Wine and the Meaning of Life

JimBoLast week Jim Barrett, the founder of Chateau Montelena, one of Napa Valley’s and California’s most iconic and important wineries, died.

Jim’s son, Bo, offered the following observation on his father’s death:

“My dad died of a life well-lived.”

I suppose there are other, more sentimental, more earnest things that could be said about a recently departed soul. One might mention their contribution to their community, their rock solid friendship, their family ties. One could acknowledge their accomplishments.

But this statement by Bo, about his father Jim, strikes me as just about the best thing that could be said about the recently passed. Living life well isn’t the easiest thing. Surely it means different things to different people. But even so, this acknowledgment strikes at the heart of the singular dilemma of human life: There are no second chances and it is easily wasted.

I met Mr. Barrett a couple of times, but he wouldn’t remember me. And yet his well lived life impacted mine in a number of ways just as it did countless others. He did a great deal, more than most others, to help put California wine and Napa Valley on the map. This will certainly be part of his impressive legacy as is, of course, the iconic Chateau Montelena and its wines. But now he ought to be remembered for something else: Raising a son with the good sense to be able to recognize the real meaning of life.

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10 Responses

  1. Bill McIver - March 19, 2013

    Tom, you may not remember or have been enough involved with Family Winemakers when I was in great dispute with Patrick Campbell over FWC policy and damaging FWC internally. Bo Barrett stepped in as president, calmed the waters, presided over FWC’s rise from adolescence to maturity, and, in my opinion, saved FWC.
    Jim Barrett was a close friend and taught Sandra and me many industry lessons in marketing and politics. We and the industry are the better for Jim’s contributions.

  2. Erica Valentine - March 20, 2013

    Great post Tom. And also wonderful story from Bill McIver. The wine industry is possibly one of the most life-enriching professions to be in. We work with nature, create deliciousness with craft and a bit of science, and then savor our creation with family and friends, old and new. Hard if not impossible to think of anything better than that.

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