Monday, September 20, 2010

Nomination Ballot Abstracts for Class of 2011 Candidates


Vintners Hall of Fame 2011 Introduction

Thank you for participating in the Vintners Hall of Fame Electoral College. You will decide who will be honored in 2011 for their contributions to California wine.

We vote by acclamation. It's easy: vote for as many candidates as you like. You can vote for everyone on the ballot, just one person, or any number in between. It's entirely up to you.

The top vote getters in each category will enter the Vintners Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

The ballot is separated into two categories: the general category, for contemporary nominees, and the Pioneer category, for people who will have been dead for more than 10 years on the induction date.

This separation is purely for balloting convenience. Once inducted, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer.

While you can vote for everyone, the net effect would be that no one would gain a vote over anyone else. It's up to you to make the hard choice between those you believe belong in the Hall in 2011 and those who are not yet at the same level of achievement.

As you can see from the nominee list, the achievement may be in any area: winemaking, viticulture, research, promotion, writing or whatever.

I encourage you to vote thoughtfully, but not to delay. The deadline for submitting your ballot is September 17, 2010. Ballots may be emailed to or faxed to 707-255-1119.

If you have any questions about the voting process, the nominees or the Vintners Hall of Fame, please email Electoral College Chairman W. Blake Gray at "" .

Thanks for voting!

Vintners Hall of Fame 2011 Ballot

Instructions: Vote for as many nominees as you wish. Using MS Word, you should be able to click in the box next to the people that you would like to vote for, save as a new document, and send back to Michael Wangbickler. Or, you can simply send a list of those who you would like to vote for in an email. Please include your name so that we can follow up with you if there are any questions.

Your name (click on grey box and begin typing):      

General Category

John A. De Luca
John De Luca served more than 27 years as President and CEO of Wine Institute. Deputy mayor of San Francisco until he started in 1975, he came into the position with no real knowledge of wine. But he had experience in Washington, having worked on national security matters in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. De Luca quickly established his position on the existing regulatory climate with a paper titled "The Neo Prohibitionists." De Luca helped represent the wine industry to Congress during several hostile periods, and successfully opposed a Nickel a Drink tax in 1990. During his tenure in 1995, wine was added to the federal dietary guidelines, and officially recognized by the US government as having cardiovascular benefits. This fundamentally repositioned the way wine is regulated.

Randy Dunn
Randy Dunn established his reputation as winemaker at Caymus Vineyards from 1975 to 1984. An iconoclast who has never joined Napa Valley Vintners or participated in Auction Napa Valley, he has nonetheless led fund-raising efforts for Howell Mountain schools and fire-fighting. He bought his original vineyard property on Howell Mountain in 1972 and opened Dunn Vineyards in 1979. Since then he has maintained an interest in making balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, generally keeping the alcohol below 14%. Dunn is also an advocate for preserving forest. He owns more than 200 acres on Howell Mountain, but has planted only about 30 and has donated 63 to the Napa Valley Land Trust.

Fred Franzia
In 2002 Fred Franzia introduced Charles Shaw wines, varietal vintage wines in bottles for just $2. Within three years he was selling 6 million cases of them, which allowed low income people to have a bottle of wine on the table with dinner. Franzia has also produced inexpensive wines specifically for restaurants as part of the idea that people should drink wine with dinner instead of beer or soda. Franzia has built Bronco Wine Co. into the 4th largest wine company in the United States, with a portfolio entirely of value wines. He has done as much as anyone in the 21st century to make California wine a part of American daily life.

General Category Continued

Josh Jensen
A native Californian, Jensen went to Burgundy after getting his master's degree in anthropology from Oxford and worked two harvests, including one at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Legend has it that he smuggled clones of DRC's Pinot Noir vines to the US in his pants on a trans-Atlantic flight. In any case, he planted Pinot atop Mt. Harlan because of its limestone soils, which he found by searching maps from the state's Bureau of Mines. The location is so remote that it has no electricity, phones or paved roads, but Jensen was convinced it was the perfect terroir. For more than 30 years he has been one of America's leading Pinot Noir makers, making elegant, ageworthy, vineyard-designated wines from a still-primitive location.

