It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Al Scheid, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Scheid Family Wines, at the age of 91.
Alfred G. Scheid, known as “Al” to everyone, was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 7, 1932. He died peacefully at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, on Friday, March 31, 2023.
Al came from humble beginnings but went on to lead an extraordinary life. He was raised in the coal-mining town of Bridgeport, Ohio during the Depression, an upbringing he wrote about in his memoir Breaking Out of Beerport. Although a poor student in his youth, his love of reading opened up the world to him and, at the age of 19, he hitchhiked out of Bridgeport with $42 in his pocket. After jobs in a steel mill and a tire factory, with the Korean War raging, Al joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station in southern California. It was during this tenure that he gained the confidence to attend college, putting himself through Citrus Junior College and Claremont Mens College by working a variety of jobs and then on to earning his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Upon graduation from Harvard, Al moved to California and joined E.F. Hutton & Co. but soon felt constrained by the corporate world. It was the 1960s and he wanted to be what was known back then as a deal man. He struck out to pursue dealmaking using a combination of street smarts, innate intelligence and sheer nerve. He was instrumental in closing numerous deals across many industries, undaunted by diving into businesses he knew nothing about.
Al went on to found two successful biotechnology companies without having a background in science and his eponymous wine company, Scheid Family Wines, in 1972. In fact, the kid from Ohio who knew little about wine became a pioneer in the Monterey grape growing region, an industry leader and an ardent supporter of wines from California. He was a founder of California Association of Winegrape Growers in 1974, serving as Chairman and long-time board member. He was named its Leader of the Year in 2017. Scheid Family Wines has evolved from a grape grower to a wine company producing close to 1 million cases of wine annually and is ranked among the top 25 largest wine producers in California. It celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and is still a family-run business with two of Al’s children, Scott and Heidi Scheid, at the helm.
Al’s family and friends remember him as a highly intelligent, honest and generous man with a quick wit and incredible memory. He was a natural entertainer and consummate storyteller. Every person who knew Al knows an Al story. Up until his death at 91 years of age, he could recall details from his youth, every deal he ever did, and meetings that happened years before, all in hilarious detail. He could be hard on those he loved but over the years, he softened into a father and grandfather that showed his love and affection.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Al Scheid in it. He called himself the luckiest man he knew and could tell you a hundred reasons why. He was a prolific e-mailer and bestowed many life lessons to his family, friends and colleagues, among them to be a lifelong learner, to be an advocate for your own health, to always tell the truth so you don’t have to remember anything, and that life is just an adventure.
Al closed his memoir with the following quote by Leo Tolstoy: “All, everything I understand, I understand because I love.” He did indeed love. And he was very much loved in return.
Al Scheid is survived by his wife, Shirley Gladden Scheid; his four children, Scott Scheid (wife Nancy), Heidi Scheid, Emily Scheid, and Tyler Scheid (wife Michelle); his stepchildren Mike Buske (wife Ivie) and Kim Buske DiDio (husband Tony), and grandchildren Siena Pugnale Quintana (husband Andy), Cooper Pugnale, Owen Pugnale, Kira Scheid, Chloe Scheid, Justin Liberty, Connor Liberty, Ryder Scheid and Cassidy Scheid; and step-grandchildren Alexis Buske, Nathalia Buske, Giuliana Buske, Sophia DiDio, and Ava DiDio. To honor Al’s memory, donations may be made to Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley directed towards BEAF (Bridgeport Educational Assistance Foundation), 1226 Chapline Street, Wheeling, WV 26003 or online at Bridgeport Educational Assistance Foundation. The family is planning a Celebration of Life to be held in the near future.