On Monday January 26th, over 350 wine industry luminaries gathered at New York City’s Public Library for Wine Enthusiast’s ninth annual Wine Star awards dinner.
The black-tie gala, which honors outstanding achievements in the world of wine (with a special emphasis on the particular year in question), unfolded with its usual mix of glamour and prestige. Industry notables from around the world first entered the library’s elegant reception room, socializing with one another in a variety of languages and sipping fine wines—all of which were provided by the winners—before moving down into the grandiose Celeste Bartos Forum for the four-course dinner and ceremony.
As per tradition, Wine Enthusiast CEO and publisher Adam Strum presided over the evening, kicking things off with a moving tribute to the late, legendary Robert Mondavi, whose wife, Margrit Biever Mondavi, joined onstage. At the end of the night, another Robert—Robert Sands, chairman of Constellation Brands—was honored with Wine Enthusiast’s prestigious Man of the Year award, after a touching testimonial given by his CEO Jose Fernandez. Also, for the first time ever, an award for Innovator of the Year was given—this year to Jean-Charles Boisset of BoissetÂ Family Estates. Boisset stressed the importance of embracing green initiatives in wine packaging and taking a part in the stewardship of land.Â Other winners were introduced by Wine Enthusiast editors, some of whom had flown in for the event from Europe and the west coast; one of the highlights was a speech by the charismatic Marchese Piero Antinori, Wine Enthusiast’s recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, whose family has been making wine in Tuscany since the 14th century.
Despite the opulent nature of the event, referred to as the “Academy Awards of wine,” a general air of humbleness and collaborative spirit prevailed as speakers and honorees addressed the difficult economic times. Though competitors, all winners were quick to acknowledge the accomplishments of their peers, displaying a sense of camaraderie for the start of 2009.
The honorees for 2009:
Man of the Year: Robert Sands, Constellation Brands
Lifetime Achievement: Piero Antinori, Marchese Antinori
American Winery of the Year: Korbel Champagne Cellars
European Winery of the Year: The Boutari Company, Greece
New World Winery of the Year: Casa Lapostolle, Chile
Winemaker of the Year: Margo Van Staaveren, Chateau St. Jean Winery & Vineyards
Importer of the Year: Shaw-Ross International Importers
Distiller of the Year: The Macallan
Retailer of the Year: Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods
Wine Region of the Year: Mendoza, Argentina
Innovator of the Year: Jean-Charles Boisset, Boisset Family Estates
Read profiles of all the 2008 Wine Star winners.