17th Annual Signature Fundraising Event
Taste for a Cure
Friday, April 20, 2012
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
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The Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award
The Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award was created in memory of Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation event supporter Gil Nickel, proprietor of Napa Valley’s Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel and Dolce wineries, who lost a courageous battle against melanoma in October 2003. The Award was established to honor key individuals for their humanitarian efforts, community involvement and commitment to philanthropy.
Gil Nickel was a visionary of the Napa Valley wine industry. He was also a gifted nurseryman, champion vintage auto racer, avid motorcyclist and guided missile analyst. While his passions were many, his friends and longtime associates agree that Gil was driven more by his ideals, loyalties, friendships and sense of humor than his business interests.
A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma, Gil arrived in California in 1976 to pursue his dream of making world-class wine. Although it was only seven years earlier, at the age of 30, when he enjoyed his first taste of wine, Gil was driven by his passion to establish a Napa Valley wine estate. In 1979, Gil found the old Far Niente winery in Oakville, abandoned for 60 years and in disrepair. Three years later, after a meticulous restoration, Far Niente crushed its first harvest in more than six decades. Gil’s work was rewarded with the placement of the property on the National Register of Historic Places. Far Niente’s legendary jewel-box beauty, stunning gardens, gracious hospitality, sophisticated style and exceptional quality at every level remain the hallmarks of Gil’s legacy.
Further success followed, with the 1992 introduction of Dolce, North America’s only winery committed exclusively to producing a single, late harvest wine, and the 1997 debut of the single-vineyard winery, Nickel & Nickel.
Rarely one to idle, Gil understood the value of living a full life and pursued many other interests beyond the wineries. He enjoyed traveling and counted as friends people from all walks of life in many parts of the world. He was legendary for his ability to tell a story or quip an Oklahoma one-liner. An active collector of vintage cars, Gil held a healthy respect for driving fast – on the racetrack – and spent nearly two decades competing in and winning vintage car races around the world. He also satisfied his lust for the open road on countless motorcycle expeditions, logging a quarter-million miles on his BMW bikes, often with his wife, Beth, as his passenger.
The Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation is grateful to Gil Nickel for his past support of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.