Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Our friend, Bryan, passed away Monday evening. It was a surreal night as family and friends gathered to support his wife and daughter and also to say goodbye to Bry. I went over after the kids went to bed. I can remember the night my Dad passed. I remember who came to sit with us and support us. I felt like I needed to be there for Kathy. It was a night full of tears, but laughter too. People told stories of when they first met Bryan, or their favorite memory. It was all things Kathy needed to hear, so she can remember all the fun they shared instead of him being so sick. Here is one of mine. Bryan and his little girl, and Bill and Reagan. This was taken June 3, 2007. Bill and Bryan shared a love of good wine and food. Bryan taught Bill how to make sausage and they shared many conversations about grapes and making wine. Bryan won several awards for his wine and we've put it up against some great California wines and his have come out on top. We've got a couple of his bottles in the cellar. Someday we will bring them out and toast to Bryan and remember the good times..... when our hearts are not so heavy. [Bill adds:] While Shelley did a great write-up, I wanted to share some of my memories. We had known Bryan, Kathy and Lauren for many years, primarily from social gatherings involving Abby-Normal. A few years ago, we had gone over on a Sunday morning for haircuts, as Kathy had started cutting our hair. I was talking about my upcomming trip to Cali, and Bryan mentioned his wine hobby. He asked if I wanted to taste a barrel sample of his Chardonnay. While the hair on my arms was standing up, based on prior experience with home "winemakers", I politely accepted. I was totally overwhelmed by the quality and structure of this chard with lots of tropical notes. He was going to oak it in a traditional method, and I implored him not to do it (he ended up mildly oaking it for a week or two, but it thankfully did not spend the summer in the North Woods). We then started opening some of his other wines, including his outrageous Super Tuscan, made with grapes from Amador and El Dorado. We ended up spending the whole day tasting wine, talking about cooking, tasting Italian sausage that he made, and making pizzas. From that point on, we spent a lot of time cooking and talking about/tasting wine. Right about the time Bryan was getting sick, a few of us did a Memorial Day Weekend cookout, which primarily meant "sitting around the smoker drinking". Sam smoked pheasant and quail, Mike B. did cevapcici, I did a tri-tip, and I left Bryan to do the pork butt. The following winter, I then got to learn how to make different sausages, especially dried Italian sausage (50 pounds of it!), hung to cure in his wine cellar. It was almost enough to last a year, with careful rationing. We even made chorizo for my barracho, leading into a "2nd place" win in the 2007 Chili Cook-Off for Autism. This past winter, Bryan apologized(!) to me for not being up to make sausage, since he was sick. I told him we'd just wait until he was better the next year. Bryan's wine really was that good. He even got a favorable review of his wine from Paul Sobon (Sobon Estate/Shenandoah). We had a wine tasting party for Paul at our house, and made sure Bryan and Kathy were there to meet him. When it comes to wine and salumi, Bryan truly missed his calling, and it's a shame that he couldn't have moved on to a career in the 'biz. I'm really going to miss him.


Nancy Heller said...

I am very sad to learn that Bryan passed. I hope his last months were comfortable.

My sincere good wishes to all affected, and especially to you, Shelley and Bill.

shel said...

Thanks, Nancy.

Bryan had a rough time the last few months so he is now resting peacefully.


Elsha said...

oh gosh, I am so sorry for everyone's loss :o(

Seeing his picture put it in perspective on exactly how young he was.

I am glad you got to be there to support his wife & say goodbye.


Anonymous said...

Bill, are you Bryan's "wine making friend" who will be speaking at the service tomorrow? I'm Kathy's cousin and contributor to the Food Forum (daisymae). Wanted to introduce myself if you were.

shel said...

hi daisymae-
No, Bill is not speaking at the service. I believe it is Fr. Tim.

Please say hello tomorrow. I can't say you'll know me by the twins since they will be home with Grammy.


pchak said...

Hope to meet you as well, albeit the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

It's incredibly sad. With a family as big as ours, we've had our share of sad but it never gets easier; especially when they're as young as Bryan. I'll be there in the evening so if I see (recognize) you, I'll stop by. Take care.

Lou Waton said...

I have heard negative comments "from the industry" about this wine before, most notably by a very stiff opinionated wine adviser at a Trader Joe's in Roseville Ca. (who tried to tell me I did not have a sophisticated palate if I liked KJ chardonnay. I told him that I like the 2007 vintage of KJ chard very much, and couldn't care less what industry insiders think! I didn't care for the 2006 all that much. At least I know what I like.It even tastes better with Cuban cigars especially Cohiba.