2014 American AgCredit Sweepstake Winemaker Award Winners

American AgCredit Sweepstake Winemaker Award Winners
The American AgCredit Sweepstake Winemaker Award is awarded to the winemaker that produces a sweepstake wine award at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Eileen Crane

Eileen CraneSparkling Sweepstake Co-winner

CEO / Founding Winemaker
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger
Napa, CA 2009

Estate Brut, $32.00

Eileen Crane, referred to as America’s Doyenne of Sparkling Wine, has spent 36 years in the wine industry.In 1987, Claude Taittinger (Champagne Taittinger) personally selected Crane as CEO/Winemaker to oversee the building of the chateau, vineyards and development of the Domaine Carneros brand. Today Domaine Carneros, a small grower-producer is known for its high quality sparkling wine and Pinot Noir.Under Crane’s leadership Domaine Carneros is a proponent of sustainable farming. In 2003 it implemented the largest winery solar panel system in the world and became a California Certified Organic Farmer (CCOF) — the first sparkling winery in the US to have all its vineyards certified.According to Eileen Crane, CEO and Founding Winemaker at Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, “It is truly an honor to be recognized as a Sweepstake Winner of the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (one of the world’s most prestigious wine competitions). We at Domaine Carneros appreciate all of our fans (or to be fans); and this award confirms we are fulfilling the commitment we have made to them to produce the absolute best sparkling wine.”

Paul Ahvenainen

Paul AhvenainenSparkling Sweepstake Co-winner

Director of Winemaking
Korbel Champagne Cellars
Guerneville, CA

Brut Rose, $11.00

Paul Ahvenainen began his career at Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1985, shortly after his graduation from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Enology and two years of experience working as a distiller for a subsidiary of the French Cognac producer Remy Martin. Having gained extensive experience working with the laboratory , cellar, grower relations department and as a winemaker himself, Ahvenainen’s responsibilities have grown tremendously. He was named Director of Winemaking in 2003 and in 2010 added the management of Grower Relations to his responsibilities. He currently serves as Director of Winemaking for Korbel as well as its Brandy Master Distiller.According to Paul Ahvenainen, director of winemaking, “The entire winemaking team here at Korbel is grateful for the accolades given to us by the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Many people contributed to the quality and value of the Korbel Brut Rose, we all love this cuvee ourselves and it is wonderful that others value what we do.”

Rolando Herrera

Rolando HerreraWhite Sweepstake Winner

Baldacci Family Vineyards
Napa, CA

2012 Chardonnay, $38

Rolando Herrera started his career at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where he spent 10 years learning to appreciate the smell of the grape must and the feeling of being surrounded by barrels of fermenting wine. He continued to fine tune his wine making abilities learning and in 2003 he became the winemaker at Baldacci Family Vineyards . A born leader, Herrera’s dynamic personality and passion for creating the best wine possible from the grapes that are grown on the Baldacci Estate Vineyard has enabled him to soar to the top. Herrera truly believes that the wines speak for themselves, or at least they speak to him.According to Rolando Herrera, winemaker, Baldacci Family Vineyards, “The SF Chronicle sweepstakes win helps further validate our commitment to our single estate vineyard and single varietal production of handcrafted wines. We are honored to be recognized so close to home.”

Rob Griffin

Rob GriffinPink Sweepstake Winner

Barnard Griffin Winery
Columbia Valley (AVA), WA

2013 Rosé of Sangiovese, $12

Barnard Griffin is a family-owned winery in Richland, WA and the 9th largest brand in the state by volume. Co-owners Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard have been gaining international acclaim under the Barnard Griffin label since 1983 and Griffin has been making exceptional wines in Washington since 1977, longer than any other individual in the state on a continuous basis. Barnard Griffin produces more than 70,000 cases per year, including Barbera, Cabernet-Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Orange Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rosé of Sangiovese, Roussanne, Syrah, Syrah Port, Viognier and Zinfandel.

According to Rob Griffin, Winemaker, Barnard Griffin Winery, “We value the results from the Chronicle tasting because it puts us on a truly National footing. We are believers in the exceptional growing conditions in Washington and this Sweepstake Awards validates our decision to leave California in the 70’s and help pioneer this exciting new region.”

