Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Awards celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday night at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
With nearly 1,000 industry luminaries in attendance, the ceremony began with a cocktail reception flanked by a hall of fame and star walk. This photogenic promenade paid tribute to all the Wine Star Award winners from the past 20 years.
In his opening remarks, Wine Enthusiast Chairman, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Adam Strum highlighted the importance of ecological sustainability. “Even with all the fringe benefits, we all still know we are at the helm of an agricultural business,” he said.
He also asked how many second-, third- and fourth-generation wine professionals were present in the soaring space. Among the attendees who stood to demonstrate their family ties to wine were Strum’s own daughters, Erika Strum Silberstein, chief strategy officer of Wine Enthusiast, and Jacqueline Strum, associate publisher and vice president of Wine Enthusiast Media. Both presented awards, as did their mother, Wine Enthusiast Companies cofounder and Chief Brand Officer, Sybil Strum.
Jody Bogle, director of public relations at Bogle Vineyards, who were honored as American Winery of the Year, noted that family businesses are often especially drawn to sustainability. “We have a responsibility to the next generation,” she said.
Several Wine Star Award winners noted that sense of community drives their businesses and practices forward.
“None of us would be here without our families,” said Laura Maniec Fiorvanti, MS, owner and cofounder of Corkbuzz. She thanked the staffs of all Corkbuzz locations as she accepted her award for Sommelier/Beverage Director of the Year.
Recording artist Jon Bon Jovi, his son Jesse Bongiovi and winemaker Gérard Bertrand were presented the award for Wine and Culture for their Hampton Water rosé.
“To be in business with my son? There really is no greater gift,” said Bon Jovi, before singing a pared-down version of his 1986 hit “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Wine Enthusiast presented its first-ever philanthropy award to the Bob & Marie Gallo Foundation, for their generous contributions in the areas of environmental conservation as well as continued support of culture and the arts. The Social Visionary Award went to International Wineries for Climate Action, an environmental initiative created by Jackson Family Wines and Familia Torres.
Many Californians in the crowd were delighted to see Sonoma County named Wine Region of the Year. This included Linda Reiff, CEO of Napa Valley Vintners, who applauded her neighbors to the west, before herself being presented with the award for Person of the Year.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to director, screenwriter and vintner Francis Ford Coppola. He shared childhood memories of family dinners that involved wine and recounted how his uncles used to take turns stomping grapes to make wine in his grandfather’s Manhattan apartment.
“Uncle Antonio is about to turn 103,” said Coppola, wondering if that homemade wine might be the cause.
Coppola encouraged the crowd to raise a glass to toast the wine community and all its family members, near or far, inherited or chosen. “Scientifically, we’re all one family,” he said. “It’s outrageous that we should do anything other than celebrate one another.”