Cover photo for Paul Egan Dolan III's Obituary
Paul Egan Dolan III Profile Photo

Paul Egan Dolan III

July 16, 1950 — June 26, 2023

Healdsburg

Paul Egan Dolan III

Paul Egan Dolan III, a resident of Healdsburg, CA, passed away peacefully at his home on June 26, 2023, after a courageous battle with cancer. Paul, a man known for his generosity, allegorical speeches, constant pocket dials, and pride for those he loved, leaves behind a profound void in the hearts of his family, a wide circle of friends and colleagues who were touched by his journey, the winemaking and sustainable farming communities, the vibrant coffee shop scene in Ukiah and Healdsburg, and his faithful, four-legged companion and daily coffee shop partner, Don Julio.

Born on July 16, 1950, in Oakland, CA, Paul was the son of Yvonne Rossi and Paul Dolan II. Every summer, he spent joyful days in Asti, Sonoma County at his family’s Asti Villa. Paul’s great-grandfather Pietro Carlo Rossi and grandfather Edmund A. Rossi both served as President of The Italian Swiss Colony located near the villa in Asti, giving him a curious passion for the wine business. Fond memories of playing hide-and-seek in the winery and relishing the abundance of delicious food and wine brought a smile to his face decades later. In 1968, Paul graduated from Bishop O'Dowd High School before embarking on a journey to Santa Clara University. There, he pursued his passion for Business and Finance, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree while also being a part of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

After welcoming his sons Jason and Heath with former spouse Lynne Calleri, Paul moved to Fresno, CA, where he earned a Master's Degree in Enology at California State University, Fresno, in 1977. The young family then settled in Redwood Valley, CA, where Paul commenced his career as a winemaker for Fetzer Vineyards, proudly continuing the legacy as a fourth-generation winemaker. In 1979, Paul and Lynne joyfully welcomed their daughter Nya from Korea, and later the family built a home winery and began a small distribution of wine under the Dolan Vineyards brand. 

On July 26, 1986, Paul married Diana Fetzer, creating a union that blended Diana's love for gardening and nature with Paul's passion for farming and the environment. Together, they built a loving home. Their daughter, Sassicaia Rose, was born in 1996, bringing immeasurable joy to their lives.

Paul's journey led him to become the President of Fetzer Vineyards when the family winery was purchased by Brown-Forman in 1992. During his tenure at Fetzer, the business flourished, expanding from 25,000 cases to two million cases annually. His remarkable achievements included being named Winemaker of the Year by the LA Times in 1991, pioneering Bonterra Wines as the first national brand made from 100% organically grown grapes, and establishing Mendocino Cooperage in 1994. While Paul's passion for winemaking burned brightly, his true joy came from connecting with his employees, fostering their growth, and serving as an enthusiastic mentor. Some of his fondest memories were formed during winemaker summits, sales trips, unforgettable gatherings at the Big Dog Saloon, Fetzer Field days, and the shared harvest meals.

In 1998, Paul and his sons Jason and Heath ventured into a partnership, founding "Dolan & Sons" and acquiring what is now known as Dark Horse Vineyards, situated east of the Russian River north of Hopland. Over the next twenty-five years, the property became a labor of love for the family. Together, they revitalized the neglected ranch, replanting the entire 63-acre vineyard, creating a pond, introducing livestock, and transforming it into a thriving biodynamic property. Dark Horse became the picturesque backdrop for Paul's love of horseback riding with Caia and witnessing his grandchildren grow. Rodeos, summers spent in the barn, family participation in preparing vineyard fertilizer, and tending to the diverse animals at the ranch wove a tapestry of humility and passionate energy throughout Paul's family tree and the bonds it encompassed.

A devoted student of Rudolf Steiner, the father of the biodynamic movement, Paul wholeheartedly embraced Steiner's belief that every piece of land possesses its own unique expression. Through his collaboration with Mendocino Wine Company, Paul founded the Paul Dolan Wine brand in 2007, showcasing the remarkable potential of biodynamic farming in producing award-winning wines. In 2010, he established and hosted Biodynamic Camps at Dark Horse, imparting Rudolf Steiner's holistic farming principles to eager learners. Unfortunately, upon parting ways with Mendocino Wine Company in 2012, Paul was devastated to lose all rights and involvement with his namesake brand. 

