Burt Williams RIP with added remarks

I just learned Burt passed tonight. I’ll pay righteous tribute to my dear friend when I can get it together.

Sorry to hear about your friend. He made some great wines. May his memory be a blessing.

Damn… no way

A great loss to the wine community. A loss of a good man. Losing a friend is a hugh loss. My thoughts are with you.

So sorry about your loss.

So sorry to hear that Blake l. RIP one of the greatest California winemakers

A legend. Not likely to see more like him. RIP.

Wow heartbroken. One of the pioneers in the business. I recall fondly in the early days of my wine hobby back in the 90s visiting them. Had seen a front cover article on them in Spectator. Was intrigued so I visited. There was no tasting room. In the little office in the barn of Burt poured me and my wife each a full pour of I think the Olivet Lane. The first mailing list I ever joined and still have a few of the early bottles. Burt RIP you are a legend.

So sorry for the loss of your friend Blake. My condolences. A great man in the California wine business. His wines at Williams-Selyem were so special. RIP

Sorry to hear. He was a special winemaker that put pinot noir on the map. Remember getting an appointment to visit the old nondescript barn/warehouse…the one with the huge concrete tank out front, not seeing Burt or Ed but I think one of the daughters(?). Very low key place for all the accolades they were getting at the time.

Bummer, RIP.

He had a wizard’s touch with those grapes. I still long for those early W-S bottles…

My first mailing list too.

A legend! RIP. I will open a bottle tonight to remember him.

Such sad news. RIP. Wish I had a bottle of his to hand to raise a glass to him.

I interviewed Burt back in 2016, fans might find it interesting: Lunch with Burt Williams – William Kelley

Damn! So sorry to hear this. RIP

As will I

William, I have over 7 mixed cases of his wines and am happy to share any with you anytime.

Recently, I put together a long history of WS and it included your interview which was beautifully done and captured so much of the grace and charm of the man.

While in Amsterdam last month, Rusty Gaffney, the Prince of Pinot and author of his online newsletter, PinotFile, asked me to do an interview with him regarding my relationship with Burt. With time on my hands, I sat down and wrote up some thoughts of my history with Burt and his wines and our treasured friendship. It was intended to be a tribute, but now it becomes an eulogy. I have updated it to present time and enclose it herein:

Brief descriptors Burt Williams: Jovial, Genuine, Hearty, Passionate, Studious, Fun-loving, Self-taught, Helpful,

Once I got a clue, I really got interested in wine in the mid 80s and attended every wine event and tasting I could find. I had that yearn to learn and sought out those who were knowledgeable and read all the literature I could find and traveled to wine regions in the US and in other countries all over the world.

One of the people who greatly contributed to my intro into this wonderful world of wine was Antonio Gardella. Antonio was and still is a top wine rep for the Henry Wine Group in California. I would run into him while he was putting up wines and pricing stickers for various retail outlets he serviced around town and also I’d see him at many of the local wine tastings and events and in time, we became good friends. In fact, he and I started a monthly blind wine tasting group in 1989 that still exists today.

Antonio also got on the Williams Selyem customer list early on. He was receiving a bigger allocation than he desired so he asked me if I wanted any to which I said yes not knowing much about the wines nor the winemakers but trusting his judgment. That was in the late 1980s and after drinking a few bottles, I knew I had to get on the list and add more bottles to my purchases. It took some years to work my way up the list, but finally in 1990, I made it and have purchased bottles every release since. I had no idea I would ever meet Ed or Burt, but serendipity won out.

A local wine shop owner, Chris Whitcraft, who was making some garage wines also became a friend and as it turns out, he was a good friend of Burts. Chris would later on get bonded and release his own wines under the Whitcraft Winery label. The fruit was sourced in many cases through connections with Burt who also gave Chris lots of help and guidance in wine making decisions. Occasionally, I would see the 2 of them out and about and met Burt during some of those occasions, but only in introduction.

Chris had a good stash of WS wines and treated our tasting group to a non-blind, 12 bottle tasting and every bottle showed brilliantly and impressed beyond any new world Pinot Noir I’d had. I became an even bigger fan of WS and could’t get enough which is still true today of his wines of which I have over 7 mixed cases of Burt made wines and counting.

