Memorial to be held Thursday, May 12
East County News Service
(Ramona) –Herman Salerno, 81, an Italian opera singer, founder of Salerno Winery and a pioneer in our region’s winemaking industry, has passed away.
Linda McWilliams, president of the San Diego County Vintners Association, remembered Salerno as “a pillar of the early winery community in San Diego County and Ramona. He was an award-winning winemaker and helped and encouraged so many, particularly in the Ramona AVA.” She added, “A visit to his winery was not just about tasting the wine but a view into the entire culture of art,food, old world conversation but also the joy of his operatic voice.”
Born in southern Italy in the Reggio di Calabria region and raised in Argentina, Salerno performed with opera companies in Argentina, Spain, Venezuela and in the U.S. at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and the Connecticut Opera. (View video of Salerno singing at his winery in 2011.)
He later opened a bakery in Kearny Mesa that he later sold to San Francisco Sourdough Company in 1985. A love of wine soon led him to a new career.
He became a winemaking consultant at the Bernardo Winery before purchasing land in Ramona with his wife, Rose, in 1995. His first commercial wine release, a 2003 Petit Syrah, won a double gold medal at the 2006 Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. Since then, his wines have won at least 37 medals in competitions from coast to coast.
In 2014, Herman Salerno received the Trailblazer Award presented by vineyard consultant and Maness Vineyards owner Greg Maness, also a protégé of Salerno. Maness, in presenting the award, said the Salernos “dreamed together of establishing a world class winery.” At his own vineyard in Jamul, Maness reflected, “Some of those old vines planted decades ago by them are still growing around our adobe house like theirs. They inspire all of us to persevere, laugh, enjoy life and appreciate life’s pleasurable and fleeting moments.”
The Salerno Winery in Ramona featured not only wines, but an outdoor pizza oven where Salerno used his master baking skills and occasionally thrilled guests by singing opera, also bringing in other opera singers to entertain his guests. He also started an impressive sculpture garden with 90 works from the collection of Jaime Chaljón, who later became a co-proprietor of Salerno winery, assuring that Salerno’s devotion to music, wine and culture will continue for future generations of visitors in Ramona.
At the winery website, www.SalernoWinery.com, The Chaljons posted this message: "Jamie and Raquel Chaljon express their deep sadness for the irreparable loss of their dear friend, Herman Salerno, who had always shown them love and affection. May his soul rest in peace."
A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 at Bonham Brothers & Stuart Mortuary, 321 12th Street in Ramona. A “Herman style” potluck will follow at Salerno Winery for friends seeking to pay their respects.