I met Don only once, when we first opened our retail shop in 2006. He was one of the first winery sales representatives to visit our store. I didn’t know him personally prior to his visiting our shop. All I knew is that I really respected Ridge Vineyards and that his connection to the winery was enough to get me revved and excited that he was actually in our store, in the flesh!
He was easy-going, charming, jovial and he had a great sense of humor. He emanated that kind of energy that just made you want to be his friend. I still remember pretty clearly a couple of random, but poignant moments in our shop during his visit.
One; apparently the wine we were tasting, a Lytton Springs I believe, just wasn’t tasting right, so he promptly re-corked the bottle, shook it up and down vigorously, popped the cork, re-poured it, tasted it and then approved it for further tasting. Maybe it was an old industry trick, but it was only a few weeks that we had in been in business so it was all new and to me. It was just a humorous, physical display of actions that’s burned in my memory.
Two; I remember him talking about having “almost checked out early” a few years back when he suffered a horrible accident. He mentioned how lucky he was to be standing there in our shop. He told us about a neighbor of his who had one of those trophy wine collections that just sat idle and how he egged him on to finally open one of his aged, prized Bordeaux. He said in so many words, “life was too short.”
Although winemaker Paul Draper was the one with the high profile at Ridge, Don was just as instrumental in the winery’s success as Paul was. He was well-respected by industry people as well as countless wine consumers.
Our meeting was brief, but it was meaningful. I will not forget the visit.
Our condolences to his family. He will be missed.