Robert M. Parker, Jr.
Parker took a giant leap of faith in publishing his first Wine Advocate newsletter in 1978. At the time, he was a lawyer who thought wines were not being priced in relation to their quality. Parker's easily understood ratings and user-friendly tasting notes have helped many boutique wineries establish themselves – if Parker gives an unknown wine a high rating, it can sell out without any trouble from the three-tier distribution system that blocks the success of many small wineries. He has been a champion of California wines from the beginning of his career. Parker's prestige has helped project the influence of the American wine community throughout the world, as European wineries now focus more on the American media than on their UK counterparts.

Vince Petrucci
Fom 1948 through 1993, Vince Petrucci built Fresno State's Department of Viticulture and Enology from the ground up. He said he got the job over several other qualified candidates because "I was the only one who could drive a tractor," and that approach characterized his philosophy of education. While UC Davis is known for strong theoretical and experimental research into grapes and wine, Fresno State is known for producing winemakers and grape growers who get their hands dirty. Petrucci's students have fanned out around the world and he has advised wineries in more than 50 countries, but his greatest impact was in California, where his intensive hands-on training produced more than one generation of winemakers and vineyard managers.

Joel Peterson
While working as a microbiologist, Joel Peterson co-founded Ravenswood Winery in 1976 with $4,000, no vineyards and no winery. He had worked with Joseph Swan for five vintages and wanted to make great wine from older vines planted in the right locations, which is how he became a Zinfandel expert, as those were the oldest vines in California. At the time, Zin was mostly known for making sweet pink wine. With his single-vineyard Zins, Peterson was instrumental in showing how well the grape reflects its terroir. Peterson's wines helped preserve some of California's oldest vineyards. In 2001, Ravenswood was sold to Constellation Brands for $148 million, but unlike many winemakers who strike gold, Peterson stayed with Constellation as a senior Vice President and Ravenswood's head winemaker, where he has continued to promote and produce the excellence of single-vineyard Zinfandel.

General Category Continued

Andy Quady
While working at Heublein in the Central Valley in the 1970s, Andy Quady built a small winery behind his house. He made his first Port-style wine in 1975 from Amador County Zinfandel. For several years he made dessert wines on nights and weekends at home. In 1980 he created Essensia from Orange Muscat, an obscure variety. In 1983, he turned Black Muscat into Elysium. He also makes a wine in the style of Amontillado Sherry, and one of California's first artisanal vermouths. Quady elegantly solved the problem of what to call his initial Port-style wine when faced with the issue of Portuguese producers complaining that Port is a place name. Sweet-wine-loving consumers are now able to enjoy Quady Starboard.

Richard Sanford
A Burgundy fan, Sanford graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in geography in 1965 but was immediately drafted. He got out of the Navy in the late 1960s with a passion for Pinot Noir. He drove across Santa Barbara County with a thermometer before settling on a site west of U.S. Highway 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley. For some years Sanford had the west side of the highway to himself; he was the first winemaker to prove the potential for Pinot Noir in the chilly Santa Rita Hills. He founded Sanford Winery in 1981 and spent the next 20 years making some of the best regarded Pinot Noirs from the region. Sanford left his namesake winery in 2005 and founded Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.

Angelo Sangiacomo
Angelo Sangiacomo and his siblings took over his family's fruit farming operations in the 1950s. In 1969, he planted a 100-acre vineyard with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. He quickly realized that Sonoma Carneros was Pinot and Chardonnay country. In the early 1980s he converted 400 more acres from fruit trees to wine grapes. Angelo was one of the first Californians to see the value in promoting a vineyard – not a winery – as a brand, and he has actively worked on promotions like hosting annual educational tastings. Sangiacomo Vineyards has evolved to become one of the most respected vineyards in Sonoma County, working with more than 70 different wineries. Angelo's program of dedicating individual rows to different wineries that want them has resulted in some of California's best small-lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and his viticulture is rewarded by having the name Sangiacomo Vineyards appear on more than 30 vineyard-designated wines.

