$12.5 Million Louise Rossi Gift to Support UCD Wine Program
RUTHERFORD, Calif. -- UC Davis today announced a gift of more than
$12.5 million from the estate of Napa Valley native Louise Rossi to
the campus' winemaking and grape growing program, here at a ranch
that the Rossi family operated for almost a century.
The landmark gift, one of the largest donations ever made to UC
Davis, represents the Rossi family's proceeds from the sale of their
52-acre ranch earlier this year. The money will be used to establish
a perpetual source of funding for high-priority research projects
focused on improving sustainable production practices and enhancing
the flavor of grapes and wine.
To accomplish those goals in the near term, the gift will finance
the purchase of equipment in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine
and Food Science. The first phase of the Robert Mondavi Institute is
scheduled for completion in June 2008. The Department of Viticulture
and Enology also plans to establish one or more endowed chairs, named
in honor of Louise Rossi and her brother Ray Rossi, to support
faculty positions focused on winemaking and grape growing.
"Louise Rossi and her family so typified the sprit of California
agriculture," said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "We at UC Davis are
quite humbled to be the recipients of their quiet generosity and the
beneficiaries of their many decades of hard work."
Louise Rossi, who oversaw the Rossi family vineyard operations and
its accounts until her death in February at age 99, was employed for
many years as a bookkeeper for the B.L. Taylor Electric Company in
She and her brother Ray, a UC Davis alumnus who died in 1997 at age
91, have been longtime supporters of UC Davis through the Rossi
Prize. They established the prize in 1979 to benefit viticulture and
enology students from the Napa Valley, and to honor the memories of
their parents, Fred and Rachel Rossi, and their brother, Arthur Rossi.
"Throughout her long life, Louise remained passionately committed to
the art and business of winemaking and grape growing, and was
fiercely proud of her family ranch's role in the history of the Napa
Valley," said Elizabeth Leeds, one of Louise Rossi's longtime friends
and co-executor for her estate.
"Louise's gift, which has been planned for many years, is intended to
help build upon UC Davis' world-class winemaking and grape growing
programs," Leeds said, "while honoring nearly a century of grape
growing and winemaking by her family at the Rossi Ranch."
Added Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the Department of Viticulture and
Enology: "Through this incredibly generous gift, Louise Rossi is
touching the lives of generations of Californians for years to come.
We look forward to carrying out her vision of advancing UC Davis'
grape growing and winemaking program to a new level of excellence.
"We are very pleased that Louise and Ray perceived such a substantial
benefit from our efforts to support the industry over the years,"
Waterhouse added. "This gift, coming as UC Davis begins to celebrate
its centennial anniversary, heralds an even more promising future."
To honor the Rossi's gift, the terrace overlooking the central
courtyard of the campus's Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food
Science will be named in honor of Ray and Louise Rossi. The terrace
will have a commanding view of the nearby teaching vineyard and the
Vaca Mountains, to the west. Three academic buildings, which comprise
the first phase of the institute complex, are slated for completion
in June 2008. Construction of a new winery, as well as a food science
laboratory and brewery, will follow.
The Rossi family's link to UC Davis was first established by Ray
Rossi, who graduated in 1930 with a two-year degree certificate in
Ray and Louise's parents, Ferdinando (Fred) Rossi and Rachel
Sculatti, immigrated in the late 1800s from Switzerland and Italy,
respectively. Fred's brother, Antone Rossi, had already moved to
California in 1870. Nine years later, in 1879, Antone Rossi purchased
property on the east side of the Napa Valley, began growing grapes
and built a wine cellar.
Fred and Rachel married in 1896 and had three children: Arthur, born
in 1901; Remo (Ray) in 1906; and Louise in 1907. Fred leased and then
purchased property near St. Helena and became a successful
vineyardist. He died in 1922 of a heart attack.
Upon his father's death, Art Rossi took charge of the family ranch
and became a successful grape grower and winemaker in his own right.
When he died in 1950 at age 49, one of the pallbearers was longtime
friend and fellow winemaker Robert Mondavi.
Following Art's death, the winery on the Rossi Ranch was closed, and
Rachel and Louise Rossi focused on raising grapes and selling them to
Napa Valley wineries.
Ray Rossi was 16 years old when his father died. In 1927, he began
his studies at UC Davis, which at that time was called the Northern
Branch of the College of Agriculture. Graduating in 1930, Ray
embarked on a successful career as a fruit buyer, working in grower
relations. He primarily lived and worked in California's Central
In 1951, Rachel gave the ranch to Ray and Louise. After Rachel died
in 1958, Louise and Ray ran the ranch together until he died in 1997.
Upon Ray's death, ownership of the Rossi Ranch passed solely into
Louise's hands. The 52-acre ranch, with its white water tower
surrounded by dry-farmed vineyards, has long been a Napa Valley
landmark. Over the years, grapes grown on the ranch have produced
some of Napa's premier wines.
Before her death, Louise Rossi had made plans for the family ranch to
be sold to Frog's Leap Winery. John Williams, owner and winemaker of
Frog's Leap nearby in Rutherford, and a UC Davis alumnus, was a
longtime friend. Frog's Leap, established in 1981, uses only
organically grown grapes and traditional winemaking techniques.
"Wines have been made from this piece of earth for more than a
hundred years, and my family and I were very pleased that Louise saw
fit to allow Frog's Leap to acquire it," Williams said. "We are
deeply honored and excited to be able to maintain and evolve this