Acclaimed wine critic killed in freak accident
April 1 – Steve Heimoff, one of the most famous wine critics in the world, died when the stretch limousine he was riding in collided with a delivery truck carrying cases of wine. Police arriving at the scene pronounced Heimoff dead. He was 35 years old.
Heimoff had been on his way to the Wine Bloggers Conference, where he was scheduled to deliver the Keynote Address. Killed in addition to him were his driver, as well as the driver of the delivery truck.
The news stunned the wine industry. “We have lost one of the Immortals,” said fellow wine critic Robert Parker. “Steve blazed the trail, and the rest of us could only follow.” Another rising wine critic, James Laube, observed how rare it was for one of Heimoff’s kind to appear in the world. “He was definitely one of a kind. What a mind, what a palate, what a great writer. And so modest.”
Across the globe, winemakers honored Heimoff in their own ways. The Napa Valley Vintners observed a minute of silence. In Bordeaux, flags on the famous chateaux were lowered to half-staff, while along the Rhine River in Germany, wineries put black sackcloth over their windows. In Tuscany mourners filled Florence Cathedral and held a prayer vigil. At the New York restaurant Per Se, acclaimed chef Thomas Keller prepared a new oysters and pearl dish named Bijoux d’Heimoff. The Court of Master Sommeliers posthumously named Heimoff an M.S. while the Institute of Masters of Wine gave him the prestigious M.W. honor, their first ever to somebody dead. There are rumors that the Society of Wine Educators was considering making Heimoff a Certified Specialist of Wine, but a phone call to that organization resulted in a no-longer-in-service recording.
Common people were grief-stricken. Joe Roberts, a wine blogger who had a luncheon appointment with Heimoff for the next day, was in tears as he said, “Steve was my mentor, my hero. I think of Charlie Olken as my Dad, but Steve was more like my bro.” Roberts noted the irony of Heimoff’s death being caused by a collision with a wine delivery truck. “And to die like that, literally being drowned by over-oaked Chardonnay! I mean, how bizarre is that?” The truck contained a shipment of Charles Shaw Chardonnay, commonly known as Two Buck Chuck. It was on its way to a Trader Joe’s outlet just a short distance from Heimoff’s Oakland residence.
A memorial service is scheduled to be held at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. That city’s Mayor, Gavin Newsom, an old friend of Heimoff’s and himself a vintner, will deliver the eulogy. Also expected to speak are Heimoff’s ex-wife, Jancis Robinson; his former business partner, Anthony Dias Blue; and celebrity talk show host Gary Vaynerchuk. Following the service, a torchlight parade will make its way from Union Square to the peak of Mount Everest, which the Nepalese government has renamed Mount Steve. And vintners from 42 wine-producing countries announced early this morning that they will call 2010 the “Heimoff Vintage” in commemoration of the late, great critic.
Heimoff’s family requests that donations in his memory be made care of this blog. Checks or money orders only, please.