Vernon Singleton
An expert on wine chemistry, Professor Singleton spent more than four decades in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, retiring in 1991. He published more than 220 papers and four books. Wine: An Introduction for Americans, co-authored with Maynard Amerine, remains among the most widely read books of its kind, even decades after its last printing. Principles and Practices of Winemaking, co-authored with three UC Davis colleagues, is a textbook used worldwide. Professor Singleton is best known for his identification, characterization and transformation of the many phenolic substances in wine, including tannins. He also studied the contributions of barrel aging to wine phenolic composition and the role of oxygen in wine maturation.

General Category Continued

Jed Steele
As vineyard manager and winemaker for Edmeades, Jed Steele was one of the first to show the potential of Anderson Valley grapes. He went to work for Kendall-Jackson in 1983 and developed the slightly sweet Vintners Reserve Chardonnay that has been one of America's favorite wines ever since. He left K-J in 1991 to found Steele Wines and lost a lawsuit to K-J involving "trade secrets" about winemaking. So you won't see many interviews from Steele, but he has continued to make good wines under his own label, Steele Wines, in Kelseyville for the last two decades. His wines were among the first to put Lake County on the map. He has also been director of enology at Villa Mt. Eden and a consulting winemaker for Indian Springs Winery in Nevada County. Steele continues to play a necessarily quiet role in crafting quality California wine.

Charles Sullivan
Charles Sullivan is the leading contemporary historian of California wine. His books include A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (1998); Napa Wine: A History from Mission Days to the Present (1994); and Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and Its Wine (2003). Sullivan's books have been as important as any in preserving the knowledge of California's wine history for future generations. Disclosure: Sullivan is a member of the Nominating Committee for the Vintners Hall of Fame. He was nominated by other committee members and did not vote for his own inclusion on this ballot.

Bob Trinchero
Bob Trinchero took over Sutter Home Winery in the 1960s, inheriting a mom-and-pop operation that sold generic wines to their Napa Valley neighbors, who filled barrels and bottles at the winery's back door. In 1968 he began making Amador County Zinfandel, purchasing fruit from some of the oldest vines in California. In 1972, looking for a way to make the wine more intense, he drained off some of the juice before fermentation and left some natural sugar in it, calling it "Oeil de Perdrix, A White Zinfandel Wine." Three years later, he dropped Oeil de Perdrix, as he had created what became America's favorite wine for the rest of the millennium. Say what you want about White Zinfandel, it was affordable, introduced non-wine drinkers to wine, and preserved some old Zinfandel vineyards that might have been grafted to Chardonnay or paved for housing. And it made millions of people happy. Trinchero has played a large role in hosting Auction Napa Valley, which has contributed tens of millions of dollars to charity.

Nils Venge
Nils Venge has been one of the most important Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers of the past 30 years. He established his reputation as the first winemaker at Villa Mount Eden in the 1970s. Many California Cabernets have now earned 100 points from Robert Parker, but his 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was the first, and that had ripples throughout the wine world. Venge and his father-in-law purchased the property that became Saddleback Cellars in 1976, and in 1993 he left Groth to make it his main focus. However, even today Venge is a sought-after winemaking consultant throughout Napa Valley.

Pioneer Category

Cesar Chavez
Forced with his family off their Arizona farm by the Great Depression, Cesar Chavez became a migrant farm worker in California at age 11. In 1952, at age 25, he was hired as a community organizer by the Community Service Organization, where he developed his aggressive yet non-violent style of confrontation. In 1962, he and Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers. Their first major labor event was a grape-picking strike in 1965. The UFW encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes in support of workers' rights. Chavez and the UFW reported illegal immigrants who had been brought in to break the strike, and in 1973 they organized along the US-Mexico border to prevent people from crossing illegally. Thanks to Chavez, the Mexican-American farmworkers achieved greater rights, recognition, and better pay. Chavez also led a boycott of grapes in the 1980s in protest of pesticide use, and fasted for 36 days as part of that protest.

Hamilton Crabb
Hamilton Crabb came to Napa Valley in 1868 and planted a 240-acre vineyard he called To Kalon. Crabb was a pioneer in converting from Mission grapes to vinifera varietals, which he was one of the first in California to graft onto native rootstock. His passion for viticulture led him to create a plant library of more than 400 varieties. He was one of the first to plant and promote Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. By 1884, he had the largest winery in upper Napa Valley, and was instrumental in earning the region a name for excellence. Crabb's To Kalon vineyard still exists today and is still one of the best regarded vineyards in California.

