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Media Contact: Christopher Taranto
Phone: 805-239-8463

Dedication, Passion and Commitment Describe Four Industry Leaders

PASO ROBLES, CA July 22, 2008 - San Luis Obispo County's most prestigious wine industry honors were announced today by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in partnership with the Independent Grape Growers of Paso Robles, the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association and past award recipients. The announcement of the 2008 Wine Industry awards took place during the California Mid-State Fair Premiere Party (Tuesday, July 22), officially kicking off the 2008 Mid-State Fair. Honorees included - Winemaker of the Year, Bill Sheffer of Halter Ranch Vineyard; Wine Grape Grower of the Year, Ric Fuller of Shimmin Canyon Vineyard; Wine Industry Person of the Year, Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines and a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dennis Collins (posthumously), Treana Winery and Big Red Vineyards. Each recipient was nominated and voted on by their peers for their leadership in California's third largest wine region, San Luis Obispo County.

"It's an honor to recognize these leaders whom I have had the pleasure to work so closely in helping the region achieve national acclaim," said Stacie Jacob, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. "Dedication to success, commitment to hard work and passion for the wine business only begins to summarize these leaders in our wine community."

The wine and wine grape industry contributes $1.8B to the local economy as the largest value-added agriculture product in San Luis Obispo County. The industry employs more than 8,000 and attracts more than 1.2 million wine tourists annually.

The winners of the 2008 Wine Industry Awards will be recognized throughout the Mid-State Fair activities. Images of the award winners are available upon request.

Winemaker of the Year â€" William Sheffer, Halter Ranch Vineyard
Winemaker, Bill Sheffer, began his winemaking career in the Paso Robles AVA during the early 1980s at the historic Estrella River Winery. During his 25-year winemaking career Sheffer has worked at Adelaida Cellars, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Eberle Winery and currently serves as the winemaker at Halter Ranch Vineyard. Capturing different perspectives and feeding his adventurous spirit Sheffer brings international experience to the region during his stints at Viña Santa Rita in Chile, Rapara Road Vintners in New Zealand, and La Viña Winery in Valencia, Spain.

Sheffer's approach to winemaking is to tailor a wine's style to the character of the fruit the vineyard produces making wines that are fully evocative of their variety and place. At Halter Ranch, he remains true to his method, as he transforms the superb fruit into richly flavored wines with bright acidity and a refreshing vein of minerality.

Sheffer is anything but a traditionalist as his vivacious, somewhat quirky character drives his passion for winemaking. Bill also raises lambs, hogs, and dabbles in charcuterie (cured meats).
He loves to cook and get his hands dirty in the Halter Ranch garden; that is, when he's not out chasing down his brood of vineyard chickens.

Wine Grape Grower of the Year - Ric Fuller, Shimmin Canyon Vineyard
Ric Fuller's roots in agriculture trace back to his family's history in Colonial Virginia. His family has always been involved with agriculture and as the Great Westward Expansion took place, his family moved west, and finally in the 1930s settled in the San Joaquin Valley. After earning his Master's degree in horticulture at U.C. Davis, Fuller launched his career working for Paul Masson Vineyards in Soledad. He focused on field research and started the only private vineyard research lab in the Central Coast. He planted and managed 1,822 vineyard acres in Monterey County.

In 1977 Herman Schwartz of Continental Vineyards, (now Shimmin Canyon Vineyards) recruited Fuller to join the relatively unknown viticultural area of Paso Robles Calif. Fuller moved to Paso Robles where he and his wife, Etta raised their family. In the early 1990s Fuller joined fellow wine grape industry persons and founded the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association (now Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance). Fuller was a founding Director, and the first Grower Chairman of the organization. He served another term on the Board of Directors in 2006.

Fuller is also involved in the local FFA chapter coaching the Grapevine Pruning team. He is also a member of the Paso Robles AVA committee, which includes a master AVA plan to create 11 new sub appellations which will further define the uniqueness of the Paso Robles AVA. Fuller has seen the vineyard he's nurtured over the years mature to produce top quality wines, and become a true landmark vineyard in the emerging Paso Robles AVA.

