L. Pierce Carson, Eyes of Napa Valley, Dies at 76

His 50-year career at a Napa newspaper helped chronicle the wine industry's rise
L. Pierce Carson, Eyes of Napa Valley, Dies at 76
L. Pierce Carson in Prague, where he was working on a food book. (Pavol Mincak)
May 22, 2017

L. Pierce Carson was a throwback to an earlier time. He logged 50 years at the Napa Valley Register, beginning in 1967, a career that touched on all aspects of a small-town newspaper but also chronicled the frenetic changes in the valley and wine industry. Carson died May 20 at age 76 from gall bladder cancer.

Born in Trenton, N.J., Carson came to Napa in 1967 after serving in Vietnam. He had graduated from Temple University as a communications student and spent two years writing for American Traveler, a U.S. Army publication.

Once discharged he weighed job opportunities and settled on Napa without ever having been there because it was close to San Francisco. He began as a beat reporter, covering crime, politics and local government. But eventually he became known for his writing about the Bay Area music scene and later the wine and culinary industries.

His weekly "On the Lees” column became a fixture as the wine industry became more prominent. He credited "the new kid on the block," Robert Mondavi, for taking him under his wing to educate him about wine. Mondavi had founded his namesake winery a year before Carson arrived. Carson became close to Mondavi and his second wife, Margrit, and after Robert's death he became her frequent companion at public events.

When Carson moved to Napa, the area was "pretty," he recalled, but quiet, a sleepy farm community. Over the years, Carson reported on a wide variety of wine-related topics from frosts to harvests, and in the process became a voice for Napa Valley winemakers and the eyes of his readers. As wine gained prominence so did Carson. He was a regular at all industry events, scribbling in his notebook. He was a reservoir of local knowledge and an invaluable resource for reporters learning the ropes of Napa.

He could be a tough, demanding reporter when it came to government matters, and learned the basics of the valley by covering the divisive hearings that led to the creation of the Napa Valley Ag Preserve, which limited growth in the valley and became a model for land preservation elsewhere in agricultural communities.

Carson was a tireless reporter, known to arrive at the paper late in the morning but remain until well after dark. He motivated himself to keep up with trends and developments. A few years ago he eased into semi-retirement and found a second home in Prague, renting an apartment and using it as a springboard to traveling around Europe. Even after being diagnosed with cancer last year, he continued writing and was working on a restaurant guide to Prague.

Carson is survived by his sister Jill.

Obituaries United States California Napa News

You Might Also Like

The French Laundry Launches Lavish Indoor-Dining Experience

The French Laundry Launches Lavish Indoor-Dining Experience

The Napa Grand Award winner’s new offering features coveted Champagne and opulent add-ons …

Sep 24, 2020
Sonoma County Wine Auction Raises $1.17 Million with Online Bidding

Sonoma County Wine Auction Raises $1.17 Million with Online Bidding

The wine country charity auction forged ahead with a virtual event, auctioning exclusive …

Sep 23, 2020
Zachys Auctions Rare Wines from Italy's Enoteca Pinchiorri

Zachys Auctions Rare Wines from Italy's Enoteca Pinchiorri

The 2,500-bottle consignment from the Grand Award–winning restaurant fetched $4.1 million, …

Sep 22, 2020
'Drink the Best in House Arrest' Wins Wine Spectator's 2020 Video Contest

'Drink the Best in House Arrest' Wins Wine Spectator's 2020 Video Contest

The Campione family members get their first win, and share the inspiration for their …

Sep 22, 2020
Vintner Diego Planeta, Who Helped Put Sicilian Wine on the Map, Dies at 80

Vintner Diego Planeta, Who Helped Put Sicilian Wine on the Map, Dies at 80

As head of a vintners' cooperative and later as founder of his family winery, Planeta …

Sep 21, 2020
His Dream Is Now Ours: Legendary Vineyard Manager Ulises Valdez Sr.'s Children Carry on His Legacy

His Dream Is Now Ours: Legendary Vineyard Manager Ulises Valdez Sr.'s Children Carry on His Legacy

In vineyards across Sonoma and at Valdez Family Wines, Valdez Sr.'s widow and four children …

Sep 18, 2020