Walter Byck, founder of Paradise Ridge Winery, dies at 92

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Walter Byck, founder of the art-strewn, vista-laden Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, died Sunday, June 16. It was the day after his 92nd birthday.

Walter Byck

Friends and family gathered around his bed at his home near the winery after the six-decade Sonoma County resident suffered a stroke on Saturday, as reported by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. He died around 3:30 a.m. the following day.

The Byck family over the course of 30 years built Paradise Ridge into one of Wine Country’s premiere destinations—it’s become known for showcasing vast steel art pieces that have featured at the Burning Man art festival in Nevada. The winery lost many structures, including its tasting room and wine production facilities, in the 2017 Tubbs Fire. The Bycks lost little time in rebuilding the fire-ravaged grounds and soon returned Paradise Ridge to prominence.

Walter, a Santa Rosa physician, and Marijke Byck bought the 155-acre spread north of Fountaingrove in 1978 as a vacation retreat for their growing family. After years of growing grapes on the property’s expanding vineyard, they opened Paradise Ridge Winery in 1994.

Walter was born June 15, 1932 in Newark, New Jersey to second-generation Ukrainian Americans Louis and Lucy Byck. Like his father Louis, a doctor, Walter was interested in medicine. He earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees at Penn University.

Byck was serving as chief resident at New York Hospital in 1959 when he met Dutch nurse Marijke Hoenselaars. The couple married in 1961. The Bycks moved to Sonoma County in 1965 when Walter took a position with Santa Rosa Radiology. They would go on to have five children. (Rene Byck and Sonia Barwick-Byck currently run the winery.)

Marijke died at age 72 in 2006, after being was struck by a car while crossing a road in Santa Rosa.

A celebration of life is being planned by family.

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