LOS ALTOS, CA (Oct 31, 2023) – Before Google and other high-tech industries became symbols of the area, the Gemello ranch and winery stood as the heart of the orchard-filled community of Mountain View from the 1930s-1980s. Los Altos History Museum explores the history of what is now known as “The Gemello Neighborhood” at a block party, held on Thursday, November 16 from 5:30 – 7:00pm.
Italian immigrant and winemaker John Gemello’s dream to establish his own winery in the US was challenged by Prohibition, but with his son Mario’s help, the family persevered. At the block party, the account of their journey, the winery’s growth, and the enduring Gemello legacy will be told by Kevin Ferguson, the maternal grandson of long-time Los Altos residents Mario and Kay Gemello. Notably, the Museum holds an oral history of Kay Gemello, who is now 102 years old.
“During my time spent with my grandmother, providing care during the COVID lockdown, I resurrected a family research project I had started with my grandfather years ago. It included combing through old winery newspaper clippings and documenting stories from an aging cassette tape,” said Ferguson. “These artifacts unlocked the remarkable tale of my great-grandfather’s journey from Italy, his enduring struggles throughout Prohibition, and the launch of Gemello Winery during the depths of the Great Depression. I felt this was a story that needed to be told.”
He added, “Mario was a larger-than-life character who was instrumental in the community. He donated wine to fundraisers, knew all of his more than 4000 customers by name, and always had a joke at the ready.” Ferguson shares the Gemello history in his forthcoming book, “Rain on the Monte Bello Ridge,” a memoir about health, aging and winemaking in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Attendees to the block party will be encouraged to share their own memories of the Gemello Neighborhood, located between El Monte Avenue, El Camino Real and the border of Los Altos. The block party will also encompass neighborhoods spanning from Castro Street to San Antonio Road. Rounding out the evening will be complimentary wine and snacks, and a display of historic photos on the Museum’s video walls in the Geschke Gallery.
Admission is $10 per person, with free admission for Museum members. Register by visiting losaltoshistory.org/Gemello.
Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.
The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.