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Who Should Be Added to the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2012?

Yes, it's that time of year again, when a few writers, historians, journalists, and winemakers and yours truly (the token blogger?) get together to discuss who should go on the ballot for the next class of inductees to the California Vintners Hall of Fame. I've been a member of the nominating committee for several years, and will be again this year, along with Mike Dunne, Dr. Carol Meredith, Andy VHF_logo.jpgBeckstoffer, Randall Grahm, Gerald Asher, Daryl Corti, Sara Schneider, Charles Sullivan, Charles Henning, Paul Wagner, Warren Winiarski, and our chairman, W. Blake Gray.

I wrote about the process and the Hall last year and was quite surprised at the amount of interest there was among my readers. Given the significant number of suggestions that I received based on that blog post, all of whom I brought to the nominating committee for consideration, I thought I'd do the same again this year.

The Vintner's Hall of Fame is now in its sixth year, and we've got a pretty solid list of inductees, to which we added last year the following members:

Dick Graff
Joel Peterson
August Sebastiani
Vernon Singleton
Bob Trinchero

They joined the following existing members of the Hall (whose names are followed by the year they were inducted):

Leon Adams, 2010
Gerald Asher, 2009
Maynard Amerine, PhD, 2007
Andy Beckstoffer, 2010
Frederick and Jacob Beringer, 2009
Brother Timothy, 2007
Al Brounstein, 2010
Darrell Corti, 2008
John Daniel, Jr. 2008
Jack and Jamie Davies, 2009
Georges de Latour, 2007
Paul Draper, 2008
Ernest and Julio Gallo, 2008
Randall Grahm, 2010
Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, 2008
Agoston Haraszthy, 2007
Jess Stonestreet Jackson, 2009
Charles Krug, 2007
Zelma Long, 2010
Louis P. Martini, 2008
Carol Meredith, PhD, 2009
Justin Meyer, 2009
Robert Mondavi, 2007
Gustave Niebaum, 2007
Harold Olmo, PhD, 2007
Andrè Tchelistcheff, 2007
Carl Heinrich Wente, 2008
Warren Winiarski, 2009

As the nominating committee we try hard to make sure that we are inducting people into the "Pioneer" category (those that have been deceased for more than 10 years) and also to make sure we have living members as well (who get to appreciate the honor a bit more directly).

So the question is, who should be added to the ballot (which is sent to several hundred wine writers around the country) this year? I'd like your suggestions, with a quick caveat: please tell me WHY you think they ought to be on the ballot. Just throwing out a list of names is pretty useless. We've got a list hundreds long. What we need are clear justifications why someone deserves to be given more consideration than someone else.

In short, and this is the question that we are putting to ourselves as nominating committee this year, who is the one person not in the Vintners Hall of Fame who most deserves to be?

I look forward to your suggestions and your justifications.

Comments (39)

Greg Hirson wrote:
06.14.11 at 6:14 PM

Dr. Albert Winkler

Anonymous wrote:
06.15.11 at 9:58 AM

Jess Jackson - for obvious reasons
Richard Sanford - for first planting in the Santa Rita Hills,
Dr. Ann Noble - for inventing the Aroma Wheel,
George Debouef - for popularizing Beaujolais Nouveau
and Wes Hagen for drafting three AVAs in Santa Barbara County

Mel Knox wrote:
06.15.11 at 10:07 AM

Ground Hog DAY aGAIN?/

Two shoeins
Joe Swan
Peter Mondavi...

Helen Turley...not quite a shoe in but somebody who changed the way wine is made

The wine regions south of SF are under represented. Ideas:
Moving south to north:
Richard sanford
Jim Clendenen
Bob Lindquist..these two are highly respected outside the US
Josh Jensen...how many winemakers are featured in japanese cartoon books?
Jerry Lohr
Chuck Ortman..Mr Chardonnay himself!

So many people who pioneeered here have moved on, in one way or the other: the Jekels, Doug Meador, the Hoffman family, the Firestones, Michael benedict, etc.

