Over more than a decade, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine have honored individuals who have contributed to the success of the wine and spirits industry with the Wine Star Awards. The winners are noted for their energy and groundbreaking vision, but this year, another theme is apparent: family. Because of the long-term nature of the industry, family-owned concerns have always been the bedrock that the wine business rests on.
“It is with great pride that we award this prestigious recognition to the leaders of an industry driving a great passion we all have—wine,” stated Publisher and Editor Adam Strum. “We are thrilled to add these individuals and businesses to our family of Wine Star Awards winners.”
This year, Wine Enthusiast Magazine is also pleased to reveal a new category for 2012—the Sommelier of the Year Award. This award acknowledges the great contributions members of that profession make to our enjoyment of wine and spirits. A great sommelier bridges the realms of consumer and producer, bringing them together to serve both equally well.
The 2012 Wine Star Awards Winners:
President and CEO of the world’s largest family-owned winery, Joseph E. Gallo has reinvented the company his father and uncle founded, creating the largest exporter of California wine, overseeing robust development of an expansive import business, expanding into Washington State, creating a powerful spirits business and nurturing the world’s top-selling wine brand, Barefoot, among many others.
Miguel Agustín Torres, a pioneer in employing modern winemaking techniques in multiple countries and a leader in the globalization of wine, joined his family’s wine business 50 years ago, Under his leadership, Miguel Torres S.A. has grown into one of the largest wineries in Spain, while the Torres Group of wineries, which includes properties in Chile and California in addition to Priorat, Rioja, Ribera del Duero and other regions within Spain, is world renowned. Across the globe, Torres wines are sold in 140 countries.
A man of the people as well as the boardroom, Torres recently stepped down as general manager of the Torres Group but is continuing as group president, a position that allows him to oversee and grow budding import and distribution businesses in China and India, emerging markets.
A lifelong visionary who, early on, grasped the importance of exporting his family’s wines along with the “culture of wine,” Torres spearheaded the purchase of 250 acres of vineyard land in Chile’s Curicó Valley in 1979, thereby setting up the company’s original overseas winery. He immediately imported and installed that country’s first stainless steel fermentation tanks and also brought in the first new oak barrels Chile had seen since the 1940s. In 1996, the Chilean government named Torres a Grand Official of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins in recognition of his contributions to developing Chile’s fledgling wine sector.
Since the dawning of the new millennium, Torres has largely concentrated his efforts in three key areas: domestic expansion; importing and distributing Torres wines in China and India; and speaking about climate change and its impact on global viticulture.
“Miguel Torres has changed the world of wine by not only setting an example for the modernization of the Spanish wine industry, but on a global scale,” says Wine Enthusiast editor and publisher Adam Strum.
Chief winemaker for Mendoza, Argentina’s Bodega Norton since 1992, Jorge Riccitelli is the force behind this established Argentine brand that’s highly respected for its price-quality relationship.
Acquired by Boisset Family Estates in 2009, Raymond has been considered a hallmark of the Napa Valley since its inception in the early 1970s. Today, with Stephanie Putnam as director of winemaking, the winery continues to prove its Cabernet Sauvignon-making prowess.
The innovative Arnaldo Caprai has helped revive Umbria’s indigenous grapes, bringing the wine region into the international spotlight for its production of Sagrantino di Montefalco.
Golan Heights Winery is at the top of its game, using state-of-the-art equipment like vineyard meteorological stations and electro-conductivity soil scanning to aid in its viticultural success.
Famed for its massive, age-worthy expressions of Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero has seen huge advances in both quality and consumer accessibility. The “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain.” campaign has heightened awareness of this region’s wines, making them a contemporary favorite.
Founded by Rudolph Kopf in 1944, Kobrand’s portfolio has grown to include over 40 of the world’s finest wineries, including such notables as Taittinger (Champagne), Tenuta San Guido (Tuscany) and Maison Louis Jadot (Burgundy).
With 28 storefronts in Illinois, this beverage emporium offers an impressive spread of everyday value wines and high-end collectibles. The extensive online catalogue makes shopping a breeze.
America’s first whiskey-distilling company, Michter’s continues to expand, including the opening of a new distillery in Louisville, Kentucky’s historic Fort Nelson Building in 2013.
In 2012, Angus Winchesterlaunched a nationwide U.S. Bartenders’ Guild challenge, testing bartenders across the nation on their mixology prowess and promoting effective cocktail making.
Madrigale makes wine for diners approachable and fun. A proponent of the use of social media, he tweets pictures and tasting notes of the bottlings he tastes daily.
A partner of the wine company Vintage Point and a 20-year veteran of the industry, Biggar provides brand- and market-development services to ultrapremium wineries including California’s Hundred Acre and Moone-Tsai.
With a wine career spanning more than 75 years at his family-owned Opici Wine Group, the vivacious, 96-year-old chairman, Hubert Opici, is a legend of the United States wine industry.
Opici’s start in the trade came after graduating from high school in 1934, when he began working as a delivery boy at his father’s wine business, the American Beverage Distribution Company of New Jersey. The company developed and expanded, and in 1945, the Opici’s forayed into new markets and purchased the Cazanove Wine Company in New York, which came to be renamed the Cazanove-Opici Wine Corporation.
As the demand for the Opici’s imported wines progressively increased, the family relocated to more commodious facilities in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where they ultimately shaped their business into the Opici Import Company. Today, the Opici Wine Group is an umbrella company comprised of Opici Wines, which boasts a portfolio containing more than 50 international brands, as well as Opici Distribution, which services restaurants and retailers in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Florida and most recently Washington, D.C. And although the fourth-generation Opici’s have now taken over most of the company’s reins, Hubert continues to be an icon, a well of knowledge and an inspiration for the trade.