Ed and Burt sold in March of 1998 due to Ed`s health issues and Burt and Jan now had some spare time and enough money to buy some real estate which ended up also being in 1998 in the Santa Barbara Riviera area known for its stellar city, mountain and ocean views. They retained their primary home in Forestville and drove to SB a few times a year. It was soon thereafter that I again met Burt, but this time, we arranged to do a dinner out and the rest is history. Our friendship was in the beginning stages and has grown over the years ever since. In fact, I consider him one of my best friends ever.

Burt and I shared a lot of wine together, mostly his. What a treat is was for me to take wine he made and share it with him and get all of the details about the vintage, wine and more. He had and still had up until his death, an encyclopedic memory for all of the details about each and every harvest and was so willing to talk about every aspect of it at any moment`s notice. He gladly shared info that many would consider privileged, top secret, only for the firm kind of stuff. He would take me from the macro to the micro literally in every aspect of winemaking, vineyard management, choice harvesting time and how determined, winemaking procedures, etc. Some of our wine speak sessions would last a good part of a day. I just sat back and listened with joy for the information and gratitude for the opportunity to receive it from such an icon.

Our relationship expanded and our conversations branched out and we shared close up and personal things that one doesn’t share all that much of. We reached a point of total trust and respect for each other and enjoyed every moment we had to the fullest.

As knowledgeable as Burt was about all things wine, he had equal in depth knowledge about other topics such as mushrooms for which he was an avid hunter with private sources for the kind he preferred, grilling and barbecuing, cooking and seasoning; crafting skillfully made useful objects that accommodated a particular need in lieu of buying something commericlal that didnt really get the job donefrom wine processing to home repair needs,

Knowing Burt also came with knowing his family. His son, Fred, {Seven Lions} died before I had a chance to meet him, but daughters Katie and Margi {Brogan Cellars} were a delight to meet and get to know and I consider them family today. Wife Jan passed in ​2011.

A few years later​, he remarried to his current wife, Rebecca.

One of the most reverred times every year was the 4th of July as Burt and Jan held an intimate celebration in their SB home which offered a fantastic view of the SB harbor where the fireworks displays occurred late in the evening. About 10 of us including daughters Margi and Katie would do a pot luck spread with numerous bottles of wine, most from Burt and some from Margi {Brogan Cellars} and most from magnum. Burt had good foresight to make and keep lots of mags and he would pull out a few each 4th. He also delighted in grilling and barbecuing meats any other dishes and the 4th was his extra special time to shine. I would always go early in the day because I did not want to miss out on any wine nor cut short quality time with the "family’. Chris Whitcraft used to join as well and bring some of his treasures. It was the best time, year after year after year.

After Burt bought and developed his Anderson Valley property, Morning Dew Ranch, I would travel there and stay a few days. Some of those times were during the Anderson Valley Wine Festival in the late Spring. We would travel over to the coast and dine and explore Mendocino and small towns nearby. Whatever we did, it aways included drinking fine wine including lots of WS dandies, most in mags.

Burt was really not all that much in to boasting or being honored about his achievements. As he repeatedly said, “I just wanted to make good wine that I could drink and if there was any left over, sell it to others”. It was rare for him to attend wine auctions and outings. I had been associated with another dear friend, Archie McLaren, since the early stages of his Central Coast Wine Classic and I contributed to the charity wine auction with life style auction lots and collectible wines. I approached Burt every once in a while to see if he would be amenable to participating in an auction lot that I would put together featuring his wines with him in attendance and he finally relented. I arranged for it to be held at the luxurious San Ysidro Ranch restaurant, The Stonehouse, in their special dining event wine cellar room. I supplied about 10 of the wines and Burt added in a few more although that was not part of the deal. Burt provided detailed remarks about each wine which was especially appreciated by the winemakers in attendance. After some fierce bidding, the lot went for a bundle, $16,000. It still gets a lot of conversation from those who attended and others who heard about it.

In the recent years and up until 2019, Burt and Rebecca, Roelanda and I have dined in either home or go out together often. My MO is to have a good quality champagne and at least one of Burt`s Pinots for such get togethers and he would always ravel off the nomenclature and facts about his wine to my delight. While the ladies would do women’s speak, Burt and I would usually do wine speak. Every time I was with him, it was furthering my education. I made notes, mentally and written. If I had ever extended my passion for wine and become a winemaker, I wold have had the tutelage of probably the finest mentor anyone could ever want.

To be continued…


Please excuse typos and unintended auto-corrects

So sorry to hear this. One of the truly great winemakers, and so formative in establishing new world Pinot Noirs place in the world of wine.

From my own experience a great wine maker and from all accounts a great person.