Wyne guy wrote:
06.15.11 at 11:27 AM

Dr. Richard Peterson

John Skupny wrote:
06.15.11 at 11:41 AM

For the pioneer catagory -Charles F. Wagner sr. Co-Founder of Caymus Vineyard 1912-2002

Robert Arnold wrote:
06.15.11 at 1:09 PM

The late Bruno Benziger whose Glen Ellen Winery (now Benziger Family Winery)created the "fighting varietal" segment of the wine market. He introduced varietal wines to millions of wine drinkers and upgraded their wine from 'burgandy and chablis' to caberent and chardonnay. A colorful character and a game changers.

John Skupny wrote:
06.15.11 at 1:55 PM

I would agree with Robert about the inclusion of Bruno Benzinger for his efforts in ‘scaling up’ the fighting varietal category but not as the creator of this category - I believe this was done by numerous wineries that pre-dated Glen Ellen's ownership by the Benzinger Family [ca 1980], but usually existed as second labels to the producers primary label. A few examples - Stags Leap Wine Cellars’ - Hawk's Crest, Caymus Vineyard’s - Liberty School or even, at that time, Fetzer's Bel Arbors - these brands, presented as value brand varietals were, in my opinion, the precursors to Bruno Benzinger's success, and domination, with the Glen Ellen brand and the fighting varietal category.

David M Lawrence wrote:
06.15.11 at 3:02 PM

John Wright in the early 70's brought the the 1st truly international attention to Napa with Domaine Chandon and with Moet introduced the modern food and wine experience that is now de rigueur...Cheers

Jac Jacobs wrote:
06.15.11 at 3:09 PM

John Parducci
John was as influencial to the North Coast wine industry as any other person short of Andre' Tchelistcheff. His work for Northern Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County, without the personnal flagwaving and grandstanding, has paved the way for all of the wineries and Winemakers who benefit now.

RED wrote:
06.15.11 at 5:12 PM

Why not Jim Concannon? 3rd generation vintner, created America's first Petite Sirah and Concannon is the longest continuous running winery in the country (129yrs) because they supplied the church with wine during prohibition. Jim is truly a vintner legend and has grown the Livermore Valley to a reputable appellation. Need to expand the horizon on this list a bit.

Mel Knox wrote:
06.15.11 at 6:24 PM

Are dead wine people analagus to the Baseball Hall of Fame inducting blacks and old timers?? In any case there are a lot of pioneers still out there:
Joe Swan, already cited
Joe Heitz..those who were around when his 68 Martha s was released will testify how important it was
Barney Fetzer..
Lee Stewart..an important teacher for many...wines he made are still tasting great...forty years on!
August Sebastiani is not in??
Rodney Strong...so many great winemakers came out of Sonoma Vineyards
Rene di Rosa...There should be a statue of him somewhere in Carneros...maybe in front of Mike Richmond s house
Paul Masson..was a real person with a winery, a class act and a pioneer in his time

More living people:
Tom Jordan..
David Bruce...he will be celebrating fifty years of winemaking soon

Jay wrote:
06.15.11 at 7:05 PM

Someone stated Joe Heitz. I agree.

Adam Lee wrote:
06.15.11 at 8:35 PM

Martin Ray, Joe Swan, Burt and Ed Williams all come to mind, from a Pinot Noir POV.

Adam Lee

Bernard Sarmiento wrote:
06.15.11 at 8:43 PM

Ron Loutherback -
As the long-time proprietor of The Wine Club in California (arguably, the most significant market in the world - when considering both wine production and retail sales), Ron pioneered the "high-end wines at value prices" retail model; allowing tens of thousands of wine enthusiasts like myself to further our pursuit of more diverse and better wines, while essentially minimizing the risk.

Matt Garretson -
Although his eponymous, Rhone-focused Paso winery is now defunct, his undying pursuit of perfection and more significantly, towards the production of truly Northern Rhone styled wines opened the doors for the region as an increasingly notorious Syrah AVA. Add to that, he was the. Founder of Hospice du Rhone - the non-profit organization dedicated to increasing both awareness and consumption of wines made from traditional Rhône grape varieties, which is recognized today as the world’s leading organization/event for these wines, its annual event attracts producers, press and enthusiasts from around the world. So influential that he was awarded the designation of "Decurion" - an honorary Cote-Rotie producer...by a group that included Guigal, Barge, Jasmin, Jamet & others. Not only the 1st time awarded to an American but the first to any winemaker, outside of France!

