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Jim Trezise Receives the Richard Smith Distinguished Service Award 

by Linda Jones McKee
February 06, 2020
Jason Smith (son), Justin Murphy (Jason’s son), Jim Trezise, Claudia Smith (Rich’s wife), and Kacy Smith (daughter).

During the Annual Luncheon of the Winegrape Growers of America on February 5, the second day of the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif., the Smith family presented the 2020 Richard Smith Distinguished Service Award to Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica since 2017. Smith’s wife Claudia Alexander Smith noted that Trezise and her husband had worked together for many years and that Trezise was very deserving of the Rich Smith award.

In accepting the award, Trezise said, “I’m humbled to receive this award. Rich and I have been friends since 1982. I liked to talk with Rich, which meant I listened to him. He always was working for the good of the entire industry, and the three words – passion, commitment and collaboration – do define Rich Smith. I think of Rich in the present tense; he’s still here, in my heart, and with all of us.”

A graduate of Allegheny College, Trezise received his M.A. degree in international communications from American University in Washington, D.C. He first became involved with the wine industry in 1982 when he was named executive director of the New York State Wine Growers Association. After legislation was enacted in 1985 that created the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), Trezise was named president of the organization, a position he held for more than 31 years. In that time period, the NY wine industry grew from fewer than 40 wineries to more than 400.

While leading the NYWGF, Trezise was on the executive committee of WineAmerica for more than 20 years and served on several boards including the National Grape Research Alliance, the Fédération Internationale des Vins et Spiritueux (the International Federation of Wines and Spirits), and the Wine Market Council. He founded the International Riesling Foundation and was its president for a number of years. In addition, he speaks frequently at wine industry conferences and judges numerous wine competitions across the country and internationally.

The national awards Trezise has received for his contributions to the wine industry include the “Grand Award” of the Society of Wine Educators; the first-ever “Distinguished Service Award” from the American Society of Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section in 2001; the “Wine Integrity Award” from the Lodi Winegrape Commission; and the “Perpetual Monteith Trophy” (Thomas Jefferson Cup) from the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association.

The Richard Smith Distinguished Service Award for major contributions to the American grape and wine industry was established four years ago by the Winegrape Growers of America along with co-sponsors WineAmerica and the National Grape Research Alliance. The late Richard Smith and his wife Claudia Alexander Smith were the founders and co-owners of Smith Family Wines and Vineyards in the Monterey region of California. He was an active member of all three sponsoring organizations and was known for his passion for the winegrowing industry, his commitment to enhance its future and for collaboration with colleagues to achieve that goal.

The first Richard Smith Distinguished Service Award was presented in 2017 to John Martini, co-owner with his wife Ann of Martini Vineyards and Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, NY. Edgar B. “Pete” Downs, president of the Family Winemakers of California, received the award in 2018 and Jerry Lohr, of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines in Paso Robles, Calif,, was given the award last year.

All three organizations and the Smith family submit nominations for the next Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award and then, together with the previous winners, make the final selection. It is not required that the recipient be associated with any of the three organizations, just that he or she has made major contributions to the American grape and wine industry while demonstrating qualities consistent with Rich Smith’s memory.


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