( Courtesy Giumarra Vineyards )

John G. Giumarra Jr., whose legal expertise helped guide not only the family business, but aided in greater grape exports for the overall California grape industry, has died.

Giumarra, president of Giumarra Vineyards, died June 30. He was 78.

A statement from the company describes him as a talented leader and powerful mentor, dedicated to his company and the success of the California grape industry, working tirelessly for both, but placing a high priority on family.

“His skill set included being an attorney, and he also had a vast understanding of marketing and a vision for the future,” John Corsaro, CEO of the Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, said in the statement. “This was exhibited by the strong breeding program fostered by Giumarra Vineyards and the varieties that are now in the ground. But at the end of the day, what I most admired about John Jr. was his dedication to his family despite a very busy schedule.”

Giumarra served on the board of directors of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association. He was an active member of the California Table Grape Commission for decades, with 23 years as the chairman of the export committee and 27 years on the executive committee.

Kathleen Nave, president and CEO of the commission, said Giumarra’s leadership and 33 years of service with the organization was important in specific areas:

  • Opening export markets, reducing tariffs and targeting promotion money;
  • Helping create the commission’s patenting and licensing program; and
  • Helping create a health research program.

“In his role on the commission he made a significant difference to the industry,” Nave said in the statement. “I truly believe that the success the industry has had in exports is due in large part to his leadership.  … (He) paved the way for individual shippers to sell theirs grapes into a bigger, better, marketplace.”

As an attorney, Giumarra negotiated contracts with retailers, growers, exporters for Giumarra Vineyards, but helped the industry reach agreements with government officials, including foreign governments.

The Giumarra and Karniel families in the 1990s established the Agricultural Research & Development Corp., a table grape breeding company, leading to the licensing of varieties including the Arra varieties, Sweeties, Passion Fire, Passion Punch and Sugar Drop.

When he became president of Giumarra Vineyards in 2015, he started a vineyard rejuvenation program and focused on varietal development, according to the statement.

He was the face of Giumarra Vineyards to the industry, according to the statement, promoting the company’s Arra and Grape King labels. At the same time, he formed long-lasting friendships.
“John will be sorely missed as an icon in the produce industry and more importantly in this world as a wonderful man,” Derrick Jenkins, director of produce and floral for Wakefern Food Corp., who knew Giumarra for 35 years, said in the statement.

“I will never forget how he taught us all how to treat people, with respect and a smile,” Tom Kovacevich, owner and CEO of TM Kovacevich, said in the statement. “In his kind and gentlemanly way he uniquely encouraged friendships between his growers and customers.”

His son, Randy Giumarra, vice president of sales at Giumarra Vineyards Corp., said the amount of support from the industry following his father’s death is an “overwhelming tribute.”

“His love for life was immeasurable, his energy near endless, his charisma infectious and his commitment to family, friends and the success of our industry his tireless goal,” Randy Giumarra said in the statement. “Our family is eternally grateful and we will miss him dearly.”

A visitation will be 6-8 p.m. July 11 and a celebration of life will be 10 a.m. July 12, both at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bakersfield, Calif.

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Submitted by Joe Mercurio on Sat, 07/06/2019 - 07:43

John Giumarra was bigger than life, presidential quality person. I remember meeting John at a United Convention many years ago and at 72 years old I’ll never forget that day.