'Dr. Toad': Farewell to a Legendary Vintner

    Writing an
obituary never is easy, but it’s a particularly tough task when the subject is
someone you know.

     I wouldn’t call
Robert Todd (a.k.a. “Dr. Toad”) Williams a friend. “Acquaintance” would be more
accurate. But Todd (as most people called him) was one of those guys you’d meet
once and feel like you’d known forever.

co-founded Toad Hollow Vineyards in


Calif., in 1993. His partner in
the venture was Rodney Strong, who already had his own winery nearby. Their
goal was to bring good wine to the masses, and Vinesse participated in that
pursuit by featuring Toad Hollow wines a few times over the years. The “unoaked” Chardonnay has long been a personal favorite.

     Williams took a
circuitous route to the Toad Hollow lily pad. He worked as a bartender at 17
different restaurants, saloons, taverns and nightclubs from Oklahoma to
Kingston, Jamaica (and even played a bartender in the movie, “Mrs.
Doubtfire”)… ran a restaurant in California’s Sierra foothills… sold wine
for Whitehall Lane and Shafer Vineyards… and founded a company that helped
small wine estates (Hanzell, among others) market their wares.


     But Toad Hollow –
he was known as “Toad” as a kid – proved to be his niche. He loved making wine
that was good and that people could afford. And he loved being around people,
possessing a bigger-than-life personality that was magnetic. Once he knew your
name, he never forgot it.

     Now, at 69, “Dr.
Toad” is gone, the result of complications from the open-heart surgery he
underwent in July.


     “He touched a lot
of people in the winery business,” said his brother. “He was a man who lived a
great life. He leaves a big footprint – a footprint with a cork.


     “In a lot of
places around

I’m just Toad’s brother,” added actor/comedian Robin Williams. “That’s so

Posted in Editor's Journal
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