Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine honor outstanding achievement in the wine world, in that given year and over time. Here, we present the nominees in each of the categories. The winners will be announced in our December 15th issue, and the honorees will be presented their awards at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City in January 2012.
And the nominees are…
WINE PERSON OF THE YEAR
Don St. Pierre, Jr.
Born in Ontario, Canada, St. Pierre is the CEO of ASC Fine Wines, China’s largest importer and distributor of quality international wines. Shanghai-based ASC, founded by St. Pierre’s father in 1996, is expanding its stable of big-name labels from around the world, importing wines from 14 countries into one of the fastest-growing consumer wine markets.
Francis Ford Coppola
The multiple-time Academy Award winner’s professional wine career started with his 1975 purchase of the old Inglenook property, which became his Rubicon Estate winery. In 2006, Coppola moved into Sonoma County and began transforming the old Château Souverain property into Francis Ford Coppola Winery, a popular tourist stop that today includes more than forty wines and his new restaurant, RUSTIC.
At the helm of DFV Wines for four years, President and CEO Indelicato has offered vision, imagination and strategic direction to a multi-generational, family-owned business that continues to set examples in the California wine industry for its innovative approaches. From out-of-the-box packaging to sustainable practices as well as wine and food pairing initiatives and beyond, Indelicato is committed to today’s wine consumer, and consumers to come.
Since 2008, the president of Napa’s Merryvale Vineyards has pioneered green initiatives while preserving the winery’s Cabernet excellence. Schlatter has expertly honored the legacy of this historic brand while at the same time instigating change and progressive evolution.
An avid wine collector, Tang has been the chief secretary of administration for Hong Kong since 2007. Under his guidance, Hong Kong has eliminated most duty fees and taxes on imported wine, moves that have helped establish his city as the hub of the Asian wine trade.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
David S. Taub
For more than five decades, the C.E.O. of Palm Bay International has been at the forefront of both distributor and importer industries and has had an enormous impact on the proliferation of wine consumption in America. The company’s portfolio exceeds five million cases annually, represents over 40 producers from ten countries around the world and includes both volume brands like Cavit, and luxury brands like Planeta in Sicily, Bertani in Verona and Columbo in the Rhône as well as diverse wines from hotspots like Argentina, Chile and beyond.
AMERICAN WINERY OF THE YEAR
Bronco Wine Company
Most people may never have heard of Bronco Wine Company, even though it’s the fourth largest producer in the U.S. But everybody knows at least some of its brands: Napa Ridge, Forest Glen, the famous Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck) and scores of others. Almost all are value-priced, making them the perfect go-to wines for Americans feeling squeezed by the recession,
Founded in 1984 as Chateau Ste. Michelle developed its Horse Heaven Hills vineyards, Columbia Crest now encompasses dozens of wines in four tiers. Consumers find quality and value in all of them—Two Vines, Grand Estates, H3 and Reserve. Small-batch bottlings supplement the national lines, making Columbia Crest the most diverse—and largest—winery in the Pacific Northwest.
The Grapes of Roth
The Grapes of Roth is the garagiste-inspired personal label of veteran Long Island winemaker Roman Roth. Since the label’s first vintage in 2001, Roth has focused on creating small quantities of exceptionally character-driven, high-quality Merlot. More recently, he’s produced dry and late-harvest Rieslings that reflect his German heritage.
Schramsberg is the greatest producer of California sparkling wine across a spectrum of types and styles—quite a statement considering the competition. Since the 1960s, the small, family-owned property has been producing dramatic bubblies, from bruts and crémants to vintage-dated reserves. With each vintage, Schramsberg leaps to new heights.
Livermore Valley’s Wente, founded in 1883, is America’s oldest continuously operated family-owned winery. Known for making quality wines at every price point, Wente was the first winery in the state to introduce Chardonnay. In 2011, Wente released Entwine, the first line of Food Network wines.
EUROPEAN WINERY OF THE YEAR
The 22-generation Prosecco producer refurbished the island of Mazzorbo in the Venetian lagoon to create the world’s most exclusive eno-gastro luxury retreat, starring its acclaimed restaurant, Venissa. The island project is dedicated to sustainable farming and restoring crops on the brink of extinction, including Venice’s indigenous wine grape, Dorona.
