This year marks the 24th anniversary of Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Awards, honoring the individuals and companies that make outstanding contributions to the wine and alcohol beverage world. Here are the nominees across 13 categories for the 2023 Awards. The winners of these categories, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award and American Wine Legend, will be featured in the magazine’s Best of Year issue and celebrated at our annual black-tie gala in February 2024. We salute the dedicated beverage professionals who have innovated and flourished this year.
All full-time and contributing divisions of the Wine Enthusiast media team, including sales, events, marketing, and editorial, were invited to submit nominees for the 2023 Wine Star Award categories. Nominations were submitted with explanations of what made the submission appropriate for consideration. The list of potential nominees was then sent to the group for anonymous voting to cull the list down. Finalists were chosen from the culled-down list by the Executive Media team with selections based on many factors, including impact on consumers and trade in the wine, spirits, or beer space, commercial successes, company/brand vision, and trendsetting. The Wine Star Awards are an overall beverage industry awards program. While the editors are invited to participate, this is a collaborative program incorporating the input of all divisions of our company and is not a solely an editorial franchise.
For event inquiries on the annual Wine Star Awards gala, please contact LaShana Daniels at LDaniels@wineenthusiast.net.
Explore the 2023 Wine Star Award Nominees
American Wine Legend
The American Wine Legend winner will be named. There are no nominees for this category.
American Winery of the Year
The latest (and seventh) generation of the Zonin family is now charting the course for the next phase of the Virginia estate’s long history. The historic estate, dating back to the early 1800s, was acquired in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, who successfully established a vineyard and winery on the property. Zonin’s three sons Domenico, Michele and Francesco now handle executive duties, while winemaking remains in the very capable hands of Luca Paschina who has managed production since 1990.
Black Stallion Estate Winery
Nestled in the southern half of Napa Valley, Black Stallion Estate Winery is the showpiece of Delicato Family Wines, which is one of the largest wine companies in the United States. The winery takes its name from being on the site of a former equestrian center, and Winemaker Ralf Holdenried and his team use the modern, small-lot winemaking facility to produce a wide range of wines from Delicato’s estate vineyards.
San Luis Obispo, California
Planted in 1973, Chamisal Vineyards was the first commercial vineyard in what would become the Edna Valley AVA in the Central Coast of California. The winery has a long history of producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from one of the true, cool-climate growing regions of the West Coast. It introduced a crisp, unoaked Chardonnay during a period when oaky whites were all the rage, and it has remained true to its distinctive style over the course of 50 years in business.
Ramey Wine Cellars
When one thinks of iconic California Chardonnay, the name David Ramey is assuredly on the short list of the top producers. David and Carla Ramey founded their winery in 1996, and in 2021 their children Claire and Alan became copresidents and part owners of the winery. Ramey’s wines have consistently earned high scores and praise from reviewers around the world and remain a benchmark for the highest level of quality in Californian winemaking.
Ravines Wine Cellars
Geneva, New York
Morten Hallgren first learned the art of winemaking at his family’s estate in the Côtes de Provence region of France. He then earned his professional chops working in some of the least developed regions of the new world: Texas, North Carolina and upstate New York, where he discovered nearly unlimited potential for crafting fine wines. Morten and his wife Lisa launched Ravines Wine Cellars in 2001 and have helped set the standard for high-quality wine production in the Finger Lakes AVA of New York.
European Winery of the Year
Ca’ del Bosco
A certified organic estate since 2014, Ca’ del Bosco was founded by the pioneering and inspiring vintner Maurizio Zanella in 1968, helping to earn the region ever-higher levels of quality. The winery has since become part of the Marzotto family’s group of wineries that includes Santa Margherita. The partnership with the Marzottos has helped ensure that Ca’ del Bosco retains its leadership position in the region with a new immersive visitor experience that encompasses all the senses.
