Saintsbury Winery Co-Founder Richard Ward Passes

Saintsbury Winery Co-Founder Richard Ward Passes

June 6, 2017 Comments (0)

One of the great innovators of Napa Valley wine has died. Richard Ward, an early pioneer of Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay passed away May 27 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 67.

Ward helped put Napa Valley on the map for Pinot Noir and Chardonnays. In the 1970s, Napa Valley was rapidly gaining the reputation it enjoys today as one of the premier wine regions in the world. At the time, Pinot Noir was not popular in America, and experts believed the Burgundy grapes were not suited to Napa. Cabernet Sauvignon was king.

However, where others saw obstacles, Ward saw opportunity and, in 1981, Ward and David Graves founded Saintsbury Winery. Ward and Graves worked tirelessly to develop relationships with important Carneros growers, ensuring a supply of top-quality grapes.

Saintsbury Winery, named for George Saintsbury, a British writer and wine connoisseur, produced an inexpensive Pinot branded as Garnet. Garnet garnered huge sales and created interest in Napa Valley Pinots. Demand for Garnet fueled growth, as the company expanded from just a few vineyards to many single vineyards bottling wines. Saintsbury Winery sold Garnet in 2011 to allow the company to focus on premium wines.

The success of Saintsbury helped fuel national enthusiasm for Pinots and Chardonnays from the Napa region, helping to further enhance the area’s reputation for producing quality wines. In 2014, Napa had more than 3.3 million visitors and generated $1.63 billion from tourism. The wine culture Ward and others helped create are a cornerstone of the region’s prosperity.



Ward was a North Carolina native, born at Camp Lejeune in 1950 to Marine Corps pilot Lt. Col. Richard A. Ward Sr. and Ella Meadows. Ward spent most of his youth in North Carolina and, later, Washington, D.C., where he graduated from the prestigious Sidwell Friends High School. Ward earned a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering from Tufts University. He later studied enology at UC Davis in California.

It’s little wonder that a wine aficionado like Ward was a true renaissance man. In addition to his passion for wine, Ward pursued a variety of eclectic interests, including gardening, barbecuing, and music. Widely read and a voracious consumer of news, Ward frequently engaged guests on a wide range of topics, including politics, world history, architecture, and even chicken breeds.

Ward served on the boards of directors for a number of wine and community-related organizations, including the Napa Valley Vintners, di Rosa art preserve, Napa Valley Opera House, California Wine Institute, Tower Road Wine Co-op, and di Rosa art preserve.

Ward, who had long struggled with cancer, died at UCSF Medical Center as a result of complications following a bone marrow transplant. Ward had been fighting a blood cancer he developed after receiving radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

Wired For Wine, an online seller of wine and wine accessories, mourns the death of Richard Ward. Consumers can share Ward’s passion for Pinots and Chardonnays with wines available from the company’s online store.

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