Later, Paul and Heath entered into a partnership with friend Mark DeMeulenaere and the Hurst family of Sonoma County, creating Truett-Hurst Winery, nestled on a picturesque piece of property along Dry Creek in Healdsburg. The Truett name holds historical significance as it harkens back to the Dolan family's first vineyard, which supplied grapes to the legendary Italian Swiss Colony brand. Together, they created a beautiful space for people to gather, celebrate, and revel in the joys of life. In fact, Paul's final public appearance was in early June, attending his nephew Ryan's wedding at Truett Hurst, where he radiated pride, love and happiness.

In recent years Paul became involved with the Regenerative Organic Alliance. ROA strives to establish the foundations of true organic farming, through programs that rehabilitate soils, respect animal welfare and improve the lives of farmers globally.  ROA encourages us all to “farm like the world depends on it” and Paul embodied this every day through his work and his personal life. 

Throughout his life, Paul Dolan cherished the company of his loved ones and embarked on countless adventures. His heart was most at ease when surrounded by his children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and extended family at the Asti Villa. Days spent taking leisurely walks to the river, engaging in lively ping pong matches with the kids, cooling off in the cold swimming pool, savoring cocktail hour on the front porch, and preparing late dinners filled with laughter and love accompanied by his own thoughtful toasts held a special place in his heart. Paul's love for lazy days in Asti was rivaled only by his passion for ski trips to Tahoe, Colorado, and Whistler with his family, even if those trips sometimes concluded with Paul seeking solace in the first aid shack. In recent years, Paul enjoyed perfecting his golf swing with Diana at the driving range and frequenting the many amazing restaurants around Healdsburg.

Paul's fierce commitment to leaving the world better than he found it inspired his children and grandchildren long before his passing. His unwavering dedication to preserving our planet manifested in actions such as refusing to cut his hair until certain politicians were voted out of office. As a farmer, Paul appreciated the profound mystery and cycle of life and death, finding solace in the knowledge that death is not an end but a gateway to renewed life.

Paul is survived by his devoted wife of 38 years, Diana Fetzer, and his children: Heath Dolan (Robin Dolan), Nya Dolan Kusakabe (Galen Kusakabe), Caia Dolan, and daughter-in-law Carly Dolan. He will forever be remembered by his beloved grandchildren: Megan, Emma, Sadie, Cash, Colin, and Clayton. Paul is preceded in passing by his father, Paul Dolan II, his mother, Yvonne Rossi, and his son, Jason Dolan.

A celebration of Paul's life will be held on Friday, August 4th at Dark Horse Vineyards (5341 Old River Road, Ukiah) from 1-5 pm. Dress however makes you feel comfortable as Paul would have done the same. Please kindly plan on carpooling, as parking is limited. As a tribute to Paul, a memorial cairn will be constructed in his honor. We kindly request that you bring a special rock to be included in this lasting monument. Further details will be shared on Paul's Facebook page.

To honor Paul, please enjoy wines that Paul devotedly had a hand in producing like the many  wines that come from grapes grown at Dark Horse Vineyards (Campovida Grenache, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon; Husch Cabernet Sauvignon; Navarro Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre; and Truett Hurst GPS (or any of the Truett Hurst/ VML wines).

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the organizations that Paul wholeheartedly championed throughout his life. Contributions to the following organizations will help carry forward his legacy:

 

Pachamama Alliance

Website: [https://pachamama.org/]

Address: Presidio Bldg #1009, P.O. Box 29191, San Francisco, CA 94129

 

Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County

Website: [https://www.crcmendocino.org/]

Address: 510 Cypress St., B-200, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

 

Regenerative Organic Alliance (please reference “Paul Dolan Memorial Fund” in your donation)

Website: [https://www.regenorganic.org]

Address: PO Box 622, Graton, CA 95444-0622

 

If this obituary was combined with all of the articles written about Paul, one would get a good overview of his family and history in the wine business, his vision and passion for creating a better world, and all of his professional accomplishments. But most condolences shared have not led with those things but have been about the man Paul was, the kindness that emanated from him, how he inspired those around him and made their lives better, and the way he made people feel seen, supported, and loved. May his memory forever inspire us to embrace the beauty of life, cherish our loved ones, and strive to leave behind a legacy of love and sustainability.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Paul Egan Dolan III, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Friday, August 4, 2023

1:00 - 5:00 pm (Pacific time)

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