Wine Enthusiast's 2019 Wine Star Award Winners
Twenty years ago, the editors of Wine Enthusiast conceived an annual-award program to honor individuals and companies that have contributed to the success of the wine and spirits industry.
Over the years, the size and scope of our Wine Star Awards have expanded to encompass spirits and to showcase hands-on consumer gatekeepers, such as sommeliers. We recognize how multifaceted and rich the wine culture and its peripheral facets have become, and continually embrace and acknowledge the trailblazers who are impacting what you put in your glass every day.
What does it take to be a Wine Star winner? Among other attributes, energy, courage, groundbreaking vision and business acumen.
Explore the 2019 Wine Star Award Winners by clicking to the next slide.
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Bold moves and strategic risks, beautiful vistas and historic lands, family ties and American dreams: The winemaking career of Francis Ford Coppola reads like one of the famous Hollywood director and screenwriter’s epic films.
Though perhaps best known for blockbusters like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, Coppola could be considered an even more successful vintner. Since the 1970s, he’s built an empire that now produces more than three million cases from 340 acres of vineyards spread across several wineries in California and Oregon and includes brands such as Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection, Sofia and Director’s Cut.
Coppola also restored Inglenook, one of Napa Valley’s most iconic wineries, to top form. He first purchased a slice of the estate in 1975, rescuing the operation from jug wine depravity and ultimately lifting it to the upper echelons of the modern wine market. These efforts culminated with his controversial purchase of the trademark and brand from corporate control in 2011.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, there’s nothing that I am more proud of than the fact that this beautiful estate has not only been rejuvenated, but totally restored to the highest level,” says Coppola. “There is no debt on it whatsoever, and the Coppola family is united in being the custodians of one of the greatest wine estates in the world.”
A third-generation Italian-American born in 1939 and raised in a suburb of New York City, Coppola “never saw a dinner table that didn’t have wine on it,” he says. He fondly remembers the tales of his uncles stealing sweet California grapes from his grandfather’s home-winemaking endeavors.
After the success of the first two Godfather films, Coppola lived in San Francisco and wanted a summer cottage in the Napa Valley. Specifically, he sought land with some grapes in hopes of making wine with his family to give away for Christmas.
Instead, Coppola ended up buying the Rutherford mansion of Captain Gustave Niebaum and 100 acres of surrounding vineyard, all part of the original 1879 Inglenook estate. He moved in after the arduous multi-year, self-financed production of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.
“It was both heaven and hell,” he says. “On one hand, it was this incredibly beautiful place. On the other hand, I was recovering from the Apocalypse experience and greatly indebted to the movie. In those days, interest was over 27%, so it looked hopeless that I was going to be able to survive, much less keep this beautiful property. So I was very frightened.”
When vintners sought to buy grapes to help pay his mortgage, Coppola decided to keep them for himself. His wife asked him what he knew about making wine. In turn, Coppola said, “I also knew nothing about how to make movies, and [we] were in the position where we might be able to do it.”
Introduced to first growth Bordeaux and grand cru Burgundy a decade earlier while at work on a film in Paris, Coppola knew he wanted to pursue that level of excellence in California, but he didn’t know a lot about premium wine. Familiar with Château Lafite Rothschild’s quality, he chose to follow their example by combining the old and new and named his nascent operation Niebaum-Coppola.
“If we made wine as a Bordeaux blend and held them for years before release, why couldn’t Napa Valley achieve that?” he asked. Robert Mondavi was one of the few to agree. “You’re right,” Mondavi told Coppola. “There’s no reason why Napa Valley wines can’t approach and equal, and even surpass, the great wines of the world.”
The inaugural 1978 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon blend, which he held for seven years before release, quickly became a coveted Napa bottle, as did the ensuing vintages.
Business took off in the 1990s. Coppola acquired more vineyards, which included the original Inglenook plantings and chateau, and launched a number of popular brands. In the 2000s, Francis Ford Coppola Winery opened in Sonoma County at the former home of Chateau Souverain, followed in 2013 by Virginia Dare Winery, on the old Geyser Peak property in Geyserville.
Inspired by watching kids play in the Inglenook fountains over the years, Coppola opened a family friendly pool complex in 2010 at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
“I didn’t realize that I was establishing a new concept within the wine industry, where the goal was not only to have the people visit, but to come and spend all day there,” he says. “Now, it’s what everyone is trying to do.”
For Coppola, it all still comes down to family.
“The greatest joy is when the family can do something together,” he says. “I wanted to make a destination where the whole family goes and the children enjoy themselves. The grandparents enjoy seeing their grandchildren, which is what most grandparents want to do. The parents can learn about wine, and everyone can have lunch together. Every business I do is about keeping the family enjoying themselves together.”
For his vision, passion and incalculable contributions to the wine industry, Wine Enthusiast is proud to honor Francis Ford Coppola as recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award. —Matt Kettmann
Sonoma County is a study in contrast: It’s historic yet forward-thinking, innovative yet traditional, and coastal yet mountainous. The most dynamic and resilient wine region in America right now, it’s as complex as its outstanding wines.
About an hour north of San Francisco and to the west of Napa Valley, the county spans more than one million acres. Only about 59,000 acres are planted to wine grapes, just 6% of its total area. The county is also home to more than 50 miles of Pacific coastline.
While small in size, the wine industry looms large in importance. As reported through 2018, wine grapes account for just over 70% of the total crop value in Sonoma County, and the wine industry represents 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Estimates put the value of its wine industry and related tourism, which is well-established with a range of superb visitor amenities and oeno-centric experiences at many wineries throughout the county, at $11 billion per year.
Sonoma County is home to more than 425 wineries of all sizes, from global powerhouses to multigenerational family farms. It nurtures a wide variety of wine grapes that include the most Pinot Noir in California and the second-highest tally of Chardonnay, both of which thrive here to yield outstanding varietal bottlings. Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Merlot are also well represented, with more than 60 varieties planted in all.
Of the nearly 1,500 Sonoma wines published in 2019, around 65% scored 90 points or more, emphasizing the high caliber and consistent quality of the wines from across the region.
The county was first recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1981, the same year as the Napa Valley.
In 2017, Sonoma County welcomed its 18th appellation, the Petaluma Gap. One of the county’s southernmost appellations, it borders the well-known Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Carneros AVAs.
With wine roots that date to 1812, Sonoma County has borne witness to Spanish and Mexican rule, California statehood, phylloxera, Prohibition and the tremendous growth of wine in America. In 1989, wine grapes became the region’s top-earning crop and, last year, Sonoma earned the state’s second highest average price for grapes.
The reasons for its success are many. In Sonoma County, elevation ranges from sea level to 2,600 feet, with valleys, benchlands and mountain slopes in between. Soils are extremely varied, thanks to tectonic plate collisions, volcanic eruptions and coastal erosion.
The region is not only bountiful, but resilient. In the devastating fires of October 2017, fewer than 500 acres of Sonoma County vineyards, less than 1% of the region’s total acreage, were destroyed or damaged. While it sounds small in scope, it impacted the entire county, as the fires affected additional infrastructure and resources. Since then, the wine industry has helped lead the community’s rebuilding and recovery. And it is a community. Of the 1,800 grape growers in Sonoma County, 85% are family owned and operated.
