Richard Ward, co-founder of Saintsbury Winery, advocate for the Napa Valley and champion of fine Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Carneros region died Saturday. He was 67 years old.
Ward died at UCSF Medical Center from complications following a bone marrow transplant. He was battling therapy-related Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a blood cancer he developed after receiving radiation for prostate cancer, which he fought for 13 years.
Ward and his business partner David Graves founded Saintsbury in 1981 and decided to focus on Burgundian varieties in the cool southern parts of Napa Valley. “We decided to make Pinot Noir, which was not a very popular variety then, it was a great challenge, but we felt if we could be successful, we could be a bigger fish in a small pond,” Richard said.
Today Saintsbury is highly regarded as a producer of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
“Dick was one of my favorite wine people,” said wine writer Jancis Robinson. “Focused on showing the world how fine California Pinot Noir could be, he had a world view, a keen intelligence, and never took himself too seriously—despite his good looks. He was great company. We will miss him a great deal.”
He served on the boards of directors of the California Wine Institute and Napa Valley Vintners.
In addition to his passion for the wine business, Ward was a lover of modern art, excellent writing, music and most especially good friends and conversation. His musical tastes ranged from Wagner to Neil Young to The Black Keys.
Ward was born on Feb. 5, 1950 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col Richard A. Ward Sr. and Ella Meadows. He grew up in North Carolina and in the Washington, D.C. area, where he graduated from Sidwell Friends High. He earned a structural engineering degree from Tufts University in Boston and moved to California to study enology at UC Davis.
He is survived by his wife Linda Reiff and two children.