Started by Italian immigrants nearly 100 years ago, winery is known for friendly customer service

Gene Guglielmo in the basement of the family-run winery next to a massive barrel.  The brothers’ Italian immigrant grandparents started the business in 1925. Photo by Sally Baho

By Sally Baho

Sally Baho

For nearly a century, Guglielmo Winery has stood as a testament to Italian-American tradition, community spirit, and the timeless allure of making excellent vino.

Situated on picturesque grounds that boast beautiful vineyards, a view of rolling hills, and a charming countryside ambiance, the winery is a popular destination for locals and tourists seeking to indulge in the region’s rich wine-making heritage. George and Gene Guglielmo (pronounced gool-YELL-mo) run the Morgan Hill institution located on Main Avenue across the street from Live Oak High School.

The brothers’ grandparents Emilio and Emilia Guglielmo started the winery in 1925. Being immigrants, they worked long hours growing grapes and processing them in oak and redwood barrels. The couple’s story is quintessentially that of the American Dream. In 1909 Emilio Guglielmo arrived on Ellis Island, traveling from his birthplace in the Piedmont region of Italy.

“He came over by himself with very little money, but he was full of ambition,” Gene said.

The young man worked his way across the country, eventually coming to California and settling in San Francisco. As soon as he had earned enough money, he sent for his sweetheart, Emilia. The two married and soon bought the 15 acres of farmland that would become Guglielmo Winery.

On the property was a house and small office, which would eventually serve as the family home and sales office, the latter which is now the tasting room. It was Prohibition, but the law allowed wine to be produced for home consumption. So the couple began making vino, Gene said.

“You’re not going to take wine away from the Italians,” he said. “We were always raised that it’s something to complement your food.”

The wine business had a large market for the Italian, French and Basque immigrants living in San Francisco. The demand grew over the years and the Guglielmos made many friends as they brought the wine north in a truck and left the filled bottles outside, taking the empties.

“We delivered just like the milkman,” George said.

In the 1940s the couple moved into the house on their vineyard. By then they had grown children. Emilio wrote to his son, George Washington Guglielmo, while he was away at war asking if he wanted to stay in the family business. He did and so Emilio kept the business going until he returned.

George W. along with his wife, Madeline, also the daughter of Italian immigrants, joined the family business. The couple had three sons: George, Gene, and Gary, who died a few years ago. The boys grew up on the vineyard, working hard with their parents and grandparents to make the winery what it is today. George attended Fresno State University to study viticulture and oenology. Gene studied business at Santa Clara University. Gary studied accounting at University of San Francisco.

Over the decades, the brothers expanded the winery in production and improved the quality. They adapted to the times and the changing consumer tastes.

George Guglielmo in the winery’s vineyard. The brothers’ Italian immigrant grandparents started the business in 1925.
Photo by Sally Baho

“We started out just making good, blended wines that were food friendly until the 1960s,” Gene said. “We could see the future was in varietals.”

In 1969, Guglielmo Winery made their first Petite Sirah, which they still produce. They added a Grignolino, Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay, as well as Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo, among others.

“We try to make wines in a clean and natural style. We let the grape speak for itself,” George said.

Today they make 24 different wines, bottled under three labels, Emile’s, Tre, and Private Reserve. They bottle about 75,000 cases of wine a year. Guglielmo wines can be found at the following Morgan Hill dining establishments: Betto’s Bistro, Bubbles and Brews, Craft Roots, Creasion, Giorgio’s Italian Grill, Hilltop Market, Ladera Grill, Mama Mia’s, Maurizio’s, MoHi Farm, Noah’s, Rosy’s at the Beach, Sicilia in Bocca, Siam Thai, Sushi Confidential, The City Fish, and Vietasia Restaurant. It’s also served at local hotels including Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and La Quinta Inn & Suites.

“We love supporting local restaurants,” Gene said.

The winery’s facilities include a tasting room gift shop where wine lovers can chat with the knowledgeable staff and learn about the latest vino. The shop is also welcoming for people to browse for fun wine-themed items for friends and family. Outside the shop is a patio and picnic area, where visitors can relax, enjoy a glass of wine, and take in the scenic views of the vineyards. In addition, Guglielmo Winery has a wine club that offers members exclusive benefits and access to limited-release wines, ensuring a continued connection between the winery and its loyal customers.

The family does much to bring the arts and entertainment to their winery. They hold benefit concerts on the amphitheater or under the circus tent-like shade structure. Their popular Vines and Vibes summer concert series on Wednesday evenings is a wonderful way to enjoy an outing. The winery serves as a wedding venue. And it often hosts events for nonprofits to gather together and celebrate or fundraise.

“Community means a lot to our family,” Gene said. “We do the best we can to support it and perpetuate the history and good things in Morgan Hill.”

“We’re the oldest continually run and family-owned winery in Santa Clara Valley,” George added.

“Our philosophy is great value in great quality,” Gene said.

Guglielmo Winery has gracefully woven itself into the fabric of the South Valley, cultivating not just exceptional wines but also a vibrant cultural legacy. As it approaches its centenary milestone, the winery’s family owners and staff embody the enduring values of kinship, craftsmanship, and community that have shaped its remarkable journey that started with two Italian immigrants.