Both landowner and partner of the best winegrowers in the South of France, Gérard Bertrand manages over 325 hectares of vineyards across varying Languedoc terroirs. He fully understands the movement toward expressive, well-balanced and elegant wines that remain accessible and affordable.
This venerable Sherry bodega, best known for its Tio Pepe fino, celebrated its 175th birthday last year. In recent years, González Byass, which bottles artisan Sherries including Noé PX and Matusalem sweet oloroso, has been on the acquisitions path. The winery has added top Spanish brands, including Beronia (Rioja) and Vilarnau (Cava) to its portfolio.
Marking its 200th anniversary this year, this Pernod-Ricard-owned Champagne house is best known for its famed Fleur de Champagne brand in its distinctive Belle Epoque flower bottle. Just as important is the increasing quality of the whole range, focused on Chardonnay-dominated blends, such as the Grand Brut Non-Vintage.
Pinot Grigio, we love you. The popularity of this crisp, fruity white wine makes Santa Margherita the most popular restaurant brand ever. But the forward-thinking company has decided not to put all its eggs in the Pinot Grigio basket. It now also offers an exciting lineup of reds and sparkling wines.
NEW WORLD WINERY OF THE YEAR
Owned since 1989 by the Austrian family that runs Swarovski Crystal, Bodega Norton is one of the grand names in Argentinean wine. Under the management of Michael Halstrick, Norton exports to more than 60 countries, with its range of wines in the United States handled by TGIC Importers, Wine Enthusiast’s 2010 Importer of the Year.
Classic Bordeaux varieties thrive on the De Toren Estate, resulting in some of South Africa’s most balanced, expressive and highly regarded red wines, particularly their Fusion V and Z. De Toren’s has made its mark on the world stage by coupling Old World winemaking with a New World commitment to quality and the environment.
Mission Hill Family Estate
No winery has done more to promote and expand the potential of British Columbia’s Okanagan wine country than family-owned Mission Hill. The spectacular site and Greco-Roman architecture, enhanced by museum-quality art and antiquities, offers visitors not just superb wines, but epicurean dining, concerts and educational events.
In a challenging vintage with many misses, Penfolds hit a home run with its superb lineup of 2008 reds. Despite immense uncertainty at the corporate level, Penfolds remains the iconic Australian brand.
Viña San Pedro
The anchor of the Viña San Pedro Tarapacá Wine Group, San Pedro offers a wine for everyone. From its value-priced Gato Negro line to high-end bottlings like Cabo de Hornos, San Pedro, under the guidance of CEO Javier Bitar and head winemaker Marco Puyo, is one of Chile’s undisputed innovators.
WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR
With about 35 different bottlings each vintage, up to and including the dramatic, ageworthy vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs, Williams Selyems’s wines have excelled over the last few years. With Cabral, who’s been at the helm since 1998, the wines have risen above a quality level that was already impressive.
This former rugby player turned winemaking consultant has put together an All-Star list of 50-plus client wineries throughout southern France. He almost invariably raises quality to impressive heights, whether working with wines from Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Rhône or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
As Chile’s most sought-after winemaking consultant, Espinoza’s clients include Emiliana and Pérez Cruz in Chile and Cruz Andina in Argentina. A staunch proponent of organic and biodynamic viticulture, he runs his own wine labels, Antiyal and Kuyen, and is a founding partner in Geo Wines.
Producer of legendary sweet wines, Gerhard Kracher took over his family’s winery, Weinlaubenhof Kracher in Burgenland, Austria, in 2007, following the tragic death of his father. The first releases under his regime have continued the range of superlative wines that set standards at the highest international level.
A trailblazer for women and an icon of the industry, Long began her career as an enologist at Robert Mondavi Winery. Having served as winemaker (1979-88) and CEO (1989-96) of Simi Winery, she owns Long Vineyards in Napa Valley and Vilafonté in South Africa and has consulted at numerous estates across the world.
WINE REGION OF THE YEAR
Prosecco demonstrates that some categories do flourish despite hard times. This perky, no-fuss Italian bubbly has reached such popularity that production is predicted to outpace Champagne. Producers have reprioritized their vineyard sites and quality standards to pave the road for a new era.
The French home of rosé, this beautiful region in the south of France has been leading the extraordinary growth in dry rosé sales in the United States. The winemaking has been transformed, artfully producing beautiful, food-friendly rosés. The quality reds—even a few whites—are just behind.
