In 1918, John Vidovich, the patriarch of the Vidovich family, emigrated to California from Dalmatia (an historical region of Croatia on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea). He was sponsored by his cousin who owned a restaurant in San Francisco and began working there. A mutual friend introduced John to his wife Mary, also from Dalmatia. The two married in 1921 and bought a little farmland in the Santa Clara Valley, which could grow apricots, prunes, pears, and cherries. John also purchased fruit from fellow farmers and made his first sales at his fruit stand in May 1922.
Unfortunately, John passed away in 1939 when his oldest son, Stephen John Vidovich, was only fourteen. As a result, Stephen needed to help run the family farm and was unable to finish high school. He joined the Navy during World War II and served on the USS Yorktown. After the war, Stephen continued farming throughout his life, while he also participated in the development of the Santa Clara Valley. Though many farmers sold their farms and moved to towns in the San Joaquin Valley, Stephen and his family stayed.
With his wife Marilyn, they raised their four children John, Michael, Kathryn, and Mary. “Growing up, we ate wonderful fresh food from our garden and orchards,” Kathryn remembers fondly. “Many of my Dad’s friends were farmers, so that is what we often talked about when we were fairly young.”
In the 1990’s, the family purchased Cupertino hillside property, planted grapes, and named the property Vidovich Vineyards. The entire family was involved in bottling the wine. “Ninety-nine percent of the vintage is Cabernet with a little bit of Zinfandel. Our 2012 Monte Bello Road Estate Cabernet won a Double Gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition, and it’s a favorite with Sommelier Paul Mekis of the acclaimed Madera Restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park,” says Michael.
The family lived in a transitional era, between Santa Clara’s farms and orchards and today’s booming housing and the technology world of Silicon Valley. After John, the eldest of the four siblings in the third generation, graduated from college, he took over the businesses. Opportunities arose, and the family reinvested in farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, where they grow different varieties of almonds, pistachios, grapes for raisins, pomegranates, walnuts, and olives.
Food processing and the expansion of the brand SunnyGem is a natural extension of farming. Almonds and products made with them, such as almond flour and almond oil, are now available. Also, SunnyGem pomegranate arils are now sold in super-convenient cups. Their online store includes: almonds, almond flour, and pomegranate seed oil.
Keeping the tradition going into the grown-up 4th generation of the Vidovich family, John’s children, Teresa, Kate, and Stephen each have opportunities for the future. And the whole family tries to get together on holidays to have a feast. As Kathryn puts it, “We love to cook, we love to eat, and we love to drink good wine.”