Monday, January 29, 2007

1 st Annual Vintner's Hall of Fame Nominations

VINTNER’S HALL OF FAME

THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR POSSIBLE CONSIDERATION
By John M. Olney, The Wine Country Club, January 29, 2007

Based on the letter and ballot I received, I can only hope that all the others selected to cast a vote have a deep knowledge of the past players, the era’s they played in, and not only a current understanding of the industry. What I’m saying is, most think that the 1976 taste-off produced by Spurrier was such a groundbreaking move. In my opinion, that’s only true if you don’t count the 1890-1910 period. The publicity generated by Time Magazine article on the taste-off seems to make people forget history. I suggest that future ballots contain an abstract about the background and accomplishments of each nominee. In this manner those who vote but don’t have a strong history background will be given food for thought to ensure they are not picking just “more modern” people because they no nothing of the other names.

I believe that the category “Winemakers” should be considered as those who are employees of wineries either directly or through consulting services. These individuals should be recognized under the category of “ICON.”
Owner-winemakers fall under the category “Winegrowers.” in Founders.

Finally there are some important distinctions between nominees in both the FOUNDER and ICON Categories and my input about those differences follow.

FOUNDERS
I believe there multiple categories for which nominees can be qualified for consideration. I suggest the following:

Merchants, Distributors & Marketers:
By not including these very important businesses the Hall of Fame is ignoring a significant part of how wine from California, and other growing regions, ever got to the East Coast in the formative years and the vast markets around the world as we operate today. It would be like not recognizing coaches, radio/TV announcers, franchise owners, etc. in sports that can make and break a team. These wine merchants, distributors and marketers were the greatest movers of California wines for the longest time.

Vintner/Owner’s
This is category for those who provided the monetary means to build and operate a winery but did not individually grow the grapes or make the wine. These are very important people to the success of winemaking in America and as such should be recognized for their contributions.

Winegrowers
Remains as already organized. These are the guys and gals that did it all. They purchased/leased land, planted vineyards, built wineries, and made the wine.

Writer/Journalist’s
These are the people who reached the masses and carried the message that wine was good and could be made in the USA equal to any in the world. Without these enthusiasts the growth of winemaking and winery tourism would have been slowed immensely. This category should include individuals as well as publications. I think this category should be divided into two groups that represent completely different inputs.
* Technical/Institutional/Historical
* Business Promotion/Journalists/Critics

Honorable Mention
There are those who made significant contribution to the wine industry of the USA but do not deserve full “Founder” status if we are to make such an honor to represent a cherished tribute.





ICONS
I envision three categories.

Large Operations
Convene a panel of winemakers to establish the best division point.
Small Operations

Honorable Mention.
There are those who made significant contribution to the wine industry of the USA but do not deserve full “ICON” status if we are to make such an honor represent a cherished tribute.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION - FOREIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
This is a category designed recognize those who are not from/in the USA but have made a major impact on what has /is happening in USA wine.

If I haven’t bored and lost you yet, I offer my rationale on how I voted as indicted below. I have included names not on the original ballot but I consider deeming of consideration for future years. There are more but I don’t want to take up too much more of your time now.
Vintners Hall of Fame - FOUNDERS CATEGORY (6)

Brother Timothy – Winemaker for Christian Brothers Winery, which began in Martinez in 1882. Brother Timothy helped found the Napa Valley Vintners and served three terms as president.

NO VOTE - I’d rather vote for him as an “ICON,” which he was, than as a “Founder.”

My research to date does not show the presence of the name of Brother Timothy in the initial make up of what is now known as the Napa Valley Vintners. Here is what my research revealed:

“When the idea of a Napa Valley Vintners Association (NVVA) was conceived back in the 1943/44 timeframe, it arouse from a meeting of four men: Louis M. Martini, Inglenook's John Daniel, Jr., Napa Wine Co.’s Louis Stralla, and Napa Valley Co-op lead by Charles Forni. These men soon added more colleagues to their ranks and the NVVA was formed: Elmer Salmina of Larkmead Cellars, Robert Mondavi then of C. Mondavi & Sons, Charles Beringer and Roy Raymond from Beringer, and Mrs. Georges de Latour of Beaulieu Vineyards.”