Château de Bligny
Nestled in the heart of the Côte des Bar region and founded in the 18th Century by the Marquis de Dampierre, Château de Bligny is the only winery in Champagne to bear the title of “Château.” In 1999, the Rapeneau family acquired the property and went on to not only restore the historic mansion, but also the estate’s reputation as a producer of exceptional Champagne. This past year, the winery also announced a collaboration with Fabergé to create a luxurious wine coaster from brass, silver and gold that forms an “egg” when a bottle of Clos du Château de Bligny is nestled inside.
This estate is now managed by the seventh and eighth generations of the founding family. It has earned acclaim for its recent and impressive trailblazing work in organic, biodynamic and regenerative farming in Champagne. The winery produces a wide range of Champagne and still varietal wines from its estate vineyards and is helping to spread sustainable growing throughout the region.
Quinta do Vallado
Douro Valley, Portugal
One of the oldest and most famous wineries in Portugal’s Douro Valley, Quinta do Vallado dates back more than 300 years to 1716. The winery was later acquired by the uncle of legendary Doña Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, who helped shape the Douro into what it is today, and it still belongs to the same family. The winery only made Port until the 1990s, when it started making a diverse line of dry wines from its 250 acres of estate vineyards. Production was further bolstered with a state-of-the-art winery constructed in 2009, along with a luxury, boutique hotel that helped the Douro become a world-class tourism destination.
Ridgeview Wine Estate
At the forefront of an emerging wine region in one of the oldest nations of the old world, Ridgeview Wine Estate has been producing world-glass sparkling wine in Sussex, England, since 1995. The family-owned estate is a certified B Corp company and founding member of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain. The winery recently opened a new tasting room experience to further promote its estate wines.
Importer of the Year
Barton & Guestier, Patriarche and Listel (BGPL USA)
BGPL USA is the US branch of Barton & Guestier, which dates back to 1725 when it was founded in Bordeaux. BGPL USA imports and represents a handful of historic French wineries (working with more than 200 growers) that, together, produce more than 5 million cases of wine across three ranges distributed to 130 countries. The wines produced or distributed by Barton & Guestier come from all the major wine regions of France. The company also welcomes more than 450 trade partners each year to the B&G Food & Wine Academy at Château Magnol to be immersed the French art of living.
Founded by Eric Seed, Haus Alpenz introduced Dolin Vermouth into the U.S. market and represents a wide-ranging portfolio of spirits and aperitif wines from around the world. In addition to Dolin, which is one of the few historic and independent Vermouth producers remaining in France, the firm specializes in authentic English gin, rum, eau-de-vie, fruit liqueurs and a wide range of still and sparkling wines.
Little Peacock Imports
Brooklyn, New York
Gordon Little cofounded Little Peacock in early 2012 with his wife Lauren Peacock after his experience in the U.S. wine trade taught him that many American wine lovers know little about the world-class quality and diversity of Australia’s best wines. Since launching their small import shop, Little and Peacock continue to source unique and compelling wines that regularly receive rave reviews.
Prestige Wine Imports
New York, New York
New York-based Prestige Wine Imports represents the flagship Italian brand Mezzacorona and several other wines produced by its 1,500 grower members from Alto-Adige to Sicily. The company also imports a range of wines including those from some of the oldest Prosecco producers as well as top-rated Pinot Grigio and rosé brands.
While the U.S. is the world’s largest and most lucrative wine market, the unique qualities of the country’s three-tier system make it one of the most complicated and challenging to access. Based in Lawrence, Kansas, W Direct’s business is to help the world’s wineries access America through its import, warehouse and distribution services. The company also helps firms with licensing and compliance as well as payments and submitting wines for critical review.
Innovator of the Year
Founder, Field Recordings | Paso Robles, California
The Central Coast of California is one of the most diverse wine-growing regions in the world and few understand this better than Andrew Jones, who founded Field Recordings in 2007, as well as several other wine brands in the years since. Jones’ other major job is “vine nursery fieldman” for one of the largest suppliers of vineyard stock. The duality of his roles has put him at the forefront of nearly every recent trend in Californian winemaking, from putting wines in can, natural techniques, lesser-known varieties, skin-contact, pét-nats and much more. Jones and Field Recordings have also helped make Paso Robles a new hub of wine country tourism.
