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2012: In Memoriam

Tributes to wine industry leaders who died this year

Robert Taylor
Posted: December 28, 2012

Before we welcome 2013, Wine Spectator pays homage to the vintners, winemakers, scientists, wine writers, importers and industry cheerleaders who died this year.

Earlier this year Barolo lovers around the world mourned the passing of Piedmont legend Aldo Conterno. The Italian pioneer, who served in the U.S. Army in the 1950s, brought modern winemaking to the Langhe when he founded his winery in Bussia in 1961. Barolo is now recognized among the most important wines in the world, due in no small part to Conterno's efforts.

We also bid farewell to Sonoma maverick Louis J. Foppiano, who managed Foppiano Vineyards for decades and helped found the Wine Institute of California in 1941. Wine lovers said goodbye to Champagne's beloved Jean Taittinger, Amarone icon Giuseppe Quintarelli, Domaine Chandon founder John Wright, King Estate's Ed King Jr. and more. Here we pay tribute to some of the many wine industry veterans that will be missed in 2012. Readers are encouraged to share their memories of those remembered here in the comments, or add memoriams of other wine industry friends we weren't able to include.

Ray Beckwith
One of the founding fathers of Australian winemaking, Ray Beckwith made the groundbreaking discovery in 1936 that acidity levels in wine could be a tool in the control of bacterial growth. Bacterial spoilage of wine was a major problem at the time, estimated to destroy one-quarter of Australian wine. His work at Penfolds from 1935 to 1973 revolutionized winemaking practice and was instrumental in the development of Penfolds’ leading red wines—Grange, Bin 389 and St Henri.

Nathan Chroman
Nathan Chroman, a Beverly Hills attorney and wine aficionado, wrote an influential weekly column for the Los Angeles Times from 1971 to 1987. Chroman was a noted authority on wine and wrote for many publications, including Wine Spectator. He also wrote a book, The Treasury of American Wines, published in 1973.

Aldo Conterno
With the founding of Poderi Aldo Conterno in 1961, Aldo Conterno helped elevate Barolo's identity around the world. Conterno sidestepped tradition and made wine the way he wanted to. He was a pioneer years before a generation of rebels brought modern techniques and marketing savvy to the Langhe. He would create three great single-vineyard wines—Cicala, Colonello and Romirasco. In great years, he blended grapes from the three to make a reserve wine called Gran Bussia. For more on Conterno, read Mitch Frank's Oct. 31, 2010, profile, "The Lion of Bussia."

Louis J. Foppiano
Louis J. Foppiano managed Sonoma's oldest family-run winery, Foppiano Vineyards, for most of his life. As one of the region's wine pioneers, he helped shape Sonoma through Prohibition and its jug-wine days to becoming a leader in the wine industry, but he is perhaps best known for popularizing Petite Sirah, which he first bottled in 1967. In 1941, Foppiano helped found the Wine Institute of California and served as one of its directors for 45 years. The Institute remains the largest advocacy and public policy organization for wineries today. In 1946, Foppiano became a founding member of the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association and its first president.

William Heintz
When California vintners wanted know the history of their property or cellar, they often turned to William F. Heintz. A historian who lived most of his adult life in Sonoma, Heintz wrote two detailed books on Napa, Wine Country: A History of Napa Valley, the Early Years 1838-1920 and California’s Napa Valley, One Hundred Sixty Years of Winemaking.

Ed King Jr.
Ed King Jr. founded King Estate wine company, one of the largest in Oregon, with his son in 1985, on proceeds from the sale of his avionics firm, King Radio. He served as chairman while Ed King III ran the company, which includes a 600-acre vineyard and fruit orchard south of Eugene, in the southern Willamette Valley.

Christopher Marks
Christopher Marks was an attorney and investment adviser with offices in Los Angeles who also owned Sweeney Canyon Vineyard, which his family planted in the Sta. Rita Hills in 1980. He was an active member of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, where he began volunteering 20 years ago, and the Santa Ynez chapter of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic society. His death remains the subject of an investigation.

Trevor Mast
Trevor Mast, a legend in Australia's Victorian wine industry, was the longtime winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran winery. Mast established Mount Langi Ghiran as a benchmark of cool-climate Australian Shiraz over 20 years; the wine is widely recognized as one of Australia’s most distinctive single-vineyard wines.

Giuseppe Quintarelli
Giuseppe Quintarelli was one of Valpolicella's most legendary winemakers, producing long-lived, small-production Amarones, Valpolicellas and several other great wines with artisanal methods that earned his wines cult status in Italy and around the world.

Serge Renaud
Dubbed "the father of the French paradox," Serge Renaud was a French medical researcher who became known worldwide in 1991 when he appeared on the CBS news show 60 Minutes, discussing why France had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than America even though people in both countries consumed fatty diets. Renaud argued that the French people's regular, moderate consumption of wine with meals, particularly red wine, was a significant reason for their better health.

Angelo Rocca
Angelo Rocca, owner of the Barbaresco winery Albino Rocca, was killed in an ultralight plane crash in October. Rocca, 64, was an experienced pilot who loved planes and fast cars. His family has grown grapes in Barbaresco for more than a century, and his father, Albino, founded the winery in 1950.

Jean Taittinger
Champagne's beloved Jean Taittinger was honorary chairman of his family's Champagne house and a popular longtime politician. After fighting the Nazis with Free French forces during World War II, Jean worked with his brothers François and Claude at Champagne Taittinger. He then turned to politics, serving as deputy mayor of Reims from 1959 to 1977, and in the cabinet of French president Georges Pompidou.

David Taub
David S. Taub was chairman and CEO of wine importer Palm Bay International. Taub was not a household name to most Americans, but they knew the wines that he brought to market, from Cavit Pinot Grigio to Planeta to Jean-Luc Colombo. Taub was a dedicated philanthropist, actively involved in charitable organizations such as the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the UJA Federation. Recently, the Taub Transplant Research Fund was established at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

John Wright
John Wright helped Domaine Chandon launch its Napa sparkling wine business and ran it for more than two decades. Wright oversaw all aspects of Domaine Chandon's design, from buying grapes to building a facility, with Moët & Chandon providing technical guidance.

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