Donn Reisen, the president of top Californian winery Ridge and a firm advocate for the Zinfandel variety, has died aged 60.
Reisen, who joined Ridge in 1977, is credited with running the business of the winery behind the more public figure of Paul Draper, its winemaker and CEO.
He was found dead in his car in Portola Valley, 13km from the Ridge winery, on Monday evening. Although the cause of death has not officially been confirmed, it is understood that he died following a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Donn Paul Reisen, a pyschology student and budding winemaker, joined Ridge as a part-time cellarhand. Four years later, in 1981, he was made marketing and sales director.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he travelled throughout the US selling Ridge wines and was widely respected for ‘maintaining Ridge’s stature in the face of upstart competitors and changing tastes’.
He was also a firm supporter of the Zinfandel variety. One of the founding members of the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers trade group (ZAP) and, later, serving as president and member of board of directors, Reisen drew parallels between the grape and American culture and origins.
‘America is a melting pot of cultures and Zinfandel, like the European immigrants to the US, is part of our American history,’ he told the Chronicle.
He became president of Ridge in 2001. He was, however, badly injured in a road accident several years later.
Paul Draper, the public face of Ridge, paid tribute to Reisen, saying his humour and friendship ‘touched everyone he came into contact with.’
‘We will miss him,’ he added. ‘He left the world a better place for having lived. A memorial service to celebrate his life is being planned for a future date.’
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn.
Written by Oliver Styles, and agencies