Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Star Award Nominees

The leading magazine in wine lifestyle announces its 2013 nominations for the coveted award.

Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine honor the individuals and companies that have made outstanding achievements in the wine world. Below are the nominees in each of the categories for 2013. The winners will be announced in the special December 31 Wine Star Award issue, and the honorees will be presented their Wine Star Award trophies at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City on January 27th, 2014.

New to this year’s ceremony, the Rising Star award celebrates the industry’s most influential up-and-comer whose work is already making waves. The Lifetime Achievement and American Wine Legend awards, both granted to individuals who have made an exceptional mark on the industry, will be named at a later date.

And the nominees are…


Lifetime Achievement Award

Gianni Zonin
One of the most influential personalities in the Italian wine world, Gianni Zonin began his career at the family’s winery in 1957 and quickly climbed the company latter. In 1967, at the age of 29, Zonin became president of his family firm. He later went on to acquire property in Tuscany, including the stunning Castello d’Albola in Chianti Classico, as well as estates in Sicily, Piedmont and Puglia, and today, the firm has two divisions, Zonin the brand and Gianni Zonin Estates, the latter counting nine estates in seven regions in Italy for a total of 4,942 acres under vine. It is the largest private wine enterprise in Europe, producing 40 million bottles in 2012. Three-fourths of the production is exported, with the U.S. being a primary market.

American Wine Legend Award

Peter Mondavi, Sr.
The president of Napa Valley’s historic Charles Krug Winery has made invaluable contributions to wine in his 38 years at the helm. When Peter Mondavi Sr. was born in 1914, no one could have imagined that the youngest son of Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, Italian immigrants who recently arrived in the U.S., would grow up to be one of the most revered figures in Napa. Named one of only 12 Living Legends of Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners, Peter’s research into cold fermentation (resulting in cleaner, fruitier, crisper wines) and his work in sterile filtration helped push quality to today’s exacting standards. Last year, his contributions were again cited when he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Perhaps even more important than his technical achievements are what Peter Mondavi Jr., the patriarch’s younger son, calls his father’s “passion and ability to make his dedication to this business transcend generations.”

Person of the Year

Barbara Banke
Chairperson and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, Barbara Banke took the helm of the trailblazing company after her late husband, Jess Jackson, passed away in 2011. Since then, Banke, a former lawyer, has driven the company’s growth by adding 14 additional properties, including expanding into Oregon’s Willamette Valley with recent purchases of Soléna Winery and Zena Crown vineyards.

Charles Banks
The former managing partner of Napa cult-favorite Screaming Eagle, Banks hasn’t slowed down since leaving the company in 2009. Banks cofounded Sandhi Wines and started Terroir Capital with a group of investors, through which he has made high-profile purchases of winery and vineyard properties around the world, including South Africa’s Mulderbosch and Napa Valley’s Leviathan. Most recently, Banks and his wife, along with the Shottenstein family, purchased Napa Valley’s legendary Mayacamas Vineyards.

Paul Draper
The pioneering winemaker behind Ridge Vineyards, Draper is a forward thinking icon in the industry, known for his noninterventionist approach to winemaking. An untiring champion of California Zinfandel, he helped rescue the grape from obscurity.

Lurton Family
The Lurton Family—currently run by fourth-generation cousins descended from a line of Bordeaux grape growers and distillers—manage several of the most prestigious names in French wine, including Châteaux d’Yquem and Cheval Blanc. Together, the Lurtons own 1,300 acres and 27 domaines across France, plus numerous overseas ventures.

Bill Price
While he may not have his name on any wine labels, Bill Price has been the driving force behind such brands as Kosta Browne and Gary Farrell Winery while managing his own personal projects at Classic Wines and Price Family Vineyards. Under the PFV umbrella, he’s crafted wines at Durell Vineyard, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Buccella Winery, Kistler Vineyards, Three Sticks Wines and Lutum.

American Winery of the Year

Hope Family
Wine pioneers of Paso Robles, Hope Family Wines has been producing notable selections for 30 years. The parent company to Austin Hope, Candor, Liberty School, Treana and Troublemaker, Hope Family Wines continues to bring renown to the up-and-coming Central Coast.

Housed on a 103-acre estate on Long Island, Paumanok was founded by Ursula and Charles Massoud in 1983. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Paumanok crafts expressive wines in an Old World-meets-New World style, utilizing classic grapes like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Winemaker Kareem Massoud has taken over the helm from his parents, providing continuity in an already respected brand.

One of Oregon’s founding wineries, Ponzi launched in the Willamette Valley in the 1960s by Dick and Nancy Ponzi, who saw promise in producing cold-climate Pinot Noir. Their instincts were solid; today Ponzi wines are considered some of the most elegant wines in the world, and certainly have helped put Oregon on the wine map.

