The Washington Wine Hall of Fame
I recently read an article about the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the new inductees to the California Vintners Hall of Fame. Members of the Hall of Fame include iconic California winemakers like Joe Heitz, Robert Mondavi and George de Latour.
This made me wonder: Is there a Washington Vintners Hall of Fame? If so, who’s in it?
Past inductees include:
- George Carter
- Bill Preston
- John & Ann Williams
- Jim & Pat Holmes
- David Lake
- Stan Clarke
- John Anderson
- Bill Powers
- Myles Anderson
Many of these names are familiar to me, including Lake, a longtime winemaker at Columbia Winery, and the Holmes’ who were pioneers on Red Mountain. I had to do a little research on some of the others.
The list of the California Vintners Hall of Fame literally reads like a Who’s Who of the history of California winemaking. The Washington list, although a good start, clearly misses some names that have been instrumental in placing Washington wine on the radar of collectors around the world. Nominees for the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame need to have been involved in Washington wine and a state resident for at least 25 years.
I’d like to the make the case for some individuals I feel have helped shape the landscape of Washington wine:
- Bob Betz – Bob and Cathy Betz founded Betz Family Winery in 1997. Prior to founding the winery
Bob spent twenty-eight years at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates before retiring in 2003 to focus on the winery full-time. During his time at Ste. Michelle, he held a variety of positions, including Vice President of Winemaking Research at the time of his retirement. While Bob never served as winemaker, he was fully integrated into the winemaking and vineyard operations of the business. Bob is also a Master of Wine.
- Dick Boushey – Dick Boushey, a cherry and apple grower first planted Boushey Vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 1980—three years before the Yakima Valley was recognized as an American Viticultural Area. Dick was honored in 2002 by the Washington State Wine Commission as Washington’s “Grower of the Year” and in 2007 by Wine & Spirits as their “Grower of the Year.” He was one of the first Washington wine growers to plant Syrah, after Red Willow Vineyard, which was planted by David Lake,
- Gary Figgins - Leonetti Cellar was founded by Gary and Nancy Figgins in 1977 and was Walla Walla’s first commercial winery. Leonetti Cellar produced its first vintage in 1978. The 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon was entered into a competition and judged by Wine & Spirits magazine to be “the best Cabernet produced in America.” The accolades continue to this day with consistent high scores and frequent appearances on the annual top 100 lists including a number 4 ranking for the 1992 Merlot in the 1994 Wine Spectator Top 100.
- Alex Golitzin – Alex and Jeanette Golitzin founded Quilceda Creek Vintners in 1978. Alex is the nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and ’70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena with developing his early interest in wine. Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon has earned some of the highest scores of any wine produced in the United States. The 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07 vintages all scored 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The 2003 vintage of Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon was named the No. 2 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator.
- Rick Small – Rick Small and his wife, Darcey Fugman-Small founded Woodward Canyon Winery in 1981. Since that time, the winery has consistently produced premium, award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Chardonnay and many other varietals. Woodward Canyon is a founding member of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and of Walla Walla Valley Vinea, the Winegrower’s Sustainable Trust. The 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon placed number 10 in the 1990 version of the Wine Spectator Top 100.
Washington has become one of the premier wine growing regions in the world due in large part to these individuals. They deserve to be recognized as Legends of Washington Wine, and inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center.
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