Walla Walla winemakers nab notable nominations for wine awards

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Cheers to Walla Walla winemakers Charles Smith and Jon Meuret and the Walla Walla wine industry as a whole for nominations in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2013 Wine Star Awards.

Smith was nominated for Winemaker of the Year. Meuret was included in a new category: Rising Star. And Walla Walla is in the running for Wine Region of the Year.

The coveted awards are designed to recognize people and operations that “have made outstanding achievements in the wine world,” according to the magazine. The winners will be announced in the special Dec. 31 Wine Star Award issue. Honorees will receive their Wine Star Award trophies at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City on Jan. 27.

In the Winemaker of the Year category, Smith is up against Beoit Gouez of Moët et Chandon; Cristina Mantilla, a pioneer for women winemakers in Spain’s Rías Baixas; Louisa Rose, chief winemaker for Australia’s Yalumba; and Paolo Vegaggin, one of the world’s leading experts on Sangiovese. Wine Enthusiast described Smith as a “rock band manager-turned-rock star winemaker” (who) has founded K Vintners, Magnificent Wine Company, Secco Italian Bubbles, Charles Smith Wines and an as-yet-unnamed chardonnay-driven project. When not championing Washington State winemaking, he also maintains a partnership with Charles Bieler (Charles & Charles) in a joint venture with Trinchero.”

Meuret joins a distinct group of people for the inaugural year of the Rising Star award. The recognition “celebrates the industry’s most influential up-and-comer whose work is already making waves,” the magazine said. The owner/winemaker at Maison Bleue Winery, “taps his love of Rhône varieties to produce critically acclaimed Washington wine,” the piece said. Others in his category: Tyler Balliet, founder of Second Glass and Wine Riot; Gavin Chanin of Chanin Wine Co.; Patrick Rue of The Bruery Rue; and Eric Trump, a leader in Virginia’s budding winemaker industry.

Walla Walla itself is in the spotlight for Wine Region of the Year. “Home to more than 150 wineries, Walla Walla Valley is the epicenter of wine tourism in Washington state. In 2014, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary as an American Viticulture Area, producing some of the world’s most distinct expressions of merlot and syrah,” the piece explains.

Others regions in the category are Portugal’s Douro Valley, Paso Robles, Rías Baixas in Spain and South Africa’s Stellenbosch.

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