Rodney Strong
Established in Sonoma in 1959, Rodney Strong Vineyards has been a wine powerhouse for more than 50 years and is a major reason Sonoma is a world-class region today. Always one to adapt to new innovations, Rodney Strong Vineyards became Sonoma’s first carbon neutral winery in 2009.

Founded in 1862, the Schramsberg estate in Calistoga was named a historical landmark in 1957 and the wines have been poured at many of the nation’s historic moments, including President Nixon’s “Toast to Peace” with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Today, Hugh Davies helms Schramsberg, ensuring another generation dedicated to quality world-class Pinot Noir and sparkling wine.

European Winery of the Year

AXA Millésimes
With holdings in Bordeaux, Languedoc, Portugal and Tokaj, AXA Millésimes (a subsidiary of French insurance company AXA) produces top-tier wines with a strong core of winemakers driving quality and creative approaches. Additionally, the group is a dedicated supporter of wine education through the Institute of Masters of Wine, funding an annual scholarship and providing students access to its properties.

JoĂŁo Portugal Ramos
Born into a family with a long history of wine production and bearing a degree from Lisbon’s Institute of Agronomy, João Portugal Ramos began his career as an oenologist in the Alentejo region before launching his own winemaking venture in 1990. Today, he’s one of Portugal’s leading producers.

Marqués de Riscal
Founded in Rioja in 1858, Marqués de Riscal winery straddles the line between tradition and innovation. The historic cellars feature the latest technology, the hotel aesthetics are stunning and the highly rated wines are expressive of classic Rioja winemaking.

Produttori del Barbaresco
Founded in 1958 and consisting of 56 grower-members with approximately 250 acres dedicated to Nebbiolo, Produttori del Barbaresco is considered one of the world’s leading cooperatives. It continues to set the bar in winemaking, producing as many as 35,000 cases of wine a year and offering quality and consistency across the board.

Vins de Michel Gassier
A tireless champion of his native Costières de Nîmes in the southern Rhône, the dynamic Michel Gassier has transformed his family estate into a reputable source for value wines as well as world-class top cuvées, produced with the guidance of star consultant Philippe Cambie.

New World Winery of the Year

Craggy Range
Australian Terry Peabody started New Zealand’s Craggy Range in 1997 as a legacy for his family, but in the years following, the project took an ambitious turn for the better, producing benchmark wines, like its Gimblett Gravels blends, that define New Zealand’s extensive terroir.

Since 1844, Penfolds has been leading the way in Australian winemaking. Under the eye of winemaker Peter Gago, the iconic Penfolds Grange is world-renowned. Aside from the Grange bottling, Penfolds produces multiple luxury cuvées, including Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Henri Shiraz and the RWT Shiraz, while selections from the Koonunga Hill line provide exceptional value-driven pours.

Johan Reyneke, Jr. founded the Reyneke label in 1998 on his family’s Stellenbosch-based farm, and is currently one of South Africa’s few biodynamic winemakers, leading the way with high-scoring, consistently well-made wine.

Viña Cobos
A joint venture between American winemaker Paul Hobbs and Argentine winemakers Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud, Viña Cobos has become synomous with high-quality, premium wines, thanks to its Cobos Nico, Bramare, and Felino offerings.

Viña Santa Carolina
With more than 130 years of winemaking history, Viña Santa Carolina competes with some of the world’s best wines, exporting nearly 80 percent of all production globally. With lauded wines from all over Chile, this urban winery is known for its high quality-to-price ratio and vineyard innovations.

Winemaker of the Year

Benoit Gouez
The chef de cave of Moët et Chandon, Gouez relaunched the brand’s Brut Imperial in the U.S. market with less dosage, marking the first time this flagship brand has maintained the same standard worldwide. The dynamic Gouez keeps a keen eye on both quality and quantity.

Cristina Mantilla
One of the pioneering women winemakers in Spain’s Rías Baixas, Mantilla makes wine for more than 10 wineries annually, including Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes, Maior de Mendoza and Adegas Valmiñor. She is also a de facto ambassador for the region, traveling widely to educate consumers and industry members about Rías Baixas.

Louisa Rose
Chief winemaker for Australia’s esteemed Yalumba, Rose deserves particular credit for her work with Viognier, which she makes to fit numerous styles and price points. Recognized as one of Australia’s leading winemakers, she also serves as a judge at various Australian wine competitions.

Charles Smith
A rock band manager-turned-rock star winemaker, Charles Smith has founded K Vintners, Magnificent Wine Company, Secco Italian Bubbles, Charles Smith Wines and an as-yet-unnamed Chardonnay-driven project. When not championing Washington State winemaking, he also maintains a partnership with Charles Bieler (Charles & Charles) in a joint venture with Trinchero.

