Donald Louis Carano
October 17, 1931 - October 3, 2017
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Donald Louis Carano, founder of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, Eldorado Resorts Inc., and McDonald, Carano & Wilson, LLC law firm. Mr. Carano passed away peacefully on October 3, 2017, surrounded by his family at his home in Reno, Nevada. He was 85.
A pioneer in the gaming, law and wine industries, Mr. Carano was also an entrepreneur, hotelier, restaurateur, husband and father. Mr. Carano is celebrated as a family-oriented, compassionate leader in his businesses and communities, which included both Reno, Nevada, and his wine country home in Geyserville, Alexander Valley, California. Ever passionate about Sonoma County, Mr. Carano said, “This is a very special way to live.”
A second-generation Italian-American, Don Carano was born in Reno, Nevada, on October 17, 1931. He completed an undergraduate degree at the University of San Francisco, followed by two years as an officer in the United States Army. Returning to USF, Mr. Carano attended law school, graduated with honors and began his law practice in Reno. He was a founding member of the prestigious McDonald, Carano & Wilson law firm, and was proud to maintain an “of counsel” relationship with the firm until his passing. Mr. Carano’s legal career in Nevada made him an expert in corporate, business and gaming law, and he used his knowledge in those arenas to build his own hotel/casino in 1973, called the Eldorado Hotel and Casino.
In 1976, Mr. Carano hired Rhonda Bevilacqua to work at the Eldorado. She soon became his wife and lifelong partner in love and in business.
With the Eldorado’s emphasis on fine dining, Mr. Carano and his wife Rhonda fell in love with Sonoma County on visits to source fine California wines for their restaurants. His love for the land in Northern California, the vineyards and winemaking forever changed the course of his life.
After taking classes in winemaking and making small lots of their own wines from their home ranch in Alexander Valley, the Caranos purchased additional land in Sonoma County and founded Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in 1981. Today, Ferrari-Carano is a household name among wine lovers throughout the U.S. The family owns 24 sustainably-farmed estate ranches comprising over 1,500 vineyard acres in six appellations of Northern California. Mr. Carano explained, “After we bought the initial parcel, the bug of wine bit us, so we constantly over the years acquired different properties.” Throughout the brand’s growth, when at the winery, Mr. Carano made his home at the original Home Ranch in Alexander Valley as well as his home in Reno, Nevada.
In 2000, the Caranos acquired the boutique hotel Vintners Inn and the legendary John Ash & Co. Restaurant, expanding their vision for genuine hospitality and excellent food and wine. In 2008, they acquired Lazy Creek Vineyards, a winery known for their pinot noirs in Anderson Valley, after becoming enchanted with its rustic beauty that reminded them of their first visits to the North Bay, nearly 40 years earlier.
Whilst Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery grew, so too did the Caranos’ casino properties. When Mr. Carano opened Reno’s Eldorado Hotel and Casino, it had 282 rooms and was thought to be a risky investment. In 1992, Mr. Carano entered a joint venture with Circus Circus Enterprises and Mandalay Resorts/MGM, to create the Silver Legacy Resort Casino. Today, Mr. Carano leaves behind a thriving legacy, with 19 properties in 10 states. The Eldorado Resorts family employs over 14,000 team members.
Mr. Carano’s business ventures have always been anchored by his belief in teamwork and family values. Integrity and an eye toward posterity have guided him in growing sustainable brands people love. His community contributions have been recognized with many honors, including the Nevada Food and Beverage Directors Association Man-of-the-Year Award, the American Lung Association Distinguished Community Service Award, Hotelier of the Year Award, “Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” by the Consul General of Italy, University of San Francisco Law School’s Alumnus of the Year, International Restaurant and Hospitality Rating Bureau’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the WIBC Gladys M. Banker Friendship Award, and more. In 2017, University of Nevada Reno recognized Mr. Carano as a Distinguished Nevadan. Mr. Carano was known as a pillar and longtime supporter of philanthropic endeavors throughout his life.
In September, 2017, Don was walking the vineyards in Sonoma County and celebrated the “blessing of the grapes” with his Ferrari-Carano family, a sentimental tradition that kicks off the beginning of harvest every year. Mr. Carano always referred to Ferrari-Carano and the land as a special place; to the many who knew and respected him, Mr. Carano is remembered as a special man who touched their lives in a truly personal way. “I’m proud to say that Ferrari-Carano’s estate-owned vineyards are its biggest asset,” Don would say. “It allows us to control the quality of our wines from vineyard to bottle. That’s saying a lot.”
Mr. Carano is survived by his wife Rhonda, five children, 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.