For every acre of vineyards, Sonoma farmers grow two acres of diversified agriculture, from hay to apples. The county has long been a leader in the farm-to-table movement, as it contributes greatness in cheese, beer, meats and more.
Because of this strong agricultural legacy, the Sonoma County Winegrowers organization sought to have Sonoma County become the first 100% sustainable wine region by the end of this year. The aim was to ensure a future around environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability.
In September, the group announced that 99% of Sonoma County vineyards have been certified sustainable. It’s now the most sustainable wine region in the world.
As they continue toward 100% sustainability, Sonoma County Winegrowers has been chosen as the exclusive partner for the launch of the California Land Stewardship Institute’s Climate Adaptation Certification program. The program will be piloted in Sonoma County and then rolled out to other wine regions and agricultural commodities worldwide.
A first-of-its-kind effort for vineyards, certification will highlight the unique role and opportunity agriculture has in climate adaptation and mitigation, and the importance of local solutions to a global crisis.
For its long history, resilience, commitment to diversity and global leadership in sustainability, Wine Enthusiast is proud to recognize Sonoma County as its Wine Region of the Year. —Virginie Boone
While the Gallo name is renowned throughout the wine world, the family’s impact and interests extend well beyond the wine industry. Environmental conservation, land stewardship and the development of culture and the arts are core values at the heart of the Gallo’s philanthropic pursuits.
Married since 1958, Robert “Bob” Gallo along with his wife, Marie, and their eight children created the nonprofit The Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation to best address their passions in 2000. It’s since evolved into an exemplary champion of wildlife habitat preservation, education and cultural enrichment in the San Joaquin Valley of California and more.
Bob Gallo, the current co-chairman of E. & J. Gallo Winery, has worked all his life at the company cofounded by his father, Julio. He developed a passion for conservation practices and environmentally conscious agriculture long ago, and began to stress the importance of sustainable winegrowing practices as chairman of the Wine Institute in 1977.
“Bob tipped the scale at Wine Institute,” says Jerry Lohr, the founder of J. Lohr Wines. Gallo’s initiatives proved the beginning of what would later become the statewide California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
“A lot of that wouldn’t be here today without Bob Gallo’s efforts,” says Lohr.
Bob and Marie have also made a personal commitment to conservation, creating a perpetual easement to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge on their family-owned cattle ranch west of Modesto. This access was for the benefit of the endangered Aleutian Canada Goose, a breed that saw population numbers drop to less than 1,000 during the 1980s.
Bob planted corn on the family’s Faith Ranch to feed the geese between October and March, before they would migrate home to the Aleutian Islands to nest. As a result of this collaborative conservation campaign, the population has now swelled to more than 200,000 geese.
Glenn Olson, the chair of bird conservation for the Audubon Society, says Bob and Marie donated not just money, but the use of land, improvements to the habitat and education efforts about the birds that needed protection.
“They’re a cornerstone family for the Audubon Society with what they’ve done at the Faith Ranch,” says Olson. “Bob and Marie are extraordinary partners in protecting the Pacific flyway.”
In the arts, Marie began to investigate the feasibility of a performing arts center in downtown Modesto in 1997. After more than 10 years of research, fundraising and construction, a great part of which can be attributed to Marie, the Gallo Center for the Arts opened in September 2007.
Regardless of the foundation’s focus, the couple consistently incorporates a strong focus on education. Marie has devoted more than 20 years to aid the Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, where she graduated in 1957. Bob has served on the University of California, San Francisco Medical Foundation’s board and as a founding trustee of the University of California, Merced.
“We were inspired by things we were passionate about,” says Marie. “Bob was passionate about nature and conservation.”
“And Marie was passionate about music and the arts,” says Bob. “When we formed the foundation, we combined these passions to make a difference in our community. The foundation allowed us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, while benefiting others in our community.”
Since its launch, through the generosity of its founders, The Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation has also given more than $10 million to numerous charities, causes and conservation efforts. The couple says their devotion to the environment and the community reflects not only their personal values, but also E. & J. Gallo Winery’s deep commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Bob and Marie Gallo epitomize the passion and devotion of their foundation, and the foundation epitomizes the couple’s profound commitment to charitable pursuits.
For its outstanding stewardship of the land and service to the winemaking community, Wine Enthusiast is pleased to name The Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation as the inaugural recipient of the Wine Star Philanthropy Award. —Jim Gordon
Linda Reiff has deep roots in California’s rich fabric of agriculture. Growing up in a multigenerational family of Yolo County farmers, she was exposed to the state’s earthly bounty—as well as the hard work needed to cultivate it—from a young age. This has informed her career as president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) since taking the reins of the trade association in 1995.
She channels these core values into the three most important tenets of her position: protecting the valley’s status as an Agricultural Preserve, defending the Napa Valley brand and enhancing the region’s community by raising and investing money to help residents in need.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with the most incredible materials anyone could imagine, an extraordinary place, exceptional people and an exquisite product,” says Reiff. “I’ve never taken any of that for granted and I never will.”
“She has incredible integrity and expects everyone around her to, as well,” says Emma Swain, CEO of St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery.
The vision of seven founding vintners, NVV celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, with 550 members who represent 99% of the region’s wine production.
Dedicated to bolstering the surrounding area, it launched Auction Napa Valley in 1981 and has invested more than $191 million of the event proceeds into community health and children’s education since its inception.
“I love talking to her and hearing her ideas on things,” says David R. Duncan, proprietor, chairman and CEO of Silver Oak, Twomey and Ovid. Duncan has long been active with NVV, and previously served as Chairman of the Board.
“I still call Linda boss,” he says. “She has all the qualities of a great leader; she brings a lot of listening ability and is always seeking understanding. She can counsel and be counseled. She has no ego in this, she really cares about the future and uniqueness of this place. It comes from the heart.”
A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Reiff came to the NVV after working in Washington, D.C., as chief of staff, district representative and communications director for former U.S. Representative Vic Fazio.
Beyond growing NVV’s membership five-fold, Reiff has also expanded its marketing programs and staff; championed the Agriculture Preserve, a first of its kind land-zoning ordinance in the United States that protects more than 32,000 acres of farmland and open space; and, most recently, signed on to the Porto Protocol sustainability initiative for climate change, making the wine trade association the in first North America to participate.
“She has strong core values and it comes through in everything she does,” says Swain. “She’s always saying and doing what’s right. It’s not enough to do a study on climate change, she’s always looking at the big picture of what we can do better.”
In 2017, Reiff’s leadership helped NVV reach the halfway mark toward its 2020 sustainability goal to have all regional winery and vineyard owners participating in either the Napa Green Certified Land or Winery programs. As of 2019, there are more than 80 wineries and around 75% of Napa Valley’s vineyard acreage certified.
Protecting the Napa Valley name has been as important as protecting its agricultural land. In 2000, Reiff led efforts behind NVV’s sponsorship of Napa Name Law. This piece of state legislation ensures that grapes within a Napa Valley bottle of wine are indeed from Napa. The law was later fought for and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Napa Valley now means something in the world of wine, yet I’m proud it also stands for much more,” says Reiff. “We care for our land and our community like no other and I believe we’ve inspired others to do the same.”
