More than 500 people attended the funeral service for Mark Steven Heinemann held Dec. 29 at the St. Helena Catholic Church. Following a private interment, a celebration of life was held at the St. Helena Catholic School Hall.

Heinemann, 50, of Napa, died Dec. 22 in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 121 in Sonoma County. According to CHP Sgt. Gilberto Jose, for some reason he crossed over into the northbound lanes, lost control of his 1976 Porsche and was broadsided by a 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Heinemann was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Jose. His 15-year-old daughter, Alexa, was a passenger in the car and sustained bruises in the crash. She was treated at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

The driver of the Chrysler, 83-year-old Barbara Knego of San Francisco was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and was in stable condition following the accident.

Attending the funeral service were local winemakers, many of whom brought a case of wine for Heinemann’s celebration of life, said Inge Heinemann, Mark’s mother. One of them was Mark’s best friend, Paul Steinauer, winemaker at Flora Springs. The wine that was not served during the event will be sold and the proceeds put in a trust fund for Mark’s two daughters, Annelie, 18 and Alexa. They live with their mother, Rachael, in Napa.

Three of Heinemann’s classmates, who had known each other since attending St. Helena Elementary School together, also attended the Dec. 29 services, Inge said on Monday. The four friends, Steve Anderson from Washington, Ben Wilson from the Bay Area and Jeff Rydman from Maine, all attended Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School and St. Helena High School together. Heinemann was president of his high school class, was a straight A student and ran track, Inge said. He graduated in 1987.

Inge emigrated from Germany in 1952 and married the late Carl Heinemann in 1955. He was a science and math teacher, and later a school principal, who was born in Richmond and grew up in the Bay Area. The couple had four children, Carl Wilhelm “Bill,” born in 1960; Mark born in January 1962; James in October 1963 and Christine in 1966.

Inge said the family bought a 16-acre parcel behind the Old Bale Mill when they moved to the Napa Valley in 1969. Winemaker Louis P. Martini told Carl to plant pinot noir grapes, as they were the “grapes of the future,” Inge said. The Heinemanns planted 10 acres of pinot noir and harvested their first grapes in 1974. For years the pinot noir grapes were sold to Joseph Phelps Winery and their winemaker, Walter Schug.

At Thanksgiving, Inge said her table was crowded with 16 people, including her seven grandchildren, who range in age from 9 to 21. The family shared a magnum of 1976 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Pinot Noir, made from the Heinemann Mountain Vineyard. As youngsters, Mark and his siblings were all actively involved in growing and producing pinot noir.

Mark Heinemann earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Davis after studying enology/viticulture and international business. He spent a year in Germany, arranged by Schug, where he worked for a rootstock nursery business and attended school. He returned to the United States and first worked at Pine Ridge Winery, where he was in the production end of the business for many years. At the time of his death, Heinemann was general sales manager and Barrel Enologist with Demptos Napa Cooperage.

(3) comments

Malka In The Closet
Malka In The Closet

I live within a block of this tragic accident in lower Sonoma and heard the commotion and sirens as all our dogs howled. Within moments of the collision there appeared a magnificent rainbow on the horizon, the only one seen the entire year. I assume therefore that Mark was blessed...


Mark you are missed. Much love.


With shock and great sadness I just now learned of Mark Heinemann’s death. I am so sorry to have missed his funeral service and celebration of his life. For he had a life worth celebrating. I met Mark in 1978, when he was a HS senior and I a new English Professor at Napa Valley College, whose assignment was to teach an advance placement English class to Mark’s class. He was a memorable student. I can still see his words to his first essay, introducing himself as something of a “Renaissance Man” He also wrote about his love of the Pinot Noir grape. I met him again when he had become sales manager for Demptos NV. I was interested in the effect of French and American oak barrels on Zinfandel for a book I was researching. It was a joy to have reconnected with him, and to hear him speak passionately of having found his life’s calling. In 2009, I interviewed Mark one more time, for a report on matching oak barrels to appellation. His passion still burned strong. R.I.P. my friend.

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