Wednesday, April 24, 2013

RIP George Vare

Our dear friend, George Vare, recently passed away.  Many stories (see The Wine Spectator; The Napa Register;  The Terroirist) have eloquently told the story of the life of George Vare; a story that includes his many achievements, and they were truly remarkable.

So we just want to add a bit about the impact George has had on our lives, how much he meant to us, and how much we already miss him.

Steve met George when he was first getting started as a viticultural consultant in Napa. George was running things at Luna Vineyards, and Luna hired Steve to help with their vineyards. Then George hired Steve to help him with his own vineyard, and that is where we were introduced to George, his wife Elsa, and Ribolla gialla. George was incredibly passionate about this odd variety, and Steve had never seen any other grape grow with such a crazy growth habit. So after a couple of years, George and Elsa took Steve and George's winemaker at the time, Abe Schoener, to Friuli, Italy to learn how to grow this ancient grape variety and make the wine.

This was in 2005, and on that trip, Steve had an epiphany about what is possible with white wine, and the wines of Friuli have been an inspiration for our own wines ever since. When Steve returned from Italy we were lucky enough to get some Ribolla gialla from the Vare Vineyard for our MATTHIASSON White Wine; and this is wine that really put us on the map.

Steve racking the 2005 Red Wine at the "winery"
we shared with George in a warehouse in Napa
George took Steve under his wing, continued to mentor us about the business, and let us make our 2005-2007 vintages in his warehouse/garage of a bonded winery in exchange for Steve helping him in the vineyard. These were lean times for MATTHIASSON; we didn't have a lot of wine to sell and we were expanding, and the only reason we were able to stay in business was because of this arrangement.

Over the years, George and Elsa have become good friends. Every time people have the chance to taste the MATTHIASSON White Wine with us, we tell the story about George and the Ribolla gialla. The day that we found out that George was nearing the end of his life, we both had tastings with wine buyers. That day, it was very hard for both of us to tell that story; we both got chocked up and almost cried. Steve was fortunate enough to be able to say goodbye to him.
L to R: Nathan Roberts, Abe Schoener, George Vare, Dan Petroski,
Steve Matthiasson, Duncan Meyer: just a few of the younger
generation that George influenced

He passed away that same evening and since then we've told the story about George and the Ribolla gialla a number of times. It's a bit surreal. We talk about him as if he were still alive. We haven't figured out how to adjust the story that we've told so many times. In time that will come. But in the meantime, please bear with us, as we pause and our voices crack, and we continue the legend of our dear friend.

George, we will miss most the twinkle in your eye and the lift in your step.


Thank you Pablo Abuliak for allowing the use of these photos.


  1. Thank you, Steve and Jill. You and your family were very special to George. Surreal, indeed. George is the only father I ever knew and even as each day is a little lighter, and I sense that time is my healer, the loss will always be there.
    Now, I feel George with me in spirit and in my heart and it gives me strength. He's sailing with the angels and sending us love from above. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to him. I miss him terribly and find solace knowing his legacy in the wine industry and the Ribolla he adored continues through you.

  2. Thanks for sharing with us....:-)
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