Donn Reisen embodied the spirit of Ridge Vineyards. So when news came today that he had been found dead of an apparent suicide yesterday in Portola Valley, Calif., not far from the winery and his home, it hit hard.
I’d known Donn most of my career, and he and Paul Draper, Ridge’s esteemed winemaker, were the frontmen and spokesmen for this iconic Santa Cruz Mountains winery.
Donn, 60, had been the winery’s president since 2001, but he was much more than that. He was Ridge through and through.
While Draper was the winemaker and intellectual who steered the wines, Donn brought a lighter side to the business. He always seemed to be in good spirits. He was extremely well-liked and respected in the wine community and a trusted source and analyst for those of us in the media.
About five years ago, Donn was in a horrible biking accident that nearly killed him. He was hit, I believe, by a truck while riding his road bike. He spent a long time in the hospital and then a long time rehabilitating. He underwent many reconstructive surgeries and once he was back in circulation it was a huge relief for those of us who knew him.
He had a wonderful sense of humor. He knew wine inside out. He gave wine and Ridge his best and that’s the way I’ll remember him, standing next to Paul, pouring Ridge wines and telling their story.
His death is a tragic loss.