AWS News – December 2022

Dec 7, 2022



National Conference highlights award winners and leadership change

Pictures don’t lie, and ours show a lot of people having fun. Plus, we presented several major AWS awards during the conference and signaled a transition in leadership.

Winemaker competitions keep the AWS legacy alive

Thanks to our volunteers, partners, and sponsors, and judges, we concluded another successful competition recognizing 108 amateur winemakers. See who won.

Member Service notes

Membership renewal reminder, save the date for 2023, and complete your holiday shopping with AWS swag.

2022 National Tasting Project concludes a successful year

See how the 66 chapters that participated in this year’s National Tasting Project (NTP) scored the featured Sicilian wines.

AWSEF scholarship applications open January 1

Be sure to spread the word.

Explore Tuscany with the American Wine Society

Tired of winter before it even begins? Join us this coming Spring for a tour as we explore the Tuscan region of Italy.

Winemakers’ corner: Play for time with the long, cold soak!

Settle in as Kevin Kourofsky explains this often-used term and what the ‘cold soak’ hopes to accomplish.

Chapter events

Your fellow AWS members find interesting ways to promote the appreciation of wine through education. Read how they do it.

National Conference highlights award winners and leadership change

What a wonderful and successful National Conference in Bellevue, Washington! Thank you to all the speakers, sponsors, volunteers and attendees for their contribution to the success of our event.

You can find photos of sessions and attendees here. As always, we presented several major AWS awards during the conference and signaled a transition in leadership.

Outstanding Member

Outstanding Member Kristin Kraft and AWS President MIchael Wangbickler

AWS President Michael Wangbickler (left) and Outstanding Member Kristin Kraft

Kristin Kraft, past president and vice president of the American Wine Society, received this award. The inscription noted that she “made the phrase, ‘How can I help?’ her personal credo, serving the AWS in ways large and small.”

Since relinquishing the AWS presidency in 2018, Kristin has served on the national organization’s membership, marketing, and governance committees. In addition to her former roles at the national level, Kristin is an officer of the Perkiomen Valley (PA) Chapter of AWS.

The award is given annually to an AWS member who has dedicated substantial time and energy to the advancement of AWS. Long and valuable service as a national officer or committee chair; contributions to the AWS Journal or other publications; significant volunteer service; or combinations of these would merit consideration for this award.

Gary Lum and Carrie Garczynski

Director of Membership Carrie Garczynski (left) and Regional Ambassador of the Year Gary Lum

Regional Ambassador of the Year

This award went to Gary Lum, regional ambassador for Northern California and chair of the AOC East Bay Chapter of AWS.

In addition to meticulous planning for his own chapter’s meetings, Gary has actively supported growth of other chapters in his region. He completed WSET 3 wine judge training in 2019 and currently is in the final unit of the diploma (level 4), and he’s always willing to share his knowledge with others.

The nomination for Gary called him “a shining light in the [Bay Area] and in AWS itself. His significant knowledge is coupled with his being personable, enthusiastic, and helpful.” It also noted his “unique willingness to share and spread his knowledge to others.”

Chapter Chairs of the Year

David and Lorissa Vines, chapter chairs of the year

David and Lorissa Vines, chapter chairs of the year

David and Lorissa Vines of the Lake Hickory (NC) Chapter received this award. They were cited for their “determination, hard work, and effectiveness in growing the chapter, not just in membership, but through their innovation in bringing fresh and original content to our frequent tasting events.”

They increased chapter membership by roughly 10 percent during the last two years, began publishing a newsletter for members, and took on challenges such as organizing a Wine to Water event in April that assembled 28 water filtration kits to be delivered to various countries in desperate need of potable water.

Their nomination said, “They always maintained a very positive and friendly attitude towards all our members and guests. They are the embodiment of inclusiveness, valuing the contributions of everyone.”

Allen Shoup

Allen Shoup

Award of Merit

As announced earlier this year and featured in the October issue of AWS News, Allen Shoup received the AWS Award of Merit, which is the highest honor that the organization confers on wine industry practitioners, recognizing contributions that have strengthened the wine industry and improved the wine consumer experience. Allen received his award in absentia.

Sadly, Allen, who was forefather of the Washington wine industry, died at age 79 shortly after the conference concluded. You can read more here, here, and here about his amazing legacy of serving the wine industry in Washington and nationally.

