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Auction of Washington Wines Announces 2020 Honorees

Organization names Karen MacNeil as Honorary Chair, Mark McNeilly as Honorary Vintner and Rob Mercer as Honorary Grower
by Press Release
March 10, 2020

Seattle, Wash.—The Auction of Washington Wines (AWW) today announced its honorees for the 2020 season of events, including Karen MacNeil of Wine Speed and “The Wine Bible”, the best-selling wine book in the U.S., as Honorary Chair. Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery is the Honorary Vintner, and Rob Mercer of Mercer Estates Winery is the Honorary Grower.

AWW’s annual series of wine events, running this year August 13-15, benefit Seattle Children’s and Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology programs. Its honorees represent the highest standard of excellence in the Washington wine industry. Honorary positions are industry-nominated and a depiction of the leaders and changemakers who positively impact the Washington state wine community.

“Every year it is a challenge to narrow down the extraordinary people who contribute to the Washington wine community to just three exemplary individuals to present with the honorary chair, grower and vintner recognitions,” said AWW Executive Director Jamie Peha. “We are especially honored to have Karen MacNeil join us this year representing the first woman to hold this position since 1997.”  

Karen MacNeil, Wine Speed & “The Wine Bible,” 2020 Auction of Washington Wines Honorary Chair

Karen MacNeil is a speaker, consultant and author with a deep, global wine knowledge. Karen is the author of award-winning book, “The Wine Bible,” and  the winner of several awards, including the Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year (James Beard Foundation) and Global Wine Communicator of the Year (International Wine and Spirits Association.) She won an Emmy as the host of the PBS series “Wine, Food and Friends with Karen MacNeil” and created WineSpeed, the leading digital e-letter for fast, authoritative information about wine. Her articles on wine and food have been published in more than 50 newspapers and magazines. She was also the first Food and Wine Editor of USA Today. Karen currently hosts #SipWithKaren, the leading Twitter tasting in the global wine sphere, which each month reaches 20+ million timelines from Indiana to India.

“For many years, Washington was considered an ‘emerging wine region,’” said Karen MacNeil, Honorary Chair. “But as wine professionals know, the state has soared way beyond that. In the last few years, the sheer number of exciting wines coming out of Washington has solidified its place as one of the great American wine regions.”  

Mark McNeilly, Mark Ryan Winery, 2020 Auction of Washington Wines Honorary Vintner

Mark Ryan McNeilly founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999, starting with only a few tons of fruit in a friend’s garage. Largely self-taught, Mark honed the craft of winemaking through rigorous study and the advice of some of the area’s most experienced producers. From his early days to today, Mark’s curiosity has been the driver. He paid off an initial leap to buy a truckload of Washington’s finest fruit with the first vintage release of Dead Horse, named for the vineyard from which it came and Long Haul, named for the road he started walking. His goal has always been to make delicious wines representative of Mark Ryan Winery’s style and varietal character, striving for the highest quality in every vintage. The winery maintains a portfolio of some of the most sought-after vineyards in Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley. His wines have enjoyed critical acclaim and national and international availability. The winery has tasting rooms in Woodinville, Wash. and Walla Walla, Wash.

“We began our commitment to philanthropy [in the early 2000’s] and it remains of central importance to us,” said Mark McNeilly, Honorary Vintner. “Participating in Auction of Washington Wines’ events aligns directly with our focus on philanthropy. I'm humbled to be recognized with such a great group of past, present, and future honorees."

Rob Mercer, Mercer Estates Winery and Mercer Ranches, 2020 Auction of Washington Wines Honorary Grower

For Rob Mercer, wine is a family affair. He was born and raised on the soil his family settled on back in 1886. His aunt and uncle planted the first grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills in 1972 with the advice of Dr. Walter Clore, considered the father of Washington wine’s industry. Rob and his team have created a beautifully unique and identifiable wine style from the terroir of Horse Heaven Hills. Today, the Mercer team grows over 25 varieties of wine grapes over 3,000 acres in the Horse Heaven Hills and Columbia Valley AVAs for a multitude of wineries, including St. Michelle and Mercer Estates. Rob considers himself an “agriculturist” and steward of the land. He strongly supports the future of Washington wine; Rob served on the  Washington Wine Commission for six years, and his family supports the Walter Clore Center and the Washington State University Wine Science Center.

“I am humbled to be recognized by leaders in the Washington wine industry,” said Rob Mercer, Honorary Grower. “This honor really belongs to my team, as they have worked hard and worked smart to create high quality fruit we are proud to say is from Washington state and competes at the highest level with other world-class fruit-growing regions.”

For more information on the Auction of Washington Wines and its 2020 honorees, please visit

About the Auction of Washington Wines (AWW)

Since its inception in 1988, AWW has raised more than $50 million, benefitting Seattle Children’s and Washington State University Wine Science Research. AWW was listed in the top five U.S. Charity Auctions in the nation by Wine Spectator. Events hosted by AWW give wine lovers the chance to support the Washington wine industry and families in our communities around the region. The 2020 Auction of Washington Wines events will take place August 13-15. For more information, go to


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