Holly Eve Brooks, who co-founded and ran Pence Ranch Vineyards and Winery with her longtime life partner, Blair Pence, was killed shortly after midnight on Friday night when the all-terrain vehicle she was driving on their private property flipped onto her. She was 54. Her passenger, 32-year-old Alyssa Whitcraft — the daughter of pioneering winemaker Chris Whitcraft, who died last month — managed to escape without injuries. [CORRECTION: Whitcraft is 28, not 32 as the incident report claimed; she also was slightly injured in the crash and spent some time at Cottage Hospital that night.]
The California Highway Patrol reported that the accident occurred at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday morning when Brooks’s Kubota RTV (a vehicle without seatbelts common in rural areas) started climbing an embankment on the right side of the road and flipped onto its left side. Whitcraft leapt out, but the vehicle overturned and trapped Brooks, who was pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m. “Alcohol intoxication as a factor to this collision is being investigated,” the report explains.
A private service will be held this Saturday for Brooks, but she is remembered fondly by the many who knew her in the wine industry.
“It’s a tragic loss, and we’re all just trying to grapple with it,” said Blair Pence, who called Brooks the “love of his life” in a message to family and friends alerting them of her passing. “She was this ranch, this ranch is her, and we’re just going to carry on and dedicate everything we do to her memory.”
“I am going to miss Holly so much because she enjoyed the simple things in life, so being around her was always fun and relaxing,” said publicist Sao Anash, a former wine columnist for this newspaper. “Blair has lost not only the love of his life, but, truly, his best friend. And, it’s just so hard to imagine my life without seeing Holly’s easy smile again.”