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Parks Redwine, owner of NorthWest Wine Summit competition, dies in Atlanta
Hill Parks Redwine II, a longtime ambassador for the Pacific Northwest wine industry as owner of the NorthWest Wine Summit Wine Competition, died of cancer Sunday, June 3, in Atlanta, Ga., at the age of 70.
Redwine, who routinely carried a copy of his birth certificate in his wallet to prove the origin of his name, founded the NorthWest Wine Summit in 1996, an event he staged for most of its history at Timberline Lodge on Oregon’s Mount Hood.
“My worst fears have come to be,” Chuck Reininger, co-owner/winemaker of Reininger Winery in Walla Walla, Wash., said when told of the news Monday. “Oh, man, Parks is one of the most genuine, sweetest men I know. He really believed in the Northwest wine industry and did so much to promote it. He loved the people and the traveling to meet them. The Northwest has a lot to be thankful to him for in terms of the exposure and the attention that he’s brought to our industry.”
One of Redwine’s longtime friends in Atlanta, retired Navy pilot Tom Reagan, told Great Northwest Wine, “He loved that region y’all live in. He absolutely loved it and was very dedicated to it.”
Redwine died on the same day as his late wife’s birthday. Funeral home services are being provided by H.M. Patterson & Son-Spring Hill Chapel of Atlanta. Earlier this year, his wife of 45 years, Emily died at the age of 69 after suffering with Alzheimer’s for several years. They are survived by two sons.
He began struggling with his health this spring. He was hospitalized in British Columbia and again in Oregon while staging the two legs of his international Northwest judging.
“I asked him how he was doing when we last talked, and Parks told me, ‘I’m not going to lie to you, I’m doing awful. I’m so heartbroken by the loss of Emily,’ ” Reininger said. “He mentioned that he wasn’t feeling all that well. He had a wonderful Southern gentry about him and was such a pleasure to be around.”
Redwine pursues wine rather than banking
Redwine’s ancestors helped establish Farmers and Merchants Bank of Fayetteville, Ga., in 1906. Its assets reportedly were valued at $100 million when it was sold in 1989 to Barnett Banks, which ultimately became part of Bank of America a decade later.
“He was a very modest person about it,” Reagan said. “I never saw an example of him trying to show off.”
Rather than pursue a career in the banking industry, Redwine’s literary ability and knowledge of wine led him to contributing a wine column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1976 to 1981 under the under the nom de plume Richard P. McKenzie. During that time, he began to judge wine competitions throughout the world, a résumé that included the Los Angeles County Fair, the International Wine Challenge in Bordeaux, the Orange Wine Fair in the Rhône Valley and the Oregon State Fair.
Wine journalist Dan Berger, who is based in the Sonoma County city of Santa Rosa, Calif., often judged with Redwine at Wine Press Northwest magazine’s year-end Platinum Judging in the Columbia Valley town of Kennewick, Wash. Berger recalled their first meeting during a trade event at historic Simi Winery in Healdsburg more than 30 years ago.
“I saw his name on his name plate and said, ‘You just made that up, right?’ ” Berger recalled with a chuckle.
Redwine often would jokingly — so it would seem — in his Southern drawl refer to the Civil War as “The War of Yankee Aggression,” but his first-hand knowledge of the world of wine rarely was unchallenged.
“He was an interesting character,” Berger said. “You could call him a walking encyclopedia of post-Prohibition California winemaking. He was fascinated by the esoterica, of the ins and outs of California winemaking from about 1940 through the ’70s, and he was still current in that knowledge because of his competition connections.”
The obscure red grape Cabernet Pfeffer captured Redwine’s attention enough to prompt him to own tiny Pfenix Winery in San Miguel, Calif. A NorthWest Wine Summit dinner ritual was an eloquent and detailed 10- to 20-minute speech by Redwine about the grape variety, its vineyard sourcing and his pet project that spanned just a few vintages. Production was minuscule, yet he offered generous pours to anyone interested in experiencing his wine.
