Wine Enthusiast’s 19th annual Wine Star Awards were held Monday night at the Nobu Eden Roc in Miami Beach. The black-tie gala honored innovators and stalwarts who are shaping the present and future of the wine, spirits and beer industry. The themes of the evening were stewardship of the land and support of women in wine.
An outdoor cocktail reception gave guests the opportunity to taste wines from various winners, as well as jamon brought by European Winery of the Year winner, González Byass, plus a daiquiri and a rum-based Old Fashioned riff by Spirit Brand of the Year winner, Diplomático Rum. The step-and-repeat, poolside setting and beachy backdrop presented plenty of good photo opportunities.
The awards ceremony kicked off with Wine Enthusiast Chairman, Editor and Publisher Adam Strum awarding Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the American Wine Legend award. Winiarski was recognized not just for his contributions to winemaking, but for his conservation work to preserve the Napa Valley. After a one-minute standing ovation from the crowd, Winiarski was able to give a brief speech.
“Tonight is for all of us, wing to wing, oar to oar,” he said. “…for the Napa Valley itself.”
Charlotte Voisey, brand ambassador for William Grant & Sons USA and the very first recipient of the Mixologist of the Year award, presented Dale DeGroff with a special award for Cocktail Legend. She spoke to how his insistence on quality ingredients and cocktails with a story had a profound impact on the American bar scene. DeGroff received the award talking about his role in mentorship.
“One of my crowning achievements was to make it OK to be a professional bartender again,” DeGroff said.
In the audience, personalities including the Winemaker of the Year winner, Adam Mettler of Michael David Winery; Beverage Director/Sommelier of the Year winner, June Rodil, MS, of McGuire Moorman Hospitality; and Wine Executive of the Year winner, Alex Ryan of Duckhorn Vineyards, cheered on the winners as the awards ceremony moved on.
Innovator of the Year Terry Wheatley, president of Vintage Wine Estates, shared her story of working in rodeos, and then drew a standing ovation upon announcing that she her foundation raised $26 million for breast cancer research. Representatives from Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery, González Byass and Bodega Garzón were on hand to receive awards for American Winery of the Year, European Winery of the Year and New World Winery of the Year, respectively.
Vincent Perrin, director of Comité Champagne also picked up a statuette on behalf of Champagne, France, the Wine Region of the Year. He also spoke of the importance of stewardship, of the region’s vineyards and also its traditions.
A special moment in the evening came when Mel Dick accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from Adam Strum, for 50 years of service building the portfolio of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and, by extension, changing how Americans drink.
Cape Classics were honored as Wine Importer of the Year, for its work giving back to education in South Africa, as well as its excellent and growing portfolio. Wally’s Wine & Spirits claimed Retailer of the Year for its investment into forward-thinking wine-buying experiences.
As the evening began to wind down, Wine Enthusiast’s Director of New Business and Communications Jacqueline Strum presented Deborah Brenner with a special award for Social Visionary of the Year, honoring her work as founder and CEO of Women of the Vine & Spirits.
“Women are using their voices louder than ever to push for gender equality,” Jacqueline Strum said, before Brenner shared her own moving story about the sacrifices she made to create the organization.
Finally, Adam Strum awarded Bill Newlands the Person of the Year award for his ceaseless work moving Constellation Brands forward, from investment in Canopy Growth, a cannabis company, to his pledge of $100 million to women-owned startups and small businesses over the next 10 years. He ended the evening on a poignant note:
“Let us never forget the work of the people who came before us.”