Family and friends toasted guitar legend Randy Rhoads on Sunday during a release party for a Cabernet Sauvignon that bears his name.
Rhoads was the lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot before he was killed in a plane crash while on tour with Osbourne in 1982.
The D'Argenzio Winery created the 2005 vintage at the full production facility in Santa Rosa, and the wine is being exclusively sold there and at the family's tasting room in Burbank.
Kathy Rhoads D'Argenzio, who is married to Richard D'Argenzio, has been trying to come up with a way to honor her brother. Her husband's twin brother Raymond D'Argenzio runs the winery. Together the families decided to name a wine in Randy Rhoads' honor and release the vintage on his sister's birthday.
Guests strolled between the two tasting rooms pausing to watch family photos flash on a flat-screen TV while color posters of the guitarist playing in concert were displayed on the walls.
Friends remembered the kind and gentle musician who transformed into a different person once he set foot on the stage.
Jodi Raskin-Vigier, who was Randy Rhoads' fiancee, met him through Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot, she said. She remembed Rhoads as a warm and giving person and someone whom people gravitated to.
"He was extremely unique," she said. "Everything he did, he did to the fullest. He really lived. He had an unusual humor and let everybody in on it."
He was also humble, said former guitar student Frank Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz met Randy Rhoads at a mutual friend's home in Burbank, and he was in awe watching him play the guitar.
"It did take everything I had to ask him to give me lessons," Santa Cruz said. "I'd never heard anything like the music he was playing the day I met him. It was a blues jam — improvisation. His playing was so full and energetic. He totally controlled the room with his music and his playing."
Santa Cruz admitted he wasn't his best student.
"I wouldn't practice. I wouldn't use a pick and he would tell me 'Frank, you have no rhythm,'" Santa Cruz said. "I think I'd go to lessons just to hear him play."
Rhoads meant so much to their family that Frank and his wife, Meradith Santa Cruz, named one of their daughters after him — Randi-Lynn.
The wine dedication is a venture between the Rhoads and D'Argenzio families.
Richard and Ray D'Argenzio's parents came to Burbank in the mid-1940s and started a cabinet-building shop, which continues today in back of the wine-tasting room.
Ray D'Argenzio started the winery 16 years ago in Santa Rosa. The brothers are partners in the business.
"Five years ago my brother and I decided to open a tasting room in Burbank — something no one else has," Richard D'Argenzio said. "We own property up there, and we purchase the grapes from the vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. Ray runs the winery himself, and we go up to help during crushing time in the fall."
The family is limiting the number of bottles available to two per person. They have orders from all over the world — Italy, Sweden, China, Japan, Canada and Singapore, Richard D'Argenzio said.
The Carbernet was chosen for the limited edition because it's a good wine for aging for a long period of time, and it has received gold medals in previous years at the Sonoma County Fair, Richard D'Argenzio said.
The vintage for the limited edition was harvested in fall 2005 and was aged in French oak barrels. The blend is 92% Cabernet and 8% Merlot.
A major portion of the proceeds from the wine sales will go to the Randy Rhoads Charitable Trust — created by his mother, Delores Rhoads — which gives scholarships to students studying classical guitar at UCLA and Cal State Northridge.
"His goal was to write and play classical guitar music," Kathy D'Argenzio said.
Randy Rhoads was born and raised in Burbank and started taking guitar lessons at 7. He taught guitar lessons at his mother's music shop, Musonia in North Hollywood.
"He was ahead of his time in the kind of rock music he was playing in the 1970s and early 1980s in Burbank," Kathy D'Argenzio said. "He really stood out."
He and his group, Quiet Riot, played at all the major L.A. nightclubs of the time — such as the Troubadour and Whisky A Go-Go.
"I see his picture when they do a survey on the greatest guitar players," she said. "He was an amazing person, very sweet and humble."
The family decided to name the wine for him, and on the label are the words, "We created this wine with the same pride, passion and dedication that Randy gave to his music."