One must also consider it was their Brandy more than their wine that kept them so famous, particularly the classic shape of their bottle. They made very good wines but that job was the task of other Brothers of the order.

Brother Timothy was such a delightful gentleman that often the enthusiasm for his personality and charm were misconstrued into an interpretation that he was a great master of wine growing and technology, he was not. His forte was marketing, and management, and oh yes, and his famous corkscrew collection. He is every bit an ICON in the wine world.

Andre Tchelistcheff – Winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard, credited with identifying Cabernet Sauvignon as the most suitable variety for the Napa Valley and the first person to grow Pinot Noir in Carneros.

NO VOTE - I’d rather vote for him as an “ICON,” which he was, than as a “Founder.”

In the book, “Great Winemakers of California, - Conversations with Robert Benson,” Carpa Press, 1977. Andre says that the idea of growing PN in Carneros was his and that of Louis Martini. Louis purchased his Carneros property in 1942.

His long and most distinguished career both at BV and consulting to so many others sets the standard for what constitutes an ICON of winemaking.

Captain Gustave Niebaum – Founded Inglenook Winery in Rutherford in 1879.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

He is not in the same category as most of the other gentlemen in your “Founder” list. I’ve listed points below to illustrate why he is valued but not as a Founder.

Niebaum was the “Admiral” of the Alaskan Commercial Company fleet of ships that hunted seal hides the sale of which made him and six other San Franciscan businessmen extremely rich. These men included Capt. John Miller (not related to the golfer of the same name), who purchased the land on which sits present day Silverado CC & Resort.

He came to Napa Valley and bought the property from existing farmers and growers most prominent of which included William Campbell Watson (his wife’s grandfather was George C. Yount) who owned the original property named “Inglenook” and Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California and founder of Hastings Law School in SF.

Niebaum oversaw the construction of the winery facility and its subsequent operation in the same way he ran his ships, down to the white glove inspection check for improper dusting. He was a “clean and neat” gentleman.

He amassed a very large and valuable library on wine and wine production, but Gustave is what I call “A Gentle Winegrower of San Francisco,” one of a number who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that bought the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

Gustave’s widow brought Carl Bundschu on following Repeal to reopen Inglenook. The nephew Gustave nurtured, John Daniel, Jr., took over Inglenook just about 1940. Daniel is a better candidate for a “Founder” title. Personally, I do not feel Niebaum is either an ICON or a Founder. He is a man whose history should be preserved and it would be when and if John Daniel, Jr., is voted into Founder/ICON status. Why? Because one will have to talk about how Daniel got there and that‘s because of Niebaum‘s wealth and social status.

Louis M. Martini –Founded the L. M. Martini Grape Products Co. in Kingsburg in 1922.

NO VOTE - Later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

A truly important figure to the resurrection of the wine industry following Repeal of Prohibition, but also a very clever gentleman who horded wine late in the Prohibition years realizing that Repeal was near and many consumers would be very thirsty for his wines, He was also an innovator in the type of containers he used for fermenting and storing large volumes of wine, He should definitely be inducted into the Founders Hall Of Fame but there are others I would vote for first. Nomination and selection process should be kind of like that used in sports programs.

Jacob Beringer – Founded the Beringer Winery in 1876 with his brother Fredrick.

YES VOTE - Truly a “Founder” both as grower and winemaker creating a very long-lived dynasty of consistent and quality wines.

Agoston Haraszthy – Founded Buena Vista Winery and imported cuttings from 165 of the greatest European vineyards to California

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

One must remember that the cuttings were not properly categorized and labeled. There was mass confusing when his sons took over and the great Buena Vista Society collapsed. Agoston’s rapid raise in the wine world was as rapid as his slide away from it.

