Wine Enthusiast’s 22nd annual Wine Star Awards took place on Monday, February 7 at the Nobu Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. The black-tie gala honored the individuals and companies that significantly contributed to the success of the drinks world and celebrated their achievements in one of the most challenging years in an ever-changing landscape.
The event began with an outdoor cocktail reception where guests tasted wines from various winners as well as a cocktail created by Spirit Brand of the Year Disaronno, and an array of offerings from High Noon Sun Sips, the Beverage Brand of the Year.
Following the reception, the awards ceremony kicked off with inspirational remarks from Wine Enthusiast Chairman and CEO Adam Strum.
“Tonight’s honorees have remained successful through unprecedented times, while at the same time, reaching new wine drinkers to create a rich and inclusive American wine culture,” said Strum. “We’ve been up against a convergence of headwinds that would have permanently damaged a less resilient industry than ours. And yet, in 2021, we stood strong and continued to prosper because of you, the people and the Wine Stars who represent our creative and ingenious industry.”
At that, the entire room broke out in applause.
Strum awarded Dr. Nicolás Catena Zapata, founder of Bodega Catena Zapata, the Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts to amplify Argentina’s wine industry worldwide. Dr. Zapata’s daughters, Laura and Adrianna, gratefully accepted the award on their father’s behalf, ending their speech in a heartfelt embrace.
Another poignant moment came when Yannick Benjamin accepted the Wine Star Award for Sommelier/Wine Director of the Year. Benjamin worked to ensure that those who told him it was impossible to work in a restaurant in a wheelchair after a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down were sorely mistaken. His New York City restaurant, Contento, fulfills his vision of dining experiences that are truly inclusive for all.
Peter Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits, accepted the award for American Winery of the Year on behalf of Josh Cellars, with Joseph Carr also in attendance. Santa Margherita USA’s President and CEO, Vincent Chiaramonte, accepted the Importer of the Year Award, and Stefano and Massimo Moccagatta, owners of Villa Sparina, enthusiastically accepted their award for European Winery of the Year. Of note, the duo also took the first ever selfie on the Wine Star stage.
Winemaker of the Year winner, Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer, noted the importance of the award not only for recognizing the brand, but for it helping to put “the Finger Lakes wine region on the map.”
Greg Lambrecht, founder and chairman of Coravin, winner of Innovator of the Year, provided a Coravin Sparkling Preserver for each table to use, while Wine Executive of the Year winner, Eugenia Keegan of Jackson Family Wines, commented on the successful breakthrough of female wine professionals in Oregon and beyond.
Alison Laslett, CEO of Santa Barbara Vintners, accepted a trophy on behalf of Santa Barbara County, California, the Wine Region of the Year. Vivino earned the Wine Star Award for Retailer/Marketplace of the Year.
The Henschke family accepted the New World Winery of the Year award via video, as the family was unable to travel from Australia due to the pandemic.
Brad Mayer and Alex Evans of Precept Wine accepted the Social Visionary of the Year Award for the House Wine brand, in recognition of its work with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organization. For every case of Rainbow Rose Bubbles sold, House Wine donates two dollars to the HRC.
A special moment in the evening came when David Stare, a pioneer in Sonoma winemaking history, accepted the American Wine Legend Award for his years of dedication to the Dry Creek Valley appellation as well as his own Dry Creek Vineyards brand. His family was also in attendance.
Finally, Strum awarded Marc D. Taub, CEO of Palm Bay International and Taub Family Selections, the Person of the Year award for his endless dedication in the business as well as his leadership, vision and growth in 2021. Taub’s creative and witty video highlighted the myriad of challenges his business has endured and overcome over the past two years by spoofing iconic movies like Godfather, Caddyshack and Animal House. The emphasis Taub placed on family and the need to strive forward in the face of adversity provided the perfect closing moments for this joyous industry celebration.