Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Winemaker Don Blackburn dies at 54

By Jessica Yadegaran
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 4:27 pm in Uncategorized.

Does everyone else know Pinot Noir pioneer Don Blackburn died on April 23? I didn’t even know he had cancer.

Don was the French-trained winemaker at Emeritus Vineyards. To some, he was considered the Plato of American Pinot Noir.

According to an obituary released by his publicist, he earned a BTS with honors in viticulture and enology from the University of Montpelier, and interned in the vineyards and cellars of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

In Margaux, it reads, St. Emilion, Mersault, Alsace, Monthelie, and Vosne-Romanee, Don’s passion for wine grew. Always the scholar, he studied texts dating back to the 17th century to uncover the roots of the practical aspects of winemaking, learning techniques that we are now rediscovering with the help of technology. While in France, Don also became the first foreign correspondent for the Wine Spectator.

His 25-year winemaking career in America included winemaking at Elliston Vineyards, Bernardus Vineyards, Byington Winery and David Bruce Winery. His last post was at Emeritus Vineyards in the Russian River Valley, where his favorite vineyard has been renamed in his honor as McDonald Mountain.

Here’s my favorite part of the obit: “Don believed the finest quality a wine could aspire to was charm, not concentration, and while appreciating technology, in the final analysis he relied upon his intuition. Don never made wine “by the numbers,” instead he used intuitive metaphors, often from music and poetry, when describing his wines. For Don, a wine might be like a Vivaldi concerto or perhaps a California bikini girl.”

A celebration of Don’s life will be held at Emeritus Vineyards on June 5 at noon. Emeritus Vineyards is located at 2500 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472.

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