and his mother traveled to Italy to visit family, and within three weeks of meeting the pretty girl who attended one of the dinners thrown for these American cousins, Aldo asked for Clementina’s hand in marriage. Three weeks later they were married!
After a very brief honeymoon in Venice, Aldo returned to Napa and waited six months for his bride’s visa to come through so she could begin her new life in America with him. There was no easy life awaiting Clementina. She had to work every bit as hard as Aldo and his mom. But he had chosen well, for she was up to the task, and together they grew their ranch through blood, sweat, and tears, and raised four children who also know how to work, and work some more. The children also learned their Catholic faith from their parents, a devotion to which has sustained them through thick and thin, including the loss of their brother John in 1984.
Like her mother-in-law, Cristina, before her, Clementina managed the daily demands of ranch and child-rearing with a shrewd business savvy and compassionate discipline–and some darn tasty cooking! In 1991 their son Bob hatched the hair-brained idea of starting their own wine label. After decades of making a little wine for personal consumption and then selling the rest of their grapes–often at a loss–to the local co-op winery, Aldo and Clementina jumped at the chance to fulfill their dream of bringing their love for Zinfandel to the wider community.
Newly “retired”, Aldo and Clementina worked tirelessly with their son Bob and Partners to grow Robert Biale Vineyards into the thriving wine company it is today. While they both continued to derive great pleasure from their continued, though diminishing, work on the ranch, the growing demands of the social side of the wine business delighted them more and more. Meeting the people who enjoyed their wines at tastings, dinners, or winery-sponsored cruises was most edifying to Aldo and Clementina. You would find Clementina “holding court” at the winery’s tasting room on most Sunday afternoons when she checked in on the sales of her handmade aprons and totes.
A Mass of the Resurrection will be held Tuesday, April 11th, 10 a.m, at St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa.
In lieu of flowers, donations can me made to the John Biale Scholarship Fund at Justin-Siena High School or St. Apollinaris Catholic School.
Robert Biale Vineyards
4038 Big Ranch Road
Napa CA, 94558