George de Latour – Founded Beaulieu Vineyard in 1899 and was the first to import phylloxera resistant rootstock from France.

NO VOTE - Later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Georges purchased an orchard and wheat field just north of Inglenook in 1899 and across road from the Seneca Ewer winery, which LaTour bought in1915 and expanded to become know as the BV winery. It can still be viewed but only from inside the now very large winemaking facilities.

James Concannon – Founded Concannon Vineyard in the Livermore Valley in 1883.

NO VOTE - Wente justified before Concannon. Later consideration, after clearly more deserving candidates from same timeframe or earlier.

Carl Wente – Founded Wente Brothers Winery in Livermore in 1883

YES VOTE - Trained under Krug and saw the value of wine production in other areas.

Pietro and Giuseppe Simi -- Founded Montepulciano Winery in 1876 that was re-named Simi Winery for Isabelle Simi after Prohibition.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Charles Le Franc – Founded Almaden Vineyards in 1852.

YES VOTE - not even a question.

Francis, Anton and Joseph Korbel – Founded F. Korbel & Brothers in 1882.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Charles Krug – Founded Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley's first commercial winery in 1861.

YES VOTE, but not for 1st winery but rather for first commercial-consulting winemaker and what he accomplished before going bankrupt.

I believe that you’ll find many historians still disputing statement that he built the first commercial winery. Krug made the first known wine from Napa County to be sold into a commercial operation in San Francisco. He made the wine using a cider press but at production and storage facilities in the City of Napa owned by John Patchett. He followed that production by making wine for a number of others before actually building his own first winery.

Pierre Pellier – Founded Mirassou Vineyards in 1854.

NO VOTE - MORE RESEARCH REQUIRED - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Other (fill in name)

Surprisingly missing form your list are the founders of the following once great wine houses of California, indeed the USA itself. If one is going to consider Gustave Niebaum/Inglenook, then one must immediately add the following great names.

William Bourn, Sr. & Jr., Bourn & Wise Winery, builders of the “Greystone” complex in St. Helena in which CIA is now housed. The Bourn’s owned ALL the water supply to San Francisco county, the Empire Gold Mine (the richest strike) among other prosperous businesses. William is the one who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that purchased the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

Alfred Loving Tubbs, Chateau Montelena /Hillcrest Estate, Calistoga. Along with his brother Hiram, who lived in Oakland, they were extremely wealthy from their Tubbs Cordage Company where they sold rope to all the sailing ship business around the world. With the discovery of gold outside of Sacramento they sold even more rope for use by the miners and tunnel owners. They build their own hotel by Lake Merritt including their own electric train system to carry lodgers to and from downtown to their hotel. Hiram was considered the wealthiest man in the East bay Area at the time. Alfred, meanwhile, came to Napa and built his winery estate. He was a founder along with Krug and others of the Napa Valley Wine Company (NVWC). Tubbs is the one who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that purchased the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

However, I really don’t think these are true candidates for either “Founder” or “ICON” nominations. They are most worthy of “Honorable Mention” status and should have pieces about them among the literature of the Hall of fame.

Some of the other major players that are missing from your list are:

Kohler and Frohling

YES VOTE

By not including the two owners of this great wine merchant business (and some other notable wine merchants), the Hall of Fame is ignoring a significant part of how wine from California ever got to the East Coast and the vast markets around the world. It would be like not recognizing coaches, radio/TV announcers, etc. in sports that can make and break a team. These wine merchants were the largest movers of California wines for the longest time. There are others who operated in San Francisco and then those in the East should also be considered.

Louis Petri of United Vintners/ (Marketing)/ Allied Grape Growers (producers).
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. Purchased Italian Swiss Colony in 1953. Built the wine ship. He was the mover behind the sale of Inglenook and BV wineries from family operations. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Ernest Gallo of E & J Gallo

YES VOTE

I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations.

