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The IntoWine.com Annual “Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry" – 2012

People love lists; they can be a great source of education and discussion. But making a list such as this is not an easy process. Who are the most influential wine people in the U.S., and how exactly do you define ‘influential?’ Does influential mean people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, and create debate? In a word, yes. These 100 people, from winemakers to law makers, bankers to bloggers, and sommeliers to celebrities are definitely people who influence wine; how it is made, marketed, perceived, sold, shipped, purchased and shared.

Q&A with Richard Sanford, Owner and Winemaker at Alma Rosa

Santa Barbara wine pioneer Richard Sanford is among the inductees into the 2012 Vintners Hall of Fame. Sanford started one of the first modern wineries south of the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982 and for several decades, his Sanford Winery and Vineyards was the lone outpost in the now-sizzling Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County. He was the first winemaker to prove the potential for Pinot Noir in the Santa Rita Hills and spent the next 20 years making some of the best regarded Pinots from the region including bottlings from arguably his best vineyard, Rinconada. Sanford left his namesake winery in 2005 and founded Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards in Lompoc. What prompted you to pursue winemaking as a career? If not winemaking, what path would you have chosen? Upon returning from military service in Vietnam in 1968 I wanted to pursue an activity more connected with the land. During my tenure in the Navy I had been introduced to a wonderful Volnay by a fellow naval officer. That became my inspiration to pursue a career in agriculture and I chose winegrowing to attempt to duplicate the quality of that wine. After 40 years as a winegrower I cannot imagine any other path.

Q&A with Ernst Loosen of Dr. Loosen Rieslings

If there is one international name associated with Riesling it is Loosen. Ernst Loosen is the owner of Weingut Dr. Loosen, located in the Mosel wine region in Germany, a family winery dating back over 200 years. He has won accolades such as "Riesling of the Year" and “German Winemaker of the Year”, by the German wine press, and he was selected as "Man of the Year" by Decanter Magazine, and Wine & Spirits called him one of the “World’s 50 Most Influential Winemakers. In 1999 he launched a joint Riesling project with Chateau St. Michelle in Washington State, Eroica, which has helped ignite Riesling sales in the U.S. You actually were heading into the archeology field. What prompted you to pursue winemaking as a career? Well, I was studying archaeology at the University of Mainz, but I’m not so sure that I would ever have gone into it as a profession. At least, that’s what my brothers and sisters said when our father fell seriously ill and someone needed to take over the family wine estate. I was quite interested in Roman archaeology, especially since there is so much Roman history right here in the Mosel, but someone had to take on the winery or my mother was going to sell off the vineyards. My older siblings were already in careers, and the younger ones too young. So it was me or nobody. I certainly have no regrets, though. They were quite right that I really had no prospects in archaeology as a profession, and it was agreed that I would have full control of how the wine estate was managed. It had always been more of a hobby for my father and I wanted to do a better job with the great vineyards we had.

Wines to Go Buy This Week: "Comfort Wines" - A Zinfandel by Glenn Hawk and Tulip Hill's Cabepulciano (yeah you read that right)

I live in San Francisco and January weather here means 50 degrees and rain. Constant bone-chilling rain, or so it seems. And before the rest of America emails to remind me how good I have it and how freaking cold it is in New York or Ohio or whatever other frozen tundra they call home, I'm just gonna say that when you are cold, you are cold, and comfort food -and comfort wine- goes a long way towards warming your heart when Old Man Winter starts to have his way with you. So with this in mind, I bring you two comfort wines you should go buy this week. Glenn Hawk Zinfandel - I typically don't gravitate to Zinfandel. I associate Zins with "cocktail wines", that is, wines that are delicious for a few sips of a single glass but can be a bit too fruity and overwhelming for those of us who tend towards enjoying multiple glasses. So I don't recommend many Zinfandels simply because I don't drink many of them. Every once in a while I stumble back down the Zinfandel path and am reminded of how good the varietal can be. I recently tried the 2009 Glenn Hawk Zinfandel from Livermore Valley (just south of Napa in the shadow of Mt. Diablo).

