Famous Napa Farmer Herb Lamb Passes Away

An influential grape grower, Lamb co-founded one of the valley’s first agricultural chemical businesses.

The Napa Valley is mourning the loss of one of its most famous farmers, Herb Lamb, co-owner of Herb Lamb Vineyards and the co-founder of Napa Valley Ag Supply. He passed away on Wednesday, December 10 at the age of 64.

A graduate of Napa High, Lamb went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in soil science and met his wife, Jennifer. He returned to Napa in 1975 to work as a vineyard consultant and later became a partner at Napa Valley Ag Supply—one of the valley’s first agricultural chemical businesses.

“He had the greatest sense of humor but didn’t realize he was funny,” said Emma K. Morris, who worked with Lamb and considered him a friend. “He knew how to live life to the fullest.”

Indeed, Lamb loved cooking, fishing and the Manhattan cocktail. He was known to enjoy his wine in an old fashioned glass, with a cigar not far from reach. A people person, Lamb knew every gate code, vineyard manager, winery owner and ranch dog in the valley.

“He had a gruff appearance, but he could get along with anybody,” said Matt Morris, a Napa Valley filmmaker and photographer. “He had an amazing passion for the Napa Valley… I remember a dozen times we’d be sitting at the table after a meal and he would draw a circle with his finger and say there’s no other place, within a 60-mile radius, that has better food and wine than we do, we have everything in this little pocket, this is paradise. He always appreciated what was here,” he said.

The Lambs bought their first vineyard site, Herb Lamb Vineyards, in 1987—a seven-acre rocky spot in the foothills of Howell Mountain, with an eye toward growing cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon. They planted one year later and began selling grapes throughout Napa.

“Knowing Herb and Jennifer Lamb means you have an in with the salt of the earth people who make this world a better place,” said Karen Williams, proprietor of ACME Fine Wines in St. Helena.

In 1997, the duo debuted their own label, HL Vineyards, and in 2001, a second label called Two Old Dogs. The latter was named after his two black Labs, Maggie and Camo.

Lamb leaves behind his wife, Jennifer, daughters Meghan Lamb and Melissa Baucom, granddaughter Sterley (named for Lamb’s mother) and his sister, Nancy. Donations in his honor may be made to St. Helena Preschool for All or Napa Valley Hospice.

Published on December 11, 2014
Topics: Napa Valley, Obituaries
About the Author
Virginie Boone
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from California.

Contributing Editor Virginie Boone has been with Wine Enthusiast since 2010, and reviews the wines of Napa and Sonoma. Boone began her writing career with Lonely Planet travel guides, which eventually led to California-focused wine coverage. She contributes to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine, and is a regular panelist and speaker on wine topics in California and beyond. Email: vboone@wineenthusiast.net

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