Both the authorized and the unauthorized books about the Gallo Brothers certify their importance to the wine industry of California, the USA and indeed, today even the entire world. You can only justify the absence of their name if you qualify the Hall of Fame as limited to “Premium,” fine wine production.

One must remember that the vast majority of wine made in NV during the late 1930s through 1970s, was made at the NV Co-op (Now Hall Winery) consisting of over 230 NV growers who contracted all their wine to E & J Gallo. Contrary to popular belief, the Gallo’s were blending premium and valley juice for years. That just might be why so many people enjoyed it and bought it.

They have one of the largest and most significant laboratories in the world. They were innovators of technology and process management of wine that is produced on a very large scale. Screw caps are nothing new to them - they invented it along with a number of other innovative techniques and processes.
I can see no reason why they are not included on the nomination lists as either “Founder” or “ICON.”

Percy Morgan and Isaias Hellman of California Wine Association (aka “Winehaven”) fame
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. This became the biggest operation owning and/or controlling most of NV’s wines. They all should be a Nominee in the near future.

Sebastian & Sons - I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. What can I say, that isn’t already known about this great family. They should be a Nominee in the near future.

Gundlach-Bundschu - A heck of a lot of input to the industry. They should be a Nominee in the near future.

Trinchero Family - Sutter Home & the White Zin Phenomenon.
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. White Zin was to NV fame what Thunderbird was to Gallo. They should be a Nominee in the near future.


Vintners Hall of Fame - ICONS CATEGORY (2)

Harold P. Olmo - Renowned viticulturist who played a key role in shaping California's wine industry.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

George C. Yount – Planted first grapevine in Napa Valley after arriving in the area in 1836.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Jean-Louis Vignes – Planted California's first documented imported European wine vines in Los Angeles in 1833.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Maynard Amerine – Chairman of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department from 1957-1962 who focused on ways to improve quality and standards for individual styles of wine from different regions in the state.

YES VOTE - Clearly qualifying

If Amerine then also his co-worker Albert J. Winkler, Amerine developed the system of classifying wine regions using heat days. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Another is Eugene W Hilgard, the 1st Prof. of Ag. at UCB who most assuredly was the embodiment of the cause for quality wine production from California. He sensed that California (particularly Napa/Sonoma) could and would match the best made in the world. A 19th Century scholar. He should be a Nominee in the near future

And another is George Husmann, a transplanted Missourian who started in Carneros and expanded from there. He is considered the original “hawker “of California (particularly Napa/Sonoma) as the best place to make wine in America. A wine man of the 19th Century. He should be a Nominee in the near future


Father Junipero Serra – Planted the first Californian vineyard at Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”


Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo – A Californian military commander, politician, and rancher who, as an officer of Mexico, shaped the transition of California from a Mexican district to an American state.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Robert Balzer – One of the first serious wine journalists in the United States. He wrote a regular wine column beginning in 1937 and published “The Pleasures of Wine” in 1964.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier

If you are going to nominate writers, then your list is missing a few of the most brilliant observers of the resurrected wine world following Prohibition. Personally, I think your writing category should be separated into two categories as shown below:

Technical/Institutional/Historical
William Heintz - Probably the most prolific writer about the history of wine in and about wine country. The list of documents he has authorized as the historical basis of Appellation/sub-appellation applications and individual winery backgrounds are unbelievable. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Business Promotion/Journalists/Critics
Frank Schoonmaker (often with Tom Marvel) should be a Nominee in the near future.

William S. Leedom should be a Nominee in the near future.

John Melville should be a Nominee in the near future.

Bob Thompson & Sunset Magazine Series (from 1968 and into the 1980s), Research and Text for “Guide to California ’Wine Country” and other wine-related publications. He and his series probably had more to do with the establishment of winery tourism in wine country than even Robert Mondavi himself. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Leon D. Adams should be a Nominee in the near future.

Vintners Hall of Fame - SPECIAL RECOGNITION - FOREIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Hugh Johnson should be a Nominee in the near future.

Andre Simon should be a Nominee in the near future.

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