This Thursday Collier will give a check for $10,000 to the Forbes Norris ALS Research Center in San Francisco. He’ll also pour the wine named after Sue which was responsible for raising that amount.
In 2004 Sue was diagnosed with ALS — Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, best known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. With this disease, the muscles become smaller and weaker, and gradually the body becomes paralyzed.
The sun-kissed wine is named Syrah du Soleil, Sue’s Block for good reason. Soleil is French for sun, and Sue’s nickname was “sunshine,” Collier explained. “Also, the picture on the back label shows a sunflower, which was her favorite flower.”
Collier said the gift is in perpetuity for each year he makes the wine.
It was Sue who instigated the move from Los Angeles to Wine Country in the mid-1990s, with her dream of being a vintner. She moved up first in 1995, enrolling in classes taught by Rich Thomas at the Santa Rosa Junior College. Barry soon followed and they bought a 100-acre property in Dry Creek Valley in 1996.
On most summer days Sue and Barry would work in the vineyards from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Then they’d walk to the 60-foot waterfall on their property. They’d scale down the 120-step staircase to the base of the waterfall where there was a pond. Then they’d skinny dip beneath the speckled sunlight through the trees.
“Sue was my first and last love, my best friend, the mother of my two boys, my partner and my biggest fan,” Collier said. “I simply feel like she is with me every day, and I feel closer to her on the property. We talk daily and I don’t make a decision without consulting her.”
Collier said Sue picked Forbes Norris and its interdisciplinary clinic as the place where she wanted to be treated and counseled during her illness.
“It was important to her ‘to continue living’ during her illness rather than ‘live dying’ as she put it,” Collier said. “Forbes Norris helped her do that with grace.”
Sue’s death preceded the Ice Bucket Challenge, the part prank, part whimsy, and pure public relations genius that shined a light on ALS.
What would Sue have thought of the challenge?
Collier said “Sue would have been thrilled to see how the challenge made ALS a household name and opened people’s eyes and hearts to the disease.”