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05.14.2014  
 

Noted winemaker Bob Sessions dies

Bob Sessions, the pioneering vintner best known for his work for more than 41 years at Hanzell Vineyards, died peacefully surrounded by family in Sonoma on Tuesday, May 13, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 82 years old. 

A public celebration of his life will take place on June 8; details to be announced at a later time. Donations in Sessions’s name may be made to Pet’s Lifeline, 19686 Eigth Street E., Sonoma, Calif. or the Sebastiani Theater Foundation, PO Box 874, also in Sonoma. 

Sessions graduated from the University of California, Berkley in 1957 and a few years later, in 1964, his career in winemaking began when he took a position as manager and winemaker at Mayacamas Vineyards located at the top of Mount Veeder. It was during this time that he first met R. Bradford (Brad) Webb, founding winemaker at Hanzell Vineyards.

While assisting his good friend Warren Winiarski with the opening of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Sessions was approached by Webb to interview for the position of winemaker and general manager at Hanzell Vineyards, an opportunity he was quoted as calling “a once in a lifetime.”

He first assumed the role of winemaker and general manager of Hanzell Vineyards in 1973, and always took to heart the dreams and visions of its founder, Ambassador James D. Zellerbach, in producing wines that equal the best in the world. “Such long continuity is one of the things that make us different from other wineries,” Sessions had said. “We inherited a standard of ingrained quality and commitment to maintain not just the special taste and smell of the wines, but the breadth, depth and length of the overall quality.”

In 2002, Sessions retired and assumed the role of winemaker emeritus, passing on his knowledge and experience to the winemakers that followed, including current Winemaker Michael McNeill, only the fifth winemaker in the estate’s history. Sessions is survived by his wife, Jean Arnold Sessions, the current president of Hanzell. 

 

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