William Seavey, Founder of Napa's Seavey Vineyard, Dies at 86

After a career in law and politics, Seavey brought enthusiasm and curiosity to his family winery
William Seavey, Founder of Napa's Seavey Vineyard, Dies at 86
A San Francisco lawyer, William Seavey wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty and work hard at his winery. (Courtesy Seavey Vineyard)
Nov 2, 2016

William Seavey, the founder of Napa's Seavey Vineyard near Howell Mountain, died Sept. 21 following a long illness. He was 86.

Seavey and his wife, Mary, purchased a 200-acre property in the foothills below Howell Mountain in 1979, replanting vineyards and converting an old, stone dairy barn into a winery. They made their first wine in 1990.

"Bill was an extremely bright soul who lived a life that was full of adventure—I admired that," said Philippe Melka, one of the region's best-known consulting enologists, who became winemaker in 1995 for Seavey and still consults there today. "During harvest, we were working side by side, as he loved the physical work that created their beloved wine."

Born in Los Angeles on Aug. 28, 1930, Seavey lived a multifaceted life before becoming a vintner, working as a lawyer, a college lecturer and serving as mayor of Coronado, Calif. At 49, he changed focus, buying the property near Howell Mountain.

Convinced that his land could yield impressive Bordeaux-style wines, Seavey educated himself in viticulture and enology and designed new vineyards and constructed additional winemaking space for the winery. He was heavily involved in harvest and winemaking decisions.

Seavey Vineyard was one of Napa Valley’s early success stories and is today a rarity throughout the valley—still completely family-owned and making wines exclusively from their 40 acres of estate vineyards. Over the past 26 vintages, Seavey’s Cabernets became noted for their exceptional ability to age.

"I remember so many fond moments spent in his company, constantly brainstorming about wine quality and the evolution of the wine industry for small family ventures," said Melka. "I will miss him terribly."

It was Seavey’s hope that the winery would remain family-owned long after he’s gone. He is survived by his five children—Dorie, Art, Will, Fred and Charley, all of whom are active in the daily operations of the winery, from farming to marketing—as well as four grandchildren.

Obituaries United States California Napa News

You Might Also Like

Restaurant Award Winners that Have Permanently Closed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Restaurant Award Winners that Have Permanently Closed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A running list of wine-focused dining spots that have been forced to shut for good as the …

Apr 14, 2021
U.S. Authorities Deport Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan

U.S. Authorities Deport Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the man known as Dr. Conti was flown to …

Apr 13, 2021
Red Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Cataracts

Red Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Cataracts

A new study finds that low to moderate alcohol intake may help prevent age-related eye …

Apr 13, 2021
Home Wine Deliveries Keep on Truckin'

Home Wine Deliveries Keep on Truckin'

Wineries got savvy to online marketing in 2020 during the pandemic. But will that last in …

May 31, 2021
Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

And catch up on past episodes on the magazine's IGTV channel

Apr 18, 2021
A Tuscan Winery Vacation with Sting? Southern Glazer's and Wine Spectator Raise $1.6 Million for Pandemic-Impacted Restaurant Workers in Blockbuster Auction

A Tuscan Winery Vacation with Sting? Southern Glazer's and Wine Spectator Raise $1.6 Million for Pandemic-Impacted Restaurant Workers in Blockbuster Auction

With the help of Zachy's, Guy Fieri, Dave Portnoy and a star-studded lineup of vintners, …

Apr 9, 2021