“Cabernet Pfeffer was a classic example,” Berger said. “And he could tell you how many people in California were making Lagrein. That’s the sort of stuff he was interested in. He had an expertise that generally you would think about only being available to Californians. His knowledge was always surprising to me because he lived on the East Coast.”
Atlanta importer launches NW competition in 1996
Since 1990, Redwine served as President of the Atlanta Improvement Co., a cleverly named company founded in 1978 licensed to import wine, beer and spirits, and his global connections helped him with his wine competitions. They included the VinoChallenge International in Atlanta.
During its 22-year history, Redwine grew the NorthWest Wine Summit to include wine, cider, sake and spirits produced in Alberta, Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Saskatchewan, Washington and Wyoming.
Walter Gehringer, winemaker for Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery in Oliver, BC, said Redwine’s death marked “an end of an era.”
“It’s sad to hear this,” Gehringer said. “He had an appreciation for the full range of wine and a fondness for everything. He had a wealth of experience when it came to tasting, and he experienced a lot.”
Gehringer, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most decorated winemakers, noted that Redwine could be relentless when it came to recruiting winemakers to help judge his competitions.
“He was actually in our wine shop this winter looking after this year’s competition,” Gehringer said. “He’s been hounding me to be a judge forever. One time, he asked if we could have dinner, but I already had plans that night. So he asked about the next night, and I told him that I was on my way over to the coast. He was so insistent that he said, ‘I could have dinner with you over there.’ He was very persistent and sincere in his efforts.”
The lengths that Redwine went to support the Northwest wine industry were remarkable, Gehringer said.
“What really surprised me about him is that he would hop in his car and drive all the way out here,” Gehringer said. “The guy was really unbelievable in that way. He split up his competition, judging wines up here in B.C. and down in Oregon as he tried to accommodate everybody’s challenges.”
Redwine recruited Northwest winemakers to judge
Reininger, a former climbing guide on Mount Rainier, was among the many winemakers Redwine cajoled into judging the NorthWest Wine Summit at storied Timberline Lodge.
“I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to judge for him,” Reininger said. “It was great experience, and it was fun. He was not solely a Northwest wine advocate. He could talk about wine from anywhere in the world. He loved wine, and he always had a little story about any type of wine, its history or the people who made it. He really was a walking encyclopedia, a very kind and generous man, and he really reached out to include people.”
There also was Redwine’s unique practice of purchasing expensive wines from famous Northwest wineries and slotting them in front of the NorthWest Wine Summit panels. After the competition, should one of those wines have been voted a gold medal from a set of his judges, Redwine would contact the winery. If they were willing to pay the entry fee, then he would publish the results of that gold medal.
“He was just trying to make it an all-encompassing judging of wineries from the Northwest,” Reininger said. “And the wineries that did enter received as fair as an opportunity as possible. He was so unassuming and very quiet, never looking to be a grandstander.”
Judging panels often included wine professionals from beyond the Northwest. They were responsible for their own travel costs and were encouraged to bring one or two bottles of a special wine. Once they arrived at the competition venue, food and lodging expenses were covered.
“He didn’t want only people fixed with a Northwest palate to be judging Northwest wines,” Reininger said. “And a testament to his competition is that one year an apple dessert wine from BC won best of show. I think that’s pretty darn cool. He made a sincere effort to make his competition as clean and fair as possible.”
No one was allowed to judge the NorthWest Wine Summit more than once, although Redwine made an exception in 2015 when he returned to Timberline Lodge to commemorate the 20th year of his competition. It often would take months for Redwine to make public the final results of the Summit, and Reininger playfully pointed out that his friend also had a propensity for losing track of time while traveling.
“One time, when he was spending the weekend at our house, he called from somewhere in Montana,” Reininger recalled. “ ‘Chuck, I’m running a little bit late. I know was supposed to be there around 4 or 5 o’clock, but don’t expect me for dinner. I’ll be there in two or three hours.’
