Remembering Sam Beall
It has been a few weeks since Sam Beall passed away in a
skiing accident at just 39. I was at the top of Ann Colgin and Joe Wender’s IX
Estate vineyard in Napa Valley when the news arrived. I was devastated. Frankly,
I am still shocked. Sam left behind a young wife, Marie Celeste, five children,
and a rich legacy that I am sure his family will continue to honor.
Sam Beall’s many achievements in a career during which he transformed
Blackberry Farm from the rural property and rustic country inn where he was
born into a world-class resort have been well documented elsewhere. To me, it is Sam's human side that will remain most enduring.
I didn't know Sam well, but I had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with him at an event we hosted together at Blackberry Farm
in late 2014. Sam's bright personality and total commitment to hospitality
left a deep impression. I know I am not alone in feeling that way. From the
moment I arrived, everything was perfect. Actually, everything was perfect
before I arrived, because the staff started working on our event 18 months in
dinner with Sam on one of the nights I was at Blackberry. Sam didn’t have to
have dinner with me, there were plenty of other people there that weekend he
could have chosen to spend time with, many of them much more important to his
business. But he did. Over the course of dinner Sam greeted numerous
guests. He knew everything about them by heart; their names, where they were
from, how many nights they had stayed at Blackberry (and probably quite a bit
more about their preferences), all of which he rattled off with remarkable fluidity.
It was obvious guests viewed Blackberry as an extension of their own homes.
We talked mostly about family. Sam adored his wife and young
children, and invited me to visit Blackberry Farm with my own family during spring or summer, a much better time to enjoy all that Blackberry has to offer
kids than the middle of winter. I will always regret not having taken him on up
When it came time to ordering dinner I left it up to Sam. Then-Executive Chef Joseph Lenn prepared a fabulous
meal that embodied the essence of what Sam termed Appalachian Foothills
cuisine. One of the highlights was the grits with crayfish. “We make
sure everyone who visits Blackberry Farm has grits at least once,” Sam said,
with that disarming, gentle Southern accent of his. Sam noticed what wines I had take an interest in while
perusing the breathtaking winelist. A few minutes later a bottle of Chave's Ermitage
Cuvée Cathelin mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.
last night of the weekend, after my dinner seminar, we went into the cellar.
Sam opened a number of wines he knew I would enjoy; Rayas, Leroy, Rousseau and
more. He wasn't showing off, but rather taking pleasure in sharing the bounties
of an extraordinary collection painstakingly assembled over many years.
essence, hospitality is about making other people happy. Few people know how to
do it better than Sam Beall did. RIP.