Paolo Vagaggini
A prolific oenologist and one of the world’s leading experts on Sangiovese, Vagaggini works with about a third of Montalcino’s wineries, including Biondi Santi, Eredi Fuligni and Poggio Antico. With 30 years of winemaking experience under his belt, he also consults for wineries in Montepulciano and Chianti Classico.

Wine Region of the Year

The spotlight shines on Portugal’s Douro Valley this year because of the tremendous quality of the newly released 2011 Ports, but the region’s dry table wines have also made incredible strides in recent years.

Paso Robles
Paso Robles is having a moment in the sun, attracting truckloads of dynamic young talent unafraid to experiment with grape varieties and winemaking techniques. Consistently high-quality wines, a vibrant food culture, and diverse travel experiences for adventurous wine lovers add to the package.

RĂ­as Baixas
Famed for its fresh, crisp whites, Spain’s Rías Baixas has made a name for itself in terms of quality, organization and production. With 8,650 acres under vine and more than 6,500 growers, nearly 100 percent of wines from this region are classified Denominación de Origen.

South Africa’s Stellenbosch is one of the country’s oldest and most important wine regions. Its hilly terrain, variety of soils and Mediterranean climate result in world-class expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, while its superb Chenin Blanc is one of the best expressions of the grape.

Walla Walla
Home to more than 150 wineries, Walla Walla Valley is the epicenter of wine tourism in Washington state. In 2014, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary as an American Viticulture Area, producing some of the world’s most distinct expressions of Merlot and Syrah.

Importer of the Year

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
A pioneering importer with an acclaimed portfolio of small, artisanal French and Italian offerings, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant remains one of the wine industry’s most important players.

Kysela Père et Fils
Francis Kysela, owner, president and a master sommelier, has built an enviable catalog of boutique imports from France, Italy, South Africa and Spain, among others, as well as a considerable distribution list from California, Oregon and Washington. Kysela’s indefatigable palate for wine’s sense of place, value and quality is matched by his business acumen.

Vias Imports Ltd.
Since 1983, Vias Imports Ltd. has been providing incredible access to Italy through its varied portfolio. With more than 200 wines from native Italian varieties, Vias works with producers of varying sizes who maintain the integrity of their region’s winemaking traditions while also acting as stewards for the history of their vines.

The Vintner Group
Representing wine importers across the country, The Vintner Group recently acquired Martin Scott Wines, adding to its extensive portfolio which includes prestigious producers like Klein Constantia (South Africa), Château de Saint Cosme (France) and O. Fournier (multiple countries).

Founded in 2004, Vintus has amassed an enviable international portfolio stocked with a diverse roster of world class, iconic family-owned, estate-based producers, from Portugal’s Quinta do Noval and Rhône’s E. Guigal to Veneto’s Tommasi.

Retailer of the Year

Astor Wines & Spirits
Located in downtown New York City just steps from Greenwich Village, Astor Wine & Spirits has been a leader in the retail space since 1946. Offering free tastings with discounts throughout the week, as well as extensive education classes in the attached Astor Center, this wine shop proves it’s a leader in informing and engaging consumers.

K&L Wine Merchants
With three storefronts in California (Redwood City, San Francisco and Hollywood) and a flourishing online business, K&L has become the go-to retailer for collectors of fine and rare wines, as well as for those just looking for a great everyday bottle.

The Kroger Co.
A nationwide supermarket chain—featuring 2,419 stores in 31 states—Kroger helps make wine accessible to people across the country, offering well-priced and good quality values.

Total Wine and More
It opened in Delaware in 1991 with just two stores, but Total Wine and More has since expanded to 15 states in 95 superstores, with no plans of slowing down. Stocking more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers, Total Wine is not just about numbers: its staff undergoes extensive training to provide consumers with the most knowledgeable experience possible.

Trader Joe’s
From a humble beginning as Pronto Markets a half century ago, Trader Joe’s now spans the country with hundreds of locations, most offering expansive selections of beer and wine. The mix includes national brands, special purchases and direct imports, always with a strong focus on value (think Two Buck Chuck), education and fun.

Sommelier of the Year

Laura Maniec 
One of just 19 female Master Sommeliers in the world, Maniec is behind the popular Corkbuzz in Manhattan’s Union Square. Through her wide-ranging educational offerings and eclectic menu, Maniec aims to create a new community of informed wine lovers.

Daniel McCullough
Wine Director at Napa Valley’s Oenotri, McCullough attended the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York before turning to wine. Over time at Oenotri, he has crafted a 650-bottle wine list dominated by wines from Italy and California and rounded out by Old World classics from Burgundy and Champagne.

