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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.

  1. You forgot the part about me asking for your job at WE…

  2. So sorry to hear about the passing of ‘one of the immortals’ . . . He truly did blaze a path of being one who could somehow balance being ‘an old school print’ critic with a ‘new world digital’ one . . . Not sure if anyone else will ever be able to make that jump again . . .

    Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire wine community, especially those few, but lucky souls who found solace everyday by reading his blogs . . .

    Thank goodness they found a plethora of unpublished ones with titles such as ‘Yes, I KNOW it’s 18% alcohol . . . but I STILL LIKE IT!’ and ‘Temecula is the next Napa’ . . .

    RIP, Mr. ’35 year old’ Heimoff, RIP . . .

  3. I see Mr. Parker is still speaking from his “I’m the only one talking here” cell phone from hell. Normally I would be looking for the mute button but on such a sad occasion I guess we can let him pretend like he matters.

    I say we proclaim this the day that the California wine industry died, I mean how are any wineries going to sell a single bottle without Steve’s reviews? Time to pack it up kids, was fun while it lasted…very sad day indeed. Charlie, I think I need a hug…

  4. Pretty funny. Nice work.

  5. Nice bit of gallow’s humor. Echoing Dude — does the resume go to Joe, Adam or somebody else at WE? 🙂

  6. good stuff actually had me for a minute or two there. Nicely played.

  7. Skipstone will be hanging our American flag at half mast for one month to mourn the loss of this iconic and influential member of our community.

  8. Steve H says:

    Since when is death funny? Kinda tasteless…REALLY!

  9. Dear Guiding Light,

    Thanks for the reminder that we are not destined to live fo evah, that the wine world is purty funny when we take a teensy step back, and that it’s April already. Where does the time go? Where does the wine go? And how about that oyster recipe??

  10. In lieu of flowers, where are we to send the wine?

  11. JonEVino says:

    NEWS FLASH: “JonEVino found hanged. Grief over death of famous wine writer may be the cause”. A note was found – “How can I possibly go on?”

  12. Such a shame….

    Piss-poor reporting, though. What the world wants to know is which wine was in the delivery truck? And what was the drinking window Steve proclaimed in his final breath? Such a consummate professional was no doubt on the clock until the very end.

  13. in steve’s honor I will push to enact a law that fines anyone up here in Oregon who publicly curses all the Californians moving to the state

  14. I am actually quite surprised to be quoted in this press release. I was sleeping at the time and have never said a blessed word about the event–sort of like the interviews that Sarah Palin supposedly conducted on Fox–only the people supposedly interviewed have never talked to her.

    And what is with the supposed comments from Robert Parker. We know he is dead. The Hosemaster of Wine told us so–which makes it true.

    There are other inaccuracies in this story as well. For one thing, Mr. Heimoff is not 35. Sure, he wishes he were 35 again, but, dead or alive, the man ain’t 35. Oh, and he does not have much hair either so the comments in the press release about his long, wavy locks are, in the words of Samuel Clemens, “greatly exaggerated”.

    However, it is true that my son, Joe Wine Dude, will be taking over for Heimoff at Wine Enthusiast. He is also going to take over for Laube at the Expectorator (Pardon The Interruption: But since when did we stop making up silly names for the Spectator) and will write under the nom de plume of Chauncey the Gardener.

    The question above: Since when is death funny? was answered years ago. Did you not ever see the movie–Pet Semetary or its prequel–Delicatessen? Or Eating Raoul? It falls under the genre: black humor, a category first invented by Al Jolson.

    So, Rest In Peace, Mr. Heimoff. Until tomorrow, when you will rise from the dead like Robert Lawrence Balzer managed to do for about three decades and Andy Blue is trying to do again as well.

  15. Whoops. Reporting not so piss-poor, just poor speed-reading. Joke’s on me.

  16. You forgot the part about your Will, where it say’s Tudor Pinot Noir should the cover story even if it’s the last thing you do : )

  17. Everything sounded plausible except the part about being 35 years old.

  18. Wow… you almost had me for a minute as well…

  19. Dave McNeilly says:

    Steve who??

  20. Jeez Charlie, retract those claws!

  21. Does this mean I can do the Blogger keynote?

  22. JonEVino says:

    NEWS UPDATE: “JonEVino rises from the dead! Oprah books JonE for final show, saying: “Like my friend JEV, I’ll probably be back.”

  23. I’d be willing to take on the ugly job of recieving all of Steve’s wine sample shipments. Mail forward to my home address.

  24. To quote myself: “Why, yes, thank you, I am *very* thirsty.”

    – Joe “Chauncey the Gardener” Roberts

  25. So sorry to hear Steve. Please feel free to redirect ALL of those wines send into you for review to Sonomawineguy, Healdsburg, CA. Check is in the mail. Sleep well.

  26. Steve, you will be missed.
    Jancis, call me.

  27. Lisa Mattson says:

    Yet another reason why you were nominated this morning for best writing in a wine blog.

  28. blahblahblog says:

    Thank goodness he’s gone and we don’t have to see his terrible blog anymore

  29. I think I need a drink. A good stiff one.

  30. I was really shaken up there for a moment. Have had a really weird week and this would have been a HUGE bummer.

    You had me going, ya basatge! 🙂

  31. John Samson says:

    …and he was buried in a 4’8″ casket.

  32. John, actually 5’5″, but this isn’t the first time you’ve been wrong, I’m sure.

  33. It’s come to my attention that The Crowd saw to it that the limo was tampered with to eliminate one of The Experts who stand in the way of the fan boys rightful place determining which wines get awarded a 90+. Now it’s on to The Connoisseur.

  34. ” Now it’s on to The Connoisseur. ”

    I think I am safe for now. I don’t blog–or ride in stretch limousines. Nobody knows what I look like except Jim Laube and he is not talking to me because I don’t find enough TCA in my wines. I’ve never met Tom Wark and Ron Washam has left the biz.

    So, yes, I am safe for now.

  35. Heimoff’s ex-wife is Jancis Robinson? Hahaha!

  36. Carlos Toledo says:

    A fine ultra-republican man, elf and moose member, rotary honoured person, Ronald Reagan medal honour, Pat Roberton’s best pals list, member of Catholic Brotherhood for Spreading the Great Words of Christ, Don’t mess with Texas founder member.

    Rest in pieces my friend. You’ll be missed by us.

  37. Carlos, you forget member, Council of Foreign Relations.

  38. no big loss

  39. Tim Heaton says:

    Carlos, I think you forgot: founding member The Tea Party movement, President and founder – Glenn Beck for President, author: Why does it feel like my head is about to explode? (inside the mind of a Tea Party intellectual), and lest we forget his greatest contribution as the cornerstone founder and President Emeritus, Sarah Palin University for the intellectually gifted and morally superior

  40. You forgot that I was Rush Limbaugh’s pharmacist.


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