Washington Vintner Named Winemaker of the Year

    For the first time in its 11-year history, the Food & Wine magazine American Wine Awards has named a Washington State vintner as its Winemaker of the Year.

     Joining the likes of Helen Turley, Robert Foley, Mia Klein and other (mostly Napa-based) luminaries, Charles Smith was recognized for his track record of knockout wines, excellent values, and an outsized, rocker personality to match.

     Smith grew up with a family tradition of home winemaking, and then spent a decade managing rock bands in Europe. Mainly on impulse, he moved to Washington, tasted some impressive Walla Walla wines, and set up shop in 2001 as K Vintners, specializing in intensely flavored, small-lot Syrah.

     With no formal training and no corporate fanfare, Smith rapidly developed a following among critics and consumers alike, and the volume was only amplified as he launched two new, larger brands, The Magnificent Wine Company and Charles Smith Wines: The Modernist Project, both focused on value-priced wines.

     Smith’s ex-rocker persona – complete with an unforgettable head of hair – has made its mark in local and national wine circles. But more important, his personality infuses all the wines – as a winemaking philosophy that emphasizes that wine should, above all, taste good, that people should like to drink it, and that wine should be flat-out fun.

     All the grape varieties Smith works with, now ranging from Cabernet and Syrah to Chardonnay and Riesling, come through with big fruit flavors and mouth-filling intensity.

     The same spirit goes onto the labels: edgy design, bold colors, huge letters, catchy names… all screaming, “You’re gonna like this wine!”

     Food & Wine magazine clearly liked the Charles Smith range of wines, giving a boisterous upstart the same recognition bestowed on veteran wine industry all-stars.

     The American Wine Awards were formally announced in the October issue of the magazine, now on newsstands, and the awards themselves will be presented in Napa tonight.

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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