On Monday, March 30, 2015—postponed from late January due to snow—Wine Enthusiast’s 15th-annual Wine Star Awards gala honored some of the brightest stars in the wine, spirits and beer industries at a black-tie gala held at Manhattan’s New York Public Library.
The evening kicked off with a special tribute to the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, accompanied a special toast of 2001 Château Mouton Rothschild. The sound of clinking glasses resounded through the auditorium as Master of Ceremonies Adam Strum, chairman of Wine Enthusiast companies and editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast, remembered the Baroness for her “trademark wit, warmth and theatrical flair.”
Anthony Terlato of Terlato Wines International was also celebrated, earning the Lifetime Achievement Award for his success in bringing key Italian wines to the U.S. and exploring California wineries and vineyards.
He has 60 years of wine business under his belt and expressed excitement about taking the family business into the fourth generation.
“Wine is my gift to them,” he said. “It’s from the soil, it’s life-enhancing.”
The Wine Region of the Year award went to New York State, which was accepted by Jim Trezise of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
Robert D. Torres of Trinchero Family Estates was honored as Innovator/Executive of the Year, noting humbly in his acceptance speech that “everyone here is an innovator—in the vineyard, cellar or marketplace.”
Opici Wines was named as Wine Enthusiast’s Importer of the Year, and kept the audience chuckling with an entertaining video that poked fun at stuffy wine snobs. Total Wine & More took home Retailer of the Year.
Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams, accepted the first-ever Brewery of the Year award and Tito’s Handmade Vodka took home the Spirit Brand/Distiller of the Year trophy. Julie Reiner, who is at the forefront of the contemporary cocktail movement, was granted the award for Mixologist of the Year, while Bobby Stuckey, MS of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado, took home the Sommelier of the Year trophy.
During the second half of the evening Craggy Range’s Warren Adamson accepted New World Winery of the Year, Château d’Esclans–Domaines Sacha Lichine–Whispering Angel for European Winery of the Year (accepted by Sacha Lichine) and Jordan Vineyard & Winery for American Winery of the Year (accepted by Rob Davis). Following an amusing video that riffed on the all-too-familiar airline safety videos, models in flight attendant-style uniforms handed out spring flowers to everyone in the audience.
To cap off the evening, rock-and-roll winemaker Charles Smith of K Vintners, Charles & Charles and Charles Smith Wines was named Winemaker of the Year, summing up his philosophy with the memorable “wine for everyone, every day.”
Finally, Charles Merinoff of Charmer Sunbelt Group was honored as the Person of the Year in a moving presentation by Strum, lauding Merinoff for being “at the forefront of industry trends for several decades.” He noted that Merinoff’s lasting impact was “not just because of his business acumen, but because he has a big heart,” Strum highlighted the former’s many philanthropic endeavors, including Wine and Wishes, which he founded to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Merinoff’s acceptance speech praised his parents, family and colleagues, articulating that there’s no substitute for “humanity” and hard work. He concluded, “When people make it look easy, it’s because they’re killing themselves to make it look that way.”
Camille Sereys de Rothschild (pictured, center), daughter of the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, opened the evening with a special tribute to her mother, which was accompanied by a special toast of 2001 Château Mouton Rothschild. Master of Ceremonies Adam Strum, chairman of Wine Enthusiast companies and editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast, remembered the Baroness for her “trademark wit, warmth and theatrical flair.” Below is Camille’s impassioned remembrance of her mother’s life’s work.
“Good evening. I am so happy to be here in New York and so touched by this tribute to my mother Philippine.
Adam, thank you so much.
Those of you who met my mother, you know how much she loved you, you Americans! And especially New York. This city actually suited her very well and I do understand why some of you called her the “bubbling Baroness.”
I am personally very proud of her and all her achievements : in the wine business of course, but also as an actress and, as a woman. She was an example of courage, of sparkling energy, of endless curiosity and of devotion to the people she met or worked with.
Yes, she was an excessive perfectionist, but she did everything with passion; like her exhibition “Art and Labels” in no less than 23 American cities.
Her mottos were : “as a Rothschild you have more duties than anyone else” and “if you don’t move forward, you regress”.
My brothers Philippe, Julien and myself, we fully endorse those duties and we will do our best to keep up with the standard that both my grandfather and my mother set.
I also want to thank Xavier de Eizaguirre who faithfully worked with her for 25 years: they contributed to make what Château Mouton Rothschild, Opus One and Mouton Cadet are today.
Now Hugues Lechanoine, who came with me, is carrying our flag with all our team. And I am sure that we will bring our wines and our company to an even higher level of excellence.
And last but not least, I want to thank you all for your support, because without you, without America, we would not be what we are today…and tonight: Wine Enthusiasts!
God bless Philippine. God bless you. And God bless America.”
—Camille Sereys de Rothschild
Person of the Year winner Charles Merinoff (far right) with his family (wife Leigh Merinoff, son Andrew Merinoff and daughter Leslie Merinoff).
From left, Chairman, Wine Enthusiast Companies, Adam Strum, with Lifetime Achievement recipient Tony Terlato and 2012’s American Wine Legend Hubert Opici.
From left, Hugues Lechanoine, Xavier de Eizaguirre and Camille Sereys de Rothschild, daughter of the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, with Wine Enthusiast Companies Chairman Adam Strum and CEO Sybil Strum.
From top left, representing Opici are George Palmieri, Claudia Centola-Franey, Philip Palmieri, Don Opici (accepting Importer of the Year on behalf of Opici Wine Group [top right], Lisa Guglielmo-Tigeliero and Shanti Labetti.
Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams, accepting the first ever Brewery of the Year award.
Patrick Leon (left), winemaker for Chateau d’Esclans, with Rob Davis, winemaker for American Winery of the Year Jordan Winery, pouring a 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon from a 6L Imperial bottle.
Spirit Brand/Distiller of the Year Tito Beveridge, founder of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, accepting his award.
Sommelier of the Year, Bobby Stuckey, MS and wife Danette Stuckey
Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa, European Winery of the Year winner Sacha Lichine, wife Mathilde Lichine and Wine Enthusiast Companies CEO Sybil Strum.
The nearly 500 attendees enjoyed a jovial evening at the New York Public Library.