Noe Valley Voice December-January 2011

Longtime PlumpJack Wines Manager Drew Spaulding Dies

By Steve Steinberg


Drew Spaulding shared his wine expertise with the neighborhood for 11 years. 


Friends and family gathered in Santa Cruz on Oct. 29 to celebrate the life and memory of J. Drew Spaulding, the longtime manager of PlumpJack Wines on 24th Street.

Spaulding died on July 12 by his own hand. He was 44. He had left his position as manager of PlumpJack back in May, telling colleagues that he wanted to “try something else.” A Mill Valley resident, he had managed the wine shop since it first opened 11 years ago and had trained two of his colleagues to take over his job prior to his leaving.

“My brother lost a lifelong battle with depression,” said his younger sister, Shawna Spaulding of La Selva Beach, Calif.

She said her brother had a great passion for wine and his job, but could not overcome his depression. Never married, Spaulding treated his work “like a spouse,” his sister said. She characterized him as “intellectual, well-read, and knowledgeable.” 

His coworkers at PlumpJack also praised his intelligence, especially when it came to wine and spirits. “He had all this knowledge he had gained on his own about wine and wanted to spread it around,” said Josh Thinnes, who worked under Spaulding at PlumpJack for three years and now co-manages the store with Elio Longobardi. Thinnes and another store employee, Noe Valley resident John Klimek, said that Spaulding mentored them on all aspects of the wine-selling business and was especially conversant when it came to the pairing of food and wine. “Thanks to [his] mentoring and guidance,” Klimek said, “several PlumpJack employ­ees have gone on to become sommeliers.”

Born in Quincy, California, Spaulding was raised in several Northern California towns. His father was a civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service, and moved the family around frequently. His mother was a homemaker. Spaulding was an outstanding swimmer in elementary and high school and at a young age also learned to play golf, a sport he enjoyed his entire life. He also loved music and films, and was an avid reader.

He attended several colleges before deciding his real calling lay in the restaurant industry. He worked as a waiter and wine steward at various upscale restaurants, including one in New Orleans, before landing his job at PlumpJack.

Shawna Spaulding said she hoped her brother’s death would motivate others to seek help in dealing with depression, something, she said, her brother never did. “I don’t want his death to not be a benefit for people,” she said. “There should not be such a stigma, especially for men, attached to the treatment of depression.”

Besides his sister, Spaulding is survived by his mother and stepfather, 

Susan and Bill Van Hoosen of Rapid City, S.D., and his father and stepmother, Jim and Nell Spaulding of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.