“He was over in the Bitterroot Valley and I just started laughing,” Reininger said. “I said, ‘Parks, you are in the West. You are least six hours away, and if you take the back roads that you like to do, that’s more like eight hours.’ He showed up at about 12:30 that night, but that’s how he loved to travel. Taking the back roads, seeing the scenery and learning the history.”
‘Southern gent’ related debates over wine
Andy Perdue, wine columnist for The Seattle Times, was an editor and wine writer at the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald when he got an invitation to learn more about the NorthWest Wine Summit.
“I met H. Parks around 1999, after we had launched Wine Press Northwest magazine,” Perdue said. “He took me to dinner in Kennewick, opening several top-tier Burgundies. As editor of the magazine, he wanted me involved in the Northwest Wine Summit.
“The first year, I helped write up notes on each wine tasted. In subsequent years, I was involved in tracking results, helping pre-evaluate wines, or organizing the backroom, judging and recruiting judges,” Perdue continued. “He was a true character, and we enjoyed a nice friendship in subsequent years. I always appreciated how this Southern gent had a passion for Northwest wines. That is how I hope he’ll be remembered.”
Gregg McConnell, editor of Wine Press Northwest, said, “Parks was a mentor and a friend. He was the ultimate Southern gentleman, modest in his brilliance, gracious in his encounters with others and admirably devoted to his late wife, Emily. I will miss him, but the knowledge he is again holding Emily’s hand warms my heart.”
Stephen Reustle of Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg, Ore., has served as a silent judge at Wine Press Northwest’s Platinum Judging and enjoyed witnessing the back-and-forth between Berger and Redwine.
“I did not know him well but had a great respect for his intellectual curiosity,” Reustle said. “We had a deep debate and discussion one evening at the Platinum Judging a few years back about faith and religion. He had a quick mind and love for debate, as well as a strong opinion about most everything. I sent him a biblical commentary by John MacArthur on the book of John. I pray it had an impact.”
An uncertain future for NorthWest Wine Summit
Reagan developed a business relationship and then a friendship with Redwine through the Atlanta Improvement Co., and they collaborated on a number of international wine competitions, including the NWWS. Redwine was unable to orchestrate this year’s final leg after he was hospitalized in Hood River just as the three-day judging was to begin April 29.
“This is heartbreaking news,” said Victor Palencia of Palencia Wine Co. “Mr. Redwine will be dearly missed, and I was honored to be a judge in his most recent competition. I was looking forward to seeing him so I could show him a picture from nine years ago of a very special day with the Zerbas after we both won multiple awards at his competition. He fell ill, and I didn’t get a chance to visit with him during the competition.
“He was a true advocate for our Northwest wine industry and a persistent wine judge recruiter,” Palencia added. “May he rest in peace.”
One of Palencia’s fellow judges, Seattle-area wine auctioneer Tom DiNardo, jumped in to organize and complete the 2018 competition on behalf of Redwine.
“He had cancer in his kidneys and in his bladder, and it had spread to his back and his lungs,” Reagan said.
Friends noted that Redwine began to complain about pain near one of his kidneys in January 2017 and underwent biopsies several months apart. The first two came up as benign. This spring, a third biopsy revealed cancer, and it had begun to spread. About a month ago, Reagan said, a close friend in Georgia arranged air transport from Hood River to Atlanta for Redwine. He immediately was hospitalized, spending four weeks at Piedmont Atlanta where a steady stream of friends visited with him. A number of them referenced his sense of loneliness since January.
Soon after returning from the West Coast in May, Redwine handed the reins of his import business to Michelle Schreck, vice president of sales for the Atlanta Improvement Co. Reagan predicted she will move forward with the NorthWest Wine Summit.
“I would bet that she’s going to take it to the next level, even though he’s gone,” Reagan said.
Reininger said, “Parks would call me whenever he was coming through Walla Walla. Normally, we’d get together. I’m just brokenhearted that we couldn’t get together this time.”