NOVEMBER 6, 1964 – OCTOBER 13, 2021

The Oregon wine industry lost a significant treasure with the recent passing of Maria Stuart of R. Stuart and Company on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Often described as remarkable, exceptional and extraordinary, Maria passed suddenly after living with a rare form of cancer for 20 months. A true industry leader and mentor within the Oregon wine community, Maria’s wine career dates back nearly 30 years. 

Born in East Lansing, Michigan on November 6, 1964, Maria graduated from Valparaiso University in 1986, with a BA in English & Journalism. After a brief career in public relations and event planning, Maria started her wine life in Chicago as a sales representative. It was there that she discovered the magic between food and wine and had the pleasure of befriending the wines of Oregon and their makers. During her first visit to the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in 1990, she was taken with Oregon, the Willamette Valley and local winemaker, Rob Stuart. Shortly thereafter Maria moved to Portland and in time, she and Rob were married.

Eventually they made their home in McMinnville and Maria worked in various marketing and event positions in the industry, including coming full circle as executive director of the IPNC.

In 2001, Rob and Maria founded their own winery, R. Stuart and Company, in what’s now known as McMinnville’s Granary District.  It was Maria’s vision to create a winery that produced amazing wines for all occasions in an inclusive environment where growers, staff and customers are all equally honored.

Always the entrepreneurs, the Stuarts opened one of the first wine bars in 2007 on historic Third Street in downtown McMinnville. Maria quickly gained a reputation as one of the valley’s most gracious hosts. With her effortless approach and appreciation for how wine and food bring people together, Maria crafted a bar menu of fresh and local products to serve alongside the handcrafted wines. The R. Stuart Wine Bar continues to be a favorite of locals and visitors alike, where people come to discover amazing wine and celebrate life.

Her passion for cooking good food is evident in “The Life and Times of a Pinot Mom, her blog about food, life and the wine business. This down-to-earth, humorous, insider-view of her life and love for bringing people together has inspired others across the country to indulge in her recipes and her graceful, elegant yet comfortable entertaining style.

Maria was a leader in the development and welfare of the Oregon wine industry and local community at large. She served on the IPNC Board of Directors from 2012–2017 and was board President in 2016. Maria also served on the boards of Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC), McMinnville Downtown Association (MDA) and was the vice chair of Visit McMinnville, an organization she was instrumental in helping create. These organizations, along with Maria’s tireless dedication, have helped bring national and international attention to McMinnville, the Willamette Valley and the Oregon wine industry.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Maria championed most local service organizations and causes in McMinnville. She proudly served on the board of the McMinnville Education Foundation (MEF) and participated in countless committees and fundraisers that have made the community a better place for everyone. Whether it was sponsorship, wine donations, creative inspiration, or sweat equity, Maria could always be counted on to lend a hand.

Beyond her devotion to her professional life and community, Maria cherished her family: her loving husband Rob, daughter Charlotte and sons Joe and Ben. Maria created a life of love and comfort for everyone she knew, nurturing friendships across the globe with her wit, charm and talents. She made all the hard work look easy, frequently sharing her gratitude and recognizing her own good fortune. As she described it, “Lucky for me I get to cook for the people I love, throw parties and pour a little Pinot. Nothing makes me happier than gathering people around my table and serving them food that nourishes both body and soul.”

Throughout her journey with cancer, Maria proved herself to be more than a business owner, community leader, marketer, writer, entertainer, chef, mother and wife, she demonstrated incredible strength as she pushed through the constant challenges of the disease, while continuing to run the business and develop Daffodil Hill Vineyard. Purchased in 2018, this was the Stuart’s first vineyard holding and Maria was actively involved in renovating the farmhouse situated on the property. This special place, its lush gardens and valley views, offered Maria a sense of peace during her most difficult hours.

Her family, friends, community and the Oregon wine industry, deeply mourn the passing of Maria Stuart. A gathering to remember and celebrate her remarkable life and contributions will be announced soon. Any contributions can be made in her name to Salud Pinot Noir Barrel Auction, McMinnville Community Action or the McMinnville Education Foundation.  She is survived by her husband Rob, sons Joe and Ben, daughter Charlotte, sister Lisa and brothers Paul and Peter, as well thirteen nieces and nephews who adored her.