Steve Burman, Steve Melander, Steve Ziganti

Steve Burman, Steve Melander, Steve ZigantiRed Sweepstake Co-winners

Owners and Winemakers
3 Steves Winery
Livermore, CA

2011Zinfandel, $31.00

Steves just want to have fun.  Initially, the 3 Steves were technical executives longing to let loose their artistic side.  All 3 were home wine makers and dreamed of owning their own winery someday.  A faulty investment brought the 3 men together and they haven’t been apart since.  The savvy winemakers in the Livermore Valley, the original wine appellations in CA, enveloped these eager young men and offered them guidance, as well as sharing their expertise and knowledge in order for them to accomplish their dream.  On July 26, 2013, they opened their winery on  Greenville Road surrounded by the other amazing winemakers who have helped them.  According to Steve Burman, 1 of 3 Steve Winemakers at 3 Steves Winery, “We are extremely proud of our wines and feel it’s necessary to always participate in the largest US competition (SF Chronicle Wine Competition) in hopes we pick up an award so customers know our wine making is everything to us. We really never anticipated this honor would be bestowed upon us and are thrilled that Livermore achieved this honor twice in the past 3 years.”

Jason Joyce

Jason JoyceRed Sweepstake Co-winner

Calcareous Vineyards
Paso Robles, CA

2010 Syrah, $40.00

Jason Joyce initially studied chemistry at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo; but, after realizing that surfing would not pay the rent, he moved to San Francisco and spent 5 years working in the bio-tech industry as a chemist. Needing a short break from the lab and the city, he returned to the Central Coast to become a stainless-scrubber, grape-puncher, and barrel-mover. The fit between the job requirements and Joyce’s passions were total and immediate. In 2007 he became the Assistant Winemaker at Calcareous and only three years later was promoted to Head Winemaker. Joyce is proud to bring his passion for winemaking to your table.

According to Jason Joyce, Head Winemaker at Calcareous Vineyards, “Being awarded the Sweepstakes at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition is truly an honor, especially with it being our Estate Syrah, which we feel is the truest expression of our place. Our medal, along with sweepstakes medals for Caliza and Thacher in recent years, really speaks to how special the wines being produced in Paso Robles are.”

Nick Ferrante

Nick FerranteDessert Sweepstake Winner

Ferrante Winery
Geneva, OH

2012Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, $28.99

Nick Ferrante is a third generation winemaker, and viticulturalist of his family owned Ferrante Winery & Ristorante. This unique winery specializes in cool climate viticulture, which includes growing grapes and producing wine from Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Vidal, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. His wines have won numerous gold awards and best of class awards throughout the country.

From 1999 to 2007, Ferrante served on the Ohio Grape Industries Program as a committee member. He is a professional member of the American Society of Viticulture and Enology, a member of Wine America and currently is the chairman of the Wine Growers of the Grand River Valley.

According to Nick Ferrante, Winemaker, Ferrante Winery, “It is a huge honor to be recognized for winning the Sweepstake award for our Vidal Blanc Ice wine. The bitterly cold winters that Ohio is commonly known for aren’t as bitter when you can produce an ice wine that is cherished and enjoyed by so many people. We are humbled to share a piece of the Grand River Valley of Northeast Ohio with the West coast. Cheers!”

Mark Dolin

Mark DolinLabel Sweepstake Winner

Director of Marketing
Rutherford Wine Company
Lodi, CA

Predator Label on 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel, $14.99

The inspiration for the name and design concept came from the Zaninovich family’s commitment to sustainable farming and the use of natural predators, in lieu of harsh chemical pesticides.

Nature provided Dolin with a particularly “graphicogenic” predator, and one that most people seem to love, the Ladybug. (What kind of person would intentionally squash a Ladybug?).

Other contributors to the design include long-time design collaborator Eileen Anderson. In addition, the Bergin Glass manufacturing technique added subtle texture and real 24 carat gold to the label itself.

According to Dolin, “It’s really gratifying to have the Predator package win the design award, especially given the excellent competition.”