John Ragan
Wine Director for Union Square Hospitality Group, Master Sommelier John Ragan is the man behind the beverage programs at Danny Meyer’s sprawling culinary empire. In the past, Ragan worked with Chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park, earning four New York Times stars and a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service.”

Alpana Singh
The face of Chicago’s food-and-wine scene for more than 15 years, including her stint as host of the city’s popular Check Please!, Master Sommelier Singh is now the proprietor behind her own critically-praised, wine-driven restaurant, The Boarding House.

Dustin Wilson
Currently Wine Director of three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, Wilson is also a Master Sommelier. He was featured in last year’s popular documentary SOMM, where viewers watched him study for and pass the rigorous Court of Master Sommeliers exam in 2011.

Spirit of the Year

With more than 400 years of distilling history, Bushmills has changed the face of Irish whiskey with its traditional hand-crafted distillation methods combined with modern-marketing campaigns, particularly with its 10-, 16- and 21-years blends.

The mixology ingredient du jour, Campari is experiencing a renaissance. The original unchanged recipe for the flavorful liquor has been around since 1860, but has only recently leapt in size, with Gruppo Campari becoming the 6th largest spirits company in the world.

Hudson Whiskey
After acquiring the 240-year old Tuthilltown Gristmill in 2001, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee founded Tuthilltown Spirits after converting the mill’s granaries into a micro-distillery. New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition, Hudson Whiskey was released in 2003 and today the company is a major force in the artisan distillery market. William Grant & Sons recently purchased Hudson Whiskey, though the duo remains in charge of all operations.

New Amsterdam
The value-priced New Amsterdam line of gin and vodka has shaken up the spirits realm, becoming one of the fastest-growing labels in the space. New Amsterdam was the first vodka label to sell 1 million cases in its first year, but has since doubled that number while also adding flavored vodka expressions.

Although Suntory has distilled whisky in Japan since 1923, it wasn’t until 1937 that founder Shinjiro Torii discovered the blend that would characterize his creation. In the 1980s, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Suntory brand, the Yamazaki Single Malt was created, which laid the groundwork for a truly Japanese style.

Mixologist of the Year

Jacob Briars
Head of Bacardi’s Training and Education program based in New Zealand, the engaging Briars recently won the “Golden Spirit” award at Tales of the Cocktail for his approach to expanding the brand.

Simon Ford
Formerly Brand Ambassador for Plymouth Gin, Ford co-founded 86 Co. with other top players in the spirits industry. In addition, Ford won the Tales of the Cocktail Award for Best Brand Representatives/Brand Ambassador in both 2007 and 2009, representing Plymouth Gin and Pernod Ricard.

Jack McGarry
In July 2013, McGarry became the youngest recipient of Tales of the Cocktail’s International Bartender of the Year award (the second American to earn it) for his work as bar manager at Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in New York City. He is the brains behind the Dead Rabbit’s encyclopedic menu, which features 72 cocktails that nod to bartending’s past.

Leo Robitschek
Robitschek, currently the bar manager at The NoMad Hotel and before that, Eleven Madison Park, has truly distinguished himself in the industry with consistently innovative bar programs—such as the custom-designed bar carts used at NoMad to elevate bottle service at tables—emphasizing hospitality and outstanding cocktails.

Claire Smith
As Belvedere vodka’s brand ambassador, Smith helps develop inventive new Belvedere products while also acting as the face of the brand and creating new Belvedere-based cocktails.

Rising Star

Tyler Balliet
Balliet founded Second Glass and Wine Riot—a popular national wine education event catering to millennials—five years ago at age 28 and he hasn’t slowed down. A Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemaker, Balliet has expanded his event to six major cities in an effort to bring wine to the next generation.

Gavin Chanin
Mentored by Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clenenden, 26-year-old Gavin Chanin launched his own winemaking outfit, Chanin Wine Co., in 2007. Fast forward a few years, and he’s now partners with industry heavyweight Bill Price, making restrained single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the label Lutum Wines.

Jon Meuret
As head winemaker of family-owned Maison Bleue Winery, Meuret taps his love of RhĂ´ne varieties to produce critically acclaimed Washington wine.

Patrick Rue
Founder of Orange County, California, brewing outfit, The Bruery, Rue is changing the face of craft beer. What started as a home-brewing diversion has escalated into an industry-shifting operation, wherein Rue brews simple beers with unconventional ingredients and engages the brewing community.

Eric Trump
A leader in Virginia’s budding winemaking industry, Trump crafts méthode Champenoise sparkling wines and blends traditional Bordeaux-style wines using Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec sourced from his 1,130 acres of property in the heart of Virginia’s Monticello Wine Trail.

Published on August 28, 2013