Scott Cohen wrote:
06.16.11 at 7:33 AM

Walter Schug - worked as winemaker for Phelps in the early years and was the first person to make Insignia and left Phelps to follow his vision of making Pinot Noir in California (Schug Winery) after Phelps abondanded their Pinot Noir program.

Mel Knox wrote:
06.16.11 at 11:40 AM

Looking at the list of current memmebrs I note:
1/two writers
2/one wine merchant, D Corti
3/three from regions south of SF
4/four members based in Sonoma County..five counting Harasthy
5/four academics
6/twelve dead napa Valley winery owners

So if the VHOF is not doing to turn into the Napa Vintners Association HOF, then maybe it is time to look south, east (towards davis and fresno and points in between) west and northwest!

Threeboys wrote:
06.17.11 at 12:20 PM

Agustin Huneeus Sr for his work with Concha Y Toro in the 60's, Seagram's Wines & Concannon in the 70's, Estancia/Franciscan/Mt. Veeder in the 80's & 90's, Quintessa & Veramonte in the 90's & ots, and his newest projects with Faust, Illumination and the partnerships with Flowers Winery. Don't forget his being instrumental in the advent of Meritage as a founding member of the Meritage Society.

Kathy wrote:
06.18.11 at 7:37 AM

Peter Mondavi Sr
Jim Barbour
Laurie Wood

RP wrote:
06.18.11 at 4:46 PM

Burt Williams
Merry Edwards

Mel Knox wrote:
06.18.11 at 5:37 PM

I would love to see Burt and Merry get in.

We have two wine writers, leon Adamas and Gerald Asher Aand maybe we should have more.

Hugh Johnson...such great books
Jancis Robinson...ditto
Robert Parker...perhaps a bit controversial, but I love his enthusiasm for wine and wine that he likes... many wineries out there owe so much to him

Andy Demsky wrote:
06.19.11 at 12:37 PM

George Yount, who gave Napa Valley its first vintage date in 1841 (or '42) from vines he planted near his home. The wine was crushed by Native Americans and fermented in ox-hide strung up between trees. Yum.

Sondra wrote:
06.19.11 at 10:45 PM

What a wonderful list. I have no one to add, do we have Louis Martini, Mike Lee? It was like traveling down memory lane with the names of stellar wine folk. All are great contributors to our world with their love and knowledge of wine.

06.19.11 at 11:14 PM

I agree totally with John Parducci and is Myron Nightengale not in the HOF? These two were very influencial to those who came in the next generation. There are some in the HOF who absolutely shouldn't be ahead of these two greats!

Claudia wrote:
06.20.11 at 2:38 AM

Thanks to Scott Cohen for suggesting my father Walter Schug! I live in Germany and am somewhat uninformed about the HOF - but as an unabashedly proud daughter I’d like to add my laudation to Scott's comment. I see my father as a passionate artist and a meticulous engineer. He has an unwavering commitment to quality and an elegant winemaking style (in the days when 100%-new-oaked-MLF-Chardonnays and Big-Cabernets were King, he stubbornly made steely Chardonnays and soft-spoken Pinot Noirs). As Joseph Phelps' very first winemaker, he set benchmarks and contributed several California winemaking innovations - but remained humble and collegial his entire career. A native German-speaker, he was an ardent and selfless spokesperson for California wines in the blossoming export markets of Switzerland, Germany and Europe since the 1970’s. Furthermore, he brought in and sold state-of-the-art equipment from Germany, which helped quality winemaking in California. And for almost 40 years he fostered the culture of internships (a German tradition), shaping winemakers across the globe.

My belated father’s day wish is that he will be publicly recognized for his contributions while he’s still among us.

Mike wrote:
06.20.11 at 5:58 AM

I agree that Helen Turley should be included. She not only changed the way wine is made, she has continued to refine and improve wine making over the years.