Ribera del Duero
A denominated wine region since 1982, Ribera del Duero is the source for many of Spain’s premier red wines. Tempranillo, known locally as Tinto Fino, is the region’s signature grape, producing full-bodied, ageable wines, many of which garner excellent reviews.
Russian River Valley
Few wine regions evoke more vivid impressions of great wine, stunning landscapes and friendly people than the Russian River Valley. World-class Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs abound, often from gnarled, centenarian vineyards. Rhône varieties, both red and white, as well as great Chardonnays join the valley’s crown jewel: Pinot Noir, now coming off a stellar string of vintages.
Often referred to as “America’s Burgundy” for its ability to produce elegant Pinot Noirs, the Willamette Valley is located about an hour southwest of Portland. Pioneered in the early 1970s, the region and its subzones continue to evolve via world-class Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
DISTILLER OF THE YEAR
For over 260 years, Appleton Estate has forged a reputation for its range of Jamaican aged rums, distilled from estate-grown sugar cane. The distiller has also benefited for its pioneering support of the mixology community.
Throughout its 150-year history, this bright-red Italian bitter has been celebrated for its heritage and its distinctive flavor profile. More recently, the spirit has been reinvigorated as a staple cocktail ingredient—a Negroni, Americano, and countless other classic and modern drinks wouldn’t be the same without it.
The innovation shown by this maker of single-malt Highland Scotches is impressive, ranging from polished classics and elegant cask-finished whiskies to its 2011 release of the luxurious Glenmorangie Pride 1981 bottling. Founded in 1843, this brand is now under the stewardship of Louis Vuitton Moët-Hennessy.
This Kentucky Bourbon maker with the distinctive red wax-sealed bottle was overseen by Bill Samuels Jr. until 2011, when he announced his retirement. Although the small-batch Bourbon has long been enjoyed by many, this distiller really turned heads with its release of the lively Maker’s 46, its first new product in over 50 years.
Partida is one of the only major Tequila brands still produced as an estate-grown product, from agave cultivation and harvest to distillation and marketing. This distiller was an ardent, early advocate of Tequila education, as it was among the first to observe similarities between Tequila and fine wine.
IMPORTER OF THE YEAR
Anchor Distilling Company
This San Francisco-based company strengthened its portfolio in 2011 and took top honors in five categories at the June 2011 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition. Offering a collection ranging from Luxardo Amaretto to English Harbour 5-Year-Old Rum, Anchor’s emphasis is on finely crafted, artisan spirits from boutique producers world wide.
Kysela Père et Fils
Francis Kysela, owner, president and a master sommelier, has built an enviable catalog of boutique wineries from France, Spain, Portugal and Austria as well as a considerable list from California and Oregon. Kysela’s indefatigable palate for wine’s sense of place, value and quality is matched by his business acumen.
Michael Skurnik Wines
Representing 450 estates in California, Europe (including the Terry Theise portfolio) and Australia, Michael Skurnik and his brother, Harmon, have nurtured relationships with wineries from the traditional to the cutting edge. The focus is on wines that express terroir through limited yields and minimalist intervention.
Mionetto USA is a growing force in Italian wine. It bridges the gap between value and volume, thanks to meticulous brand selection, broad distribution and shrewd marketing. Its portfolio includes powerhouses such as Cantina di Soave, as well as an eclectic repertoire of boutique brands.
Total Beverage Solutions
Founded in 2002, TBS represents dynamic fine wine, spirit and beer brands from Birra Moretti to Tiziano Prosecco and Chateau Castel des Maures Cotes de Provence Rosé. Beverage Industry Magazine included TBS in its Top 100 ranking of American and overseas beverage companies in terms of sales in 2009 and 2010.
RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Beginning in the late 1990’s, Safeway began a serious upgrade of its wine department, which now includes 44,000 product SKUs. Each store tailors its selections to the tastes of local shoppers. In 2005, Safeway again upgraded its wine service, by launching “Lifestyle” stores in certain cities.
With nine locations across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and aspirations of many more to come, Stew Leonard’s offers a wide selection of wines, beers and spirits at superb values. Staff wine education is a priority, and it shows: In just over a decade, Stew’s wine shops have grown to boast annual sales of $100 million.
From a humble beginning as Pronto Markets a half century ago, Trader Joe’s now spans the country with hundreds of locations, most offering expansive selections of beer and wine. The mix includes national brands, special purchases and direct imports, always with a strong focus on value (think Two Buck Chuck), education and fun.