Fre, Trinchero Family Estates
St. Helena, California
The recent, unprecedented surge in popularity for non-alcoholic adult beverages can be credited in part to the groundbreaking Fre line of alcohol-removed wines that has been a category leader since 1992. The brand continues to innovate with wine types as well as packaging. It was the first to release single-serve alcohol-removed wines packaged in 250ml cans in 2020. Fre is regularly listed among the most popular and best-tasting, alcohol-free wines available in the U.S.
Founder/Cofounder, OMvino & Consciously Planted | San Francisco, California
While working as a wine consultant for restaurants and private clients, Jennifer Estevez was inspired to launch her own communications firm specializing in telling the stories of the hospitality world. Her firm OMvino provides a suite of services for food and beverage businesses, including an online wine club dubbed Palate Club. Most recently, Estevez cofounded the Consciously Planted advisory group to assist startups focused on producing sustainable, plant-based products.
Ludovic du Plessis
CEO, Telmont | Champagne, France
In 2021, Telmont pledged to be the first Champagne house to be climate positive by 2030, and that it would reduce all estate greenhouse emissions by at least 90% by 2050. Since then, CEO Ludovic du Plessis has eliminated the use of air freight, trimmed excess packaging materials and is phasing out the use of all pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers on the estate. In addition to improving sustainability at the winery, du Plessis has raised the global profile of Telmont by bringing on actor Leonardo DiCaprio as a minority investor.
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine
While this Italian winery may have been founded in 1925, it continues to look to the future as the “House of the Unconventional.” Under the leadership of third-generation CEO Riccardo Pasqua and U.S. President Alessandro Pasqua, the venerable Veneto producer has released a string of new wines, including the Mai Dire Mai line featuring a Cabernet Sauvignon and an Oseleta blend.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award winner will be named. There are no nominees for this category.
New World Winery of the Year
Uco Valley, Argentina
Owned by the Cartoni family, Antigal winery in the Uco Valley of Argentina is committed to raising the global profile of the Uco region while also creating new opportunities for Argentinian wines in the United States and other key, global markets. Antigal’s wines are produced in a historic winery that was refurbished to provide world-class production facilities and packaged with eye-catching, silk-screened labels and the winery’s signature “One” and “Uno” brands that bear a “1” crafted from metal barrel hoops.
Marlborough, New Zealand
Headed by members of the renowned Bourgeois wine-growing family in Sancerre, France, Clos Henri was founded in Marlborough, New Zealand in 2000. The organic and biodynamic estate produces some of the most intriguing Marlborough wines on the market and celebrated its 20th harvest this year. A recent and extensive rebrand led to the release of two new, special cuvées of Sauvignon Blanc. The winery is credited with improving the overall quality of wines from Marlborough and helping to make the region synonymous with exceptional Sauvignon Blanc.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards
Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
Founded in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russell, this estate is one of the most southerly wineries in Africa, situated near the former fishing town of Hermanus in the Hemel-en-Aarde appellation. Russel’s son Anthony Hamilton Russell took over the winery in the early ‘90s, and, in recent years, he and his wife Olive expanded the business with an Oregon project. The couple released their first vintage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the Hamilton Russell Oregon label in 2020.
Rosario Valley, Chile
This biodynamic, boutique winery is in Chile’s Rosario Valley, situated between the Casablanca and San Antonio valleys. The Matetic family immigrated from Croatia in 1892 and would plant their first vineyard in 1999. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the slopes of the Chilean Coastal Range mountains, the Valley’s pronounced coastal influence provides for excellent cool-climate growing conditions to produce Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and aromatic white varieties.
