So Long, Dear Friend

Rex Geitner
I received a message today that my friend of many years, Rex Geitner, passed away after a brief battle with cancer.

I met Rex when I went to work for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 1988, where he was Warren Winiarski’s manager of the Stag’s Leap and Fay Vineyards. I recall that Rex had worked for the Chappellet’s, and for Al Brounstein at Diamond Creek, before coming to Stag’s Leap.

After I was hired, Warren directed me to do research for the vineyard when I was not engaged in the cellar. I had about 6 months experience in production at that time — I was as callow and green as they come. Rex was gracious and kind even when I was brash and arrogant; he taught me most of my first lessons in the vineyard, gently allowing me to make my own mistakes, and introduced me to people like Daniel Roberts, from whom I also learned much. Rex moved on to manage the vineyards at Spring Mountain some time after I had moved on to Duckhorn and Sonoma-Cutrer.

We lost touch with each other for a while, until one day he turned up working for my friends TJ Rodgers and Valeta Massey on their ambitious and challenging Clos de la Tech project, with its three amazing vineyards in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. It was clear that Rex reveled in this opportunity, and I was happy to be working with him again, however loosely and infrequently. He seemed very serene living in Half Moon Bay with Amy, the love of his life, and bringing his kids up to adulthood.

None of us ever knows the “real” self of another, but the Rex Geitner I knew was generous and pleasant to a fault. Strong in his faith, slow to anger and gentle in it, quick to forgive, always upbeat in the face of adversity. I’m sure he left his life as I believe he lived it. I grieve for his family and friends and offer my deepest condolences.

As for my friend, I will miss you. This world is a poorer place without you in it. Thank you for your knowledge and kindness, and for sharing both so freely with those around you.

A memorial service celebrating Rex’s life and memory will be held at 1 p.m. on June 29 at First Baptist Church San Mateo. I’m saddened that I will not be able to attend, and offer this small piece as a lasting testimonial to a good man I was fortunate enough to call “friend.”

5 thoughts on “So Long, Dear Friend

  1. Lucie

    In my (now) long journey with grapes, Rex stands out as one of my favorite colleagues and cherished friends. And John, you were an early cohort, when we were all together at SLV pondering the implications of vine densities and “alternative” rootstocks. I’ll be coming to CA from VA in August in case you’d like to rendez-vous and catch up on a few decades since we last met!

    1. John Kelly Post author

      I’d love to re-connect, Lucie! One of my most vivid memories of my time at SLWC was when you were out for a visit with Pierre Galet. I, you, he, Rex, and Warren were having this amazing conversation at the bottom of the Fay vineyard. I was so hungry for knowledge, and I thank you for helping me understand ampelography. I’ll email you directly and see where our schedules match up.


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