In 2005, an International Declaration of Place agreement was signed in the Napa Valley with representatives from six other wine regions. Two years later, the NVV earned approval by the European Union (EU) for Geographic Indication, the first for any wine region outside of the EU. In 2012, Reiff ensured Napa Valley had Geographic Indication status in China.
“The leaders of Champagne, Port, Bordeaux, Chablis, they all know her and respect her,” says Swain. “She represents the Napa Valley on a global basis and does all of it for us as an appellation.”
For her tremendous vision, leadership and fierce protection of the Napa Valley, Wine Enthusiast proudly names Linda Reiff as its Person of the Year. —Virginie Boone
When Bob Torkelson describes why Trinchero Family Estates is a global wine industry leader, he emphasizes the word “stability.”
“We’ve got people who have been here for quite a long time, and that’s given us an advantage in a lot of ways,” says Torkelson, who himself started working for the brand more than 20 years ago. He became president in 2004 and CEO in 2017. “We have the same people working with the same customers over time, and that’s been positive for us.”
Trinchero sells 20 million cases of wine per year across more than 50 brands. The family-owned company’s 1,500 employees farm more than 10,000 acres and run nine large winemaking and distribution facilities across California, from Santa Barbara County and Lodi to the Napa Valley.
That’s a far cry from when Torkelson joined the company in 1996. Only three brands were in the Trinchero portfolio at the time, most notable of which was Sutter Home, where the family struck pink gold with its creation of White Zinfandel back in 1975.
He’s since helped the company diversify its portfolio through acquisitions and partnerships, invested strategically in cutting-edge facilities and helped the company become a global leader in red blends, alternative packaging and nonalcoholic wine categories. Not bad for the son of a beer-drinking, German-Scandinavian family from Chicago.
An economics major at DePauw University in Indiana, Torkelson fell into wine after graduating in 1982 when he was recruited to participate in E. & J. Gallo Winery’s management development program in Los Angeles.
“It was a very competitive business, and I’m a competitive person,” says Torkelson. “It was a challenge, and it became a passion once I began thinking about the bigger world of wine.”
He first met the Trincheros while working as General Manager for Lovotti Brothers Distributing Co in Sacramento. “I had a great deal of respect for the way they operated,” he says. “They’re amazing people. I don’t know if anybody has ever said anything negative about them. They’re generous, thoughtful and they’ve created a great environment for people to thrive.”
In 1996, the Trincheros hired Torkelson to handle Midwest sales, which allowed he and his wife, Marie, to move back to his hometown of Chicago. But it didn’t take long for him to move up: He was put in charge of national sales in 2000 and was heading up global sales just one year later.
The Trincheros asked Torkelson to relocate to Napa in 2004. With the move, he was named chief operating officer as well as president, making him the first person from outside the Trinchero family to rise to that job. In 2017, he was the first non-blood relative to become CEO.
If you consider Torkelson’s contributions to the business over his tenure, there’s a lot worth noting. “The primary thing would be the diversification of our portfolio,” he says. That includes the purchase of the historic Napa Cellars, partnerships with international brands such as Angove Family Winemakers and renowned winemaking personalities like Charles Bieler, and the creation of Trinchero Napa Valley, the family’s flagship property.
Trinchero is inventive and flexible in its relationships, which is what enables partner vintners like Joel Gott to continue to be the public face of his brand, while others, like Randy Mason, can focus on winemaking.
“We try to create a win-win situation and we allow them to do the things they are best at,” says Torkelson. “That’s been our secret sauce: our ability to work with people like Charles [Bieler] or Joel [Gott] or Bruce Neyers or Randy Mason or Karen Cakebread. We’ve built a portfolio of people [who] bring personality and creativity to the winemaking process.”
The company has been agile in innovation, too, with Torkelson currently excited to explore more ecologically sound packaging, develop lower-alcohol and nonalcoholic options, and push for more organic winemaking.
And, realizing that people are increasingly interested in “occasion-based” drinking, Trinchero has also become bullish on spirits. “Today, you see people at a ball game having a craft beer, but then sit down to dinner with wine at the table, and then also have cocktails when the occasion warrants,” says Torkelson.
For his devotion, determination and diversification efforts to keep Trinchero Family Estates on the cutting edge, Wine Enthusiast honors Bob Torkelson as its Wine Executive of the Year. —Matt Kettmann
In early 2018, amid a rosé craze that continues to this day, a new pink-hued project was launched to immediate fanfare. Available in limited markets, it was called Hampton Water, and people clamored to taste it. This wasn’t just any new rosé, after all.
While the bottling was ideated by Jesse Bongiovi and his father, John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., better known as Jon Bon Jovi, the musician’s name was nowhere to be found on the label.
In fact, this was by no means a one-man show, and Hampton Water is not just a celebrity wine. A father-son passion project, it would be the groundwork for a personal, family-first business, in partnership with similarly minded French winemaker, Gérard Bertrand.
It all started when Jon and Jesse hung out at their home in the Hamptons on Long Island. Jon offered Jesse and his then-college roommate, Ali Thomas, some rosé, which he jokingly called “pink juice.”
“We’re sitting in the Hamptons,” said Jesse. “You’re drinking Hampton Water.” Jon laughed and mused how great it would be if someone used that as a wine name.
Jesse took the comment as a challenge. Within six months, a fully formed business plan was developed.
“My son, Jesse, came to me with a great idea, one that I genuinely believe in, and that means something to both of us,” says Bon Jovi. “He really deserves all of the credit for getting us into the wine business.”
The father-son team wasn’t interested in “white labeling,” or rebranding an existing product with a celebrity name. The Bongiovis were eager to be involved in the process and wanted the wine to speak for itself, as not rely on Jon’s celebrity.
“This isn’t a vanity project,” says Bon Jovi. “We created Hampton Water to represent and share a lifestyle, a state of mind, making memories with the people you love most with everyone who picks up a bottle. We sought out a vintner who shared our vision.”
A mutual friend introduced them to Bertrand, of his namesake winery based in the South of France.
Many discussions, meetings and gatherings of the trio followed. They discovered shared passions for wine and music, and shared understanding of where the two cultures intersected within a bon vivant lifestyle. From there, a partnership was officially forged.
“Our vision for Hampton Water was to share the relaxed lifestyles of the Hamptons and the South of France and bottle up that feeling of enjoying life,” says Jesse.
The rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah sourced from the Languedoc Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOP) of Southern France. There, the warm climate is tempered by mild winters, strong winds and close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, which creates a final wine that’s ripe, yet still fresh in natural acidity. It offers bold yet vibrant fruit expressions and a mouthwatering finish.
“I asked Jon and Jesse to participate in the final blending session in order to let our discussion and tasting creating an alchemy and inspire this unique moment of creation,” says Bertrand. “I always thought that wine and music are parts of culture and provide emotions to people. You create a wine as you create a song or a melody, with your deep feelings and intuition. Music and wine connect people. That is why they connection between us was immediate.”
“Wine and music have great synergy,” says Bon Jovi. “They are both creative outlets and forms of art that elevate one another. The process of creating wine and writing a song aren’t too dissimilar everybody’s one line is what brings the final product together.”
