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2006-07-25
Media Contact: Stacie Jacob
Phone: 805-239-8463
Website: http://

CALIFORNIA MID-STATE FAIR ANNOUNCES 2006 WINE INDUSTRY AWARD WINNERS
Honoring Winemaker, Wine Industry Person and Wine Grape Grower of the Year

PASO ROBLES, CA July 25, 2006 – The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in partnership with the Independent Grape Growers of Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo Vintners Association announced the 2006 Wine Industry award winners during the California Mid-State Fair Premiere Party on Tuesday, July 25. Honorees included — Winemaker of the Year, Don Brady of Robert Hall Winery; Wine Grape Grower of the Year, Hank Ashby of French Camp Vineyards; and Wine Industry Person of the Year, Doug Filipponi of Filipponi & Thompson Vineyards, San Juan Vineyards and Margarita Vineyards. Each were nominated and voted on by their peers for their excellence and leadership in California’s third largest wine region, San Luis Obispo County.

"Each honoree is dedicated to producing world-class wines and growing quality wine grapes, leading the local wine industry to regional, national and global acclaim," said Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. "The collective expertise has guided the growth and success of the local wine industry."

As the largest agricultural value-added crop in San Luis Obispo, the local wine industry has more than 200 wineries and more than 35,000 vineyard acres. Growing more than 40 different varieties the wines from San Luis Obispo County can be found in 50 states nationally and internationally in more than 25 countries.

Award winners will also be recognized again at the Evening of Music and Wine in the Main Grandstand Arena on Friday, August 4, 2006.

Winemaker of the Year – Don Brady, Robert Hall Winery
Don Brady, winemaker and director at Robert Hall Winery brought his winemaking talents to California in 1998 after working to put the Texas wine industry on the map. He moved to Paso Robles and began work for Robert Hall Winery in 2001. As winemaker, Brady feels it’s a privilege to work with fruit from the outstanding Hall Ranch vineyards.

"We've built a state of the art winery with over 19,000 square feet of cavern, in California's most exciting wine region, Paso Robles," said Brady. "My goal in crafting Robert Hall wines is to bring these elements together to capture the exceptional color and flavor that is the essence of Paso Robles. I hope you enjoy drinking our wines as much as I enjoy making them."

With a degree in horticulture from Texas Tech University, Don put himself through school gaining hands-on experience at both The Pheasant Ridge Vineyard and the University of Texas experimental wine and grape program. After college, Don went to work for Llano Estacado Winery. In 1991, Don was awarded the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Associations highest honor, the Louis F. Qualia Award for outstanding contributions and leadership in the Texas wine industry. President Ronald Reagan and George Bush were served Brady’s wines at several White House functions. His wines were also chosen to serve English royalty, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

In 1998, Brady along with his wife, Kasi and children, Brian and Laura moved to California. Brady earned the international recognition as the recipient of the International Wine and Spirits "Wine of America" Award. Brady is active in the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He is also active with his children’s activities and enjoys exploring the Central Coast.

Wine Grape Grower of the Year – Hank Ashby, French Camp Vineyards
Hank Ashby, Vineyard Manager for French Camp Vineyards is responsible for overseeing all phases of wine grape production. In addition to the day-to-day operations, Ashby has planted over 1,100 acres of new vineyards in recent years.

Ashby studied engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Missouri. He began growing grapes as a child raising Concord grapes on his family's vineyard in Missouri. Before joining the French Camp Vineyard team in 1986, Hank owned and operated a custom grape harvesting company and grew Concord grapes on his own vineyard.

Capitalizing on his engineering education and his extensive experience with all types of vineyard machinery, Hank has become a leader in developing new equipment and products to increase vineyard mechanization, while remaining focused on the quality of the resulting wines.

Hank enjoys living in northern San Luis Obispo County because of the wonderful weather and the many opportunities for fishing and hunting. He lives on the vineyard with his wife Marilyn and their two sons, Nathan and Eric.

Wine Industry Person of the Year – Doug Filipponi, Filipponi & Thompson Vineyards/San Juan Vineyards/Margarita Vineyards
Doug Filipponi, owner of Filipponi & Thompson Vineyards, San Juan Vineyards and Margarita Vineyards was born and raised in Paso Robles. A graduate of Cal Poly University, agriculture has always been an important part of Filipponi’s career and passion. In addition to owning more than 1,500 vineyard acres in the Shandon and Santa Margarita Ranch area, Filipponi is an avid cattle rancher and horseman. He is also the president of Filipponi & Thompson Drilling, a major business instrumental in the development of agriculture in San Luis Obispo County.

Filipponi has demonstrated leadership in all areas of agriculture supporting local FFA & 4-H clubs, serving on the board of the Paso Robles Trail Riders, member of the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association and a member of the Mid-State Fair Heritage Foundation.

He has also shared his leadership in the wine industry as a committed member of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and past president. In 2002 he was honored as the Wine Industry Person of the Year. Doug served for several years as chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Festival Committee. Filipponi is also an auctioneer showcasing his talents and giving back to the community through a variety of auctions benefiting the wine industry and agriculture. He was instrumental in setting a record fundraising goal at the 2006 Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival Auction.

Filipponi also shares his business talents by serving on the boards of Santa Lucia Bank and Farm Credit West. He along with his wife, Kathleen and children Jeff and Kristin live in the Creston area.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA) represents wineries, growers and businesses in Paso Robles Wine Country. Centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, along California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles Wine Country is California’s fastest growing wine region. It encompasses more than 26,000 vineyard acres and nearly170 wineries. With a greater day-to-night temperature swing than any other appellation in California, Paso Robles is an optimal area for producing more than 40 wine varieties. For more information, visit www.pasowine.com.

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