Sean Haley Thackrey.
July IX, 1942 – May XXX, 2022.
Sean was many things: artist, scholar, winemaker, collector, friend, inspiration, cancer survivor, and, above all, rule-breaker. Wine was just one part of what comprised Sean’s incredible world, but it is the one that touched the greatest number of people. His methods and manners inspired a great many myths and legends, most of which are true. Yes, he was inspired by ancient texts (“do you think the people who built the Parthenon drank bad wine?”) and no, he never used a spreadsheet to make wine, but he was inspired to make a bottle that brought delight to its drinker. That was his focus, his goal and it was both genuine and, more often than not realized.
Sean made wines that people noticed. Wines that made the conversation better. After his first wines found favor at Chez Panisse of all places (“it was a 1982 Merlot tasted against a 1982 Ch. Margaux: I preferred my wine”) Sean founded his eponymous winery and grew it out of Bolinas, California, of all places. Sean loved Bolinas and Thackrey & Co became the only winery in this notoriously eccentric town. A perfect fit.
The wine business is not an easy business. He recently reflected on these last 40 years and the challenges of keeping a winery alive and relevant but there were no regrets. Most recently, he’d worked on the latest blend of Pleiades Old Vines with his winemaker and trusted protege of 10 years, Dustin Durfee. One of many winemakers to count Thackrey as their first true winemaking hero, he carries Sean’s winemaking baton onward. Sean’s magic was infectious and in everything that he touched. He did it all his way and that aim remained true. No shortcuts.
“My only purpose in the entire universe as a winemaker is to produce pleasure.”
“Sean was a total delight, just like his wine. A shock of wild grey hair and a cackle erupted from his ever-smiling face. He showed us his home with open topped fermenters, his artifacts such as handwritten diaries as he was studying the history of wine (all in several languages), and his world of antiques (a world I now find myself in). However, it was a trip to the “bottling plant” that is imprinted on my memory.”
“Will always remember the pleasure on his face with musicians playing behind him at his 75th birthday.”
“I was a small-time home winemaker and Sean was my mentor in absentia. His Andromeda was one of the finest wines and pinot I have ever had. Incredible florality in the nose. and ever so smooth in the mouth.”
“I was introduced to his wine when working at Peet’s Coffee and Tea. As an assistant manager, I was picked to wine taste to help deepen my palate. We tasted a lot of different wines. In the end, the sommelier said we would taste a truly exceptional wine. This line was Pleiades. This would have been in the early ’90s. I think of this wine often. I compare every wine I drink to this one tasting.”
My dad introduced me to his wine around 2012/13. It was a “gateway drug” for me getting more into and appreciating wine of any kind, but especially good wine. It was a bottle of Pleiades and up to the point, I had never tasted anything so interesting, complex, and unique.”
“Counted amongst the proudest moments of my life was the day Sean asked if I would like to have my name placed next to his on a bottle of wine. To me, there was no greater honor I could have received as a winemaker. So much of who I am has been influenced by Sean, he was not only a great mentor but a dear friend. Not a day has gone by or will go by, that I am not reminded of one of his quotes, jokes, or philosophical rants. He will forever remain in my thoughts and my heart.”
“I was a small-time home winemaker and Sean was my mentor in absentia. His Andromeda was one of the finest wines and pinot I have ever had. Incredible floral in the nose. and ever so smooth in the mouth.”
“We met when 3 friends and I visited Bolinas for a wine tasting day, which included Sean. We shared an engaging, fun talk with him about wine, etc, in the kitchen area, while we tasted some wonderful wines! We were so touched and pleased at the time he shared with us!”
“I did not know Sean as a winemaker but as the man who put together one of the finest collections of 19th-century photography in private hands. I had the pleasure of working on an exhibition of the Rubel collection (assembled by Sean) in 1981-2 when I was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis. He was both kind, informative, and gracious to me, a first-year grad student, as I frantically tried to learn as much as I could about early European photography. Even then, he talked about his dream of making Rhone-blends commercially and giving up the gallery/photography business.”
“Thirty years ago I purchased my first bottle of Pleiades and experienced my ‘ah ha!’ moment for wine as an art.”
“Every encounter with him was special. His wine creations are divine and will always remain my favorite. His photography knowledge was inspiring and his humanity so rich and rare.”