Hampton Water is currently sold in 15 countries, and approximately 25,000 cases are imported into the U.S. It’s available in 22 states, a nearly 70% growth in domestic distribution from 2018.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” says Jesse. “In 2020, we plan to grow further with nationwide distribution, and to continue focusing on the quality Hampton Water has become known to deliver. [We expect] 2020 is going to be a great year, and I’m excited about what the future has in store.”
For creating a blockbuster rosé that exemplifies a unique synergy between the lifestyles that surround music and fine wine, Wine Enthusiast awards Hampton Water with its Wine and Culture Wine Star Award. —Lauren Buzzeo
In the wine industry, innovation comes in many forms. In Oregon, the genesis of an innovative rescue mission during 2018’s harvest called the Oregon Solidarity project was wrapped in a deep and defining sense of community.
In the midst of the inherently frantic season, concern over potential smoke damage from wildfires led a California buyer to pull out of its grape contracts with growers in the Rogue Valley just days prior to picking. The decision halted the sale of more than 2,000 tons of grapes valued at about $4 million. With little time to regroup, the aborted deal could devastate some of these smaller operations.
To the growers, the smoke damage claims were suspicious. The California buyer says the company as well as three independent laboratories found the grapes had been affected by smoke taint, and that results of these studies had been sent to the growers. However, other clients had harvested the same fruit with no problems.
With harvest well underway and high yields statewide, there was little hope to find new homes for the abandoned grapes in a timely manner.
After a quick trip to Southern Oregon to meet with growers, Christine Clair, winery director at Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Ed King III, co-founder/CEO of King Estate Winery, came up with a solution: They planned to form a coalition, purchase as much of the stranded fruit as they could process and pay the full contracted rates.
“When I heard of the Southern Oregon growers’ dilemma, with widespread contract cancellations after the region was beset with scattered, but persistent fires, my thoughts naturally went to how we as an industry could reach across the state and do something to help,” says King.
He and Clair agreed to work together to purchase grapes and market wine, but faced an immediate hurdle.
“Both of our wineries were scheduled out,” he says. “Our tanks were already committed to other wine production.”
Together, along with Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards, they made three wines under the Oregon Solidarity label: a rosé of Pinot Noir, a barrel-fermented Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The first two wines sold out within a month, and the latter, released late this summer, seems likely to follow.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown stated that “the Oregon Solidarity wines exemplify the Oregonian spirit, bringing forth our best values by helping others during their time of need.”
Though this was a one-time solution to a sudden crisis, “if an outside threat or natural disaster were to hit the industry again, we have a tool in Oregon Solidarity to come together as a way to help,” says Clair. In fact, she believes if they had had ample time to plan, the project might not have rallied. “But in that crisis management mode, amazing things can happen.”
“We will be presenting a large check to the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association before the end of the year,” says King. “Not only did we buy their fruit to make about 7,500 cases of wine, but we will be turning over the gains to the winery association to promote and grow their own brand, their own world fame as a wine region.”
King points out that the Oregon wine industry is still relatively new, relatively isolated geographically and dependent upon a pioneering spirit to band together to figure things out as you go along.
Today’s leaders honor the importance of mutual respect and cooperation, especially in times of need. As a shining example of these touchstone beliefs, Wine Enthusiast names Oregon Solidarity as the 2019 Innovator of the Year. —Paul Gregutt
At a time when wine brands are multiplying at a dizzying pace and winery properties are changing hands as quickly as poker chips, Bogle Vineyards has taken a more traditional path, one that has quietly lifted it to be the country’s 12th largest winery.
Bogle wines have been made in the same place by the same family for more than 40 years, and have become synonymous with both quality and value. This has, among other things, earned them 30 Best Buys from Wine Enthusiast in the past five years alone.
Today, the brand produces upwards of 2.5 million cases of this honest, authentic California wine, much of which is made from sustainably certified grapes and aged in real oak barrels.
A third generation of Bogles currently runs the vineyards and winery in Clarksburg, California. Warren Bogle, the company’s president and vineyard director, is in charge of the 1,900 acres of grapes that the family owns or leases. His brother, Ryan, is vice president and chief financial officer, while their sister, Jody, serves as director of public relations.
The operation was founded in 1968 by their grandfather, also named Warren Bogle, and their father, Chris. It all began with 20 acres planted to Petite Sirah and Chenin Blanc in Clarksburg, some of the first wine grapes commercially cultivated in the sparsely populated section of the Sacramento Delta region.
Bogle wines are now distributed in all 50 states and 38 countries, and thanks to its pioneering efforts, Clarksburg counts 7,000 acres of wine grapes and almost a dozen other wineries.
Bogle Vineyards has garnered great respect from both the industry and the state’s grape growers that keep them in good supply.
That’s due, at least in part, the brand’s ongoing and dynamic developments. This year, for instance, the winery launched an augmented reality feature to the labels of its fast-growing Phantom line and acquired a 460-acre property in the Sierra Foothills that’s key to its Juggernaut label, with 216 acres currently under vine.
A lot of respect is also given because of their relentless sustainability efforts. In fact, Bogle Vineyards received the California Green Medal for sustainable wine-growing leadership in 2018, the same year that the winery celebrated its 50th anniversary of grape growing. The firm pays a premium for grapes harvested from certified sustainable vineyards, and 96% of the grapes crushed that year was officially Green Certified, according to Jody.
Allison Lengauer Jordan, executive director of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and vice president of environmental affairs for California-based Wine Institute, says that Bogle Vineyards won the California Green Medal for several reasons: It protects the environment, is a good neighbor and employer, and has not only stood the test of time, but thrived continuously.
“The Bogle family combines the art of winemaking with a wise eye toward the future of our planet,” says Tom Cole, president and CEO of Republic National Distributing Company. “Their sustainability programs, from water to waste to power, align with our consumers who appreciate a winery that cares.”
While the family is proud of its sustainability efforts, a methodical approach to wine quality is also key to their success. Bogle takes the extra steps that many large wineries do not.
Eric Aafedt, director of winemaking for Bogle, says that each lot of grapes from every vineyard is kept separate during production. He and Bogle’s winemaker, Dana Stemmler, age all red wines in barrels while Chardonnays are barrel-fermented.
In recent years, the family built an impressive 25-acre winemaking facility, part of a 250-acre property a few miles from the original winery and tasting room. It handles all the wine production with an ingenious crush pad, tank farm and 20,000-square-foot barrel cellar.
Despite its scope and success, Bogle is not yet accustomed to being considered a big player in the California wine industry.
“Size-wise, we may be in that arena, but mentality-wise, we are not,” says Jody. “We want to serve the consumers who are seeking us out, and balance that with how we are as a family, our values and where we’ve come from.”
For its role in advancing the quality, affordability and sustainability of California wines, Wine Enthusiast honors Bogle Vineyards as its American Winery of the Year. —Jim Gordon
For eight generations, the Tasca d’Almerita family has dedicated itself to the extraordinary land of Sicily. If the island is now considered one of Italy’s most exciting viticultural areas, a good amount of credit is due to the firm, which has been a driving force in Sicily’s quality wine revolution.
