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Art Finkelstein Obituary

Posted on June 09, 2010

Art Finkelstein died on May 28, 2010 at his home in Napa Valley surrounded by his family. He was born in Chicago on February 20, 1942, the son of Isador and Eva Finkelstein. At the age of three days he was transported to Rock Island, Illinois, where he spent his early life and where his primary education was received. His home overlooked the Mississippi Valley where the family raised goats to milk for his use, raised chickens for eggs and had gardens for fresh produce. Since he was five years old, Art has always had a vegetable garden. He loved things mechanical and reveled in a car that he worked on during his high school days as a member of The Cavaliers hot rod club. By great fortune he had very supportive and admiring parents, who enjoyed giving much encouragement to Art's many projects, which were the products of his most active fertile imagination.

College brought Art to Southern California where he attended the University of Southern California, studying architecture. After obtaining his credentials as an AIA architect, he established an architectural office in West Los Angeles. His practice flourished and he received a coveted award for aesthetic achievement in commercial construction by the Santa Monica Realtors Association.

Through the years Art also was a prolific home winemaker, winning many awards in wine competitions and teaching winemaking to the Cellar Masters at UCLA. Art was literally making "garage wines" before the term was coined. By a great stroke of good fortune during this period he married his beloved wife, Bunnie, and they were blessed with their remarkable son, Judd.

A trip to Napa Valley in 1971 began the germination process of wine as a profession and in 1979, Art and his brother, Alan, purchased a vineyard just south of St. Helena where Art designed and built Whitehall Lane Winery. At Whitehall Lane, he began his career as a professional winemaker, releasing his first wine in 1980. In this milieu, he flourished and established himself as one of the premier winemakers in the Napa Valley. In 1988, he decided to downsize to a smaller artisanal winery, and built Judd's Hill,
also in St. Helena, named after his much-beloved son.

To say that Art was multi-talented is a major understatement. Often described as a "renaissance man," the variety of his talents was astounding. Within his scope were architectural design, winemaking, oil painting, ceramics, cabinetmaking, playing the mandolin, biking and cooking at an essentially professional level. What is more remarkable is that Art shone brightly in all of these capacities. Art was a founder of The California Cabernet Society and served as a mentor for countless winemakers in Napa Valley. He also created and taught "Designing the Small Winery" at Napa Valley College for many years, counting several of today's successful winery
owners as students. In 2007, Art received the Al Brounstein Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to winemaking and the community by L'Chaim Napa Valley.

Art was a charitable sponsor to many events and organizations in Napa Valley including Congregation Beth Sholom, where he conducted religious services when there was no rabbi available. He was a regular volunteer and chef for The Table, feeding Napa's hungry. Art also served on the board of the charitable organization Jewish Community of Napa Valley. Some of his happiest times were spent coaching Little League Baseball in St. Helena.

Art never boasted about his accomplishments. He was a humble and considerate person, and always listed kindness as being the most important human quality. He loved nothing more than celebrating life with friends and family.

Art is survived by his adoring wife, Bunnie, devoted son Judd, his loving daughter-in-law Holly and his precious doted-upon granddaughters Talulah and Ruby K., all of Napa. Art will be missed, but many of us will carry a part of Arthur within us on a daily basis, which will be a blessing throughout our lives. Because Art was a great supporter of our youth and education, the family suggests donations in his honor be made to the Art Finkelstein Shorashim Pre-School Fund at Congregation Beth Sholom, 1455 Elm Street, Napa, CA 94559. There will be a memorial service celebrating Art's life on June 13 at 11:00 a.m. at Congregation Beth Sholom: all are welcome. Burial was private.

Region: North America
Job Function: Winemaking

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