Wine.com is the nation’s largest Internet wine retailer, and was a pioneer in that arena. In March 2011, it announced fiscal year revenues of $56 million, up 25% over the prior year.
The airport wine destination and oasis for harried travelers, Vino Volo offers elegant wine bars combined with retail stores offering well-priced and well-chosen wines. Founded in 2004, Vino Volo now has 17 outlets in airports nationwide, presenting wines by the glass with gourmet fare. Customers can purchase bottles to go, or shop online.
RESTAURATEUR OF THE YEAR
B&B Hospitality Group
Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich are the collective force behind an eclectic group of critically acclaimed restaurants and fine wine and food markets, including the expansive Eataly NY market in Manhattan. While each location offers its own culinary identity, all have the signature combination of memorable food and intelligent wine list.
Hailing from Lyon, France, Daniel Boulud is a culinary authority, having earned three Michelin stars with Daniel, his signature New York restaurant. Boulud directs six other restaurants and cafés in New York City, while additional Boulud restaurants thrive in Palm Beach, Florida; Miami; London and Beijing.
Instantly recognizable from the hit TV series Top Chef, for which he won an Emmy in 2010, Colicchio directs an empire of 14 restaurants, including Craft, Craftbar, ’wichcraft, Craftsteak, Colicchio & Sons and Riverpark Farm. Colicchio’s accolades include multiple James Beard awards.
With classical training in some of France’s most esteemed kitchens, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is more than a Food Network fixture (Chopped, The Cooking Loft and Alex’s Day Off). Guranaschelli’s New York restaurants include Butter and The Darby (opened in 2011), and she serves as an instructor at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education.
Cairo-born Michael Mina’s portfolio of eateries in eight states includes Bourbon Steak, RN74, Michael Mina and Seablue. Two of Chef Mina’s restaurants have earned Michelin stars and one earned Wine Enthusiast’s Best 100 Wine Restaurants of 2011 award. He is the author of Michael Mina: The Cookbook.
MIXOLOGIST OF THE YEAR
A San Francisco-based rum and exotic cocktail expert, Martin Cate is the owner of Smuggler’s Cove San Francisco, a bar noted for its celebration of rum, tiki drinks and culture. He was previously the manager and co-owner of Forbidden Island Alameda, another well-known and beloved tiki outpost.Misty Kalkofen
Kalkofen is a Boston-based mixologist at Drink, which was named “Best American Cocktail Bar” at the 2011 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. She is president and founder of the city’s first and only women’s classic cocktail society, LUPEC Boston (a local chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails).
Currently the company mixologist with William Grant & Sons USA, Charlotte Voisey has run bars in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and London. She manages the cocktail programs at venues such as the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas; Cienfuegos and the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan.
The New York-based mastermind behind such renowned bars as Death & Co. and Mayahuel, Phil Ward is known for his passionate advocacy of Tequila and mezcal. He first learned his craft working at Flatiron Lounge and Pegu Club.
Angus Winchester was a founding member of one of the first bar consultancies and now runs the Alconomics agency out of London and Hong Kong, where he resides. At the top of Winchester’s current client roster is the House of Tanqueray, for which he acts as global ambassador.
GENERATIONS OF INNOVATION
Special Award Winners: Georg and Maximilian Riedel
They may not produce a single bottle of wine, but the Riedel family has made an enormous, essential contribution to the promotion of wine appreciation on a global, historic scale. Their fine glassware and decanters, through scientific design and exquisite aesthetics, are specifically designed to enhance the experience of wine, from eye to nose to palate.
The Riedel family traces its origins to the 17th century. Johann Christoph Riedel, born in 1678, traveled all over 17th century Europe, trading glass. The family has expanded on this expertise into manufacturing and has maintained its control, unbroken, to this day—with the 10th and 11th generations.
Georg Josef Riedel joined the company in 1973 and truly took it global, opening company-owned subsidiaries in the USA and four other countries, while also acquiring Nachtmann and Spiegelau.
Georg passed that passion and creativity onto his son, Maximilian, who became active in the company in 1997. Maximilian has served as CEO of Riedel Crystal since 2004, and is the creator of the wildly successful “O” line of stemless glasses and two innovative decanter designs.
The Riedels, father and son, will accept their award at a gala awards dinner in New York City in January, 2102.