Its story starts in 1830, with the acquisition of the Regaleali Estate, then named “Rahl Alì,” which loosely translates from Arabic as “house of Alì.” Situated in the Sicilian countryside of Sclafani Bagni, between Palermo and Caltanissetta, the estate’s rolling hills range between 1,312–2,953 feet above sea level. There are pronounced day-night temperature changes here, which encourage ideal grape ripening and complex aromas in both native and international grapes.
By the middle of the 20th century, the firm had become even more focused on viticulture and winemaking, and it began to employ avant-garde strategies in the vineyard and the cellar. These experiments ultimately led to Count Giuseppe Tasca d’Almerita’s creation of a special reserve red wine, Regaleali Rosso del Conte.
Made from Nero d’Avola, Perricone and other native red grapes, the debut 1970 vintage was called Riserva del Conte. It was the first single-vineyard wine in Sicily, and one of the first red wines destined for lengthy aging. The revered bottling was followed by Nozze d’Oro in 1984, a blend of Inzolia and Sauvignon Tasca, a unique selection.
In 1979, Giuseppe’s son, Lucio Tasca, planted international varieties on the estate. His work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the 1980s and ’90s spurred many other Sicilian winemakers to follow suit.
Lucio handed the reins to his sons, Giuseppe and Alberto, in 2001. That same year, the firm acquired the gorgeous Capofaro estate on the island of Salina, where the focus is native grape Malvasia.
Alberto, now the CEO and driving force behind Tasca d’Almerita, shares the entrepreneurial spirit of his father and grandfather. Under his guidance, the company has continued to expand, investing in areas that yield wines with strong, distinct personalities.
In 2007, the firm began its Tascante project on Mount Etna, which would result in the establishment of an estate in the iconic, volcanic denomination. That same year, the Whitaker Foundation entrusted Tasca d’Almerita with the restoration of vines on the island of Mozia. Thought to be the spiritual home of native grape Grillo, they work with about 30 acres of the variety from which they produce Mozia Grillo.
Just one year later, Tasca assumed management of the historic Sallier de La Tour property. It now produces delicious, poised versions of Syrah that highlight unmistakable Sicilian roots. Starting with the 2016 vintage, Tasca has bottled four separate Mount Etna contrade, or single vineyard, bottlings. They are compelling, mineral-driven wines made from Nerello Mascalese.
Besides innovation, research and a commitment to express Sicily’s multifaceted growing zones, perhaps the most important contribution Tasca d’Almerita has made is Alberto’s commitment to and passion for sustainability.
His dedication led to the creation of SOStain, now an association of like-minded Sicilian producers that launched in 2010. Members must adhere to a strict set of terms and undergo field checks made by an independent, third-party organization.
Among other requirements, the association’s rules include using “only treatments whose impact on the environment, the farmer and the consumer are lower than that of organic treatments… Moreover, the use of chemical weed control is also prohibited.”
Today, the company’s commitment to sustainable viticulture has had a huge impact, and quality at all of Tasca d’Almerita’s estates is at an all-time high.
In recognition of the firm’s achievements and contributions to the betterment of Sicilian and Italian wine, as well as its progressive, forward-thinking initiatives, Wine Enthusiast is delighted to name Tasca d’Almerita as European Winery of the Year. —Kerin O’Keefe
For as long as commercial wine has mattered in Argentina, from the 19th century to now, Trapiche has been at the forefront of its winemaking endeavors. “Richness of diversity” has been its guiding principle since its launch in 1883, and, not coincidentally, those same words encapsulate the spirit that has pushed the country’s wine industry forward in recent decades.
In its early days, the Mendoza-based operation was a pioneer producer of fine wines. It cracked open export markets across the globe and helped establish Malbec as Argentina’s signature wine.
On top of that, it’s been a driving force behind Argentina’s charge toward vineyard-designated wines of world-class quality. It’s also paved the way for the exploration, discovery and mastery of new terroirs, from the highest points of Mendoza’s Uco Valley down to sea-level plantings in Chapadmalal, just under four miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.
The anchor brand in Grupo Peñaflor’s portfolio of wineries that also includes El Esteco in Salta, Finca Las Moras in San Juan, and Mascota and Navarro Correas in Mendoza, Trapiche owns more than 2,500 acres of vineyards and collaborates with more than 300 grape growers. Its 2019 production will total around 3 million cases, about 10% of which is sold in the U.S. Other key markets among the 85 countries that Trapiche exports to are Canada and the United Kingdom.
But Trapiche is much more than a historic volume producer: It’s an innovative winery that adheres to the tenets of biodynamic viticulture and strives to offer value and quality at all price points.
“The number one thing we try to express in our wines is a sense of place,” says Daniel Pi, winemaking director for Trapiche. “We should craft our wines having in mind our raw materials, the character of the place, and the maximum quality we can get from the site based on using the best viticultural and enological practices.
“Pi, who oversees the entirety of the winemaking program, is one of Argentina’s most liked and respected winemakers. Over the years, he has helped cement Trapiche’s reputation as a quality producer through wines such as the Terroir Series Single Vineyard Malbec, Iscay (which highlights blends), and the recently launched Costa & Pampa line, which hails from Chapadmalal.
Sergio Casé is chief winemaker. Under his hand, Trapiche has steadily improved its high-elevation Uco Valley varietal wines, particularly Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Beyond the wines themselves, a first-class enotourism program has helped Trapiche stand out. Set amid vineyards and views of the nearby Andes, Trapiche’s massive Renaissance-style winery and grounds in Maipù, which dates to 1912, draws about 25,000 visitors from around the world per year.
The winery’s classic architecture is juxtaposed against a modern visitors center, while its main attraction is Espacio Trapiche, a Michelin-recommended restaurant with a steel-and-glass setting.
“It is a great honor to receive such an important recognition,” says Gustavo Sampayo, CEO of Grupo Peñaflor, when told that Trapiche would be named New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. “This is the result of the dedication, passion and hard work of all the Trapiche team during many years, and it motorizes us to continue improving and positioning Trapiche as one of the top wineries in the world.” —Michael Schachner
A creative thinker, iconoclast and tirelessly hard worker, Napa Valley-based winemaker Dave Phinney may not be a household name among wine drinkers, but many of his wines sure are.
Originally from West Los Angeles, Phinney fell in love with vines and wine while studying in Florence, Italy, for a semester during college. It didn’t take long for him to switch his focus to agriculture once he returned to the states.
He would go on to plant experimental vineyards while still in school, and, after graduating, worked as a harvest intern at Robert Mondavi Winery and then Whitehall Lane, both in the Napa Valley.
After just one year in the field, in 1998, he launched his own brand, called Orin Swift Cellars, a combination of his father’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name. Devoted to blending across varieties, appellations and vintages, the company proudly uses the California appellation.
It follows Phinney’s guiding philosophy that geographic diversity is the easiest and best way to create complexity.
The year that really changed everything, however, was 2000. That’s when Phinney unleashed another experiment to the world: An edgy, Francisco de Goya-labeled rich red blend called The Prisoner.
It was to be among his boldest and most inventive claims to fame, a statement to the wine industry that quality and creativity can indeed be conjoined.
“I’m just doing what I like,” says Phinney. “And if you like it, that’s great. And if you don’t, I totally understand. [The wines] are what they are, telling a story.”
In this case, that story includes a memorable set of unique labels for every Phinney-produced wine, which Phinney designs himself.
