On October 30, the historic racing community was saddened to learn that vintner and historic racer Gil Nickel had lost his courageous battle with cancer. He was 64.
Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1939, Gil served in the military for a number of years, before returning to Oklahoma to help manage the family-owned nursery business. By 1979, Greenleaf Nursery had become the second-largest family owned wholesale nursery in the country, enabling Gil to move to California to pursue his interest in wine making. Over the next several decades Gil transformed an abandoned Napa, California winery, by the name of Far Niente, into one of the most highly regarded wineries in America. Also during this time, Gil pursued his passion for racing with a vengeance, running everything from a Ferrari 340 Vignale roadster to a Lotus 26R and 23. Gil raced extensively all over the world and in 1995, driving his Lotus 23, became the first American to win the European FIA Historic Sports Car Championship. Gil is survived by his wife, Beth, and his son, Jeremy.