Looking to the future

Michael Wanbickler (left) passes the thyrsus staff to Bill Stefan

Michael Wangbickler (left) passes the thyrsus staff to Bill Stefan

The National Conference also was the occasion to symbolically pass the president’s thyrsus staff (as seen in the nearby photo) to incoming President Bill Stefan from outgoing President Michael Wangbickler. Bill will officially take over at the beginning of 2023 for a 2-year term

Bill is an AWS Certified Wine Judge, student, writer, speaker, and amateur winemaker who believes in the AWS mission of promoting the appreciation of wine through education. He will move up from the vice president’s position, as is customary on the AWS board. Taking his place as vice president for 2023–2024, and thus in line to become president in 2025, is Eric Feldhake, who was elected during membership balloting in October.

Finally, and not least, we announced that the 2023 National Conference will be November 9–11, 2023, in St. Louis, Missouri.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to planning and executing on next year’s event!

Winemaker competitions keep the AWS legacy alive

Thanks to all those folks who helped with this year’s competition.

Beginning with the team that checked in roughly 450 amateur wines at Tiger Mountain, the wine warehouse gave up valuable space to allow our wines to have a home before the competition began. Next are the folks who organized the wine at the competition and poured it using the Coravin Preservation System®; not many people see their hard work, but it is invaluable to a smooth competition. Then, there are our judges; putting their palates to the test, working all day to analyze and provide helpful guidance to those who entered.  And most important, the winemakers who submitted wines for evaluation. Winemakers founded AWS; our competition keeps that legacy alive.

We recognized many of the winemakers at the conference. For those who were not present, we mailed their medals and the judges’ comments. If you’re wondering whether your favorite amateur winemaker received one of 350+ awards, you can click the button below for a complete list.

Amateur Wine Competition

I’m always looking for new ways to conduct the competition to make it run more smoothly and provide more value to the submitting winemakers. In addition, for those who want to become involved, I’m more than willing to pass your contact information to the Competition Coordinator to get you onto our team.

Looking ahead, all judges’ notes again will be scanned and then reviewed for quality control. This exercise and resulting suggestions will help me lay the groundwork in the next month for the 2023 Amateur Wine Competition in St. Louis, Missouri.

As always, should you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, please drop me a note at my Amateur Wine Competition email address.

May you have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and, of course, wine!

Vince Williams
Chair, Amateur Wine Competition

Commercial Wine Competition

The American Wine Society also conducts a Commercial Wine Competition featuring both AWS trained and certified judges and professional experts from all aspects of the wine industry who evaluate submissions. You can see the results of this competition by clicking the button below.

Commercial Wine Competition

Member Service notes

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone at the National Conference in Bellevue, Washington, this year. We’ve had a lot of great follow up conversations since. We are happy to provide chapters with any marketing materials they need for the new year or information about our programs; please just reach out.AWS conference logo for St. Louis, Missouri

Also, be sure to save the dates for our next National Conference, November 9-11, 2023, in St. Louis, Missouri. I know it seems like a long time away, but it will be here before we know it.

Importantly, keep in mind that we are in the membership renewal period. If you are not on auto-renew (always the easiest way to keep your membership up to date), it may be time to renew your membership.

You can login to your profile anytime to make sure your information is up to date and your membership is current. If you have trouble logging in, call me at 570344-3640 or send an email to We want to make sure your membership stays active so you don’t miss any upcoming events in your local chapter.

Complete your holiday shopping with our swag

Are you looking for the perfect gift for that wine-lovin’ friend?! Then, you’ll want American Wine Society swag, of course!

By ordering through our partner website, you can get sweatshirts, t-shirts, bags, polo shirts and more … all with the AWS logo.

Order here  Cap with AWS logo

Your gift will be the grand cru of all the presents given this year! Oh, and don’t forget about the gift of an AWS membership. Who wouldn’t love to be part of this wonderful, wine swirling-and-twirling family?!

Sitting around a cozy fire, ringing in the holidays and New Year all decked out in AWS garb, sharing your favorite bottle of wine…. now that would make a fabulous holiday card!

