remembering René di Rosa (1919-2010)
When I read that one of Napa’s larger-than-life wine personalities, René di Rosa, had died, it brought back vivid memories of the man. (You can read a news report on him here). I remember visiting this Carneros pioneer in the early 1980s and tasting some of the vineyard-designated wines made from the grapes that came from his Winery Lake property. Nose in glass, I cautiously called one sample “interesting.”
“Interesting?” he bellowed. “I call it miraculous!” He sold 250 acres of his highly-regarded vineyard to Seagram’s, and plowed the profits into his other passion, contemporary West Coast art, creating an art park and museum that opened in 1997.
I looked to see if I had any bottles left in my cellar that carried the Winery Lake designation, and found a treasure: a half-bottle he’d given me of a 1985 late-harvest Riesling commemorating his last day in the vineyard, with a label done (if memory serves) by his late wife, Veronica. I was dubious about how this 25-year old wine might have aged, but its 35% residual sugar and tart acidity—suitable metaphors for di Rosa’s charm and biting wit—kept this dark honey-colored wine fresh, deep, apricot-y, and as lingering as my memories of the man.