"He died peacefully, at his house; his wife and kids were there with him," said winemaker Doug Fletcher. Wilson had not been feeling well ever since he underwent back surgery a year ago, he said. "He lived a very full life, and we're sorry to see him go."
Wilson and his wife, Stella, moved to Napa Valley in the early 1980s and bought the Chimney Rock Golf Course on Silverado Trail. In 1981, Wilson tore out half of the 18-hole course to plant grapevines. He made his first wine in 1984 and built a handsome Cape Dutchstyle winery in the Stags Leap District in 1989.
Under Fletcher's direction, the winery made steady improvements in quality through the 1990s. It's best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, a Meritage red called Elevage, Chardonnay and Fumi Blanc.
A year ago, Wilson formed a partnership with the Terlato Wine Group (owners of Rutherford Hill Winery, in Napa Valley, and Paterno Imports), which bought a 50 percent interest in the winery and vineyard. Last year, the remaining nine holes of Chimney Rock Golf Course were bulldozed to make room for more vines.
-- James Laube