He ended up selling The Prisoner Wine Company to Huneeus Vintners in 2010 (Huneeus later sold it to Constellation Brands) and spun off Orin Swift to E. & J. Gallo Winery in 2016, though he would remain the brand’s winemaker.
A self-proclaimed dirt farmer, Phinney is a major reason why Gallo would later buy Stagecoach Vineyard: He was among its most prolific buyers of grapes.
In June 2018, Gallo also bought Phinney’s next act, Locations, a 90,000-case brand of wines. Its focus was to be the best possible wine from locales around the world—France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, Portugal, Corsica, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington—that are nonvintage, nonvarietal and without appellation. Phinney continues to make the wines and own vineyards in many of these regions.
Never one to stop at one or two projects, Department 66 is the name of his vineyards and winery in the Roussillon region of France, where he blends 80- to 100-year-old vines to make wines from Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre. He describes the vineyards as among the oldest and steepest he’s ever seen. Starting with 40 acres, he now has more than 300 under vine here.
Another endeavor, L’usine, is a limited-release brand of three distinct Pinot Noirs from prime California vineyards that includes Annapolis Ridge in the Sonoma Coast.
Most recently, in 2018, Phinney opened Savage & Cooke craft distillery on Mare Island in Vallejo. He aims to conquer the spirits world the same way he has wine.
To that end, he has bought wheat fields in nearby Yolo County and sources the purest water he can find from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Whiskey and Bourbon are in the works, much of it aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. He finishes Tequila here, too, in used Chardonnay barrels.
In recognition of his ceaseless innovation, risk taking and keen sense of the consumer, Wine Enthusiast is proud to name Dave Phinney as its Winemaker of the Year. —Virginie Boone
Maisons Marques & Domaines USA (MMD USA) was started in 1987. Jean-Claude Rouzaud, then President/CEO of Champagne Louis Roederer, set up the company following the creation of a similar business in the United Kingdom a year earlier. He sought to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary in the U.S. that could handle imports and sales of both the iconic Champagne and the new Roederer Estate in Mendocino County, California.
Today a major import and distribution company, the success of MMD USA can be attributed to the development of a large and growing portfolio of wines and Ports, with a focus on quality and family. Any producers outside of the Rouzaud family’s holdings that have since joined the fold also fit that bill.
“We aim for intelligent growth with the right partners, who have the same ideas of ownership, tradition, sense of place, vineyards and sustainability,” says Gregory Balogh, president and CEO since 2001.
“Our overarching philosophy is to concentrate on the greatest appellations and family-owned estates that share our fundamental values, namely long-term vision, utmost quality wines, collaboration and continuous progress,” says Xavier Barlier, the company’s senior vice president of marketing and communication.
At the company’s core are brands that are owned by the Roederer group: Domaines Ott in Provence; Ramos Pinto in Portugal; Delas Frères in the Rhône; Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Château de Pez in Bordeaux; Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger Cellars, Domaine Anderson and Merry Edwards Winery in California.
First located in Emeryville, California and moved to Oakland in 1995, the company’s U.S. headquarters were established across the bay from San Francisco to be close to Roederer Estate.
The growth of MMD USA’s California portfolio, some owned by the Rouzaud family, some with exclusive distribution like Dominus Estate in Napa, also justified the decision.
This location has dictated many of the causes the company has chosen to support, as well.
“For our partnerships, we continue what Roederer likes to do, focusing on art,” says Balogh. “We support the San Francisco Ballet, Symphony, Opera and also MOMA, particularly with photography.”
As the core lineup of Rouzaud-owned properties expanded over the years, MMD USA began looking further afield as well. In the 2000s, the number of domaines and estates that inked exclusive U.S. distribution partnerships with the company began to rapidly expand beyond France.
“In the 2000s, we knew we represented great French regions and great French producers,” says Balogh. “The question was where to we go next.”
MMD USA now represents iconic Italian estates, as well as benchmarks from Spain, Portugal and South Africa. An additional office was opened in New York in 2004 to accommodate the expanding portfolio.
Under Jean-Claude Rouzaud’s son, Frédéric, growth has only quickened, but it’s always deliberate, a process Barlier calls “sustainable growth.” Balogh describes their perspective as “a modern attitude, but with a traditional background. It’s a family business, and the Rouzauds make you feel part of their company. They are wine producers first. They understand agriculture and vineyards.”
MMD USA brings together the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans and the vinous know-how of the French. It’s a winning combination, and it’s exactly why Wine Enthusiast honors Maisons Marques & Domaines USA as its Importer of the Year. —Roger Voss
Wine.com calls itself “the world’s largest wine store.” And, indeed, the online giant has offerings that no brick-and-mortar wine retailer could match.
The company was founded as eVineyard in Portland, Oregon, in 1998, at the height of the dot-com boom. While many of its internet counterparts vanished in the subsequent bust, the company went on to acquire the Wine.com name and is still going strong more than 20 years later.
“Customers have bought more than 40,000 vintage-specific wines from Wine.com this past year,” says Michael Osborn, its founder and executive vice president. “In most of our states, on any given day, they had choices from more than 15,000 wines.”
A selection that large would be daunting, if not impossible, for a consumer to grasp and a retailer to house in a traditional store. That’s where technology comes in.
“We start with a wine selection many times larger than any traditional store,” says CEO Rich Bergsund. “Then we add the ability to filter and sort by all kinds of factors to get to a short list.”
Each wine offered contains detailed information as well as comparative scores, with an emphasis on storytelling.
“So much of the storytelling in the past was relegated to a few sentences on the back label of the bottle, or retold by a wine steward or sommelier,” says Osborn. “But with our site, wineries can tell their stories firsthand in both written descriptions and, more importantly, through a carousel of pictures, maps and videos.”
And if you still have questions, Wine.com has experts available for live, online chat seven days a week.
Over the years, the business has made its mark by realizing success in areas that many other wine retailers have struggled. Much of the industry has been flummoxed in its attempt to appeal to younger consumers, but not Wine.com, where millennials and legal-drinking age members of the even younger Generation Z make up one-third of its customers.
“I’ve long believed that the intimidation of wine buying was a large deterrent to young customers,” says Osborn. “Ecommerce, and especially mobile ecommerce, is breaking this barrier.”
And customers aren’t just buying inexpensive wines. The average bottle purchased at Wine.com in the past year cost is about $31, nearly three times the national average according to Nielsen data. Half of all sales are imported wines.
Wine delivery is another issue the industry has historically faced. Wine.com does its own warehousing and fulfillment to ensure fast delivery, typically within two days to most of the U.S. You needn’t worry about being home, either.
“If it’s not convenient to be home to sign for the wine on arrival, our customers can ship to a Walgreens or FedEx Office location and pick up on their schedule,” says Bergsund. For $49 a year, customers get unlimited free shipping.
What’s next? “Our mission is to inspire the wine lifestyle, through innovation,” says Bergsund. “Anything that does that is on the table.”
He also expects mobile apps to increase in importance, and believes wine club popularity will only continue to grow.
“We think there’s room for a better kind of wine club, with higher-quality wine and greater levels of personalization than what’s offered today,” he says. In that same vein of innovation, the company recently expanded into the spirits market in four states.