The Sadie Family Wines PTY LTD.
Swartland, South Africa
Led by winemaker and founder Eben Sadie, The Sadie Family Wines company is one of the most prominent wineries in Swartland, South Africa. The winery has been instrumental in bringing attention to this well-established region with newfound fame, and its allocated wines have received numerous high scores and accolades. The winery has focused on producing wines with Rhône varieties as well as Chenin Blanc, but recently planted 28 varieties from Southern Europe to evaluate grapes that may be more adaptable to changing climate.
Person of the Year
Dina and Don Opici
President, Opici Family Distributing & Managing Director, Opici Wines | Glen Rock, New Jersey
The Opici siblings are members of the fourth generation overseeing their family’s import and distribution company that also produces its own wine brands. The company recently formed a joint venture with Republic National Distributing Company to serve the New York market and acquired Pacific Highway Wines that was named WE “Importer of the Year” in 2022.
Vice President of Fine Wines & Corporate Image, Viña Concha y Toro | Santiago, Chile
As vice president of fine wines and corporate image of Viña Concha y Toro, Isabel Guilisasti increased sales of premium wines for the Chilean company by 10% while also boosting profits 25%. In addition to improving the company’s bottom line and global reach, Guilisasti has also successfully raised the profile of both the wines of Mendoza as well as Mendocino County, California, where Viña Concha y Tora has turned Bonterra Organic Estates into a leader of sustainable and organic viticulture and winemaking.
CEO, Wine Group | Livermore, California
After joining Livermore, California-based Wine Group in 2007 as general counsel, John Sutton was promoted to chief financial officer in 2015 and has served on the company’s board of directors since 2013. Sutton was appointed CEO of the Wine Group, which is one of the largest wine producers in the United States, in 2022. Sutton is also a past board chairman of the Wine Institute. Earlier this year, The Wine Group announced its acquisition of the 1,300-acre Paicines Vineyards in San Benito County and a national, strategic alignment with the leading U.S. wine distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.
CEO, Wines of Argentina | Mendoza, Argentina
Under the leadership of Magdalena Pesce, the Wines of Argentina trade group has made impressive strides to promote opportunities for women in the wine industry. The organization signed the United Nations Principles for the Empowerment of Women (WEP), becoming the first leading trade organization to do so. The group also committed to a Productive Framework Free of Violence, within the framework of the Zero Tolerance Campaign for Violence Against Women, to raise awareness and eradicate gender-based violence in the field of production. After conducting a study on gender perspective in the Argentine wine sector, which showed a significant inequality in management positions, Wines of Argentina is implementing a series of measures aimed at promoting equal opportunities for women.
Owner & Winemaker, Paul Hobbs Winery | Sonoma County, California
A truly global winemaker, Paul Hobbs continues to find ways to innovate and upend the business of wine even after working in it for nearly half a century. In addition to owning wineries in Sonoma County and the Finger Lakes AVA of New York State, Hobbs is a partner in estates in Argentina, France, Armenia and Spain.
Retailer/Marketplace of the Year
3 Parks Wine Shop
Located at the nexus of three parks in Atlanta, Georgia, this is one of the best wine shops and clubs in the country.
Benchmark Wine Group
This retailer originally launched in 2002 with a novel, but simple, business of selling fine and rare wines sourced from the private cellars of collectors. The Napa Valley-based company has since broadened its reach and business model by expanding into importing and distribution. An online sales platform further broadened Benchmark’s market by offering small-production, rare wines that would be otherwise inaccessible to a mass audience.
Fermented Wine Boutique
After stints in restaurants and wine distribution jobs, Adam Danielson opened Fermented Wine Boutique in the Atlanta area and the shop has since opened a second location in the fast-growing metro area. The shop prides itself on offering something for everyone, including natural wines; bottles from historic, traditional estates; and modern, crowd-pleasing favorites. The shop also offers a wine club and “Flight Club” of curated wine flights.
