State Fair Honors 3 Pioneering Winemakers

    The California Exposition and State Fair has named three wine pioneers to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

     Mike Grgich, Warren Winiarski and Mary Ann Graf were chosen as the 2008 recipients based on their outstanding lifetime of contributions to the California wine industry.

     The three winners were recognized for their achievements at the California Grape and Gourmet food and wine tasting event at Cal Expo on July 10, California Farmer reports. Appropriately, the California Grape and Gourmet is the nation’s largest tasting of award-winning California wines, showcasing the winners of the California State Fair’s annual Commercial Wine Competition.

     Mary Ann Graf was recognized as the first woman to earn a degree in viticulture and enology from U.C. Davis. In 1973, she joined Simi Winery, thereby becoming the first woman winemaker at a major winery in California.

     In 1979, she and her business partner branched out to open an independent wine-testing facility in Sonoma County, which became the world’s largest independent wine lab and is known today as Vinquiry, located in Windsor and three satellite locations. Though she retired in 2003, Graf is still active in the industry as a consultant for winemakers.

     Mike Grgich is the owner and operator of Grgich Hills Winery in Napa Valley, and has established himself as an innovator in the business as well as a premier winemaker.

     Grgich made a name for himself in the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, in which his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was named the best Chardonnay among all French and California wines.

     He has studied under other significant winemakers such as Robert Mondavi and Andre Tchelistcheff during his 50 years in the industry. Grgich has helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking, including the use of cold sterilization and malolactic fermentation, and the use of oak barrels for proper aging. In March, he was inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame.

     During a year of study in Naples, Italy, Warren Winiarski acquired a great appreciation for wine. He made his first wine in the faculty campus housing at the University of Chicago, where he was completing his studies in political science.

     Winiarski later went on to fulfill the destiny of his name (“Winiarski” meaning “winemaker’s son” in Polish). In 1976, his Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon bested four top-ranked Bordeaux entries to win first place at the Judgment of Paris Tasting.

     At the age of 79, Winiarski sold Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for $187 million, but has chosen to remain as advisor to share his 40 years of collected wisdom.

     The 2008 California State Fair will be held from Aug. 15 to Sept. 1 at Cal Expo in Sacramento, Calif.


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