The deaths last week of Jack Davies and Maynard Amerine--two men who did as much as anyone to create the California wine industry--continue the gradual passing of a pioneering era.
Davies, 74, who established Schramsberg Vineyards in 1965, and Amerine, 86, founder of the department of wine making at UC Davis in 1934, were both men of astounding vision, restless individuals who were doers more than philosophers.
Amerine, who had suffered from Alzheimer's disease, worked tirelessly for the California wine renaissance in its early days, the 1950s and 1960s, teaching wine appreciation courses, creating a university curriculum that would be emulated around the world and pushing for funding to help a fledgling industry grow.
Davies, who died in his sleep after a long fight with a degenerative muscular disease, battled tirelessly to protect viticulture in the Napa Valley, taking on powerful economic forces by stumping for a controversial measure that would prevent development and protect grapevines.
The project he favored, the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, is nearly 30 years old and is the result of the single most important piece of legislation enacted to protect Napa Valley's grapevines--vines now considered among the world's finest, thanks in large part to Amerine's quest for perfection.