This will be the fifth induction class for the Hall, which the Culinary Institute of America started in 2007. I was not involved with the initial class but have been in charge of the ballot and election procedures ever since.
First, the ballot. I'm not going to run biographies of everyone, but the ballot sent to voters has a bio of each nominee.
John A. De Luca
Robert M. Parker Jr.
Votes are already coming in to determine which of these people will join the 31 people already in the Vintners Hall of Fame.
My fellow Nominating Committee member Alder Yarrow wrote a very interesting post earlier this summer, just before the committee met, to solicit suggestions for the ballot. One thing I learned from comments on that post was that many people aren't happy that every deserving vintner isn't in the Hall already.
Folks, we're working on it.
Here are some people who were NOT in the National Baseball Hall of Fame after four induction classes:
Wilbert Robinson, King Kelly, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Rube Waddell, Hack Wilson, John Montgomery Ward, and all three of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. And Marvin Miller -- the most important baseball man of my lifetime -- is still not in.
Here are some acts who were NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after four induction classes: The Who, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Bill Grahm, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dick Clark, The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Neil Young, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, and some English band named Led Zeppelin. And Nirvana still hasn't made it.
At the VHF, we're now inducting about 5 people per year. We have about 150 years of California winemaking to honor -- about the same as baseball, and 2 1/2 times as long as rock and roll. So if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took 10 classes to induct Led Zeppelin, how long will it take us to get to every deserving vintner?
Here's how it works.
First, our nominating committee meets to create a ballot. In the second year of the Hall, the committee was entirely journalists and historians. I have invited living Hall members to participate and this year they made up nearly half of the committee. Thanks to Gerald Asher, Andy Beckstoffer, Darrell Corti, Randall Grahm and Carole Meredith for giving up their time to join Mike Dunne, Charles Henning, Reuben Katz, John Olney, Charles Sullivan, Paul Wagner, Alder Yarrow and myself this year.
There are two ballot categories: Pioneers, for people dead 10 years on induction night, and the general category, for everybody else. This is for convenience; once in, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer.
Once we come up with the ballot, it is voted on by the Electoral College: about 75 wine writers, wine historians and living Hall of Famers. The people with the most votes get in.
It's better to induct people while they're alive. Shouldn't they live to see the respect they deserve? And let me tell you, it is a pleasure to see it. This year's induction ceremony was both fun and moving.
Many vintners who richly deserve induction are no longer with us. I think everyone on this year's Pioneer ballot -- and last year's -- is a deserving Hall of Famer. But we're only inducting one or two Pioneers per year, so it's going to take a while. And let's face it: they can wait more easily than the living.
In picking the general category ballot, we look at last year's vote totals. Most people with support last year will stay on the ballot, while those with few votes are replaced. They're not ineligible forever; we just give the voters some other names to consider, since they passed judgment so recently. How do we come up with the new names? Somebody on the committee advocates for someone. In our closed discussions, many names are brought up, and I'm annually reminded of how many more years it's going to take to get all the deserving people in.
For the pioneer ballot, we try to give mostly new names each year because there are so many deserving people; we could easily put in 20 at once. But why? Why not have a more special celebration of the life of each one?
I'm sorry if your favorite legendary vintner isn't in the Hall yet, or possibly not even on the ballot. But why not do something about it?
For the baseball hall of fame, there are online campaigns for guys like Bert Blyleven that sometimes last years. With the Vintners Hall of Fame, you don't need to be a newspaper columnist to start campaigning for someone; anybody with a blog can make the case for their candidate.
But please, do make the case. Don't just whine "OMG why is Joe Winemaker not in?" Lots of deserving people aren't in. Explain why Joe should get in ahead of everybody else. And don't just email me, because even if I help put him on the ballot, you have to get the Electoral College to vote for him. That's why you need your piece online, where voters from around the country can see it. I look forward to reading it, and believe me, I will.
That's it for this post. The snark in this space will resume shortly.