June 27, 2006
Napa Valley Loses a Pioneer

Pioneering Napa Valley winemaker Al Brounstein has died at 86. In 1967, Brounstein, a native Canadian, bought land on Diamond Mountain just outside of Calistoga and a year later founded Diamond Creek Vineyards, believed to be the first California winery devoted solely to cabernet sauvignon.

He divided his Diamond Mountain property into three distinct vineyards, and released a separate cabernet sauvignon from each - Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow and Volcanic Hill. He soon added a fourth vineyard, Lake; the 1978 cabernet sauvignon from Lake is believed to be the first California wine to sell for $100 per bottle, laying the foundation for dozens of small-production, high-priced boutique wines that followed.

Brounstein died Monday of complications from Parkinson's disease. A celebration of his life is being planned in late July at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.

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