The Culinary Institute of America announces 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees

The official induction of the 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame honorees will take place on February 20, 2012 at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, CA.

The Vintners Hall of Fame is located at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa.
The Vintners Hall of Fame is located at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa.
The Vintners Hall of Fame is located at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa.
The Vintners Hall of Fame is located at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) announced that its 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees will be Peter Mondavi, Sr., of Charles Krug Winery; Professor Albert Winkler of UC Davis; Joe Heitz of Heitz Cellars in the Napa Valley; former Beringer winemaker Myron Nightingale; Mendocino County pioneer John Parducci; and legendary South Coast vintner Richard Sanford. Dr. Eugene Hilgard, one of the fathers of modern soil science, was previously elected unanimously by the Nominating Committee.

The official induction of the 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame honorees will take place on February 20, 2012 at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, CA, as part of the college’s 6th Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.

“These inductees are the leaders who helped California become the center of the American wine industry while producing some of the best wines in the world,” said CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan. “The Culinary Institute of America is proud to host the Vintners Hall of Fame and honor the class of 2012 for their accomplishments at making California wines so extraordinary and successful.”

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, a dozen California wineries will host a reception featuring wine and food pairings from White House menus. The members of the Class of 2012 will be inducted in the Vintners Hall of Fame Barrel Room after the unveiling of sculpted bronze plaques honoring those inducted in 2011. The induction ceremony will be followed by a Celebrity Chef Walk-Around Dinner in the college’s teaching kitchen. As in the past, Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees will provide a selection of their wines to be enjoyed with dinner. The VHF Board of Stewards will provide a few choice auction lots to enhance the excitement of the evening.

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This year’s nominating committee, chaired by noted wine journalist W. Blake Gray, included Charles Sullivan, wine historian and author; Sara Schneider, Sunset Magazine; Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee; Paul Wagner, Vineyard & Winery Management; Andy Beckstoffer, founder of Beckstoffer Vineyards (2010 Inductee); Gerald Asher, long-time wine editor of Gourmet magazine and wine journalist (2009 Inductee); Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard (2010 Inductee); Darrell Corti, of Corti Brothers (2010 Inductee); Warren Winiarksi, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (2009 Inductee); and Carole Meredith, UC Davis Professor Emerita and co-founder of Lagier-Meredith Winery (2009 Inductee). The class of 2012 was elected by 87 members of the Vintners Hall of Fame Electoral College, which consists of past inductees and members of the wine media.

“This is a great class of deserving Hall of Famers,” says Blake Gray. “I’m especially glad that we have the joy of sharing this honor with Peter Mondavi, Sr., and John Parducci, who are still going strong in their nineties, as well as Richard Sanford, the youngster in this class, who just turned 70 this year. Their contributions to the California wine industry have long been recognized by their peers, and now they will be enshrined where they belong. I can’t wait to raise a glass with them in February.”

Proceeds from the Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration help support the Vintners Hall of Fame and contribute to the scholarship fund for students in the Professional Wine Studies program at CIA Greystone.

Tickets for the program are $175 ($100 tax-deductible). For more information about the event, please contact Holly Briwa at h_briwa@Culinary.Edu.

The Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is open to the public daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (subject to change). For more information about the Vintners Hall of Fame, and to view the list of past inductees with their photos and biographies, please visit www.ciavintnershalloffame.com.

2012 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees

Joe Heitz
Joseph Heitz started his career making sweet wines as commodities from Central Valley grapes. In 1951 he went to work at Beaulieu Vineyard under André Tchelistcheff, and helped develop a quality control regime. Heitz spent 1958 to 1961 establishing the Fresno State enology curriculum, setting up its hands-on approach. In 1961 he acquired the Only One winery in St. Helena, where he purchased and perfected wine blends to sell under the Heitz Cellars label. Heitz was among the first Californians to price his wine on the basis of “perceived sensory quality” and not the cost of materials and labor. He set the tone for Napa for decades to come by realizing that higher prices ($6 to $9, as opposed to the standard $2-$3) would not repel the customers he wanted, but might actually cultivate them. For many years Heitz believed strongly in blending to achieve his results, but when he was able to secure grapes from Martha’s Vineyard, he quickly established one of the first iconic single-vineyard Cabernets from Napa Valley.