Colleen Reardon
Member service manager

2022 National Tasting Project concludes a successful year

Thanks to all of the 66 chapters participating in this year’s 2022 National Tasting Project (NTP), featuring Sicilian wines.

I hope you enjoyed the wines and the new website containing educational materials; grape details; producer profiles and technical sheets; a food and wine pairing guide plus recipes; wine pronunciations; online presentation; reference websites; and online score submission.

You can see the winning wines and the national average top scores by clicking on the buttons below.

National Medals

National Averages – Top Scores

Mike Blake

Mike Blake, NTP coordinator

If you are interested in next year’s NTP, please visit the National Tasting website here. To join next year’s NTP if you haven’t yet registered with the NTP website, simply go to . You must be an AWS member and either a chapter chair, Regional Ambassador (RA), or NTP organizer to receive the most recent NTP updates.

Any chapter or AWS member can organize an NTP. It’s fun to taste, judge, discuss, and compare scores. Not enough members in your chapter? Make it a Zoom NTP!

Need more information? Contact me by email at

I’m looking forward to next year’s Southern Rhone theme! And watch for technical improvements to NTP website navigation, presentation, and score recording.

AWSEF scholarship applications open January 1

Krsten Lindelow, President of AWSEF

Kristen Lindelow, President of AWSEF

The AWSEF annual scholarship application period opens January 1 and closes March 31. Be sure to spread the word to any folks in the industry who may know of graduate students doing wine-related research.

The application is based on academics and research. The application is online, with instructions, at Please contact Holly Tillis,, with any questions or comments.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our online Banfi bottle raffle (won by Mary Mastapeter) and in-person Silent Auction at the AWS Natoinal Conference in Bellevue, Washington. We hope to do even better in 2023!

It’s your contributions that allow us to award scholarships to worthy graduate students each year. Here’s wishing you all the very best holiday celebrations and the best year ever in 2023!

Explore Tuscany with the American Wine Society

Join us as we explore the Tuscan region of Italy this coming Spring – including an optional 3-night Rome pre-tour extensionItalian countryside

From March 28 to April 5, you can visit classic locations such as Montecatini Terme, Lucca, Florence, Pisa, and San Gimignano. And, you’ll tour multiple wineries and a cheese farm, take part in a genuine Italian cooking class, and visit historical settings ranging from the Renaissance period to World War II.

Plus, you can extend your vacation with an optional 5-day, 3-night tour of Rome.

For more information, including prices and a detailed itinerary, see the tour brochure or call Collette Travel Service at 800-581-8942 and refer to booking #1071672.

Buon viaggio!

Winemakers’ Corner: Play for time with the long, cold soak!

Kevin Kourofsky

Kevin Kourofsky

You may see mention of a ‘cold soak’ in wine magazines and winemaking articles, but what is it? What does it hope to accomplish?

It’s really a pre-fermentation maceration of white or red grapes designed to enhance varietal character and extract valuable phenols, tannins and anthocyanins.

Read more here from Kevin Kourofsky regarding why the importance of this step can’t be overstated, especially in thin skinned varietals such as Pinot Noir or Sangiovese, as an easy way to improve the color, aroma and taste of finished wine.

Chapter events

The Bristow (VA) Chapter met on October 9 for tasting of Pinot Noir wines presented by Al Guber, the chapter chair. The tasting included representative wines from Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon, and California. Tasting was done blind, and attendees were asked to identify the descriptor for the wine and the origin. The consensus of the 15 attendees was a strong bias toward fruity California versions of Pinot Noir.

  • 2019 Jean Chartron Bourgogne France, $23
  • 2019 Rabbit Ranch Central Otago New Zealand, $32
  • 2020 Elk Cove Willamette Valley, Oregon, $32
  • 2018 Menage a Trois Luscious California, $10 (1)
  • 2020 Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne France, $24
  • 2019 Brooks Willamette Valley Oregon, $28
  • 2020 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands California, $28 (3)
  • 2018 Mt. Beautiful North Canterbury New Zealand, $28
  • 2018 Reustle Winemakers Reserve Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40
  • 2018 Kosta Browne Santa Lucia Highlands California, $90 (2)

The Fleur de Lis Chapter of Louisville (KY) held its September 2022 tasting, which was hosted by David and Alicia Scheu. The theme was Battle of the Valleys. Six wines were poured blind.

