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

Passion, Stewardship and Ingenuity are Shared by Three Industry Leaders

PASO ROBLES, CA (July 20, 2010) – San Luis Obispo County’s most respected wine industry honors were announced today by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in partnership with the Independent Grape Growers of Paso Robles; the Central Coast Vineyard Team; the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association and past award recipients. The 2010 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards go to – Winemaker of the Year, Clay Brock, Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards; Winegrape Grower of the Year, the Dusi Family, Dante Dusi Vineyards; and Wine Industry Person of the Year, Kris O’Connor, Central Coast Vineyard Team. The award recipients will officially receive their honors at a newly focused awards ceremony created specifically for the San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards during the California Mid-State Fair on Friday, July 30 from 4 – 6 p.m. Each recipient was nominated and voted on by their peers for their leadership in California’s third largest wine region, San Luis Obispo County.

“This event and award ceremony brings the wine industry together to honor its own,” said Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “By recognizing Clay, the Dusi Family and Kris, we celebrate the passion, stewardship and ingenuity that these individuals contribute to our collective way of life in San Luis Obispo County.”

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 whose expenditures total $113 million.

The winners of the 2010 Wine Industry Awards will be recognized at ‘A Toast to San Luis Obispo County’s Wine Industry Award Winners’ on Friday, July 30. This event is open to the public with a $10 admission cost after entry to the California Mid-State Fair. The event will also feature award winning wines from the Central Coast Wine Competition. Visit for more information.

Images and full bios of the award winners are available upon request or on

Winemaker of the Year — Clay Brock, Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards
Clay Brock grew up in agriculture with his father, a vineyard manager, providing his first exposure to what would be a long and successful career. Clay continued to follow in his father’s footsteps and enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in Agricultural Business Management. In 1985, Clay officially joined the wine industry and began work with Corbett Canyon Winery. Over the years his mentors were the knowledgeable and generous winemakers at Corbett Canyon, and later at Ken Brown and at Byron Winery. In 1997 Clay’s hard work and determination were rewarded with a position as Winemaker at Edna Valley Vineyards, which allowed him to return to his beloved San Luis Obispo.

In 2001, Clay became Vice President, Winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and was tasked with assisting them in perfecting Rhone varietals. In 2008, Clay learned that Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards ( was seeking a Director of Winemaking and he jumped at the chance. Clay quickly began contributing to Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards growth, and has future plans for expansion and improvements to the cellars. “In addition to the opportunity to craft wines in small lots,” he explains. “I want to explore and refine every style that I can.”

Winegrape Grower of the Year – The Dusi Family, Dante Dusi Vineyards
The Dusi story begins in 1910 when Sylvester Dusi emigrated from Italy to America in pursuit of the American Dream. Through years of toil and perseverance, Sylvester’s dream of family, farming, and prosperity became a reality. His legacy continues with three generations still working on the land that he and his wife Caterina nurtured many years ago. The Dusi Family found their roots in the wine industry by planting their Dusi Ranch property to grapevines in 1925. Later the ranch expanded with another 100 acres located across Highway 101, about a mile south of the home ranch.

Today, the original ranch is owned and operated by Benito Dusi, who continues to grow grapes, and has come to personify Dusi Ranch. The Dusi name found a place in the wine industry in 1967 when Ridge Vineyards purchased fruit on a trial basis and the rest is history.

Four generations of family have been working the land for the past 65 years on Dante Dusi Vineyard. Dante, the family patriarch at 85 years old, is still working in the vineyard, pruning the old vines, driving tractor, and taking an active part in vineyard operations. He and his wife Dorothy have been married 61 years and raised three children: Rick, Mike and Kathy on the family vineyard. Sons Mike and Rick now manage the vineyard, following the same farming practices passed down from their father and grandfather. Grapes from Dante Dusi Vineyard are sold to J. Dusi Wines, Tobin James, Turley, and Four Vines Winery. Mike’s children are also active with the vineyard and other associated businesses: including J. Dusi Wines, Michael Dusi Trucking, and Caterina’s vineyard.

Dante, still dusty from working in the field, remarked how his life has always centered on the daily farming of the vineyard. “You have to remember that in my time, the vineyard was just a lot of hard work. My children and grandchildren have gone a step further; they farm with devotion, have added knowledge from their travels, and they enjoy the social activities associated with the wine industry to enrich their lives.”

Wine Industry Person of the Year – Kris O’Connor, Central Coast Vineyard Team
Kris O’Connor developed her love for agriculture as a student at Cal Poly and eventually received her Master’s Degree specializing in soil and water. She worked at the Irrigation Training and Research Center and conducted irrigation research, lectured in Cal Poly’s Ag Engineering Department, and co-authored a textbook.

Kris joined the Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT) in 1998 and helped transform what had been a small, grower led effort into a nationally recognized organization centered on the concept and practice of sustainable winegrowing. The organization is now supported by 300 members representing 80,000 acres on the Central Coast. Through grower-to-grower education, field research, and Spanish speaking programs, CCVT continues to serve as a model for other regions and crop industries.

At national conferences, Kris regularly presents project results and shares how growers protect both the natural and human resources on the farm and in their communities. Through Kris’s dedicated leadership, CCVT was one of five organizations to receive the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Sustained Excellence award and is also the only organization to receive California Environmental Protection Agency’s Innovator award twice. In addition to educating government and environmental representatives of the Central Coast growers’ commitment to sustainable farming, Kris connects farmers with consumers through the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification program.

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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