The little club of Vintners Hall of Fame is getting bigger
With Monday evening’s induction of Robert Parker into the HOF, that august society now has its first-ever wine critic. Would John Daniels or Robert Mondavi be scratching their heads? I suspect as much.
Actually, the walls began to stretch in 2010, when Randall Grahm was inducted. Granted, he won for his lifetime achievements, not so much for his activity on social media. But the fact is that Randall is very active in social media, and so was the first of that genus to get his bronze plaque in the coveted Barrel Room at the Culinary Institute of America. I guess you could also argue that, with Gerald Asher’s 2009 induction, the nominating committee gave an ink-stained writer an award for the first time. So actually, the walls have been stretching for the last few years.
Still, if you look at the vast majority of the 44 inductees since 2007, they’ve been winemakers. White winemakers. Wine male winemakers. White male winemakers from California, and mainly from Napa Valley. Sure, there’ve been outliers: Carole Meredith won in 2009 as a university researcher, Zelma Long was admitted in 2010 as a winemaker, and this year, as I blogged yesterday, I had the pleasure of introducing Merry Edwards as only the fourth woman ever so honored. (Jamie Davies won, with her husband Jack, in 2009.)
So it’s been pretty white bread stuff at the Hall of Fame. But I have a feeling that’s about to change.
After the ceremony, I ran into Andy Beckstoffer in the kitchen. (Where else would the guests go after a long induction ceremony at the C.I.A. than to the kitchen?) Andy, who’s on the nominating committee, told me that as far as he’s concerned he’s looking for a more expansive list of nominees/winners next year. Well, they’ve now let a critic, a writer and a social media guy in. Who’s next? The rules say the award is for “men and women who have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry.” In that case, how about restaurateurs who’ve played a role in promoting California wine? Merchants? Distributors? Politicians, for that matter. How about Julia Child? She was always pushing wine in her books and TV shows, and often enough, it was California wine.
But here’s my suggestion to Andy: John DeLuca. He led Wine Institute for decades during some of its toughest challenges. He was successful at them all. California wine has never had a more avid defender. If the Vintners Hall of Fame is serious, John DeLuca needs to be up there next year, accepting his induction.