The San Luis Obispo County wine industry came together to nominate their own for the most respected awards honoring members of the local wine community with the resulting honorees announced this week. The 2013 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards go to:
- Wine Industry Person of the Year: Keith Patterson, Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Professor (posthumous)
Dr. Patterson was professor of viticulture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo from 1997 to 2013. He developed and taught core viticulture classes, carried out a variety of viticulture research projects, and shared his passion for wine grape growing and winemaking with thousands of students, of whom many are part of the current leadership and talent in the San Luis Obispo County wine industry. Keith was one of the founding fathers of the Wine and Viticulture Program at Cal Poly, instrumental in getting the program minor approved in 1999 and the major in 2000. He helped launch the service-based student club Vines to Wines, which has been instrumental in connecting Cal Poly students with wine industry events and professionals. Known as both a professor and pioneer in the world of viticulture, colleagues and students alike consider Patterson one of the best and most influential instructors they have ever known at Cal Poly. With his great sense of humor and unmatched knowledge, Patterson shared his passion for the teaching and research of wine and viticulture. He constantly inspired those around him to do their best and follow what they love.
- Winemaker of the Year: Neil Collins, Tablas Creek Vineyard and Lone Madrone
Neil Collins moved to the United States from Bristol, England after beginnings as a chef and began his winemaking career in the local wine industry in the early 1990s with Adelaida Cellars and Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards. In 1997, in a pursuit to hone his craft, he moved his family to the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in southern France where he spent a year learning the cellars and vineyards of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the oldest and most highly regarded estates in France. Neil returned to Paso Robles to take up the new role of winemaker and vineyard manager at Tablas Creek Vineyard, the California property of Château de Beaucastel. Since that time, great success and accolades has been achieved by Tablas Creek Vineyard, success in which Neil’s hand has been significant. Neil and his sister, Jackie Meisinger, began the winery Lone Madrone in 1996 with the premier goal of producing distinctive wines exclusively from vineyards in the rugged limestone hills of west side Paso Robles. Growing slowly yet steadily since, the focus has become largely on vineyards that are dry farmed and head trained, which winemaker Neil Collins believes to be “the purest expression of the unparalleled terroir of west Paso Robles.” Neil strongly believes that in order to produce wines of the highest caliber you must first start with grapes of exceptional quality. Neil’s technique of marrying old world growing methods and winemaking preferences with new exciting blends of Rhône, Bordeaux and Italian varieties is a result of carefully honing his craft over many harvests. Neil, his wife Marcy and two children live, farm, and work in the western hills of Paso Robles.
- Wine Grape Grower of the Year: George Donati, Pacific Vineyard Company
George is a fourth-generation agriculturist on the Central Coast, dating back to his great grandfather’s emigration from Switzerland in 1870 to Cayucos, where he grew up on a family farm in Santa Maria and later earned a degree in agriculture business management with a minor in crop science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1974. After graduation, Donati continued farming with the family in Santa Maria and later moved to farming vineyards in Madera, California, growing table grapes and wine grapes. Upon his return to San Luis Obispo County he established Pacific Vineyard Company and currently serves as the company’s General Manager. Donati and his team at Pacific Vineyard Company have been managing premium varietal wine grapes on the Central Coast of California since planting its first vineyards in 1973 and currently manage 80 percent of the vineyards in the Edna Valley appellation with a focus on sustainable vineyard practices and the production of high quality fruit. George Donati and Pacific Vineyard Company have a track record of proven responsible stewardship, honored with a 2012 Green Award by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce for their efficiencies in water management and emissions. Donati shares his lifetime of agricultural experience by serving on a variety of grower organizations, is a member of the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program Advisory Council, is a member of the California Farm Bureau and is also a licensed California Farm Labor Contractor. George and his wife Kristi live and farm in the Edna Valley.
The winners of the 2013 Wine Industry Awards will be recognized at the San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards event on Friday, July 19.