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Obituary: Harvey Posert Jr

Harvey Posert Jr, the influential wine public relations figure credited with helping to establish a profile for Californian wine, has died aged 84.

Photo courtesy of the California Wine Institute.

Posert spent nearly five decades in wine PR and worked with some of the most successful programs in the industry.

Between 1965 and 1980 Posert oversaw PR for the Californian Wine Institute’s program to educate Americans about Californian wine.

In 1980 Posert took over the PR program for Robert Mondavi where his efforts came to be regarded by Mondavi as the key factor behind their success, after the quality of the wines.

Robert’s widow, Margrit Mondavi, praised Posert, telling the Napa Valley Register: “He was more than a co-worker, he was our partner, a wonderful friend whom we admired greatly.”

Speaking to the Wine Spectator, Tor Kenward of Tor Kenward Family Wines in St. Helena, said: “Harvey was always clear-headed, articulate, very bright and, best of all for many of us, blessed with a great sense of humor,”

“He was a behind-the-scenes guy who did much more for the wine industry than he was ever given credit for,” said Kenward.

Margrit Mondavi praised Posert for his work and friendship.

Writing about his days at the Mondavi winery, Posert noted that: “In l986 Bob launched his Mission program with the avowed purpose of defending wine against its anti-alcohol opponents.”

“Among other aspects, we hosted a series of conferences featuring health researchers, sociologists, anthropologists and other scientists and artists who examined the basic soundness of wine in positive lifestyles for most people,” he wrote.

“One of our early speakers was Dr. Curtis Ellison of Boston University, who was thus brought into the wine community, enjoyed it, and through a chain of circumstances became the protagonist for the famous ‘60 Minutes’ pro-wine program that changed the role of wine in America.”

Posert left Mondavi in 1997 to start his own PR consultancy but kept Mondavi as a client while working with other wineries such as the Bronco Wine Company.

“At Bronco Wine Company we were fortunate to work with Harvey for more than 30 years,” said company CEO Fred Franzia.

“As a former journalist he was skilled at discovering and telling stories that truly changed the world of wine, he will be missed by the wine industry and especially here at Bronco and we will all remember what a rewarding experience it was working with Harvey,” said Franzia.

In the introduction to the book on wine PR, Spinning the Bottle, that Prosert co-wrote with Paul Franson, Prosert wrote: “It appears that I was born to do this work, although I never drank wine until college — English majors drank Taylor Dry Sherry — and I never heard of PR until I worked for the PR Director of the American Bar Association while at the University of Chicago Law School.”

“Thanks to a sports editor uncle, I began writing sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal at age 14 and, thanks to him and another newspapering uncle, I worked on the paper for 10 summers during school and, after Army counter-intelligence, I filled in for beat reporters during their summer vacations so I worked on the food, business, agriculture, travel and feature desks at some time,” he wrote.

Posert co-authored a book on wine PR with Paul Franson.

Prosert went on to study at Yale University, graduating with a B.A. in English in 1951 and then continued his postgraduate work at both Southern Law University and University of Chicago Law School before serving in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in Germany from 1951 to 1954.

Posert worked for the Daniel Edeman PR agency in both Chicago and New York before moving to California and the Wine Institute.

“Harvey was the smartest man I ever knew,” said Ed Schwartz, a close industry colleague.

“He was always helpful in my career and I know he was helpful to many others as well and it is also safe to say that he had the best ideas not only for Mondavi but for the wine industry,” said Schwartz.

“I will miss his wit, our collaborations and his fine judgment and our great and long friendship.”

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