  • 2017 Outpost Zinfandel Howell Mountain, Napa, CA, $55 (1)
  • 2017 Martinelli Giuseppe & Louisa Zinfandel, Sonoma, CA, $58 (2)
  • 2012 Hawkes Cabernet Sauvignon Pyramid Vineyard, Sonoma, CA, $75 (3)
  • 2016 La Crema Fog Veil Pinot Noir, Sonoma, CA, $62
  • 2016 Truchard Pinot Noir Old Block, Napa, CA, $65
  • 2012 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District, Napa, CA, $75

Members of the Glimmerglass Chapter of Cooperstown (NY) gathered at the home of new chapter chairs Jeff and Audrey Murray for a vertical tasting of Black Russian Red from the collection of chapter member Peter Frisch.

Black Russian Red was produced by McGregor Vineyards in New York’s Finger Lakes from 1991 to 2017. It is a blend of Saperavi and Sereksiya, two Old World varietals from the Republic of Georgia and Moldova that are cold-tolerant. Bob and Marge McGregor first planted these grapes in 1980, using scion wood from grapes that Dr. John McGrew of the USDA had imported from Russia in the late 1950s to 1960s time frame.

Saperavi grapes have a deep black skin, pinkish juice and significant acidity (the name translates as “dye”). Sereksiya (a synonym of “Bablacă Neagr,” meaning grandmother’s black in Romanian) is known for its fruitiness and high acidity. Together, they produce a very balanced wine.

The tasting included vintages 2000 to 2006; vintages from 2007 to 2012 will be tasted at a later date.

  • 2000—faded red color, funky off odor, fruity
  • 2001—cherry red color, funky aroma (Bret?), chewy texture
  • 2002—even red color, faint musty nose, fruity, integrated tannins
  • 2003—medium red, full body and very fruity
  • 2004—Bright red color, ripe plum and raisin taste, smooth texture (3)
  • 2005—Super black color, berry and smoke nose, full body (2)
  • 2006—Dark red color, vegetal, herbal, mint flavors, well balanced (1)

Tasting from old to younger, the color change was obvious as it became darker and brighter in the younger wines. The tipping point was with the 2004, in which everything seemed to come together, and the ‘05 and ‘06 were even more balanced.

The Lehigh Valley (PA) Chapter explored 2 California wine regions: Sonoma in the North Coast AVA and Paso Robles from the Central Coast AVA.

Hosts Kathy and Mark Breloff provided a “bottle to bottle” comparison (Sonoma vs Paso Robles), tasting 5 different varietals from each region: Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend. A Pinot Grigio icebreaker and 10 wines were poured, tasted and scored. The top 3 wines were:

  • Harvey & Harriet Blend, Paso Robles, 2019, $28 (1)
  • Justin Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles,2019, $22 (2)
  • BACA Double Dutch Zinfandel, Paso Robles, 2019, $30 (3)

This tasting was followed by a delicious meal at Ecco Domani Italian Restaurant. Everyone enjoyed the company, the food, and the wine.

The Napa/Solano (CA) Chapter held its inaugural meeting on September 17, 2022, at the home of its co-founders, Howard and Skippy (Evelyn) Paul. Eighteen local wine lovers met and were joined by Gary and Mitchell Lum. Gary is the regional VP of AWS and, between tasting the white and the red wines, he was able to talk about the value of AWS membership. Many in the group were already members and more members are sure to follow.

True to the new chapter’s name, wines from Napa and Solano counties were tasted in pairs and scored. Members of the new chapter were introduced to the AWS 20-point scoring system and all wines were scored and discussed. Solano County wines mostly come from Suisun Valley, with one wine from Green Valley. These are the valleys directly to the South and East of Napa on the other side of the Vacca Mountain range that is the Eastern border of Napa Valley. Wines were matched for year and cost. Solano County wines were mostly from smaller and lesser-known vintners and wineries, faced off against well-known and established Napa wineries.

  • Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc (3)
  • Emmolo (Camus) Sauvignon Blanc
  • Stags Leap Karia Chardonnay
  • Wooden Valley Chardonnay
  • Green and Red Zinfandel, (Chiles Mill)
  • Plough Family Estate Zinfandel (1-tie)
  • AXR Red (Bordeaux) Blend (1-tie)
  • Wedgewood Vintners Symphony (2)

On September 25, the North Wake (NC) Chapter met and tasted at Heritage View Clubhouse in Wake Forest with 35 members attending. Chapter secretary Sally Albrecht presented 7 wines, all made by women winemakers.

North Wake (NC) ChapterThe regions represented were France (Bordeaux), California, Italy (Tuscany), and Argentina (Mendoza). They learned that as of 2020, approximately 14% of 4,200 California wineries surveyed reported a woman as their lead winemaker. Three have been inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Women are listed as owners or co-owners of 38% of California wineries.

We tasted two wines by Michele D’Aprix, a New Yorker, who is the only American woman making wines in Bordeaux. Laura Catena, co-maker of one of our top-rated wines, has been called “the face of Argentine wine.” The other winner, Intercept Cabernet Sauvignon, by Amanda Gorter, is from the winery of former NFL football player Charles Woodson. All the wines were well received, and the presentation was informative and enjoyable.

  • 2021 Pierre Angulaire Bordeaux Blanc Sauvignon Blanc $16 (4) Michele D’Aprix (American)
  • 2020 Black Girl Magic Riesling $23 (7) Andrea and Robin McBride
  • 2019 Verada Tri-County Pinot Noir Reserve $20 (5) Alison Crowe
  • 2018 Montenidoli Sangiovese $28 (6) Elisabetta Fagiuoli
  • 2016 Pentimento Bordeaux Rouge $30 (3) Michele D’Aprix
  • 2019 Charles Woodson’s Intercept Cabernet Sauvignon $20 (1 – tie) Amanda Gorter
  • 2019 Luca Old Vine Malbec $35 (1 – tie) Laura Catena/Luis Reginato

The Ocean Isle Beach (FL) Chapter welcomed 56 members to the September Ocean Isle Beach AWS meeting celebrating “these are a few of my favorite things wines!”Ocean Isle (FL) Beach Chapter

Club members Steve and Barb Taylor led the group in an evening interlaced with wine-themed music and educational tastings focused on a few of their favorite wines. A highlight of the evening was the extremely rare Saint Macaire wine, one of the original, but considered lost, noble red grapes of Bordeaux. Hanna Winery, in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, has one-half acre devoted to growing this very rare grape varietal. Members were extremely delighted to hear about this unique grape and experience a very special tasting.

Those gathered helped close out the evening with a mini wine auction raising $220 to support the Ocean Isle Beach Chapter AWS Scholarship Fund.

The Ocean Isle (FL) Chapter members and Certified Wine Judge Carol Maher took the group on a mini tour with select wines from the Yadkin Valley AVA through her presentation “A Taste of North Carolina Wines.” Certified Wine Judge Carol MaherSeveral of the wineries have been featured in On The Vine and Our State magazines.

Samples were poured of:

  • Sparkling “Vino di Lusso,” Piccione Vineyards, Ronta NC, $36
  • 2018 Petit Manseng, Jones von Drehle, Thurmond NC, $30
  • 2020 Chardonel, Fire Clay Cellars, Siler City NC, $28
  • 2019 Chardonnay, Laurel Gray Vineyards, Hamptonville, NC, $32
  • 2021 Jolo Pink Rosé Blend, Jolo Winery, Pilot Mountain NC, $32
  • 2015 Cabernet Franc, Jones von Drehle, Thurmond NC, $26
  • 2021 Crimson Creek Chambourcin, Jolo Winery, Pilot Mtn NC, $44
  • 2018 Chambourcin Reserve, Fire Clay Cellars, Siler City NC, $28
  • 2017 Petit Verdot, Jones von Drehle, Thurmond NC, $36

The Piedmont Wine and Vine (SC) Chapter met on September 25 at the home of Linda and Randy Hurteau in Spartanburg. Twenty members attended a tasting of various white and red blends from France and South Africa. The idea was to see how the blends brought about an unusual, more mellow or unique wine. Food was served with the second red, which may have influenced the vote on it being a favorite.

