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Rail industry loses California wine train founder, short-line association founding member DeDomenico


Vincent DeDomenico, founder of the Napa Valley Wine Train, founding member of the California Short Line Railroad Association and co-inventor of Rice-A-Roni, died Oct. 18, according to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). He was 92.

A son of Italian immigrants, DeDomenico in the 1960s created the packaged side dish of rice and pasta, known as "The San Francisco treat," with his brothers. They sold the Golden Grain Macaroni Co. to Quaker Oats in 1986 for $275 million.

DeDomenico later bought 21 miles of track in Napa Valley, Calif., and several vintage passenger cars and created the Napa Valley Wine Train Inc. He spent millions of dollars to buy and restore vintage cars, repair the line's ties, trestles and bridges, and construct depots in Napa and Yountville.

In 1989, DeDomenico launched year-round daily dining excursions between Napa and St. Helena.

"I never ceased to be amazed at his capacity to learn and endeavor new challenges," said Erica Ercolano, Napa Valley Wine Train's longtime director of marketing and business development, in ASLRRA's "Views and News." "He was the embodiment of entrepreneurship born of the Depression era, the consummate patriarchal, fair-minded taskmaster, and the hardest-working person I will ever know."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/31/2007