Wine Enthusiast Chairman, Editor and Publisher Adam Strum presented a special award to recognize the firefighters who helped contain the infernos that left scores of people dead, destroyed thousands of buildings and torched countless acres of land in California wine country. Over 20 wineries sustained significant damage. But it could have been far worse.
Recognizing that hundreds of firefighters put their lives on the line, Strum, speaking for many in the audience, said that “If not for their valiant efforts, the region would have suffered even more devastation, and many of our most famous wineries would now be in ashes.”
Napa Valley Fire Chief Barry Biermann and Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner accepted the award on behalf of their departments and all the brave souls who helped extinguish the flames.
The audience, which included wine luminaries such as the Wine Star’s Person of the Year, the head of Moët Hennessy North America Jim Clerkin, Wine Star’s Wine Executive of the Year, E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Roger Nabedian, and Wine Star’s Innovator of the Year, Shaw-Ross International Importers’ Bruce Hunter, gave the two men a standing ovation that lasted a full minute.
The gratitude and thankfulness remained long after the two men left the stage.
The festivities began well before dinner with an alfresco cocktail hour, sipping wines that represented the evening’s honorees, including an array from Southwest France, the Wine Region of the Year. Mixologist of the Year Sother Teague represented the drinks world outside of wine, while other lively pours included cocktails using the Spirit Brand of the Year Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, and a selection of frosty beers from Brewery of the Year, Founders Brewing Co.
Wine Star named Nicolaus “Nicky” Hahn of Hahn Family Wines American Wine Pioneer. It was Hahn who was the driving force behind the creation of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. His son Philip and his daughter, Caroline, accepted the award on his behalf.
Among the wineries and regions celebrated over the course of the evening, Sonoma’s Kendall-Jackson was named the American Winery of the Year, Italy’s Fontanafredda was named European Winery of the Year, and Australia’s Vasse Felix was named New World Winery of the Year. Christophe Baron, winemaker/owner at Walla Walla Valley’s Cayuse Vineyards was honored as Winemaker of the Year.
This year’s Wine Star Award for Importer of the Year went to VINTUS and Michael Quinttus, who abandoned the law and bureaucracy to follow his passion—wine. Another man with a passion for wines, Master Sommelier Chris Tanghe, chief instructor at the Guild of Sommeliers, influences thousands of fellow sommeliers as he travels around the country teaching classes each year and earned the title Sommelier of the Year.
But where the rubber really meets the road is at retail and this year’s Wine Star Retailer of the Year was Safeway, part of the Albertsons Companies. It has promoted both the concept of a wine shop within a supermarket, expanding the wines on offer, as well as providing wine stewards to help shoppers find the perfect bottle.
Drawing the evening to a spirited close were the brothers Louis “Bob” Trinchero and Roger Trinchero, recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition not just of their giant California brands, Ménage à Trois and Sutter Home, but for their philanthropy and management style.