Peter Mondavi, Sr.
For showing just how fresh and fruity California wine can be, few vintners have been as instructive as Peter Mondavi, Sr. Studious and quiet, he often transformed theory into practice, establishing new standards for the wine trade. In 1937, while still a university student, he researched cold fermentation, and his subsequent use of the technique and of sterile filtration improved, virtually overnight, the cleanliness and crispness of California white wines. For 68 years he’s continued his experimental ways at Charles Krug Winery. He was among the first to use French oak barrels. He was the first to release Chenin Blanc as a varietal. He was the first to install glass-lined steel tanks, thereby better showcasing the state’s fruit, slowing maturation of wines and prolonging their lives. He was an early advocate of the centrifuge and of fermenting Chardonnay in oak barrels. Early in his tenure at Charles Krug, the industry’s first winery newsletter debuted. He began tastings for distributors, restaurateurs and consumers that became the model for the industry. And he was one of the early growers to see in the Carneros district an accommodating home for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot At 96, he’s still at it.

Myron Nightingale
Myron Nightingale began his career as a winemaker in 1944 and by 1949 he was chief chemist at Italian Swiss Colony, one of California’s largest wineries. In 1953 he took charge of Livermore’s historic Cresta Blanca Winery, guiding the resuscitation of the rundown facility. He made enological history with his Premier Semillon made in the style of Sauternes, in which the botrytis cinerea was actually produced in the laboratory. Nightingale moved to Napa in 1971 to apply his resuscitation skills at the old Beringer Winery, newly purchased by Nestlé. As winemaker and director of operations, he did far more than just bring the dilapidated facility back to life; he gradually made it a large- scale producer of world-class varietal wines. The Los Angeles Times called him Beringer’s “Angel of Mercy.”

John Parducci
Since 1940, when he took over winemaking at his family’s eponymous Mendocino County winery, John Parducci strived to improve the quality of wine while making it more accessible. Determined and outspoken but gracious, he met those goals for more than half a century. He constantly upgraded equipment. He experimented with grape varieties virtually unknown in California, such as Nebbiolo and Flora. He was the first to label French Colombard as a varietal. He was an early proponent of vintage-dating wines. He made fruit wines. And long before wine coolers became a staple of the state’s wine trade he made a popular forerunner, a white wine steeped with woodruff and infused with strawberry juice. Decade after decade, his wines were praised for offering clean and clear varietal flavors at fair prices. As recently as 1975, a Chardonnay he made without any oak won a gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair. In 1999, at 81, five years after he ostensibly retired, he jumped back into the business by buying bankrupt Zellerbach Estates and making it over into McNabb Cellars. A wine trade may have developed in Mendocino County without John Parducci, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as colorful, dynamic and progressive.

Richard Sanford
A Burgundy fan, Sanford graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in geography in 1965 but was immediately drafted. He got out of the Navy in the late 1960s with a passion for Pinot Noir. He drove across Santa Barbara County with a thermometer before settling on a site west of U.S. Highway 101 in the Santa Ynez Valley. For some years Sanford had the west side of the highway to himself; he was the first winemaker to prove the potential for Pinot Noir in the chilly Santa Rita Hills. He founded Sanford Winery in 1981 and spent the next 20 years making some of the best regarded Pinot Noirs from the region. Sanford left his namesake winery in 2005 and founded Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.

Albert Winkler
Albert Winkler joined the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the UC Davis in 1921 and retired in 1963, serving as department chairman from 1933 to 1957. His research on grapevine physiology was critical to our understanding of how pruning and trellising influence vine growth and grape quality. The canopy management methods employed in the best vineyards today are based on principles Winkler elucidated. He also studied the relationship between temperature and fruit ripening and showed that for a given variety, a constant amount of accumulated heat is required to ripen the fruit no matter where it is grown. This work led directly to the regional classification of California’s grape growing areas, along with recommendations for varieties that were best suited for each region. In addition to his formal teaching at UC Davis, Winkler was active in viticulture extension programs, writing many extension leaflets and giving frequent talks to grape grower groups. His classic textbook “General Viticulture,” published in 1962, has been used by thousands of winemakers and grape growers and translated into several languages.

Eugene Hilgard
In 1874, Eugene Hilgard was lured to the University of California at Berkeley from his research post at the University of Michigan. The UC president needed a great scholar to head the College of Agriculture and to pursue research in agricultural science. What Hilgard found in California was a land whose soil and climate were perfect for winegrowing, but the state’s young wine industry was struggling. Its wines were generally of poor quality, and its most promising wine lands had been invaded by phylloxera. Hilgard spent 25 years leading a statewide movement to remedy the situation. He created a unit at UC devoted to viticulture and enology, the first in the nation, and today the greatest. He organized courses, recruited faculty, and reached out a helping hand to the state’s winegrowers. By 1894 the College had published its 100th technical bulletin, more than half devoted to viticulture and enology, all supplied free to anyone who asked. Having traveled the state continually, Hilgard knew personally all its leading winegrowers. Hilgard’s ideals and the program he founded are still evident today in UC Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology.

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