2021: In Memoriam

Remembering the standard-bearers, friends and family of the wine industry who died this year

2021: In Memoriam
Clockwise from top left: Philippe Cambie, Becky Wasserman, Andrea Franchetti, Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino, Alejandro Fernandez, Steven Spurrier (Jon Wyand, Jon Wyand, Molchen Photo, Courtesy of Castello Sonnino, Claes Löfgren, Getty/David M. Benett)
Dec 30, 2021

Before we look ahead to whatever 2022 may bring, Wine Spectator's editors would like to remember the wine industry pioneers, innovators, leaders and chroniclers we lost this year, some of them to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year we bid farewell to Steven Spurrier, organizer of the famed 1976 Paris Tasting, as well as Châteauneuf-du-Pape star Philippe Cambie and Barolo champion Pio Boffa. We also lost California wine pioneers David Bruce and Au Bon Climat co-founder Jim Clendenen, and Hollywood producer-turned-Oregon vintner Mark Tarlov. We'll fondly remember these members of our community that we lost in 2021.


 Sandy Block excelled at his job because he held a deep passion for all of wine's myriad aspects, from science to history to service.
Sandy Block excelled at his job because he held a deep passion for all of wine's myriad aspects, from science to history to service. (Courtesy Legal Sea Foods)

Alexander "Sandy" Block
The longtime Legal Sea Foods wine director was warm and personable, with a knowing twinkle in his eye.


 Pio Boffa was driven from a young age to help his family's winery innovate and grow.
Pio Boffa was driven from a young age to help his family's winery innovate and grow. (Sandro Michahelles)

Pio Boffa
The visionary leader of the historic Pio Cesare winery converted his family's négoce operation to one focused on Barolo and Barbaresco's top vineyards.


 David Bruce believed the gorgeous Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, were an ideal terroir for Pinot Noir.
David Bruce believed the gorgeous Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, were an ideal terroir for Pinot Noir. (Melissa Barnes)

David Bruce
The Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir pioneer balanced a medical practice with a life in wine, cultivating grapes 2,100 feet above the Pacific Ocean.


 Philippe Cambie could be warm and friendly over a good meal and a glass of wine, but he took grapegrowing and winemaking very seriously, pushing his clients to realize their dreams.
Philippe Cambie could be warm and friendly over a good meal and a glass of wine, but he took grapegrowing and winemaking very seriously, pushing his clients to realize their dreams. (Jon Wyand)

Philippe Cambie
The larger-than-life winemaker was the driving force behind many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wineries raising their quality.


 Au Bon Climat co-founder and winemaker Jim Clendenen was honored at chef Emeril Lagasse's Carnivale du Vin charity event.
Au Bon Climat co-founder and winemaker Jim Clendenen was honored at chef Emeril Lagasse's Carnivale du Vin charity event. (Steven Freeman)

Jim Clendenen
From his Au Bon Climat winery in Santa Maria Valley, Clendenen helped raise the quality of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


 Eloi Dürrbach farmed without chemicals before it became trendy, and when the local wine regulations were changed, he simply sold his outstanding red as a vin de pays.
Eloi Dürrbach farmed without chemicals before it became trendy, and when the local wine regulations were changed, he simply sold his outstanding red as a vin de pays. (Courtesy Domaine de Trévaillon)

Eloi Dürrbach
The founder of Domaine de Trévallon did things his way, making gorgeous red wines for decades.


 Alejandro Fernandez was proud of his hometown and his region in Spain, working to raise its profile in the wine world.
Alejandro Fernandez was proud of his hometown and his region in Spain, working to raise its profile in the wine world. (Claes Löfgren)

Alejandro Fernandez
The Spanish vintner put the Ribera del Duero region on the map with powerful, outstanding Tempranillos.


 Andrea Franchetti bought his Tenuta Trinoro farm as a retreat with the money he made selling a painting. The idea of planting vines came later.
Andrea Franchetti bought his Tenuta Trinoro farm as a retreat with the money he made selling a painting. The idea of planting vines came later. (Molchen Photo)

Andrea Franchetti
After creating a cult wine from the remote Val d'Orcia hills of Tuscany at Tenuta Trinoro, he became a key figure in the renaissance of Sicily's Mount Etna at his Passopisciaro winery.


 Howard Goldberg in 2018.
Howard Goldberg in 2018. (Thomas Matthews)

Howard Goldberg
The longtime New York Times editor and wine writer was knowledgeable and kind, with a quick wit.


 Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild were married for 27 years and together built an empire of wine and philanthropy.
Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild were married for 27 years and together built an empire of wine and philanthropy. (Courtesy Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Group)

Benjamin de Rothschild
The head of his branch of the famous banking family owned seven wine estates in Bordeaux and beyond.


 Tuscan aristocrat Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino, affectionately known as "the Barone," will be fondly remembered.
Tuscan aristocrat Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino, affectionately known as "the Barone," will be fondly remembered. (Courtesy of Castello Sonnino)

Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino
The elegant, silver-haired and bearded Tuscan aristocrat took over his family’s Castello Sonnino and its Chianti vineyards in Montespertoli more than 30 years ago.


 Wine merchant Steven Spurrier will be remembered most for organizing the 1976 Paris Tasting, but he was a dedicated educator as well.
Wine merchant Steven Spurrier will be remembered most for organizing the 1976 Paris Tasting, but he was a dedicated educator as well. (Getty / David M. Benett)

Steven Spurrier
The British champion of all things vinous was best-known for organizing the 1976 Judgment of Paris.


 Mark Tarlov speaks at the 2018 New York Wine Experience during a panel discussion and tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir.
Mark Tarlov speaks at the 2018 New York Wine Experience during a panel discussion and tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir. (Shannon Sturgis)

Mark Tarlov
Passionate about Pinot Noir, the movie producer spent his later years founding the Evening Land, Chapter 24 and Rose & Arrow wine brands.


 Becky Wasserman often hosted Burgundy newcomers at her house for lunch or dinner, ready with advice to help them get started in the wine business.
Becky Wasserman often hosted Burgundy newcomers at her house for lunch or dinner, ready with advice to help them get started in the wine business. (Jon Wyand)

Becky Wasserman
From her farm near Beaune, she represented small winegrowers from around France to U.S. importers and consumers, and was a valuable mentor.


 Franco Ziliani, seated, gathers with his children—Arturo, left, Cristina and Paolo—who now run the sparkling winery he helped found.
Franco Ziliani, seated, gathers with his children—Arturo, left, Cristina and Paolo—who now run the sparkling winery he helped found. (Courtesy Berlucchi)

Franco Ziliani
The winemaker and co-founder of Berlucchi was a Franciacorta pioneer.

More best-of-2021

See More

Dr. Vinny's Top 5 Questions of 2021

Jan 5, 2022

Best of Unfiltered 2021

Dec 29, 2021

Top New Wine Videos of 2021

Dec 29, 2021

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