Joe Travis Hart, one of the pioneers of Temecula Valley Wine Country, has died of cancer. He was 89.
Hart, who died Nov. 19, was the original winemaker of Hart Winery, which he founded in 1980. The family-owned winery is now run by his sons, Jim and Mike.
Hart paved the way for a movement “toward the production of quality wine in the region, serving as a mentor for those who would follow in his footsteps in Temecula and beyond,” a news release from Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country states.
Jon McPherson, a winemaker at South Coast Winery and Carter Estate Winery in Temecula Valley Wine Country, called Hart’s approach to winemaking “classical, clean and low intervention.”
“He was someone who understood the terroir of Temecula and how to coax those flavors from the grapes into the wine,” McPherson said.
After attending San Diego State University, he served in the Army and got interested in wine while stationed in Germany and Europe. He later became a social studies teacher and a research technician for Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He served on the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association board.
“He always stayed true to his vision of quality winemaking and passed this legacy on to his sons,” said Krista Chaich, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. “He championed our wine country and was very generous with his support of his fellow winemakers.”
Hart is survived by his wife Nancy Hart, sons Jim and Mike Hart, two sisters, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.