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2009 SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY WINE INDUSTRY AWARDS ANNOUNCED AT MID-STATE FAIR
Legacy, Spirit and Innovation Describe Three Industry Notables
PASO ROBLES, CA (July 16, 2009) â€“ The most prestigious wine industry honors in San Luis Obispo County 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 2009 Wine Industry awards took place during the California Mid-State Fair Premiere Night event (Thursday, July 16) at the new Mission Square within the fairgrounds. Honorees include â€“ Winemaker of the Year, Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines; Winegrape Grower of the Year, Tony Domingos of Brave Oak Vineyard; and Wine Industry Person of the Year, Robert Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard. Each recipient was nominated and voted on by their peers for their leadership in Californiaâ€™s third largest wine region, San Luis Obispo County.
â€œAustin, Robert and Tony are true leaders in the Wine Community,â€ said Stacie Jacob, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. â€œTheir collective experience equates to over eighty years of dedication and innovation to an industry vital to the economic well being of this County.â€
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 2009 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€” Austin Hope, Hope Family Wines
Austin Hope is a third- generation California farmer and a first-generation winemaker. He began working in his familyâ€™s Paso Robles vineyards at the age of eight. Pioneers in the region, the Hope family planted vineyards in Paso Robles in 1978.
Immersed in the world of farming and winemaking throughout his childhood, Austin expanded his knowledge by attending California Polytechnic, earning a degree in fruit science. He gained hands on experience from traveling abroad and working for Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. All of which prepared him to take over as president of Treana and head winemaker in 1998.
Since then, Austin has continued to expand on the vision of his family and build it into the prolific and well respected winery that it is today. Most recently, Austin renamed the company Hope Family Wines to clearly establish the relationship between all five of the companyâ€™s brands, Treana, Liberty School, Austin Hope, Candor & Westside. He has also continued to pursue his passion to experiment with old and new world winemaking philosophies by using techniques that enhance fruit and structure while maintaining quality and varietal correctness.
He and his wife April, along with their two young daughters, reside on the Hope familyâ€™s estate vineyard in west Paso Robles.â€ƒ
Wine Grape Grower of the Year â€“ Tony Domingos, Brave Oak Vineyard
Anthony â€œTonyâ€ Domingos is a fifth generation resident of the Central Coast. Born in 1969 and was raised in the Santa Maria Valley, Tony attended Cal Poly where he earned his B.S. degree in Agribusiness Management with a concentration in Farm Management and a minor in Plant Protection. He got his start in the vineyard business working with Hampton Farming Company in Santa Maria. From 1992 through 1995 he was their viticulturist and pest control advisor on 3,000 acres in Santa Barbara County. In 1996 he moved to Paso Robles and began managing Meridian Home Vineyard.
In 2000 Tony and his wife Shelly started a family when Austin, the first of their three sons, arrived. Twins, Ryan and Trevor followed two and a half years later. The boys love growing up on a vineyard and patiently await each harvest so they can ride on the harvesters with their dad. In Tonyâ€™s free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, team roping, coaching, snow skiing, and water sports with the family.
In 2005 Tony formed Tony Domingos Farming, Inc., where he currently manages and owns several vineyards. Having a vested interest in the wine industry and the future for the Paso Robles community, Tony was driven to get involved in local and state organizations. Currently Tony is a board member of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) and Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. He is a past board member of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, Co- Chair of the Paso Robles Wine Country Golf Classic, past committee member of the Quality Alliance, as well as a member of the Central Coast Vineyard Team. Tony was also a founding board member of The First Tee Central Coast- A program which teaches life skills through the game of golf to children. Last year Tony helped to form and recruit members for the first ever Wine Country Support Group and raised over $10,000 to support the California Mid-State Fair Junior Livestock Auction. Tony is enjoying a great life due to the vineyard business and never forgets the importance of giving back. He holds a firm belief in the promotion of California vineyards and wineries knowing that a larger market share for California will ensure success for the Paso Robles wine region as well.
Tony is proud to call Paso Robles his home and he enjoys raising his family in this community.
Wine Industry Person of the Year â€“ Robert Haas, Tablas Creek Vineyard
With his Yale degree in hand, Brooklyn-born Haas joined his father, Sidney, who owned M. Lehmann, Inc., one of New Yorkâ€™s most prestigious wine retailers. A trip to France in 1953 is where his passion for the wine business began. While tasting through the cellars of France, Haas saw local negociants selling wine not yet in the bottle. Haas was intrigued by this concept and was the first to market wine â€œfuturesâ€ to Lehmann retail shop customers. This concept has now become the standard practice for buying Bordeaux wines in the United States. Lehmann Inc. later became Sherry-Lehmann when his father sold the business.
In 1973, Haas and his wife Barbara moved to Vermont where he found a new import firm, Vineyard Brands. During his tenure, Haas grew the business into one of the nationâ€™s largest importers, with annual sales of $65 million. His son Daniel remains Senior Vice President at Vineyard Brands, which is the exclusive importer for ChÃ¢teau de Beaucastel among other leading European brands and represents one California brand, Tablas Creek. Haasâ€™ longtime partnership with the Perrins of Beaucastel set the stage for todayâ€™s Tablas Creek.
In 1985, Haas partnered with the Perrins to begin their California journey. Four years of searching for the ideal Chateauneuf replicate landed the partners in Paso Robles on a pastureland of rolling hills 12 miles inland from the ocean. Haas became Managing Partner of Tablas Creek in 1989, but it would be seven years before wine was made under the Tablas Creek name. The next task of importing French vines began with the first plant material arriving in 1993. Haas propagated the vines in a nursery that would yield 200,000 vines per year. Demand grew for the vine material of these highly sought after Rhone varieties making
Tablas Creek â€œthe mother shipâ€ for Rhone varieties across the U.S. The first Tablas Creek wines were made in 1997 and released in 1999, receiving positive reviews from U.S. wine critics.
Haas, alongside his son Jason, Tablas Creekâ€™s general manager, promote Tablas Creek wines and educate wine enthusiasts about Rhone-style blends and the Paso Robles AVA. Haas consistently speaks in favor of organic viticulture, minimum-intervention winemaking and wines of terroir and sophistication. His accomplishments have been profiled in national publications, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Haas is one of three American members of the AcadÃ©mie Internationale du Vin. In recognition of his contributions to the international wine community as an importer, a vintner, and an advocate for quality, he was elected as the AIV president in 2000.
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 Californiaâ€™s Central Coast, Paso Robles Wine Country is Californiaâ€™s fastest growing wine region. It encompasses more than 26,000 vineyard acres and 180 wineries. For more information, visit www.pasowine.com.