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Paso Robles named Wine Region of the Year 2013 by Wine Enthusiast

The following article is from Wine Enthusiast. To see the full article please visit their website by clicking here.

Announcing Wine Enthusiast's 2013 Wine Star Award Winners

The leading magazine in wine lifestyle names the 2013 luminaries of the wine industry and reveals a new category.

Each year since 2000, the editors of Wine Enthusiast have honored those individuals who contributed to the success of the wine and spirits industries with our Wine Star Awards.

Over the years, we’ve honored individuals and companies from all parts of the world, representing varied mindsets, origins, generations and types of businesses. Our winners—past and present—are notable for their energy and groundbreaking vision, coupled with the courage to take risks and the skill to succeed.

In this, our 14th year of giving the awards, we’ve added a category to honor new or young members of the industry—our Rising Star award. It’s open to candidates from all sectors of the business, but this year goes to someone blazing trails on the production side.

In another first, our 2013 Person of the Year is a woman. With the growing involvement of women in the wine world, we have high hopes that more like her will distinguish themselves in this once traditional industry. We invite you to turn the page and find out her identity.


The 2013 Wine Star Award Winners:

Wine Person of the Year: Barbara Banke

When her beloved “partner and soul mate,” Jess Jackson, died in April 2011, Barbara Banke might have felt like the world had come crashing down around her shoulders.

Overnight, she became the sole proprietor of Jackson Family Wines (JFW), whose largest winery was the iconic Kendall-Jackson.

A forceful high-achiever, Banke enjoyed a fast-track career before meeting Jackson.

After graduating from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in 1978, Barbara argued Constitutional law and land-use cases, including one that went before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Practicing law, Barbara once said, “provides a good mental frame for assessing risks and solving problems.”

Those qualities of analysis and shrewd judgment—she describes herself as “a strategist”—served her well before, during and following the transition.

But understanding land-use law—the arcana of zoning, environmental regulations and historic preservation—is one thing. Owning thousands of acres of vineyards in two states and on four continents requires a more personal connection to the land, one stemming from Barbara’s earliest memories.

“I early on developed an interest in land as the fruit of one’s labor,” Barbara says.

JFW’s land acquisitions in the last two years have been among the company’s most spectacular.

In January 2012, JFW increased its holdings in Australia, buying 445 acres in -McLaren Vale. It also delved more deeply into its Sonoma County roots, expanding its holdings by nearly 1,000 acres, including the Buena Vista production facility in Carneros (now renamed Carneros Hills Winery).

In all, JFW added 17 new properties and thousands of acres. It’s these purchases that bring Barbara’s vast experience in land use into focus.

These purchases include achievements in environmental sustainability—including the country’s largest solar cogeneration facility—enhancements at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Santa Rosa, and widespread philanthropic ventures.

Wine Enthusiast is proud to name Barbara Banke its 2013 Wine Person of the Year. The first woman to win the award, Barbara now shares it with Jess, the magazine’s inaugural recipient in 2000.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Gianni Zonin

In 1967, at the age of 29, Gianni Zonin became president of his family’s firm.

Today, it’s the largest private wine enterprise in Europe, producing 40 million bottles in 2012. Three-fourths of the production is exported, with the U.S. being a primary market.

Although Casa Vinicola Zonin’s roots stretch back to 1821, Zonin took the business to a new level when he became president. Besides expanding sales and production, Zonin made the crucial decision to acquire property outside of the family’s home region of Veneto, purchasing Friuli’s Tenuta Ca’ Bolani in 1970.

“Today, it doesn’t seem like a big deal,” Domenico Zonin, Gianni's oldest son and vice president of the company, says, “but in 1970, Italian winemakers only focused on their own individual areas and wines, so this was really a radical decision for the time, and showed courage and intuition.”

The firm has two divisions, Zonin the brand and Zonin Estates, the latter counting nine estates in seven regions in Italy for a total of 4,942 acres under vine. All Zonin Estates wines are made with estate grapes and under the supervision of the firm’s in-house team of 32 agronomists and enologists, supported by famed consultant Denis Dubourdieu. Zonin has even expanded his vineyard holdings to this side of the Atlantic. In 1976, he purchased the Barboursville estate in Virginia, where, among other varieties, he grows Barbera, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.

Besides reflecting his pioneering spirit, Zonin’s acquisitions demonstrate remarkable business acumen. It’s because of such vision demonstrated over seven decades that Wine Enthusiast names Gianni Zonin as the winner of its 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Winemaker of the Year: Benoît Gouez

In his relatively short tenure, the cellar master for Moët et Chandon has raised the bar in terms of quality and consistency.

American Winery of the Year: Rodney Strong

For more than 50 years, this trailblazing producer has been a Sonoma standard bearer.

European Winery of the Year: Marqués de Riscal

A benchmark winery in Rioja for more than 150 years, this producer’s recent visionary moves have changed how the wine world sees Spain.

New World Winery of the Year: Penfolds

Under Chief Winemaker Peter Gago’s inspired leadership, this Australian icon is back on top.

Wine Region of the Year: Paso Robles

This California region has reinvigorated itself with new blood, creativity and rapidly improving wines.

Importer of the Year: Kysela Père et Fils

For 20 years, Fran Kysela’s international portfolio has helped shape this country’s perception of quality wine.

Retailer of the Year: Kroger Co.

This grocery superstar surpassed $1 billion in annual wine sales in 2012 and expects to post double-digit growth this year.

Spirit of the Year: Bushmills

After more than 400 years, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey producer is now more relevant than ever.

Mixologist/Brand Ambassador of the Year: Jacob Briars

The bar is this star teacher’s classroom, spirits and cocktails are his preferred subjects.

Sommelier of the Year: Alpana Singh

The vivacious owner of Chicago’s The Boarding House has devoted her career to demystifying wine.

Rising Star of the Year: Eric Trump

The real estate executive has proven that Virginia’s wines can contend with the greatest around the globe.

American Wine Legend: Peter Mondavi Sr., Charles Krug Winery

When Peter Mondavi Sr. was born in 1914, no one could have imagined that the youngest son of Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, Italian immigrants who recently arrived in the U.S., would grow up to be one of the most revered figures in Napa Valley.

Founded in 1861 by Charles Krug, a Prussian immigrant, the winery passed into the ownership of the Moffitt family upon Krug’s death in 1892. The Moffitts owned it until 1943, when the Mondavis purchased the winery for $75,000.

When Rosa died in 1976, Peter became company president in addition to CEO and lead ambassador. Today, at age 99, he’s still happily involved in the business.

Named one of only 12 Living Legends of Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners, Peter’s research into cold fermentation (resulting in cleaner, fruitier, crisper wines) and his work in sterile filtration helped push quality to today’s exacting standards.

Last year, his contributions were again cited when he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame.

Perhaps even more important than his technical achievements are what Peter Mondavi Jr., the patriarch’s younger son, calls his father’s “passion and ability to make his dedication to this business transcend generations.”

For his part, Peter Sr. is characteristically humble about the role he’s played both at the winery and in Napa Valley. Asked how it feels to be a legend, he replies, with twinkling eyes, “Well, I really don’t know. I just carry on. I need something to keep me busy.”

And with that, he’s off to the winery laboratory, to evaluate the latest vintage.

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