Richard Graff
Richard Graff was a pioneer of California Pinot Noir. With a loan from his mother in 1965, Graff bought Chalone vineyard, which had been producing mistletoe. He recognized that the limestone soil was similar to terrain he had worked on during a year spent in Burgundy. He restored neglected grapevines and introduced Burgundian methods of winemaking: fermenting in oak barrels imported from France, aging white wines on their lees, and encouraging malolactic fermentation – all anathema in California at the time. He took pains to preserve the character inherent in the microclimate of Chalone’s unusual site. He produced finely crafted Pinot Noir of a quality we now take for granted in California. Demand for his wines far exceeded the supply. Eventually he brought in partners, expanded, and later the enlarged company acquired Acacia, then a leading producer of Pinot Noir in Carneros.

Myron Nightingale
Myron Nightingale began his career as a winemaker in 1944, and by 1949 he was chief chemist at Italian Swiss Colony, one of California's largest wineries. In 1953 he took charge of Livermore's historic Cresta Blanca Winery, guiding the resuscitation of the rundown facility. He made enological history with his Premier Semillon made in the style of Sauternes, in which the botrytis cinerea was actually produced in the laboratory. Nightingale moved to Napa in 1971 to apply his resuscitation skills at the old Beringer Winery, newly purchased by Nestle. As winemaker and director of operations he did far more than just bring the dilapidated facility back to life; he gradually made it a large scale producer of world class varietal wines. The Los Angeles Times called him Beringer's "Angel of Mercy."

Pioneer Category Continued

Eugene Hilgard
In 1874 Eugene Hilgard was lured to UC Berkeley from his research post at the University of Michigan. The UC president needed a great scholar to head the College of Agriculture and to pursue research in agriculture science. What Hilgard found in California was a land whose soil and climate were perfect for winegrowing. And yet the state's young wine industry was struggling, its wines were generally of poor quality, and its most promising wine lands had been invaded by phylloxera. Hilgard spent 25 years leading a statewide movement to remedy the situation. He created a unit at UC devoted to viticulture and enology, the first in the nation, and today the greatest. He organized courses, recruited faculty, and reached out a helping hand to the state's winegrowers. By 1894 the College had published its 100th technical bulletin, more than half devoted to viticulture and enology, all supplied free to all who asked. He traveled the state continually, and knew personally all its leading winegrowers. Hilgard's ideals and the program he founded are still evident today in UC Davis' department of Viticulture and Enology.

Charles LeFranc
Charles LeFranc was the father of commercial winegrowing in today’s Silicon Valley. He came to California in 1850 and went to work for a Frenchman who had planted a few grapes south of San Jose at the head of the Almaden Valley. By 1857 LeFranc was in charge of the estate and the next year made the first commercially important import of French grape varieties. In five years he was marketing California’s first Cabernet Sauvignon. He expanded his import by grafting a few buds onto native vines, a first in California viticultural history. Year after year his Almaden Winery wines took the lion’s share of medals at Bay Area fairs. Charles Krug claimed LeFranc’s Riesling was the best in the state. LeFranc's success grew in the 1870s, when the rest of the state’s wine industry was beaten almost to death by a national depression.

August Sebastiani
August Sebastiani, the youngest of three children, purchased Sebastiani winery from his father's estate in 1952 and developed it into what was at the time of his death in 1980 the 6th largest winery in the U.S. As his father had, August sold mostly jug wines, increasing production by more than 100 times over three decades. He was the first California vintner to make affordable varietal wines in magnum sizes. August Sebastiani was an enormous source of support for major growers in key wine growing regions including Alexander Valley, Lodi and Napa and Sonoma Valley. For many of these growers, his support often came at a time when they had no other home for their grapes. He played a major part in the economic development of the town of Sonoma, and was a significant philanthropist whose charitable gifts included the property for the Sonoma Valley Hospital.

Thank you for voting. Please e-mail completed ballot to "" or fax to (707) 255-1119.