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Plane Crash Kills Two California Wine Industry Members

A Cessna went down carrying former Clos du Bois executive Tom Hobart and Patianna Vineyards owner Kieran Burke

Posted: April 8, 2005

Two well-known members of Northern California's wine community were killed in a plane crash in Fresno County on Thursday morning.

Tom Hobart, the former general manager at Clos du Bois winery in Sonoma County, and Kieran "K.C." Burke, who owned Patianna Organic Vineyards in Mendocino County, died April 7 when the Cessna 210 they were traveling in crashed in a rural area near Tranquility, Calif. The plane's pilot, Karl Esposti, who owned a prominent auto dealership in Sonoma County, was also killed.

The plane was en route from Santa Rosa, Calif., to Scottsdale, Ariz., where the trio was reportedly meeting other Sonoma County vintners to play golf. The accident happened about 9:15 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion, but it will be some time before investigators determine the cause of the accident, the FAA said.

Hobart, 58, was a prominent player in Sonoma County's wine industry for more than two decades. He began his career in 1973 as one of the original employees of Clos du Bois. Eventually he became general manager, and then moved up to the winery's corporate parent, Allied Domecq, where he oversaw all of the company's California wineries. Hobart was also active in the Sonoma County Wineries Association. In recent years, he ran his own wine-industry consulting company, Vinogistics.

Burke, 49, was married to Patti Fetzer Burke of the Fetzer wine family. Together they owned Patianna Organic Vineyards and were leaders in organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Services have yet to be announced.

--Tim Fish

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