Skies cleared just in time last night as wine industry luminaries from around the world descended upon the New York Public Library for Wine Enthusiast’s annual Wine Star Awards ceremony. The evening marked the 10th anniversary of the black tie gala, a veritable Academy Awards of the wine and spirits world that honors outstanding industry achievers.
Following a cocktail reception in the library’s reception room, featuring wines provided by award recipients and innovative libations made from Hendrick’s Gin, winner of the 2009 Distiller of the Year award, attendees settled into the library’s grandiose and appropriately named Celeste Bartos Forum, for the official ceremony and four-course dinner. Wine Enthusiast CEO and Master of Ceremonies Adam Strum opened the night with a special anniversary award: Restaurateur of the Decade, which went to Alan Stillman, who, in addition to founding a number of restaurants (including the national chains T.G.I. Fridays and Smith & Wollensky), was the creator of National Wine Week in 1989. Another new awards category, the “Pioneers of Distribution”, was presented to the following distributor companies: Charmer Sunbelt Group, Fedway, Glazer’s, Opici Wine Group, Premier Wine Distributors, Republic National Distributing Company, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., Terlato Wines International, Wirtz Beverage Group and Young’s Market. Strum thanked these “unsung heroes” for generating consumer awareness for different producers and winemakers, crucial for maintaining the growth and health of the wine industry.
Other winners included: Scott McLeod of Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate for Winemaker of the Year; Ted Baseler of Ste. Michelle Estates for Man of the Year; the infamous Wine Library founder Gary Vaynerchuk for Innovator of the year; Best Cellars of A&P for Retailer of the year; Trinchero Family Estates for American Winery of the Year; the Italian co-operative Mezzacorona for European Winery of the Year; Yalumba in Australia for New World Winery of the Year; the abovementioned Hendrick’s Gin for Distiller of the Year; Winebow for Importer of the Year; Valpolicella, Italy for Wine Region of the Year for and Harvey Chaplin, CEO of Southern Wine & Spirits, who accepted this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. (To read profiles on all the winners, click here.)
Highlights of the evening included a humorous acceptance video by Best Cellars founder Joshua Wesson and, on a more serious note, the final speech given by Chaplin, who received a standing ovation for his accomplishments over the years.