The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has announced that its 2013 Vintners Hall of Fame inductees will be legendary labor leader Cesar Chavez, wine writer Frank Schoonmaker, the founder of The Wine Advocate, Robert Parker, and winemaking pioneer Meredith “Merry” Edwards.

I love the announcement of this annual award, because it captures the heart of the wine business. Each recipient has tirelessly worked for the betterment of wine in general; and more specifically for winemaking, wine writing, and most especially in the case of Cesar Chavez, for the rights and dignity of the people who are not only at the heart of the wine industry, but they’re also the soul of it…

No wine would be made without their tireless work throughout all 12 months of the year…. Like postal workers, without the ice and snow, they still deliver everyday of the year, regardless of the weather, which can be very cold and damp during the winter months, sometimes broiling hot during the summer, and very early hours come harvest… long before the rest of us are up and about.

My first trip into a vineyard during harvest was an eye-opener. No one that I knew at the time worked any physically harder than the crew that we had at Belvedere Winery. Sweat dripping from their faces, an intensity of purpose that they wore in expressions that I had never experienced or seen before… Let’s just say that I didn’t want to come between them and the vines, as they sliced away at each grape cluster, dropping it into their bins.

This year’s inclusion of Cesar Chavez is a very important one, and I’m so pleased that those who sat around that table, deciding who should be named, included the tireless advocating of a man who took a lot of gruff treatment… as he bravely went forward to make conditions more humane and fair for anyone who was and still is a field worker within our business.

The official induction of the 2013 Vintners Hall of Fame honorees will take place on February 18, 2013 at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, California, as part of the college’s 7th Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.

“This year’s inductees represent a broad spectrum of the wine world, and demonstrate how people from vastly different backgrounds and professions have influenced the quality and perception of California wines,” said CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan. “The Culinary Institute of America is proud to host the Vintners Hall of Fame and honor the class of 2013 for their accomplishments at making California wines so extraordinary and successful.”

In celebration of Presidents Day, a dozen California wineries will host a reception featuring wine and food pairings from White House menus. The members of the Class of 2013 will be inducted in the Vintners Hall of Fame Barrel Room after the unveiling of sculpted bronze plaques honoring those inducted in 2012. The induction ceremony will be followed by a Celebrity Chef Walk-Around Dinner in the college’s teaching kitchen. As in the past, Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees past and present will provide a selection of their wines to be enjoyed with dinner.

This year’s nominating committee, chaired by noted wine journalist W. Blake Gray, included the following:

  • Andy Beckstoffer, founder of Beckstoffer Vineyards (2010 Inductee)
  • Darrell Corti, of Corti Brothers (2008 Inductee)
  • Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
  • Randall Grahm, founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard (2010 Inductee)
  • Carole Meredith, UC Davis Professor Emerita and co-founder of Lagier-Meredith Winery (2009 Inductee)
  • Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery (2011 Inductee)
  • Charles Sullivan, wine historian and author
  • Paul Wagner, Vineyard & Winery Management
  • Warren Winiarksi, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (2009 Inductee)
  • Alder Yarrow,

The class of 2013 was elected by 81 members of the Vintners Hall of Fame Electoral College, which consists of past inductees and members of the wine media.

“This is another great induction class,” said W. Blake Gray. “It’s interesting to see the two most argued-about candidates of recent years, Robert Parker and Cesar Chavez, going in at the same time. I think this is a testament to the quality of discussion people have conducted online and in social media about the merits of the candidates. My only regret is, what will we argue about next year? But for this year, it’s a great celebration of a remarkable winemaker in Merry Edwards, two of the most influential writers in Parker and Frank Schoonmaker, and a reformer in Chavez, who helped unite and transform farmworkers into a crucial part of the skilled winemaking team.”

Proceeds from the Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration help support the Vintners Hall of Fame and contribute to the scholarship fund for students in the Professional Wine Studies program at CIA Greystone.

Tickets for the program are $175 ($100 tax-deductible). For more information about the event, please contact Holly Briwa: h_briwa@Culinary.Edu.

The Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is open to the public daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (subject to change). For more information about the Vintners Hall of Fame, and to view the list of past inductees with their photos and biographies, please visit

Here’s what Cesar Chavez aaccomplished, for each glass of wine you enjoy from a press release…

Cesar Chavez

Latino farm workers are an integral part of the viticultural team that produces the great wines of California, and Cesar Chavez was their acknowledged leader.

Over the last 40 years these farm workers have evolved immensely from seasonal unskilled laborers to highly skilled full-time members of the grape-growing community. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union forced grape-growing companies across the state to recognize the importance of farm workers’ contribution to the world of wine. Chavez was instrumental in the creation and passing of the California Agricultural Labor Relations act, which extended collective bargaining rights to farm workers.

In so doing, Chavez helped bring attention to farm workers’ impressive skills and lifelong commitment to the wine industry. His ability to bring vision and voice to this undeserved population in California began a movement that is still in process today, as members of the Latino population start wineries, manage vineyards, and take other important roles in the wine industry.

While he is as controversial as many of the winemakers of California, Cesar Chavez changed the way farm workers were perceived in California, and there is no doubt that the grapes and wines of our state have reaped the benefits of his activities.

I agree, as each glass I raise has a quiet toast to the people who brought it from vine to wine…