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Napa Valley mourns the passing of Margaret Duckhorn

Margaret Duckhorn passed away Saturday at the age of 83, peacefully in her St. Helena, California home.

The eponymous winery started by her and her former husband Dan, Duckhorn Vineyards, was founded in 1976. The brand would be among the first to feature Merlot as more than merely a blending grape. Duckhorn helped ignite America’s love for the grape.

Born in New York State, Margaret travelled much throughout her life, growing up in a military family. Her collegiate studies would lead her to Germany where she would discover a love for wine. Upon returning to the US she would complete three degrees from UC San Francisco and become a public health nurse for the city of Berkeley, California.

Looking for an escape from life in the big city, Margaret and Dan left the Bay Area for Napa in the mid-1970s. Upon arriving in Napa Valley, Margaret balanced her role as a school nurse with helping get Duckhorn Vineyards off the ground in 1976, filing the permits and paperwork necessary.

From the outset Margaret would spend her days sorting fruit and assisting Duckhorn’s first winemaker, Tom Rinaldi. Over time, Duckhorn Vineyards became one of Napa’s founding names, driven by Margaret’s commitment to the industry and her steadfast belief in Napa Valley.

As the industry grew, her commitment grew alongside it. Margaret was a founding member of Women for WineSense, a past board member of the American Institute of Wine & Food, past president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, and past chairman of the board of California Wine Institute.

Margaret viewed Napa as her home, a place that she had chosen to raise a family, and so stewardship and commitment to the future of Napa Valley were real and felt. Napa Valley was home for her, her family and her community.

Margaret is survived by her three children – Kellie, John and David – her seven grandchildren and two siblings.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

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