Wine Star Awards Take Miami
Held for the first time in sunny Florida, Wine Enthusiast‘s 17th annual Wine Star Awards black-tie gala honored wine, spirits and beer industry luminaries on Monday night.
Guests at Miami Beach’s glamorous Nobu Eden Roc enjoyed an al fresco cocktail hour, sipping wines that represented the evening’s honorees, including an array of wines from Wine Region of the Year Willamette Valley, Oregon. Other lively pours included cocktails by Mixologists of the Year Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, drams provided by Spirit Brand of the Year Wild Turkey, and a selection of frosty beers from Brewery of the Year Firestone Walker Brewing Company.
The evening kicked off by honoring American Wine Legend of the Year Jerry Lohr, lauding his success in elevating the California Central Coast as a viticultural region. Following that, Frederick Wildman and Sons accepted the award for Importer of the Year, and Jason L. Smith, MS, was recognized for his work at MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas with the Sommelier/Wine Director of The Year award. Meanwhile, upscale grocery chain Raley’s Family of Fine Stores took home the award for Retailer of the Year.
Michael Clarke, chairman of Treasury Wine Estates—whose portfolio includes iconic brands such as Penfolds, BV, and Sterling Vineyards—was celebrated as the Winery Executive of the Year.
Master of Ceremonies Adam Strum, chairman of Wine Enthusiast Companies and editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast, commended Clarke as “a man of action” for his role in turning around Treasury Wine Estates in two short years, and tripling profits.
“When it comes to building businesses and brands, I’ve never seen anything as amazing as what Michael Clarke has achieved so quickly for Treasury Wine Estates,” Strum said.
Guests also raised a glass in memory of broadcast journalist Morley Safer, whose 1991 coverage of “The French Paradox” on 60 Minutes spurred a surge in sales of red wine for decades to follow.
Among the wineries and regions celebrated over the course of the evening, Mendocino’s Bonterra Organic Vineyards was named as the American Winery of the Year, Austria’s Weingut R&A Pfaffl was named as European Winery of the Year, and New Zealand’s Kim Crawford was named New World Winery of the Year. Andrea Mullineux, winemaker/owner at South Africa’s Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, was honored as Winemaker of the Year.
Drawing the evening to a spirited close, legacy wine importer William J. Deutsch accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his work introducing millions of Americans to wine, including Australia’s now-famed Yellowtail label.
Highlighting Deutsch’s business philosophy, Strum added: “He believes in what he calls the 6 P’s of Success: People, Product, Package, Price, Promotion and Potential.”
“But, for Bill,” Strum continued, “the ‘P’ of ‘People’ always comes first.”
Strum echoed the words of another wine luminary, Mel Dick, lauding Deutsch as “a hard-punching, brilliant leader, and one of our industry’s greatest winners.” Deutsch also noted that a Yellowtail commercial—“a commercial that I never envisioned back in 1981”—will air during the upcoming Super Bowl, marking the first time in 40 years that a wine ad will run during the widely watched game.
Capping off the evening, Wayne E. Chaplin, CEO of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, accepted the Wine Star for Person of the Year.
“Our focus was always around people,” Chaplin agreed, in remarks following a standing ovation. “It made the difference in bringing our organization to life and makes it so special. It will create a multigenerational company for years to come.” Summing up a theme echoed by many of the evening’s award recipients, Chaplin added: “The best for our company is yet to come.”
Strum praised Chaplin’s “perseverance, intelligent compromise and fortitude” in combining Southern and Glazer’s together into a single entity with a nationwide distribution network, as well as his commitment to philanthropic endeavors.
As a special surprise for Chaplin and his wife—who were married in the Eden Roc hotel 30 years ago—a musical performance by actor/musician/composer Darren Criss (best known for his role as Blaine Anderson on Glee) and musician Chuck Criss serenaded the couple to celebrate the happy anniversary.
Cocktail hour by the ocean in beautiful Miami Beach / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Dusk turns into evening during the Wine Star cocktail reception / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Guests compared notes over glasses of wine from gala honorees / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, co-founders of Speed Rack and winners of Mixologists of the Year / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Inside the Nobu Eden Roc, guests enjoyed a multicourse menu prepared by Nobu Corporate Chef Thomas Buckley / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
William J. Deutsch accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Michael Clarke (right) receiving his Wine Star Award for Winery Executive of the Year from Adam Strum (left), Wine Enthusiast’s Publisher and Editor / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Jerry Lohr (right) accepting his Wine Star for American Wine Legend from Sue Kostrzewa, executive editor of Wine Enthusiast / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Wayne Chaplin, Person of the Year, and wife Arlene, enjoying the festivities at the Nobu Eden Roc, Miami / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Chuck Criss (left) and Darren Criss (right) captivate the audience with a rendition of the classic song “Days of Wine and Roses” / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
This year’s winners, toasting their success / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography
Carolyn Wente, fourth generation winegrower and chief executive officer of Wente Vineyards / Photo by Mark Tomaras Photography