The wine industry\u2019s most influential change-makers donned their best and came together on Monday, January 30th to celebrate Wine Enthusiast\u2019s 23rd annual Wine Star Awards, which took place at the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. The black-tie affair paid tribute to the companies and individuals who are forging their own paths and redefining the modern drinks landscape.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe evening began with a wine-splashed cocktail hour that featured sips from the event\u2019s various winners. Guests schmoozed with honorees while enjoying wines that spanned Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County to Chardonnay from Argentina's Uco Valley.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSoon after, the awards ceremony kicked off in a dramatically-lit ballroom festooned with beautifully set tables overflowing with wine bottles. Wine Enthusiast Chairman and CEO Adam Strum welcomed the event\u2019s several hundred attendees and set the tone for the evening with inspirational remarks.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cWine stands alone in so many ways,\u201d Strum said. \u201cIt\u2019s an agricultural product, a liquid food, a social ice breaker, a celebratory toast, an inspiration for poets and philosophers, a religious sacrament, a blend of science and art, a sensory adventure, a treasured gift and the most civilized\u2014and civilizing\u2014of beverages,\u201d he said. With that, the audience erupted into cheers.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cI think that deserves a little applause!\u201d Strum encouraged. He also paid honor to the galaxy of Wine Stars from the last 23 years in attendance, who each stood as their names were called.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPhotography by Marc Fiorito / Gamma Nine Photography\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWine Enthusiast President, Editor and Publisher Jacqueline Strum handed the evening\u2019s first award to Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin for Spirit Brand of the Year. Pat and Denise Rigney touched on the operation\u2019s humble beginnings in Ireland as a family business. \u201cToday we have a family-owned brand that has grown to over 250,000 cases sales per year being honored by my peers,\u201d said Pat Rigney. \u201cIt is nothing short of a miracle. I am 40 years in the industry this year having started at 20 years of age\u2014honestly, this is the pinnacle.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nOther poignant moments included when The Hue Society founder Tahiirah Habibi accepted the award for Social Visionary of the Year. She expressed the deep importance of creating safe spaces for women, people of color and other marginalized groups.\u201cIf doing the right thing and caring about each other makes me a visionary, then we should all be visionaries,\u201d she said to heartfelt applause.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe inclusion and elevation of women and BIPOC members of the drinks industry remained a moving theme of the evening. When Tonya Pitts accepted the award for Sommelier of the Year, she noted that there remains much work to be done in the fight to bring true equality to the industry.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cFor every person who is recognized there are many many more quiet giants who are working diligently behind the scenes and it\u2019s those people we need to raise and support in order to create a more vibrant industry,\u201d she said. \u201cThis wine life is not a race, it\u2019s a marathon, and I am just hitting my stride.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u00a9 2022 Marc Fiorito // Gamma Nine Photography\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWine Executive of the Year winner Nicholas Miller of the Miller Family Wine Company echoed these sentiments when he accepted his award, stressing the deep importance of opening doors to women and people of color. \u201cWe also need to wrap our arms around members of the LGBTQ+ community,\u201d he said to thundering applause.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFinally, Person of the Year Jeff O\u2019Neill of O'Neill Wines made the case for increased focus on sustainability across the wine industry.\u201cWe are, after all, a plant-based business,\u201d O\u2019Neill said. \u201cWe touch dirt, people and communities. It is our story, and I include everyone in this room, that should resonate with new consumers. Who else in the world can tell the story of a natural product, plant-based, sustainable, soon to be carbon neutral? While convenience and high-fructose corn syrup products seem to be the order of the day in some sectors, we have an opportunity to change the dialogue.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAfter the awards, attendees kept the party going at the after-party sponsored by Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin. At the room\u2019s center, a glistening ice sculpture resembling a bottle of gin captivated guests, capping off a beautiful evening full of fun and deeper meaning.\r\n\r\nWant Wine Star Awards updates? Sign up\u00a0here\u00a0to receive early access to the\u00a0Wine Enthusiast\u00a0Advanced Buyers Guide\u00a0email including all our monthly ratings and reviews, plus information on when to register for the 2024 Wine Star Awards.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis story was updated on February 3, 2023.