Who's Rosario Bruno?

Rosario Bruno has been making wine with his friends for 35-40 years.

It all started when a couple of friends from Italy were making wine in the cellar of their home in Chicago and invited Rosario to help them make a batch. They taught him how to combine old world Italian techniques with new ideas. From the moment he tasted his first sip of the fruit of his own labor, he was hooked…he had found his PASSION.

He worked with them making wine for 5-6 years getting his winemaking education off to a good start. At that time, they used 100% California grapes that they would purchase right off the boxcars at the train yards near Chicago's famous Taylor Street. The train yard was called the "California Wine Yard" as the trains would roll in from California with boxcars loaded with ripe grapes. Rosario and his friends would go to the yard, taste the different grapes on the cars, and haggle for the best price.

It was always a fun occasion to buy grapes. They would make a day of it starting off very early in the morning and stopping at the Italian deli's on Taylor Street to purchase lunchmeats, procuitto, and cheeses to take with them. They always left the yards with a smile on their faces thinking they got the best deal even though, in retrospect, they probably didn't.

As the years went on, Rosario moved on to bigger and better things but, he continued to make wine throughout his life. It was a part of him…it was in his blood. During this time, his dream of one day running his own winery began to form.

In 1963, Rosario started his own electrical contracting company, Preferred Electric, and built a very successful business for 35 years. Then, in 1998, as the winemaking itch really got to him, he sold 50% ownership in the company and used the capital gained from it as the seed money to purchase the property that would become his vineyard. He began following his lifelong dream.

In 1999, the Italian Club, he is still a member of, awarded him the honor of being "Man of the Year". During his acceptance speech, his Italian heritage came out in the way he spoke and the words "Ferged Aboud It" popped up often as he spoke of his life. Afterwards, his friends joked with him about the phrase and soon he realized that was the perfect name for his wine and vineyard.

Rosario's Roots

Rosario Bruno was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1939. His ancestors came from Sicily, Italy. He was named after his grandfather, Rosario Bruno.

Rosario's grandfather migrated from Sicily to the state of Pennsylvania in the United States around the turn of the 19th century. He came from an area of Sicily that was all sulfur mines. Most of the town's men were miners but, he was a barber by trade. He taught Rosario's father, Joseph, how to cut hair but Joseph didn't want to be a barber. He had other ideas.

In the early 1920's, Joseph, at the age of 18, migrated to Chicago where he became a boxer. At that time, the Irish pretty much ran the city so, to fit in, he changed his name to Jack Conway and fought as an Irishman. He was so good that he won the Golden Gloves as a Light Middleweight boxer. For a few years, he fought his way up the ladder until he was finally knocked out and left boxing behind. So, he changed his name back to Joe Bruno and went to work for International Harvester.

Somewhere around 1925-1928, the rest of Rosario's family migrated to Chicago to join him and took up residence near Taylor and Racine in Chicago's Italian neighborhoods.

Rosario or Ron Bruno?

When Rosario's grandmother passed away, Rosario's father took his grandfather in to live with them. Rosario's grandfather was a tough old guy who liked to "rule the roost". Italian tradition mandated the first born son be given the grandfather's name. But, Rosario's mother, Anna, didn't like the name Rosario. So, she named her son Rosario Ronald Bruno and she and the family referred to him as Ron for his entire life. It has only been in the last 20 years of his life that he has taken up the name "Rosario", feeling the pull of his Italian roots.

The name Ron stuck with Rosario throughout his early life. It wasn't until he was drafted into military service in 1962 that he actually found out his real name. While the government was settling him into the Army and going through his paperwork, they called him Rosario. When he balked and said his name was "Ron", they showed him the legal paperwork to prove it and Ron was known from that point on as Rosario.

Rosario was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington and served as the company clerk for his unit. The unit's responsibility was to train new draftees for Vietnam.

Life and Work

Rosario learned life from his experiences. At 12 years old, he sold newspapers in Chicago at the LaSalle Street Station. Later, he shined shoes for 10 cents each on Madison Street. When walking home after work, the older kids would try to rough him up and steal his money. To keep from being robbed of the money he'd made, he would put his earnings into his own shoes and tell the older kids he'd had a bad day. In these early days, he was already showing his entrepreneurial spirit with his innovative ways.

He had to work hard for everything he ever wanted in life. His philosophy of life and work is that you work hard for what you want. It's there for you to achieve. It won't be given to you. You've got to see eye-to-eye with your goals and you "gotta" be honest with yourself and other people to reach those goals.

Rosario has lived a great life and he achieved his goals through hard work. He's continuing to work hard even now when he should have retired years ago. He's not working so much for himself though but for the future…his children's future. He doesn't intend to ever retire. He's not going to stop working, retire, and sit around getting older. He's happiest working. In fact, he wants to die working, whether that's in the fields, the winery, wherever…but working is how he wants to go.