I didn’t know Donn, at least not personally. We had never met. He lived in Napa, and I in Santa Barbara. He started a winery and I started wine writing. My most recent mention of Chappellet wines was May 13th, in a Tweet about the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which hit over 1,000 impressions. Donn Chappellet passed away on May 22nd at age 84 – too young by my estimation.
I have included Chappellet wines in a variety of articles; for The Hollywood Reporter, IntoWine.com, and most recently for Planet Experts about wineries that support earth-friendly practices writing, “In Napa, Chappellet Vineyard began in the early 1980s (long before the term ‘sustainable’ was even used), to plant cover crops for soil conservation and erosion prevention. In 2012, their 102-acre vineyard earned its organic certification from the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Chappellet has a 20,000-square-foot solar photovoltaic system that generates 100% of the winery’s energy needs. They also installed a state-of-the-art water processing system that allows the winery to return nearly 100% of their processed water (about one million gallons each year) to the vineyard for irrigation.”
I included Donn in my IntoWine.com’s Second Annual “Top 100 MostInfluential People in the U.S. Wine Industry,” listing him as #94, writing, “Chappellet was the first winery to pioneer high-elevation vineyard planting, establishing mountain-grown Cabernets as some of California’s most coveted wines. The winery has also served as an incubator for some of California’s legendary winemaking talents, including Phil Togni, Joe Cafaro, Tony Soter, Helen Turley, Mia Klein, Cathy Corison and current winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus. Chappellet has been lauded by every major wine magazine.”
“Dad was the kindest, most thoughtful person,” son Cyril Chappellet said in a press release. “He was our rock, our mentor, and an inspiration, not just to our entire family, but to so many others as well. He was also humble beyond belief. Despite everything he accomplished, he never took the credit. He always preferred to give others the stage. Along with my mom, my dad created the foundation that our family has been building on for the past 50 years. He believed that the best was still yet to come for Chappellet. Now it is our turn to honor that dream, and his wonderful legacy.”
And what better words can be said of someone’s passing – the idea that the best is still out there, perhaps just beyond reach, but likely within reach of another generations. If you haven’t had any of Chappellet wines, do try one, from their Chennin Blanc, or Malbec, Petite Sirah or Chardonnay to the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($60), and raise a glass to a man you never met, one who made the world better in a number of ways you never knew about – something we can all strive for. Godspeed Donn.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider donating in the name of Donn Chappellet to the Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County or to the St. Helena Hospital Foundation.
Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County
PO Box 2571 Napa, CA 94558
St. Helena Hospital Foundation
10 Woodland Road
St. Helena, CA 94574