When you think about it, life is a series of comings and goings.
We love to celebrate the comings, and we respectfully mourn the goings. (Sometimes we also celebrate the goings, but you know what we mean.)
This week, we respectfully mourn two recent passings – one of a respected vintner, and one of an under-the-radar winery.
The vintner: Thierry Manoncourt, the proprietor of Chateau Figeac in St. Emilion.
The winery: Graeser Winery in northern Napa Valley.
Manoncourt had run the family wine estate in France’s Bordeaux region for 63 years, the last 20 or so as a goodwill ambassador after passing the day-to-day management duties to his son-in-law, Comte Eric d’Aramon.
If there were a wine dinner to host or a wine-related convention to attend, you could count on Manoncourt being there.
There was no vintner as enthusiastic about his wine estate or his home wine region than Thierry Manoncourt. In many ways, he was like Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi.
The Graeser Winery closed after former owner Richard Graeser said he could not make his mortgage payments. He blamed the downturn in the economy, something that has sunk a number of estates in California.
Graeser inherited the property in 1984, and that proved to be both a blessing and a curse.
It was a blessing because who wouldn’t want to own vineyard land in one of the world’s most famous wine regions?
It was a curse because its location was a bit off the beaten path, in the far northern part of the valley – or, as Wines & Vines described it, on “the back side of Diamond Mountain.”
If you missed the winery’s sign along the road, you missed the winery.
I visited the winery on several occasions, and always liked the wines. I wasn’t blown away by them, but I felt they were good values – particularly among bottlings bearing the “Napa Valley” designation.
Apparently, there weren’t enough consumers who felt the same way, and a part of Napa Valley’s wine history is now… history.