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Royal Madera Vineyards founder Steve Volpe still going strong at 90

Steve Volpe, founder and owner of Royal Madera Vineyards in Madera, CA, turned 90 on Aug. 20, but entering his 10th decade hasn't slowed him down much.

After nearly 80 years in the produce industry, Volpe still comes into the office frequently, according to his daughter, Cheryl Cerniglia, who, like many family members of the second- and third-generation, works for the company.

"We are in our harvest season," she told The Produce News in mid-August, and "he was down here again today."

SteveGloriaVolpeSteve Volpe with Gloria Volpe, his wife of 59 years.Volpe began his produce career "as a young boy in Cleveland working for his dad, Louis Volpe," Cerniglia said. "His dad came from Sicily" and opened a produce house on the terminal market called P. Volpe & Sons.

Steve Volpe quit school at a young age to work full time in the family produce business "to help support the family," she said.

In 1959, Volpe moved to Fresno, CA, and began Steve Volpe Brokerage Co., specializing in grapes but also handling other commodities such as lettuce, melons and citrus.

"He also would go to Coachella Valley" where he formed a partnership with Lionel Steinberg at David Friedman Co., she said. "He also had a vineyard in Coachella Valley" called Travertine Vineyards, and packed grapes in the "Travertine" label.

In the early 1970s, Volpe started Royal Madera Vineyards north of Fresno, growing table grapes and juice grapes, then opened Madera Packing Co. as a partnership, followed by the opening of Madera Raisin Co. in the 1980s, Cerniglia said.

The family no longer owns the raisin company, but "we still have Royal Madera Vineyards" and currently farm Flame, Fantasy, Thompson, Autumn Royal and Red Globe grapes, she said.