Q&A with Wes Hagen, Winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills

Wes Hagen assumed control of Clos Pepe Vineyards in Santa Barbara’s Santa Rita Hills in 1998, though it was first planted in 1994. This former English teacher brings an analytical and thoughtful approach to winemaking, specifically Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He received his viticultural and winemaking training from the University of California at Davis extension program. His small lot production and strict allocation program have helped earn him 90+ point scores from Wine Spectator, Robert Parker and Decanter Magazine. What prompted you to pursue winemaking as a career? If not winemaking, would you still be teaching English? I was teaching college in Minnesota and it was very cold. I got a call from California that my Mom and Steve Pepe had purchased a horse ranch near Lompoc. I came back for Christmas, fell in love with the place, and left Minnesota immediately for the Pinot Promised Land.

Football and Wine: New York Giants

What's an appropriate wine to serve at a New York Giants themed party? What wine would be a good gift for a hard core Giants fan? The year was 1925. Five teams asked to join the National Football League, bringing the total number of teams in the organization to 23. Only one of those five teams, the New York Giants, is still active in the NFL. The Giants' first owner, Tim Mara, paid $500 for the team; today, according to Forbes.com , the New York Giants are worth approximately $1.3 billion dollars – a nice return on investment, even by New York standards.

Q&A with Ludovic Dervin, Winemaker at Mumm Napa

In 1979 French Champagne house G.H. Mumm began its quest to find the ideal winegrowing area in the U.S. After a four year search the winery opened in 1986 in the Napa Valley. Armed with a thorough understanding of méthode champenoise production, Ludovic Dervin completed his winemaking studies in his native Champagne, France and worked harvests with Champagne houses Charles Heidseick, and G.H. Mumm, as well as California’s Piper Sonoma. Prior to joining Mumm Napa, Dervin polished his non-bubbly winemaking skills at Russian River wineries, Hartford Court, and Gary Farrell.

Q&A with Nicolas Mahler-Besse, CEO of Seguin-Moreau Cooperage, France

Seguin-Moreau is one of the premier cooperages in the world. Started as two different cooperages in the 1800s, they merged in 1972 to become a barrel powerhouse. Nicolas Mahler-Besse assumed the position of CEO of Seguin Moreau in 2011 and had worked for the last 14 years in the cooperage business for Radoux. Seguin-Moreau currently has more that 4,500 clients in 35 countries, making their domination of the cooperage business clearly evident With three cooperages in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa, do you foresee the need for other cooperages in emerging wine regions, and where might those be? For the moment there is no plan to build new cooperages as we are already in the main wine locations, we’ll see how we grow then determine business in other areas.

Wine Trends for 2012

Wine lovers are always asking the question, what should I be looking for now? What is that latest/greatest trend(s) in wine going to be? As we enter 2012, it seems appropriate to make a guess at what those trends will be and more importantly, what wines we should be looking for in this New Year? Here is my Top Ten List: 10. Malbec will continue to be hot. While the world will rediscover that France does indeed make some very good Malbecs (see Cahors ), Argentina will continue to lead the way in the number of offerings and value. If price is no issue, try the upper end wines of Archaval Ferrer. For value, look for the entry level wines of Susana Balbo, Archaval Ferrer or Altos, although there are many other very good wines. 9. Malbec quality will be variable. Unfortunately, a lot of producers, importers and distributors will want to cash in on the Malbec craze. Don’t assume that every Argentinean Malbec is created equal. As always happens with the “hot” grape varietals, Malbec will get over planted in poor vineyard sites. Others will allow the vineyards to produce at prolific rates diluting the quality of the wines. This will be especially true in Argentina, so beware. Try before you buy if possible by going to store tastings.

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