It is time again, to look back on the year and remember those in the alcohol industry who have passed. From wine to whiskey to vineyards and wine writers, we raise a glass in a final Salute!
Napa Valley Vintner Debbie Lewis died in January. She was involved in the wine industry for close to twenty years. Debbie and her husband Randy started Lewis Cellars in 1992. Today, the winery produces 9,000 cases annually of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. In 2016, the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon won first place in Wine Spectators Top 100 Wines.
Debbie Lewis died January 4, 2017 from cancer. She was 72 years old.
Kentucky Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam died in January. He had been with Heaven Hill Distillery for more than 50 years. Beam was a six-generation Kentucky distiller and a grandnephew of whiskey legend Jim Beam. Beam began working at Heaven Hill under his father’s guidance in 1960. In 1975, he was promoted to Master Distiller, crafting the company’s premium small batch and single barrel bourbons. Beam was responsible for distilling and aging Evan Williams – the number two selling bourbon in the world, along with other Heaven Hill whiskeys.
Parker Beam died on January 9th following a yearlong battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was 75 years old.
Chinese wine pioneer Gérard Colin died in early February. Colin traveled to China in the late 1990s, and in 2001 became a consultant for Grace Vineyard. Colin established techniques and developed high standards for wines made in China. He went on assist on a project at Puchang Vineyard in Xinjiang, and has spent the past three years working on a wine marketing project in the Shandong province.
Gérard Colin died on February 9, 2017 at the age of 75.
Dr. Jim Swan
|Dr. Jim Swan|
Jim Swan was well known in the whiskey world, consulting for distilleries around the globe. His career spanned more than 40 years and included all facets of whiskey production. Dr. Swan consulted and gave advice to new distilleries along with those more established that sought his wisdom and encouragement. He was a champion of quality whiskey making at home in Scotland and around the world.
Jim Swan died suddenly on February 14, 2017. He was 77 years old.
Pioneer wine grape grower Angelo Papagni died at the end of February. Back in 1973, Papagni built a winery and vineyard in Madera, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. There he raised specific grape varieties like Alicante Bouschet, Barbera and Grenache that were at home in the arid conditions of the region. Papagni created quality wines from these regional grapes, which is why he was considered a maverick in wine circles. Papagi was a man ahead of his time, blazing a trail for other California winemakers to follow.
Angelo Papagni died on February 27, 2017 at this home in Fresno, California. he was 95 years old.
Napa Valley journalist Pierce Carson died in May. Carson began his career at the Napa Register where he worked for fifty years. He began by covering the courts but moved into writing about food, wine and culture as Napa began to develop into a world-class wine destination. Throughout his career, Carson reported on the rise of Napa Valley wines and wineries, and the changes in the industry that time brought.
Pierce Carson died May 20 from gall bladder cancer. He was 76.
A champion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Napa Valley region has died. Richard Ward a co-founder of Saintsbury winery in Napa died in May. Ward and David Graves founded Saintsbury in 1977 with the intention of making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and wines as popular as Cabernet Sauvignon was. Thorough diligence and preservation, the two carved out a niche making outstanding wines from the two little used grapes. In time, Napa Valley embraced the grapes, and Saintsbury Winery fueled a nation-wide interest in both types of wine.
Richard Ward died on May 27, 2017 from complications from a bone marrow transplant. He was 67.
A fifth-generation Sonoma County resident died in June. Christopher Silva began his career as an L.A. attorney but soon discovered his love for the wine industry. Silva started with St Francis Winery in 1998 as chief operating officer. Silva went on to became president and CEO of St. Francis Winery and Vineyard in 2003. During his 13 years at the helm, he turned St Francis into a wine destination, and achieved the designation of certified sustainable for three vineyards totaling 400 acres by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. St Francis Winery produces more than 200,000 cases a year, and most of the wines are now distributed around the country.
Christopher Silva died on June 20, 2017 after a two-month battle with brain cancer. He was 52.
Join us again next week as we remember other industry influencers from 2017.