Wine Industry Person of the Year - Jerry Lohr, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines
The son of a hard-working South Dakota farming family, Jerry Lohr was born and raised on what would now be called an organic farm. The importance of planting each individual crop in its appropriate place was instilled in him from an early age. Lohr grew to understand that every crop has a natural ability to excel under very specific growing conditions. This knowledge would later become instrumental in his success as a winegrower. As a Stanford Ph.D. graduate and after his stint as an Air Force captain, Lohr opened a land development and custom home building business, but his passion for farming and an appreciation of wine soon led him to take on a new challenge: winegrowing.

Lohr dove headfirst into his new endeavor with an extensive investigation of California grape growing regions in the late 1960s. Aware of the importance of climate, soil quality, and location, Lohr finally selected the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County for his first vineyard in 1971. He was also among the first to realize the tremendous untapped promise of Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County and, in 1986, he began planting cabernet sauvignon, merlot and other red varietals on what is now 2,000 acres of vineyards.

Respected universally by his peers for his intimate understanding of California winegrowing, Lohr's knowledge on the subject is vast. He can address any facet of the winegrowing process, be it scientific or agricultural. An industry leader and one of the few remaining substantial independents, Lohr is a fervent advocate for the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County and Paso Robles, regularly investing his energy and resources to champion these regions.

Lohr's dedication goes beyond J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. His work on behalf of the entire industry has included posts as director and chair of the Wine Institute and chair of the Regional Winegrower's Council. He is also one of the four founding members of Wine Vision, an industry group that promotes a long-range view of the wine industry. Additionally, Lohr founded the

National Grape and Wine Initiative (NGWI) and now serves as president. NGWI is a nationwide coalition representing grape growers, processors, wineries, and representatives of academic institutions and cooperative extension organizations committed to improving the industry. Over the course of his career, Lohr has served as founding director, four-time president, and chair of the marketing committee of the Monterey Vintners and Growers Association. He has also served as director and chair of the marketing committee for the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Dennis T. Collins (posthumously), Treana Winery and Big Red Vineyards
A veteran of the wine industry, Dennis Collins worked with Gallo in the early 1970's, in quality control then went to work with Franzia Winery in Escalon. Hired away by Cuno Filtration Company and later by Millipore Corporation, he was transferred to Boston, MA.

In the early 80's, a desire to be closer to his son in California, and a passion for the wine business, inspired the development of his own winery equipment business - Vintner Supply Company. One of the company's first clients was Bronco Wine Company. Through the course of this association, Vintner Supply Company became a sub-business of Bronco and Dennis' position evolved into international wine sales. He directed the export program of Bronco wines and oversaw the Ambassador Wine Program, selling U.S. wines to embassies around the world. For a short time he opened an international office in Denmark.

In 1996, the Collins family moved to Paso Robles to establish Big Red Vineyard, a family run vineyard operation. During this time, he worked for the Joseph Ciatti Company as a wine broker. In 2002, Collins was named General Manager at Treana Winery, a family owned and operated winery in Paso Robles, producing Treana and Liberty School wines. Here, he oversaw daily operations of this 300,000 case winery. His Board affiliations included the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and the Wine Institute.

In addition to the wine business, Dennis enjoyed hunting and working with the Boy Scouts - he was the Scoutmaster for Troop 60 for over five years.

Dennis passed away on March 27, 2008 due to complications from multiple-Myeloma. His wife Kathy resides in Paso Robles, daughter Amanda attends the University of Santa Clara, son Carter attends California University at Chico State and son, Tennyson lives with his wife Brynie Collins in Los Angeles. Collins' philosophy about the wine business can be summed up in one word - "Passion" - the only way to be successful is to have a true passion for the business.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (Alliance), 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 200 wineries. For more information, visit

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