Wine writer Jerry Mead, publisher of Wine Trader magazine, died from complications of lymphoma and heart disease on Wednesday night at his home in Carson City, Nev. He was 61.
Author of "Mead on Wine," the longest-running syndicated wine column in North America, Mead was a steadfast advocate for wine drinkers and a penetrating critic of the wine industry and the agencies that regulate it. "His primary goal in life was to stop government intervention in the wine industry, especially regarding wine shipping," said Randy Buckner, a Wine Trader editor. "He worked hard to reach the point where we could ship from state to state without interference."
"He was probably one of the last true voices in the wilderness for consumers against the forces trying to stop direct shipping," recalled Richard Arrowood of Arrowood Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma Valley. "He was also very, very knowledgeable about wine and law. He was one of the most important assets the industry had for shipping across state lines."
Mead began his wine-writing career in the 1970s, while working as a dispatcher for the Orange County Fire Department. His first columns appeared in the Anaheim Bulletin and the Santa Ana Register, and he was also a contributor to Wine Spectator in its early years.
He actively supported the industry, helping to found the Orange County Fair wine competition -- judged primarily by winemakers -- which grew to include thousands of bottlings. He and his late wife, Linda, started Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenophiles, or WINO, which became a national organization. And in 1991, Mead founded the Jerry D. Mead New World International Wine Competition, held annually in San Bernardino, Calif. This year's event, held in February, hosted 542 wineries from North and South America and the Pacific Rim.
"Jerry was an original," said Tor Kenward, Beringer's vice president of winery communications. "In the early to mid-'70s there were few journalists who carried the torch for California wine. Jerry defended and fought for vintner and consumer rights with a rare and engaging determinism. The three decades I knew him, he stayed the course, and his opinions earned the respect of so many of us vintners."
Funeral services will be private, with a public memorial service to be held on a date yet to be determined.