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Presenting the 2013 Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Award winners

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I couldn’t be more pleased by the California winners of Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Star Awards.

Barbara Banke is a natural for Wine Person of the Year. After Jess Jackson’s 2011 passing, Barbara stepped up to the plate to shepherd Kendall-Jackson to unprecedented new heights, not to mention the smaller wineries in the Jackson Family Wines stable. In my short article accompanying the announcement, I only begin to describe what Barbara has accomplished over the last two years. A classy lady leading a great company.

Rodney Strong Vineyards easily merits their selection as American Winery of the Year. They do such a great job, and the wines just keep getting better and better. They’re a fairly big winery, but the wines almost always taste artisanally hand-crafted. Rodney Strong’s commitment to Sonoma County’ fruit is admirable.

I’m particularly glad that Paso Robles is our Wine Region of the Year. Paso faced pretty tough competition (Douro, Rías Baixas, Stellenbosch, Walla Walla), and those were the finalists: in our actual meeting last summer to develop that list, even more famous wine regions were put forth by various editors. Paso emerged triumphant over all of them. Congratulations to everyone down there in this Central Coast appellation!

Last but not least there is Peter Mondavi, Sr., recipient of the magazine’s American Wine Legend Award. Who better to get that recognition than the 99-year old scion of the legendary Napa family of Mondavis, who to this day remains happily active at Charles Krug. It will be wonderful to see and hear him at the awards ceremony, in January. I can already see the audience of hundreds of dignitaries rising to their feet in thunderous applause when his name is called.

You know, in California there is such constant reinvention–new winemakers, new wineries, new wines–especially in Napa Valley that it can be easy to lose a sense of historical continuity, especially in the 140-character amnesia of Twitter. One day, a palatial new winery goes up. The next day sees the latest $300 Cabernet. The day after that comes a listing of Hottest New Winemakers Under 30. That’s all very well, but somebody has to make sure the train stays on the track. Peter Mondavi, Sr. is nonesuch: he remains a guiding inspiration in Napa Valley and has been for more decades than most of us have been alive. We ought to reflect more on the history of our great wine regions and personalities and understand how they got to where they are today, instead of being mesmerized by the latest this or that.

So my heartiest congratulations to all the winners, not just California but across the globe. I’ll see you in New York!

 

  1. Steve,

    What criteria is used to evaluate ‘wine region of the year’? Just curious . . .

    Cheers!

  2. Caroline Shaw says:

    Steve, To all of us, it is no secret that Barbara is a great leader: it is especially gratifying that her success is being recognized by our industry and your magazine as a whole. Each day that we come to work, Barbara’s passion and commitment to her family and our company inspires each of us. Caroline Shaw, CMO Jackson Family Wines

  3. Caroline Shaw says:

    Steve,
    Hit submit to soon. Let me add on behalf of Barbara and the entire team at Jackson Family Wines, Congratulations to all the Wine Star Award Winners. Caroline

  4. Larry–

    Good question, but one that does not interest me much because any “objective” measure based on high ratings would likely put Napa or Sonoma first in most years.

    Paso Robles deserves recognition because people like its wines. They are not wines that necessarily please much of the San Francisco cogniscenti, but given the active wine market enjoyed by the leading wines of the area, it is hard to see how one cannot find a way to recognize what is happening there.

    Steve will answer you sooner or later, and I am glad that he and Wine Enthusiast have seen fit to single out Paso Robles. An area does not need a hundred wines earning 95 points to be worthy. Sometimes, it is simply the emergence of greatness, the increasing quality that demands attention.

    And it is time that we counter the too loudly voiced proclamations that wines of a certain ripeness are for novices and know-nothings.

  5. Hi Charlie, thanks for weighing in! You hit the nail on the head.

  6. Michael Donohue says:

    Having just visited Paso (or should I say Paseaux like Justin?)I want to give a major shout out to a restaurant not to be missed when & if you visit: Il Cortile!!! OMG the beef carpaccio alone is worth the drive. My note “multi-orgasmic en bouche, 9.9 minimum”

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