A reception will be held May 12 to celebrate the remarkable life of the late Millie Howie, a wine writer and community activist who elevated Sonoma County’s place on the world wine stage and was the driving force behind the Sonoma County Wine Library in Healdsburg.
Howie died on April 5, 2011 at the age of 88. Now, a year later, friends and colleagues have planned a gathering to celebrate her life and her many contributions to the Sonoma County wine industry. The gathering will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. May 12 at the Healdsburg Regional Library, which also is the site of the Sonoma County Wine Library. The gathering also will launch a kick-off to raise funds to complete the Millie Howie Patio at the Sonoma County Wine Library.
The Wine Library was Howie’s vision and magnificent obsession during the last half of her life. She worked tirelessly to establish the Wine Library in 1988 as a depository for books and manuscripts chronicling Sonoma County’s rich wine history as well as technical information about winemaking and viticulture.
Bo Simmons, branch manager of the Healdsburg Regional Library, overseer of the Wine Library and a close of friend of Howie, credits Millie Howie’s tenacity in overcoming many obstacles including fund-raising to establish the Wine Library. Today, the Wine Library offers 5,000 books and 40,000 articles on wine and viticulture, serving as a valuable resource center for the wine industry and students of viticulture and enology.
Howie took great pride in the Wine Library and, say close friends, would be honored that the patio at the Wine Library will be named for her. Howie, who owned a public relations firm, moved to the Alexander Valley in the early 1970’s, living in a large farm house amid the vineyards. Her primary client at that time was Geyser Peak Winery. Other notable clients included Korbel and Foppiano.
While working with media across the country, Howie became aware that Sonoma County was not getting the respect and recognition it deserved for the quality of wines it was producing and for the natural beauty that made it such a special part of Wine Country. She bristled at those who assumed she lived in the Napa Valley when she said she lived and worked in “Wine Country.” She rolled up her sleeves and went to work in her indomitable fashion, bringing wine industry leaders together to create an awareness of the fine wines coming from Sonoma County. She convinced winery owners in the Russian River Area to collaborate on a map so that visitors would have an easier time finding them. The Russian River Wine Road was born. Throughout the 1970 ‘s and 1980’s Howie was the driving force in reshaping Sonoma County’s image as a one of the special places on the planet to produce premium wines.
Howie is survived by her two daughters, Jann Howie Hayes of Half Moon Bay and Linda Ramey of San Francisco. Further information about the celebration of Millie Howie’s life is available by contacting Bo Simmons at the Healdsburg Regional Library at 433-3772, ext. 5.