James W. Richards – who with his wife, Barbara, founded Paloma Vineyard in the Napa Valley and produced a Merlot that is one of California’s elite wines – died May 28 after a lengthy battle with cancer, the Napa Valley Register reports. He was 78.
The Richards’ Merlot was named the Wine Spectator’s 2003 Wine of the Year.
Former residents of Texas and Canada, where James was a partner in a petroleum geology firm, James and Barbara fell in love with the Napa Valley and bought 20 acres in 1983 at the top of Spring Mountain.
With unusual hands-on dedication, they personally did most of the vineyard work. And in a valley best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, they managed to make their mark with a variety that more often than not is used as a blending partner for Cabernet.