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Friday Fishwrap: Random Jottings at Week's End
An Homage to Rene Di Rosa

By Charles Olken

Rene Di Rosa died last week at the age of 91. I had intended to write this homage to my friend last Friday, but his passing was still too close. I would have written an obituary. There are plenty of those. This is an essay about a man who vision and passions made him admired by all who knew him. It is often said of people who led magical lives that their lives imitated art. For Rene Di Rosa life was art. His vineyard was a work of art. His aggressively modern art collection was his second vineyard. His zest for life informed all that he did. It was flattering that he was a subscriber and an avid fan of Connoisseurs’ Guide. It was infinitely more important that he was a friend whose invitations to dinner and fine wine were not to be missed and never turned down.

In the simplest of wine terms, he is one of the people, not the only one or the first, but a major personage nonetheless, in putting Carneros on the vinous map. His vineyard, Winery Lake, began gracing significant wine labels almost five decades ago back when the cold-loving varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were still substantially planted in the Napa Valley proper in locations that were too warm to make those wines as well as they could be made. Today, much of that land is in Cabernet Sauvignon and its related Bordelais brethren, while Pinot and Chardonnay have migrated to Carneros.



Di Rosa’s lasting vinous legacy can be seen both in the grapes he planted at Winery Lake and those plantings that followed him to Carneros. That is his vinous legacy, and while it will continue in respectful silence across the years, his artistic legacy will continue in full view. Di Rosa eventually sold off the vineyard and used the money to finance an amazing collection of whimsical modern art. A dinner visit to the Di Rosas eventually led into a discussion of his latest pieces-—not that he was bragging. He was not. He was exulting in the surroundings he had created for himself and his artist wife, Veronica McDonald.



Their artistic legacy continues today at the DiRosa Preserve,, a unique art museum rising behind the vineyards and filled with delights for the eye. Art as fun. Art as eye-candy. Art to delight and to extend one’s view of what art is. Rene Di Rosa died last week at the age of 91. His contributions will outlast us all.



5200 Sonoma Highway
Napa, California 94559
Phone: 707-226-5991

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