Central Coast Winemaker Dead at 55

Stephen Pessagno was part owner of Pessagno Winery

by Staff
steve pessagno
Stephen Pessagno
Salinas, Calif.—Well-respected, veteran winemaker Stephen Pessagno died in his sleep June 8. He was 55.

Pessagno was the author of the Inquiring Winemaker column in the June edition of Wines & Vines magazine. In that piece, Pessagno humorously recounts some of the lessons he’s learned from cellar and crush pad mishaps during his 30-year career in winemaking. “Thirty years have gone by quickly, and the wine business is still as rewarding, romantic, intellectually challenging and new as it was in my first year,” Pessagno wrote. “What other job on the planet affords you good friends, great times and places to go, access to some of the world’s finest wines and food?”

Trained in mechanical engineering, Pessagno nurtured a love of wine as a home winemaker before obtaining an enology degree from California State University, Fresno, in 1982. He worked as winemaker for Lockwood Vineyards from 1991 to 2004 then left to focus on his own winery, which he had established in 1999 with two close friends.

“An absolutely gentle, giving, patient person with an amazing mind,” David Coventry, the winemaker for Puma Road Wines in Salinas, told the The Californian newspaper, which first reported Pessagno’s death.

Pessagno is survived by his four sons. Anthony Pessagno worked for the winery in graphic design and sales.

In addition to his column, contributor Laurie Daniel interviewed Pessagno about the use of oak barrel alternatives for Wines & Vines' April issue.

The staff of Wines & Vines would like to express our condolences to Pessagno’s family.

Posted on 06.12.2013 - 11:39:24 PST
I first met Steve in the early 1980's when I was making sparkling wine for the Wente Family. Some of their best grapes came their Arroyo Seco Vineyard in Monterey. Steve and I worked together on the Monterey Wine Technical Society, along with many other winemakers from Monterey. I remember his enthusiam, open mind, and kindness. He will certainly be missed by many colleagues, as well as his family, to whom I send condolences.
Margaret Davenport