With a staggering $130 million in revenue in 2018 and 15–20% annual growth for the last several years, it’s impossible to overstate the impact Wine.com has on the industry.
“We’re building a better way to discover and buy wine,” says Bergsund. “And we feel like we’re just getting started.”
For its forward-thinking approach as a nearly nationwide retailer of quality wines, Wine Enthusiast is proud to name Wine.com as its Retailer of the Year. —Sean P. Sullivan
Grappa maker Nonino originated in the late 1800s, when Orazio Nonino began driving a mobile still from house to house and distilling the byproducts of wine making, like grape skins, seeds and stems, done by peasants. Eventually, in 1897, he would establish the company’s first brick and mortar distillery in the Friuli region of Italy.
But the story of this prolific brand didn’t truly begin until the 1970s, when scion Benito Nonino and wife, Giannola, began to produce high-quality, single-varietal grappas. It was Giannola, in particular, who helped turn around grappa’s rustic, fiery image. She longed “to turn grappa from a Cinderella into a queen,” she says.
This was no easy feat. Traditionally, Grappa was only considered a byproduct of winemaking, and was often produced crudely and given little respect. Pomace from multiple producers and grape varieties was also frequently mixed together without much thought.
Yet, Giannola saw its potential. She envisioned a possible luxury market for the crystalline spirit when no one else did.
Toward that goal, the Noninos crafted the first single-vineyard, single-grape grappa in 1973. It featured Picolit, a white grape typically prized as a dessert wine.
The end result, the highly perfumed Grappa Nonino Cru Monovitigno Picolit, was a success. It was packaged in beautiful, perfume-like bottles, with the necks wrapped with red yarn and the labels created by Giannola herself. Other grappa producers took notice, and, eventually, the category was reinvented largely as a premium Italian brandy.
In 1984, Benito and Giannola pushed the category even further, unveiling the world’s first single-vineyard, single-grape distillate produced using whole grape clusters. Made in limited quantities, the product, known as ÙE (pronounced “OO-ay”), introduced unique and particularly intense aromas and flavors.
Rounding out their portfolio of elegant grappas distilled from the pomace of familiar varieties like Chardonnay, Merlot or Moscato, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia was added to the lineup in 1992. Better known to American consumers as “Amaro Nonino,” this bittersweet, herb-scented amaro is made with a portion of ÙE that’s been aged in barriques. It’s since been embraced by bartenders and is a cocktail staple often specified by name. Drinks like the now-classic Paper Plane wouldn’t be the same without it.
The newest addition to the portfolio is L’Aperitivo Nonino BotanicalDrink, introduced in 2018. The sunny yellow, low-alcohol sipper, infused with dried botanicals, fits the current enthusiasm for spritz-style drinks.
Significantly, the label features an illustration that represents Benito and Giannola’s three daughters, Cristina, Antonella and Elisabetta, who now run the business.
“We grew up inside the distillery,” says Elisabetta. “It was something very natural for us.”
When Elisabetta gave birth to two daughters, it seemed in keeping with the Nonino lineage and the company’s future.
“To us, it’s normal,” says Francesca Nonino, daughter of Cristina and the sixth generation to join the family business. “It’s our family. It’s always been like this.”
“The most important thing is it’s run by family,” says Francesca, who entered the family business with enthusiasm as soon as the opportunity arose. “I knew I wanted to do this because I had the example of my grandmother and my mom. They were my mentors, but also my family.”
She jokes that even relaxed home gatherings are punctuated by work conversations. “On Sunday, my grandmother, she’s 80 years old and sends me work email.” But that connection means to her that Nonino is more than a business. It’s a legacy.
“I’m part of something bigger,” she says. “I’m the sixth generation, but I want Nonino to have six more generations. We want Grappa Nonino to be for many, many generations.”
For its vision to reframe a traditional spirit for the modern era, Wine Enthusiast names Nonino as its Spirit Brand/Distiller of the Year. —Kara Newman
According to Laura Maniec-Fiorvanti, “a sommelier is someone who is an ambassador for wine enthusiasm and knowledge. Being a good teacher helps make a great sommelier.”
Maniec-Fiorvanti is the owner and cofounder of Corkbuzz, a group of wine-centric restaurants with two locations in New York City and one in Charlotte, North Carolina. In several aspects of the wine community, she acts as an educator, mentor, consultant and even philanthropist, as illustrated by the Corkbuzz Scholarship For Women. Her impact on her peers in the wine world as well as the next generation of wine professionals has been exponential.
“There are so many guiding principles—taking care of your distributors and suppliers, never burning bridges, remembering that wine should be fun—I learned from Laura that I still follow every day,” says Chris Raftery, wine director at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern, who worked with Maniec-Fiorvanti for four years at Corkbuzz. “Her ability to take care of multiple businesses while still nurturing, inspiring and guiding her staff is remarkable.”
Shortly after turning 21, Maniec-Fiorvanti enrolled in an 18-week sommelier certification course at Windows on the World, in the World Trade Center. She had been on track to train as a chef, but the class gave her a taste of what a life in wine would look like instead. The tragedy that rocked the country near the conclusion of the course, meanwhile, motivated her to officially change her path.
A wine prodigy, it didn’t take long for her to become a sommelier at New York City’s Blue Fin. By age 25, she had been promoted to wine and spirits director for its parent company, B.R. Guest Restaurant Group. While there, she became a Master Sommelier and then a board member of the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Maniec-Fiorvanti opened the first Corkbuzz in 2011, where she showcased a mix of classic, less-known and back-vintage wines with a focus on education. That focus has only deepened since then, and her continued efforts at Corkbuzz include frequent public and private wine classes, winemaker dinners and other special events. Her teaching role has also evolved, and she is now vice chair of The Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation (SommFoundation).
“Laura is an icon in the sommelier and beverage world,” says Jay James, chairman of SommFoundation. “A true entrepreneur and a beacon for women in the wine and beverage space, she is capable of driving excellence and leading with heart and compassion at the same time. That’s a rare combination, and I believe it is crucial to her success.”
Jason Wise, director of the Somm series of films, is just one to have recognized Maniec-Fiorvanti’s star quality. She was featured in last year’s Somm 3.
“Laura deeply cares about educating people of all backgrounds and finds a way to do it by entertaining and making you relate what she’s saying to your experiences and knowledge base,” says Wise. “I’ve worked alongside many of the top sommeliers for years, and Laura is one of the only ones who has a balance of stage presence and humility. Laura has a gift you cannot teach.”
Today, Maniec-Fiorvanti’s advice to sommeliers is simple. “I’d recommend you surround yourself with people who have the job or career you wish to have, and find a good mentor,” she says. “Then you must take the time to listen to what’s being taught to you, whether it’s from a sales representative, a winemaker or a colleague.
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. You only have one name in this business, so protect it, do the right thing even when no one is watching and have integrity.”
For her never-ending drive to share the gospel of wine with any and all, Wine Enthusiast recognizes Laura Maniec-Fiorvanti as its Sommelier/Beverage Director of the Year. —Nils Bernstein
Wildfires, warming temperatures, droughts and flooding: Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It’s happening.
As an agricultural endeavor, the wine industry is not only impacted, it represents a direct connection to the present and future of our planet’s physical condition.
