On February 18, we received a call from our good friend, winemaker Tim Miller. Dick Reno had passed.
We met Dick and Betty (Mrs. Reno) in 1999. We had wandered into Chateau LaFayette Reneau winery on the day of a Cabernet Reserve Club members’ event. Betty had done the cooking, and was making sure that everyone had something to eat. We weren’t members, but she insisted that we take a share. (At every visit afterward, Betty always made sure that we had something to eat, or a jar of jelly, or some tomatoes, or some garden seeds, to bring home.) Dick visited with every guest. He made us feel particularly welcome, like it was our tenth visit, even though it was our first! Dick and Betty Reno were warm and generous hosts.
That 1999 visit was part of our research into starting a unique new business, an e-commerce store that carried only New York grown wines. We launched our business in May 2000, and since then have paid over 100 visits to the Finger Lakes. More than half of our visits included a stop to see Dick and Betty.
We learned from Dick about his early 1980’s dream of converting an overgrown jelly-grape farm into a vineyard and winery that produced wines on par with Bordeaux. On the day his 1999 Dry Riesling won the Governor’s Cup, we were helping Dick serve wine at the New York Wine and Food Classic. It was Chateau LaFayette’s second Governor’s Cup. Dick’s diligence about quality, and focus on operations, had made his world-class dream a reality.
Dick welcomed us into his winery and allowed us to study the entire operation, from vineyards through to bottling and sales. We learned most of what we know about winemaking from our visits with Dick and with Tim Miller as they showed us every detail of the Chateau LaFayette Reneau facility.
Dick was an accomplished businessman well before he and Betty established their winery. At every visit, Dick would ask about our new business and then advise us: “Only sell the best”, “Always ask for the sale”, “Believe in your product”, “Discuss, act, report”. Dick took fatherly interest in our progress and, like teenagers, we took some of his advice. With fatherly insight Dick could tell which advice we were following and which advice we had overlooked.
Our relationship with Dick, Betty and Tim has outlasted our own business. They are our extended family, and on Tuesday we felt like we had lost a parent. Dick, we salute you as a determined dreamer, diligent businessman, generous host, fatherly advisor and true gentleman. We have been honored to be your friend for all these years.
With love, Rich and Margot Cirino.