Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who IS on this year's Vintners Hall of Fame ballot

As Chairman of the Vintners Hall of Fame Electoral College, I am responsible for speaking for the Hall and its selection process.

Generally I'd rather let other people write about it, and just comment: I know too much.

But rather than let apocrypha creep about this year's ballot, I think it's best that I lay out a few  facts.

First, it's true that Robert Parker and Fred Franzia are not on it. What nobody has yet reported to my knowledge is who IS on it. So let's start there.

Vintner's Hall of Fame Ballot
2012 Induction class

Richard Arrowood
Frederic Bioletti
Cesar Chavez
Paul Dolan
Joe Heitz
Peter Mondavi Sr.
Myron Nightingale
John Parducci
Vince Petrucci
Richard Sanford
Angelo Sangiacomo
Jed Steele
Lee Stewart
Charles Sullivan
Bob Thompson
Brad Webb
Albert Winkler

The ballot sent to the voters includes biographies. I'm not going to do so here for space reasons, and besides, you can't vote on this blog anyway.

The ballot is significantly different this year than in the past, when we divided it into two categories: a general category for the living and recently living, and a Pioneer category for those who had been deceased more than 10 years.

From this year, we have placed all post-Prohibition candidates into one large pool. The Nominating Committee has taken responsibility for directly inducting one pre-Prohibition candidate per year, at our discretion. We did this because we decided a popular vote wasn't the best way to choose the best candidates from a bygone era that most of us are not familiar with.

This year, we inducted Eugene Hilgard

The change in categories is significant. In past years we had as many as 30 general category candidates, all living or recently so. The full ballot had as many as 40 candidates. This year we have just 17 candidates total, with contemporary candidates like Richard Arrowood and Angelo Sangiacomo going up against legends of the past like Joe Heitz and Myron Nightingale.

Smaller ballot, larger field. It's a tough ballot to crack.

How did the Vintners Hall of Fame come up with this ballot?

The Nominating Committee decided it. Here are the current members of that committee:

Gerald Asher
Andy Beckstoffer 
Darrell Corti
Mike Dunne
Randall Grahm
Carole Meredith
Sara Schneider
Charles Sullivan
Paul Wagner
Warren Winiarski
Alder Yarrow 

As you can see, there's a lot of wine knowledge on the committee; I learn a lot every year.

Now, who votes on this ballot? Professional wine writers, and living members of the Vintners Hall of Fame. Wine industry members do NOT get a vote, unless they are a professional wine writer or a living member of the Vintners Hall of Fame.

I am not going to offer opinion on this year's ballot. It's not my place, given my position. You are welcome to write your own.

Votes are still coming in. The voting deadline is Sept. 16, but we won't announce the winners right away. One of the highlights for me in doing this job is the possibility that I get to call someone to tell them they have been chosen. There's not a better phone call to make in the wine industry. Who will receive it this year?


  1. About time Richard Sanford made it. It's been how many decades now?

  2. Actually he has been on the ballot before.

  3. Shouldn't this list be called the "California Vintners Hall of Fame?". Either lose the myopic view and look outside California or at least appropriately name the list. It would be as if the "Baseball Hall of Fame" included no one from the American League.

  4. I would like to echo the comment by "anonymous"....

  5. I concur that this insitution should be called the California Vintner's Hall of Fame due to its exclusion of non-Californians. I support either opening up this institution to all Americans. If not, I think that eventually someone will set up an American Vintner's Hall os Fame in wine countries like South Dakota, Florida,or some other "exotic wine region." Calfiornia deserves that distinction before someone else picks up on. Non-Californians should include Thomas Munson (saved vitis vinifera from that @#$%^&* root louse) and Dr. Konstatain Frank from NY

  6. Off topic but is this yrs harvest in Calif. on or near it's normal schedule? Just asking with cool summer we had.

  7. Almost the same as calling the World Series the World Series :)
    (said the European)

  8. Jo: Harvest actually seems to be ahead of schedule in many areas. It doesn't look like the cool weather is going to be a problem at all, but I know while typing this that some vineyard owners will be gnashing their teeth and saying, "You should be out here at this farm. Would you call these ahead of schedule?"

    Individual results may vary.