By Joy Neighbors
Once again, it is time to look back on the year and remember those in the industry who have passed. Salute!
He was well known for his Rosemount Estate wines but Bob Oatley was also one of Australia’s richest businessmen. Oatley died January 10 in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia. He began in the wine industry in 1968 with Rosemount Estate and continued until he sold the winery in 2001 for $1.4 billion. Robert Oatley Vineyards became the next step in the Oatley family winemaking dynasty. Their wine empire boasts about 40 wine brands including Robert Oatley Signature Series, Wild Oates and Bare Foot. Bob Oatley was 87 years old.
Napa Valley Wine pioneer Peter Mondavi died February 20 at his home in St. Helena, California. It was Peter, and his brother Robert, who convinced their father to purchase the dilapidated Charles Krug winery in 1943. The brothers took Krug and established it as an early industry leader of quality wines in Napa Valley. But resentment began to build between the two and in 1965 they parted ways. Peter was known in the wine industry for innovating the process of cold fermentation to keep whites fresh longer, and creating a more sterile filtration system, which helped prevent spoilage. The brothers reconciled in 2005, just three years before Robert died. Peter said his greatest accomplishment was keeping Charles Krug Winery whole. Peter Mondavi was 101.
Henri Bonneau, one of the most regaled winemakers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape died on March 21 in Marseille, France. Bonneau was an expert at blending other grape varieties with Grenache, creating stunning wines that captivated the palate. Bonneau had little time for upkeep and sterile facilities, his love was in the creation of the wine, which showed in the masterful vinos he produced, albeit in small batches, which only made them all the more desirable. Bonne died of complications due to diabetes. He was 77 years old.
The industry lost one of the world’s greatest fortified winemakers in April. Manuel Lozano died April 26 of complications from a medical procedure. Lozano was the head winemaker and chief enologist for Bodega Lustau Sherries and Brandies, joining the company in 1999. Lozano preferred working with Sherry and had been named “Best Fortified Winemaker” seven consecutive times at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. In 2014, he also garnered the title of “Best Sherry Producer.” Manuel Lozano was 61 years old.
Napa Valley lost another industry legend on May 22. Donn Chappellet, founder of Chappellet Vineyards and the pioneer vintner for Pritchard Hill died at his home on Pritchard Hill. Chappellet left the coffee industry to become a winemaker in 1966. He told the New York Times in 1971, “I think I had subconsciously wanted to become a winemaker for years.” In 1969, the winery released its first cabernet and Chappellet’s talent for crafting rich, powerful Cabs was revealed. In 1980, his best cabs were released under the Signature label with small batch releases coming under the Pritchard Hill label during the 1990s. Chappellet was 84 years old. Chappellet Vineyards will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017.
The wine industry mourned the loss of Denis Dubourdieu on July 27 from brain cancer. A man of many talents, Dubourdieu was a winemaker, vineyard owner, and professor of enology, but best known a the “Pope of White Wine.” Dubourdieu devised techniques for crafting an elegant and fresh white Bordeaux. His techniques won the praise of critics’ worldwide. In 2009, Dubourdieu assisted in creating the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences at the University of Bordeaux. In 2016, Dubourdieu was made a knight of the Legion of Honor for his contributions to the wines of France. Dubourdieu was 67 years old.
Greg Walter spent his life celebrating the virtues of Pinot Noir. Walter died September 2 of colon cancer. Walter began in the wine industry in 1980 as a reporter for the Wine Spectator where he rose to become senior editor and then spent seven years as president. Walter left the magazine in 1994 to pursue other writing opportunities. He wrote for SmartWine Magazine, Wine Country Living Magazine, Appellation Magazine, and the Sonoma Valley Sun. In 2001, he began the PinotReport, a respected website and newsletter that touted the grape he was passionate about. The PinotReport won the James Beard Award for Newsletter Writing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, and Nutrition in 2005. He continued with the website and newsletter until earlier this year. Walter was 58 years old.
Annegret Reh-Gartner was known as the Riesling ambassador in an industry heavily controlled by German men. Reh-Gartner took over the vineyards of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate in 1983. The estate has some of the regions best known vineyards located in Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys. Reh-Gartner and her husband, restaurateur Gerhard Gartner owned the Michelin starred restaurant, Gala. Reh-Gartner died of pancreatic cancer. She was 61 years old.