Pioneering Napa Grapegrower Nathan Fay Dies at 86

Feb 20, 2001

Legendary Napa Valley grapegrower Nathan Fay died on Thursday, Feb. 15, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 86.

In 1961, Fay challenged popular wisdom by being the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Stags Leap District, an area then considered too cool for the variety. Eventually, he had nearly 90 acres of Cabernet vines, and quickly developed a reputation for the quality of his grapes.

Fay's clients included other Napa Valley pioneers such as Charles Krug Winery, Joe Heitz, Francis Mahoney of Carneros Creek Winery, and Robert Mondavi, as well as many home winemakers.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars founder Warren Winiarski attributes his decision to settle in the Stags Leap District to the superb quality of Fay's homemade wines, especially the 1968 Cabernet. Winiarski's 1973 Cabernet, made from Stags Leap grapes, won the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, thereby solidifying Napa Valley's reputation as a world-class producer of Cabernet.

Fay's warmth and generosity helped him as the unofficial ambassador for the Stags Leap District. "He was a perfectly delightful guy, and everybody I ever met who met Nathan Fay thought the world of him. He was a very giving guy," said John Shafer, founder of Shafer Vineyards in Stags Leap.

Funeral services will be held at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Napa at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

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