Christie Luna wrote:
06.20.11 at 6:57 AM

Hanns Kornell for the "Pioneer" category. He brought true, handcrafted sparkling wine techniques to the valley and is the epitome of "something from nothing" having travelled to the US with nothing more than $2 in his pocket, the willingness to work hard and the intelligence & fortitude to make his dream a reality.

Carolyn Madson wrote:
06.20.11 at 1:05 PM

Paul Draper from Ridge

David N. wrote:
06.20.11 at 3:37 PM

Gary Pisoni. I can't believe someone hasn't nominated him.
Gary Franscioni too.
A second vote for Wes Hagen.
Brian Loring for putting so many vineyards on the map.
Joe Rochioli.
Burt Williams.
Ted Lemon.
Joe Phelps.
Steve Kistler.
Giuseppe and Luisa Martinelli.
Greg Walter; first publisher of Wine Spectator and currently of The Pinot Report.
Ed Sbragia.

IMHO all deserving.

Tim Smith wrote:
06.20.11 at 3:47 PM

How about the Man that all of Napa Valley hates...Fred Franzia?

Anonymous wrote:
06.20.11 at 3:59 PM

I don't think the HOF needs a convicted felon does it?
Or do we just forget it?

Nicole Dericco wrote:
06.21.11 at 9:44 AM

What about Charles and Helen Bacigalupi? - not only have they been growers in Russian River Valley for over 55 years, their chardonnay vineyard was one of the primary fruit sources in the Judgement of Paris, Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won. What better reason do you need than that?

06.21.11 at 4:07 PM

I could be mistaken, but I think the Montelena Chardonnay in question came from Laurie Woods' planting.

06.22.11 at 7:55 AM

David Rafanelli of A.Rafanelli in Dry Creek, Sonoma. David is the son of Americo Rafanelli, who launched the winery commercially in the 50s. David uses only natural wine making techniques with roots in Italian tradition, successfully creating interest Sonoma wines (Zin, Cab, Merlot) in an old world style. In an era of over-engineered and over-oaked California wines, it's refreshing to see the intense quality and style reminiscent of France and Italy come through in David's wines.

Rafanelli's website: http://su.pr/34bhyj

SS wrote:
06.22.11 at 6:16 PM

I second the votes for Walter Schug who is a true pioneer from the early days. Remarkable are his contributions to the early fame of Napa Valley - He crafted the first proprietary Bordeaux Style blend (Insignia) and he made the first varietal Syrah in the U.S.

Perhaps most impressive is that he always stuck with his European roots and was never distracted by current trends. During the last 30+ years he crafted European style Pinot Noirs & Chardonnays of the finest quality, finesse and intrigue.

06.25.11 at 7:20 AM

I second David Rafanelli for his benchmark Zinfandel (one, if not my favorite!) - the indigenous Dry Creek varietal. However, to describe his wines as old world, could not be further from the truth...unless of course you meant "old style" - that, true to the very early field blends of the Italian immigrants - deep, rich, chunky, briary bottles of hedonistic, purple goo! (Mmmm, I could pop one now with Breakfast!).

While on the topic of "honest" wines, how can one overlook Fred Scherrer?!

Finally, Matt Kramer - one of the most truly interesting wine writers out there.

Heidi Stine wrote:
07.07.11 at 12:30 PM

Delia Viader

gab wrote:
07.11.11 at 10:08 PM

Is it the California Wine Hall of Fame, or just the regular Wine Hall of Fame? All these names are from Napa and Sonoma, so maybe it is a California based thing.

If not, I think Dick Erath and David Lett should be included for turning Oregon Pinot Noir into a worldwide phenomenon.

Sarah Warner wrote:
07.14.11 at 11:32 AM

Chuck Wagner of Caymus!

Philip Scott MacConnell wrote:
08.03.11 at 9:13 PM

Jean-Louis Vignes deserves a place in the Hall. He was the first to envision that there could BE a Caifornia Wine Industry. He ran El Aliso from 1833-1855 and was the first to bring Bordeaux varietals to California.

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