Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2012 Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees

The Culinary Institute of America announces the 2012 inductees to the Vintners Hall of Fame.  The Vintners Hall of Fame celebrates the men and women whose collective vision, determination and hard work have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry. 

The Vintners Hall of Fame, housed at the Culinary Institute of America’s Graystone Campus in St. Helena was first established in 2007 and this year’s five inductees join the other 33 vintners whose bronze sculptures by artist Lawrence Newlan are displayed on the historic 2,200 gallon redwood wine barrels in the former Christian Brothers Barrel Room at the CIA.  Each plaque includes a short biography of the inductee, mentioning their accomplishments and role in making California the leader in winemaking.

This year’s inductees are:

Joe Heitz earned his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis and honed his winemaking skills at a series of wineries around Fresno and Lodi.  In 1951 Joe went to work for Beaulieu Vineyard under Andre’ Tchelistcheff and helped develop a control regime.  He later moved to Fresno where he launched the Department of Enology at Fresno State College.  IN 1961 Joe and Alice acquired their first vineyard south of St. Helena.  Working from this small vineyard on 8 acres of land they established a reputation as innovative and brilliant winemakers.  By 1964 the operation expanded with 160-acres in Spring Valley.  Later they established a relationship with Tom and Martha May and in 1966 crafted the first Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vineyard designate wine in Napa Valley.  Joe set the tone for high-quality, premium priced Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley.

Peter Mondavi Sr. has received most of the awards possible in his long history in winemaking.  He was named one of the twelve “living legends” in Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.  After graduating from Stanford University in 1937 and further enology graduate studies at UC Berkeley, he was in the forefront of many enology practices that are now standards.  Following his stint in the U.S. Army during World War II he returned to the Charles Krug Winery which the Mondavi family purchased in 1943, becoming president in 1966.  AT the age of 96 he continues to contribute greatly to the industry.

Myron Nightingale began his career as a winemaker in 1944 and was later at Italian Swiss Colony, one of the largest wineries in California at the time.  In 1953 he took over the historic Cresta Blanca Winery in Livermore where he developed a Semillon in the style of Sauternes, in which the botrytis cinerea was produced in the laboratory rather than the field.  In 1971 he moved on to be the winemaker at Beringer Winery in Napa where he turned an old run-down winery into a large scale producer of world class wines, including his dessert Sauterne called appropriately, “Nightingale”.

John Parducci is revered in Mendocino where he has been making wine since he took over the family’s winery in 1940.  He learned to make wine under his father and even traveled with him to the east coast during Prohibition to sell his family grapes to home winemakers.  He has introduced many varietals that were previously unknown in California, including Nebbiolo, Flora and Colombard.  He also introduced a non-oaked Chardonnay.  He was also one of the first to bottle a varietal bearing the county’s name on the label.  His passion for the industry continued, and in 1999, at the age of 81 he jumped back in the industry by purchasing Zellerbach Estates and making it over as McNabb Cellars. 

Richard Sanford, an admirer of Burgundian wines got out of the Navy in the late 1960s with a passion to produce fine Pinot Noir.  He determined that the place to grow this fine Pinot Noir was in Santa Barbara County to the west of Hwy 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley.  He was the first to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills and the first in Santa Barbara County to establish certified organic vineyards certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).  After leaving Sanford Winery in 2005, he established Alma Rosa Winery nearby, focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Albert Winkler was with the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis from 1921 to 1963, serving as the department chairman from 1933 to 1957.  During this time his research in grapevine physiology and canopy management developed into standard practices in the best vineyards in the industry.  His work also was important in the regional classification of California’s grape growing areas and recommended the varietals best suited for those regions.  His classic textbook “General Viticulture”, first published in 1962 has been a key learning tool for thousands of winemakers.

Eugene Hilgard moved to the University of California Berkeley in 1874 from his post at the University of Michigan to head the College of Agriculture.  He saw that California was a perfect site for winegrowing, yet the industry was struggling.  He spent 25 years to lead California in establishing a unit at UC Davis devoted to viticulture and enology, the first in the nation and today, the leading viticulture and enology program in the nation. 

The 2012 inductees will join the Hall of Fame at the 6th Annual Celebration of California Wine & Food at the Culinary Institute of America on Monday, February 20, 2011.

For more information: Culinary Institute of America Vintners Hall of Fame

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