Founded in 1983 in Bordeaux, Millésima is a family-owned company that launched a New York City location in 2006. Since then, the American outpost has gained a loyal following for offering the best of Bordeaux and beyond in what feels like a neighborhood wine shop. An early adoption of online sales has helped this retailer maintain an average order value of more than $1,000 and generate $9 million in revenue in the U.S. in 2022. The company is opening a new, larger location in New York in 2024 to better serve its local customers, while an enhanced ecommerce program serves customers across the country.
Cha McCoy started this top-notch wine shop and tasting space in 2022 in Syracuse, New York. Located just outside the Finger Lakes region, the shop provides a meeting space for local vintners and an easy way for locals to enjoy the excellent wines produced in their own backyard. McCoy has also become an active and vocal advocate for better racial representation in the wine industry for Black women and other minority groups.
Social Visionary of the Year
AHIVOY (Asociación Hispana de la Industria del Vino en Oregon y Comunidad) was the vision Jesús Guillén, who sadly did not live to see the organization launch and fulfill its mission of providing career training, education and opportunity for advancement for vineyard models. AHIVOY, under the leadership of Guillén’s wife Yuliana Cisneros-Guillén and fellow cofounders Sofía Torres-McKay and Miguel Lopez has set a model of education and empowerment.
Cofounder, Siponey Spritz Co. | New York, New York
A whiskey educator and bartender in New York, Amanda Victoria cofounded the Siponey Spritz Co. line of RTD cocktails in 2019. Siponey is the first canned cocktail company to earn B Corp certification. The company also donates at least 2% of annual revenues to environmental nonprofit groups that support honeybee conservation in recognition of the cocktail’s use of honey blended with rye whiskey. Victoria also works with Corporate Pero Latinos and Bee University NYC as their Board Chair.
CEO, Lawrence Wine Estates & Château Lascombes; Cofounder, The Roots Fund | St. Helena, California
Although Carlton McCoy became a Master Sommelier at the young age of 28, it was a passion for the culinary arts that put him on the path to becoming a widely known winery executive and influential voice for inclusion. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, his time in restaurants sparked a passion in wine that led him to becoming the wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, and then president and CEO of Napa Valley’s Heitz Cellar in 2018. McCoy is active in many organizations advocating for positive change, including The Roots Fund.
Kind of Wild
This direct-to-consumer wine company, specializing in certified organic and vegan wines from around the world, formed through a partnership between brothers Jordan and Adam Sager, who come from a family with a long history in the wine business, as well as celebrity chef, best-selling author and television personality Katie Lee Biegel. The company became a member of the One Percent for the Planet in 2022, pledging to support the One Tree Planted and Organic Farming Research Foundation.
President, Marchesi Frescobaldi,| Tuscany, Italy
As the recently named president of the trade group Unione Italiana Vini, Lamberto Frescobaldi helps to represent more than 150,000 winemakers and growers throughout Italy. Frescobaldi is also the president of his family’s company, Marchesi Frescobaldi, which is one of the most celebrated winemaking dynasties in Italy and Europe with a history dating back to the year 1300. The company comprises 11 winery estates, including the vineyard on the Gorgona Agricultural Penal Colony that is located on a vineyard off the coast of Tuscany and which is a long-term project dedicated to the rehabilitation of the colony inmates.
Sommelier/Beverage Director of the Year
Beverage Director, The Modern | New York, New York
After starting his career in fine dining in Chicago, where he earned a degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Arthur Hon moved to New York and joined the Union Square Hospitality Group as an assistant wine director in 2017. Hon then spent two years as beverage manager at Momofuku Ko before joining The Modern as beverage director in 2021. The Modern is a Michelin two-star restaurant serving contemporary American food in the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Beverage Director, NA:EUN Hospitality | New York, New York
In 2022, Jhonel Faelnar became the beverage director for the NA:EUN Hospitality group that includes the Michelin two-star restaurant Atomix and Atoboy where Faelnar had previously been the wine director and sommelier, pairing wines with Korean-inspired cuisine. In addition to his work in New York’s restaurant scene, Faelnar is also active with the ARK Solves organization that is committed to solving hunger issues in the rural communities of developing nations.