Recent years have seen various industry attempts to manage in this shifting climate, from single producers making eco-conscious conversions to entire regions committing to sweeping sustainability goals. What’s become increasingly clear, however, is that collaboration is essential to creating meaningful change.
Enter International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), a collaborative working network of wineries that puts a focus on science-based strategies. An impressive, global environmental initiative, it was launched by California’s Jackson Family Wines and Spain’s Familia Torres, two iconic firms from opposite sides of the world, in 2019 in a joint intent to push the fight forward.
On a basic level, the partnership acts as an open channel through which global perspectives and methodologies can be shared. Ultimately, however, it seeks to reduce the wine industry’s carbon footprint and expedite the implementation of viable sustainability solutions.
“We think the urgency has increased and there is need for bigger steps,” says Miguel Torres Maczassek, CEO of Familia Torres, who represents the fifth generation in the family business. “That is why, in IWCA, we are asking for a bigger commitment… right from the start.”
“Each member…takes responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable to build a cleaner, more resilient wine community,” says Katie Jackson, the second-generation proprietor and senior vice president of corporate and social responsibility at Jackson Family Wines.
Member wineries must be at least 20% powered by onsite renewable energy, and must undergo an annual third-party audit of greenhouse gas emissions that includes direct and supply chain-generated emissions, as well as an examination of utility usage.
Producers also pledge a minimum 25% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of wine, with a goal of lowering total emissions by 80% by 2045.
If this all seems ambitious, that’s because it is. That’s another reason why IWCA is so radical: It asks wineries to set, meet and adhere to concrete objectives with measurable results.
But if anyone is well-suited to spearhead such an undertaking, it’s these two firms, both of which have succeeded at making and attaining sustainability standards.
Almost all of Familia Torres’s vineyards have been certified organic. It has also reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 30% per bottle and integrated renewable energies throughout production. Jackson Family Wines, meanwhile, has met its goal to reduce emissions by 25% per gallon of wine three years early and achieved a 98% waste diversion.
“It’s clear that we all must reduce our emissions drastically, but I sometimes have the impression that people don’t realize how serious the problem really is,” says Torres Maczassek. “Maybe now, after [2019’s] abnormal and high-temperature summer with abnormal and extreme rain patterns, people will start to realize that something is going on, or actually going wrong, and that we have to change our way of living.”
“Climate change is an urgent, existential threat to the wellbeing of people the whole world over, and I can’t think of anything more important than protecting the planet,” says Jackson. “This is a critical first step.”
For leading the charge against climate change on a global scale and creating a dynamic platform to address sustainable initiatives across the industry, Wine Enthusiast is honored to name International Wineries for Climate Action as its Social Visionary of the Year. —Sarah E. Daniels
Passing through the rural Millahue Valley, there’s no indication of the art-filled, architecturally mind-blowing wine estate that lies ahead. You may see vineyards here and there; after all, you’re in the breadbasket of Chile’s fertile Central Valley. But continue on toward the ridge line that divides the Cachapoal wine region from Colchagua to the south, and you’ll discover a truly extraordinary, one-of-a-kind winery experience.
This is Vik, a meticulously curated property that includes hundreds of acres of vineyards, an ultramodern winery and a series of high-end suites. The project, located about two hours south of Santiago, is part of a privately held collection of international properties called Vik Retreats, which, in addition to Vik Chile and Puro Vik in Millahue, operates three retreats in Uruguay and one in Milan, Italy.
Alexander and Carrie Vik are the visionaries behind the monumental undertaking. Alex is a Norwegian entrepreneur, while Carrie is an American with an eye for style and a knack for creating hip hotels. They’re both wine lovers, and Viña Vik is their world-class wine estate built from scratch.
Alex likes to tell the story of how the Chilean property was selected. He says the couple concluded long ago that they wanted to make great wine in South America. To find the ideal place, they assembled a team of enologists, climatologists, geologists and agronomists in 2004 to identify the continent’s best terroir for a start-up project.
The team ultimately concluded that the Millahue subzone of the Cachapoal Valley, blessed with sunny days, cool nights and coastal breezes from the Pacific Ocean, was the most optimal location. Thus, in 2006, the Viks bought a whopping 11,000 acres of raw land in a spot the native people called the “Place of Gold” and immediately began planting grapes—lots of them.
Today, the estate, which released its first commercial wines in 2015, boasts about 800 acres of vines, highlighted by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Carmenère.
As you approach the property, the first thing you see that isn’t grapevines is the Vik Chile retreat, with its undulating titanium roof inspired by the works of Frank Gehry and Richard Serra. Designed primarily by Uruguayan architect Marcelo Daglio, there are 22 suites, each showcasing a different international artist.
Puro Vik, which opened this year, includes seven glass bungalows that allow guests to blend into the native flora as if they were a local hare or fox. There’s also The Cabin, a more private lodging option that offers what the Viks call a contemporary “Scandinavia-meets-South America” vibe. In the public areas of the main retreat is where heavy-hitting art can be enjoyed, like a giant work by the renowned German artist Anselm Kiefer.
“We want our guests to get to know Vik and to understand why we love it,” says Carrie. “The experience we offer is centered on our terroir and the wine it gifts us.”
The winery itself, where Chief Winemaker Cristián Vallejo crafts the Viña Vik wines, is as impressive as the retreats. A sweeping waterscape by Smiljan Radic and Marcela Correa welcomes visitors into a mostly subterranean bodega. Above, a transparent stretched-fabric roof gives the impression of a white wing suspended over the building.
As for the culinary program at Vik, it’s more than up to what an award-worthy winery experience should offer. The acclaimed executive chef, Rodrigo Acuña, oversees The Pavilion café and lounge, an on-site culinary garden and Milla Milla, the main restaurant at Vik Chile. His cooking relies heavily on local ingredients from both land and sea.
Art and style are always at the forefront of a Vik Retreats experience, but the Chilean property offers a number of other pursuits as well. You can try horseback or mountain bike rides in the vineyards to help work up your appetite, take cooking classes with Acuña or relax amongst the dramatic views from the infinity pool.
“Visiting Vik is an immersive experience that titillates all senses through nature, viticulture, architecture, design, art, culture, body, mind, smell and taste,” says Alex.
For these reasons, Wine Enthusiast names Viña Vik as its Winery Experience of the Year. —Michael Schachner
- 1Lifetime Achievement Award: Francis Ford Coppola
- 2Wine Region of the Year: Sonoma County
- 3Philanthropy Award: The Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation
- 4Person of the Year: Linda Reiff
- 5Wine Executive of the Year: Bob Torkelson
- 6Wine and Culture Award: Hampton Water
- 7Innovator of the Year: Oregon Solidarity
- 8American Winery of the Year: Bogle Vineyards
- 9European Winery of the Year: Tasca d’Almerita
- 10New World Winery of the Year: Trapiche
- 11Winemaker of the Year: Dave Phinney
- 12Importer of the Year: Maisons Marques & Domaines USA
- 13Retailer of the Year: Wine.com
- 14Spirit Brand of the Year: Nonino
- 15Sommelier/Beverage Director of The Year: Laura Maniec-Fiorvanti, MS
- 16Social Visionary Award: International Wineries for Climate Action
- 17Winery Experience of the Year: Viña Vik