Recognizing the industry's best at the 7th annual gala event.
By Susan Kostrzewa
The New York Public Library was once again the setting for Wine Enthusiast's 7th annual Wine Star awards dinner, held on January 29. Each year, the event recognizes legends and trailblazers in the international wine
Over 450 guests attended the black-tie celebration, which included a cocktail hour in Astor Hall, followed by the awards dinner in Celeste Bartos Forum. With publisher and editor Adam Strum acting as master of ceremonies and
conferring all awards, the evening included evocative videos submitted by each of the award recipients that offered background on the spirit and history of each individual and organization. In between awards presentations, guests mingled and shared lauded wines from each of the recipients that were available on the tables.
The 2006 Wine Star Awards winners are:
Persons of the Year: Dave Pickens and the Olive Garden Wine Team
American Winery of the Year: Harlan Estate
European Winery of the Year: Torres
New World Winery of the Year: Clarendon Hills
Winemaker of the Year: Olivier Humbrecht
Wine Region of the Year: AlexanderValley, California
Importer of the Year: Moët Hennessy USA
Retailer of the Year: Beverages and More
Distiller of the Year: Buffalo Trace
Lifetime Achievement: Jess Jackson
The net proceeds of the evening benefits wine and spirits education at the Culinary Institute of America's Professional Wine Studies Program in the NapaValley, and B.A.R., the Beverage Alcohol Resource, which promotes professional education in spirits.
The theme of the energetic evening was America, Finally a Wine Drinking Nation. Insightful speakers emphasized the incredible growth of wine interest in the U.S. over the last decade, and the fact that by 2008, America will be the leading wine-drinking nation in the world. Lifetime Achievement winner Jess Jackson, a pioneer in promoting wine drinking and label recognition among American wine drinkers in his decades in the industry,emphasized a commitment to quality, respect for the consumer, and the essential efforts of their employees in their speeches. Olive Garden president Dave Pickens talked about the importance of introducing wine to new consumers in a friendly, family-style manner, while in a moment of levity, Winemaker of the Year Olivier Humbrecht recalled being told at the beginning of his winemaking career that he should "choose another profession." Humbrecht's dedication embodied the spirit of the evening—overcoming the odds and forging ahead into new and exciting territory.