Beverage Director, République, Manzke and Bicyclette | Los Angeles, California
As if running two of the preeminent lists in Los Angeles at République and Bicyclette were not enough, Sarah Clarke is also part of the team revitalizing and redefining fine dining in the city. Manzke opened in March 2022 and before the year ended, earned a Michelin star. It’s a high-wire act of ten-course tasting menus with wine pairings from Clarke that dovetails with offerings from a rare aged and vintage spirits collection. Clarke has teamed with bar director Shawn Lickliter to help make this one of the most enticing nights out of eating and drinking in L.A.
Owner, The Barrel Room & Northeast Wine Company | San Francisco, California; Northeastern United States
The founding vision of Sarah Trubnick’s The Barrel Room in San Francisco was to introduce guests to the unique varieties, wine styles and stories from the wide world of wine. Trubnick first opened The Barrel Room as a small wine bar and later expanded it into a restaurant, full bar, event space and bottle shop. Trubnick holds a Master of Science Degree in Applied Physics from UCLA but left her first career to follow a passion for wine that has also inspired her to complete her WSET Diploma and she now teaches formultiple wine schools as well as launch the Northeast Wine Company in 2021. The company represents high-quality producers from the emerging wine regions of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and other Northeastern states.
Wine Director, PRESS | St. Helena, California
Master Sommelier Vincent Morrow has been the wine director for Napa Valley’s premier steakhouse PRESS since 2020. Morrow came to California from his native Arizona on a soccer scholarship to Sonoma State University, where he focused on wine business and marketing. While working concurrently as a sommelier at Gary Danko and Benu, Morrow earned his Master Sommelier certification.
Spirit Brand of the Year
Founded by Simon Ford, this spirit has become known as a bartender’s gin. It started as the flagship spirit within a portfolio called The 86 Company, but sales of the gin soon outpaced all the other labels. The 86 Company ultimately sold it to Brown-Forman in 2019. Ford, who still runs day-to-day operations of the brand, produces the gin in collaboration with eighth generation master distiller Charles Maxwell.
Bourbon continues to enjoy an unprecedented run of popularity among U.S. whiskey aficionados with upstarts and legacy brands alike pleasing palates. Helping to drive that success is a new generation of distillers like Nicole Austin, the general manager and distiller for Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., which is home to category leader George Dickel. Austin, who has a background as a design engineer for water systems, worked for several other spirits firms before George Dickel, which is part of the global Diageo group. In addition to her work at George Dickel, Austin has utilized her position to ensure women have equal access to enter, and thrive, in the U.S. spirits business.
House of Suntory
The House of Suntory was originally a wine company when it was formed in 1899 by Shinjiro Torii, but the company was involved in spirits even back then and has evolved into the global leader in spirits it is today. House of Suntory offers category defining Japanese whiskys appealing to everyone from collectors (with rare unicorn bottlings in the 21- and even 35-year range) to bartender-favorite mixables such as Toki. When Japanese whisky exploded a few years ago, and Suntory began to run low on 12-year-old and up age-range stock, it was nimble enough to pivot to non-age-statement blends like the now popular Hibiki Japanese Harmony.
Mount Gay Barbados Rum
Saint Lucy, Barbados
The world’s oldest rum producer started in 1703 on the island of Barbados using a column and copper pot still system that was cutting edge technology then and has since proved consistently reliable in producing exceptionally high-quality spirits. Mount Gay has been part of the Rémy Cointreau company since 1989 and, in recent decades, the historic brand has seen several line extensions, including Mount Gay Black Barrel that launched in 2013. In 2019, the distillery named Trudiann Branker as its first female master blender.
Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça
This USDA-certified organic cachaça is produced in the heart of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest in a zero-waste and sustainable distillery. The company boasts an all-female distiller team and supports its own reforestation project, The Un-Endangered Forest. In addition to social and environmental initiatives, Novo Fogo has also garnered attention for unique cask finishes that use lesser-known woods from South American forests. In 2022, the company welcomed an investment from global EDM superstars Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern of the group Sofi Tukker who will also serve as “Chief Alegria Officers,” helping to grow and promote the brand around the globe.
Wine Executive of the Year
Managing Director, Bodega Garzón | Garzón, Uruguay
Within less than a decade, Christian Wylie has expanded the market for Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón to 56 countries, taking production from 25,000 cases to more than 150,000 cases each year. Promoted to the post of managing director in 2016, Wylie has also managed to increase sales and production while lifting the winery into the ranks of the world’s leading luxury brands. Garzón’s flagship wine, Balasto, is the only wine from Uruguay sold via Le Place de Bordeaux negociants and one of just three from South America.
Board President, ViniPortugal | Lisbon, Portugal
Portuguese wines continue to enjoy strong growth in the U.S. market thanks in part to the efforts of Frederico Falcão who has served as president of the board of ViniPortugal since 2020. Falcão, however, has tirelessly promoted the wines of Portugal over a career that has spanned nearly 30 years. Portuguese exports to the U.S. grew by more than 8% to $113 million in 2022, and much of that growth has been from a deepening appreciation by U.S. consumers for the diversity of dry table wines produced with the country’s abundance of more than 250 native grape varieties.
Founder, Aperture Cellars | Healdsburg, California
Since founding Aperture Cellars with his father in 2009, winemaker Jesse Katz has earned critical acclaim for his Alexander Valley wines while also donating nearly $6 million over the past five years to various causes. Katz recently acquired the 75-acre Farrow Ranch vineyard, from which he produces his prized Devil Proof Vineyards Malbec.
President, LangeTwins Family Winery | Acampo, California
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards is one of the largest, vertically integrated grape and wine producing companies in Lodi, California, where Marissa Lange has been president since 2005. Lange, part of the fifth generation to work the family farm in California, has overseen the development and expansion of her family’s own brands as well as business-to-business custom services, private labels and retailer exclusives. Under Lange’s leadership, the LangeTwins company remains an inspiring force in sustainability since helping to form the Lodi Rules Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
Owner, Tapiz, Zolo and Wapisa | Mendoza, Argentina
In 2019, the trade group Bodegas de Argentina made the historic move to name Patricia Ortiz its first woman president. Ortiz, who is a former medical doctor with a focus on kidney care, bought her first Mendoza vineyards and winery in the early 1990s. Since then, Ortiz purchased two other wineries and is now the owner of Tapiz, Zolo and Wapisa as well as nine sustainably farmed vineyards.
Wine Region of the Year
The great irony of Thomas Jefferson’s failed ambitions to create a new Bordeaux in the newly established United States of America is that, centuries later, a thriving wine industry has grown along the Monticello Wine Trail, through the heart of the eponymous AVA near the city of Charlottesville. Earlier this year, 58 of the 142 gold medals awarded at the state’s Governor’s Cup competition went to members of the Monticello Wine Trail. The success of the wineries has helped support a thriving tourism infrastructure in the city that is providing a base for wine lovers to discover an historic region with a dynamic new wine scene.
This region suffered through the ignominious fate of becoming passé after enjoying exponential sales growth through the 1970s and ’80s. But those undistinguished and sweet frizzante reds from another era have been replaced by some of the most intriguing wines in the world as Lambrusco has come full circle. The Italian region has seen an explosion in the number of next generation growers and winemakers working with the full and diverse range of Lambrusco grapes to produce distinguished wines that better reflect the region’s long winemaking history.
