Murphys, CA - Chuck Hovey, visionary and instrumental member of the Calaveras wine industry passed away on Tuesday, July 30th. Hovey suffered a massive stroke in 2015 that paralyzed the left side of his body and at the time, doctors at UC Davis Medical Center told his family that it was the most massive stroke they had ever seen anyone survive. Wine industry members and dear friends gathered at Murphys Community Park a few days after Hovey’s passing to honor Chuck with stories of his many contributions to the Sierra Foothills wine industry and also laughed about their good times together. Chuck cultivated a spirit of community and partnering in the Calaveras wine industry and it was felt during this intimate gathering. Gay Callan, Calaveras Winegrape Alliance board member and long standing member of the Sierra Foothills wine industry shares her appreciation of Hovey, “Chuck was definitely One of a Kind, not only in his winemaking expertise, but his dedication to family and friends. Over the years, I came to appreciate, and honor the friendship and passion he had for life and his ability to craft award winning wines. He brought so many of us together in our Calaveras community and was always encouraging better winemaking with all of the new varietals that he was able to introduce to our area. He was a very talented man, with many interests, and always had a great story to tell. He will be remembered as one of the best who participated in the pioneering of our winemaking history!”
Hovey got his start in the wine industry in 1977 where he spent six years as a Cellar Master at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. In 1983, Hovey joined Stevenot Winery in Murphys, CA as Assistant Winemaker. and was promoted five years later to Director of Winemaking. He brought the winery national recognition, receiving over 500 medals at major wine competitions. During his time at Stevenot Winery, Chuck mentored a few of today’s admired winemakers in Calaveras County including Scott Klann and Kate Boyle MacDonald. “Aside from being one of the most kind and compassionate people I have ever known, Chuck really understood that mentoring young winemakers was essential in order to expand and improve our local wine industry. He was patient with us and instilled a passion for wine in me that has never wavered. He was my dear friend and I will miss him terribly,” shares Klann. Winemaker Kate Boyle MacDonald also shares her sentiment, “Attempting to sum up what Chuck means to me in a few words is an impossible task. I saw a definition describing a mentor as someone who imparts wisdom, but also forces us to think, to defy ourselves, to exceed our own expectations. Chuck supported me in my wine journey without hesitation, and it is wholly because of him that I am a proud part of our small, tight knit wine community. Chuck’s gift of sharing knowledge and support, expecting excellent quality and his willingness to take chances on unknown and unproven varietals, shaped the state of Calaveras wine country as we know it today”.
After leaving Stevenot Winery, following the sale of the business by its founder, the late Barden Stevenot, Hovey served as a consultant and winemaker for several wineries, that included Gianelli, Inner Sanctum and Hurst Ranch in Tuolumne County. Chuck introduced his own Hovey label, with a first vintage in 2007 and in 2012 he opened a tasting room on Main Street Murphys in the former home of Albert Michelson. Over the past 20 years, Chuck Hovey produced some of the most notable wines from the Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area (AVA). He introduced varietals including Tempranillo, Albarino and Verdelho into the mainstream market. Chuck’s winemaking style was unmistakable and his passion was contagious. Today, Hovey Winery is owned by a group of Chuck’s close friends that pitched in to help continue Chuck’s vision while he recovered. Now that he has passed, the group is committed to honoring his memory in the same way, continuing Chuck’s vision and style that helped put Calaveras Wine Country on the map.
One of Chuck’s closest friends and wine industry member, Brian Klassen, shares his note of remembrance, “Chuck was a dear friend and kindest man I have ever met. All of his friends, partners and staff will remember him very fondly as we move forward with the legacy he created”.
Tom Bender, a local wine expert and instructor at Columbia College for the past 30 years, said there were only about a half dozen wineries or less in Calaveras County when Hovey arrived. Bender said there are now more than 30 tasting rooms throughout the county. “He was instrumental in getting Calaveras Wine Country on the map,” Bender said. “Everybody else saw what Chuck was doing and then the industry exploded about 15 years ago.”
Members of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance will be joining together with industry professionals throughout the Sierra Foothills Wine Region to honor Chuck Hovey in a celebration of life event this fall. Details will be announced in a formal press release and at the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance website: https://www.