As sales of rosé outpaced much of the wider U.S. wine market in recent years, the wine’s traditional home has also enjoyed a surge in popularity. Already a world-class tourist destination for its natural beauty and cuisine, Provence has attracted a new generation of wine tourists who have fallen in love with purpose-driven rosés from historic estates that have widely embraced sustainability and organic growing in recent years.
Swartland, South Africa
While not a new wine region, Swartland, South Africa, has made significant strides in recent years in improving its reputation for producing top-flight wines. Wineries such as Sadie Family Wines and Mullineux have helped raise the standard for Swartland wines and earned rave reviews. Many of the vintners and growers in the region have also committed to helping to preserve old-vine, dry-farmed vineyards, often planted to Rhône Valley varieties and Chenin Blanc, offering a stylistic counterpoint to the wines of other South African growing areas and highlighting the diversity of styles in the South African nation.
Perhaps best known for being home to the city of Melbourne, the Australian state of Victoria boasts more wine regions than any other. Victoria’s 21 regions encompass a diverse range of climates and winemaking styles, including the famed fortified wines of Rutherglen. Add to this an aggressive stance on sustainability and reparations work with local indigenous communities, and Victoria is one of the wine world’s most exciting and progressive corners of the wine world right now. The area’s trade group recently partnered with the Australian Wine Research Institute to hold workshops to help growers become certified sustainable and carbon neutral, furthering the commitment to sustainability.
Winemaker of the Year
CEO & Chief Winemaker, Planeta Wine | Sicily, Italy
Regarded as a foremost expert on the winemaking of his native Sicily, Alessio Planeta manages his family’s wine company, Planeta Wine, which has been credited with revitalizing the island’s wine industry, while also helping to raise the quality of winemaking and grape growing. Together with family members Francesca and Santi, he helps to form the 17th generation of the company that owns six boutique wineries in Sicily.
Juan Pablo Murgia
Technical Director, Grupo Avinea | Mendoza, Argentina
As the technical director of Grupo Avinea, owned by Alejandro Bulgheroni, Juan Pablo Murgia manages five wineries, focusing predominantly on Bodega Argento, the largest producer of organic wines in Argentina, and Bodega Otronia in the Sarmiento appellation, which is considered home to the world’s southernmost vineyards. Murgia also launched a research project dubbed “Matriz Viva” to study mutually beneficial ecosystems for organisms that may be harmed by non-organic treatments.
Winemaker, White Wine, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines | Monterey County, California
As the white wine winemaker for Central Coast-based J. Lohr, Kristen Barnhisel produces a massive amount of wine for consumers around the world but does so in her well-honed and meticulous style to ensure that the wine is of consistent and impeccable quality. Barnhisel has been making wine for nearly her entire life, growing up in Santa Rosa, California, with a microbiologist mother and home winemaker father. Barnhisel was further inspired by the legendary winemaker Zelma Long, a family friend and mentor, and later earned her Master’s in enology from UC Davis. An international career in winemaking preceded her joining J. Lohr in 2015.
Director of Winemaking, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery | Healdsburg, California
Prior to joining Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery as winemaker in 2012, Theresa Heredia worked for several years making outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines at Joseph Phelps’ Sonoma County estate Freestone Vineyards. Since joining Gary Farrell, Heredia has used her background in scientific research and perspective as a Latina woman to become a leader in California wine industry and beyond. Heredia is now the director of winemaking at Gary Farrell, which has grown into one of the largest wineries in Sonoma County.
Owner & Winemaker, Cullen Wines | Margaret River, Australia
A second-generation winemaker and winery owner, Vanya Cullen has built a reputation for herself as one of Australia’s fiercest environmentalists working in wine. She was one of the first to adopt biodynamics and solar power, was the first to certify 100% carbon neutral and is a champion for the recognition of Indigenous lands and farming practices. Her commitment to social and environmental initiatives is matched by her passion for winemaking, as the wines of her family’s estate have continued to enjoy consistent commercial and critical success.
Last Updated: October 2, 2023