  • NV Rasteau Cotes Du Rhone Prestige (Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Clairette, Roussanne), France, $13
  • NV Domaine Marcel Deiss Blanc “Complantation (field blend of up to 13 Alsatian varieties), France, $30 (favorite white)
  • 2019 Bastide Miraflors Veilines Vignes (Syrah and Grenache), France, $17
  • 2019 Sean Minor Nicole Marie (Merlot, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah), France, $18 (favorite red)
  • 2019 Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend (Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc), South Africa, $18

The Princeton (N.J) Chapter held a tasting hosted by MaryLou and Bill Spang. The theme was Around the World in Chardonnays. Ten wines were sampled from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Hungary, South Africa, Spain and the United States. First place went to France: 2020 Joseph Drouhin, St. Veran, Burgundy. Two wines tied for second place: 2018 Santa Ema Reserve from Chile and 2019 Glenelly Winery, Glass Collection, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Honorable mention went to the Champagne starter, NV Drappier Blanc de Blancs Brut, Urville, France.

The Walt Whitman (NJ) Chapter tasting in October 2022 was hosted by Rosemary and Michael DiNatale, featuring DOCG Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine. The tasting was at Il Fiore Restaurant in Collingswood which presented a fabulous 6-course dinner to accompany outstanding wines.

  • 2016 Cantina Chiacchiera Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $34.98
  • 2016 Valdipiatta Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $27.99
  • 2016 Villa Sant’Anna Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $32.98
  • 2016 Poliziano Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $29.99 (3)
  • 2016 Carpineto Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $26.98 (2)
  • 2016 Avignonesi Vino di Montepulciano DOCG, $19.98 (1)

On Sunday, November 13, 26 enthusiastic members of the Syracuse (NY) Chapter were hosted by the I.M. Pei designed Everson Art Museum in downtown Syracuse. Between admiring the art exhibits, the group tasted 8 wines — all blends traditional or unusual.

The wines were paired with food provided by the museum. The group tasted 4 white blends and 4 red blends from Lebanon, Spain, Portugal, Italy, South Africa, and the U.S. The favorite white was Muga from Rioja, Spain, and the favorite red was Michael David Petite Petit from Lodi, California. The wines tasted were:

  • 2019 Tranche Pape Blanc (Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette Blanc, Picpoul, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc), Walla Walla Valley, WA, $28
  • 2020 Muga Rioja Blanca (Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca) Alta Rioja, Spain DOC, $17
  • 2021 Kloovenburg The Gatekeeper (Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne), Swartland, South Africa, $14
  • 2020 Ménage à Trois Exotic Blend (Chardonnay, Muscat, Chenin Blanc), St. Helena, CA, $10
  • 2018 Massaya Le Columbier (Grenache, Cinsault, Tempranillo), Beqaa Valley, Lebanon, $16
  • 2018 Avignonesi Cantoloro Toscana (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot), Tuscany, Italy IGT, $10
  • 2019 Michael David Petite Petit (Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot), Lodi CA, $18
  • Symington Warre’s Warrior Reserve Ruby Port (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao, Tinta Barroca), Douro Valley, Portugal, $15

On October 16, the John Marshall (VA) Chapter met at Pearmund Cellars for its monthly meeting. The chapter hosted Sharon Houy, a guest speaker from Monterey, CA. She sourced the wines directly from the wineries in Monterey, giving us wines that we would not be able to taste in the D.C. area.

Pearmund Cellars

Pearmund Cellars

Sharon came to us with a breadth of wine credentials. She is the author of Decanting Monterey – A Central Coast Wine Blog – Demystifying Monterey and Central Coast Wines for Consumers and Friends, and has decades of first-hand knowledge exploring the many wineries, vintners, tasting rooms and wines of Monterey County. She shares her passion as a volunteer wine educator for wine classes in the Washington, D.C., area and was recently appointed as a Board Advisor to the Monterey Chapter of the AWS. She is Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 1 Certified.

Her stories are very local and wines selected were based on personal relationships she has developed with local vintners and tasting room staff. She relies on the Monterey Vintners and Growers Association for facts and figures on Monterey wine, as well as the annual Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report.

For the whites, Sharon started the class with the 2017 Tassajara Road Viognier (a Chesebro product), Arroyo Seco AVA. She felt the Virginia crowd would appreciate a good California Viognier. The two Chardonnays demonstrated the breadth of style from Monterey County: The 2019 Diora La Splendeur du Soleil, from their vineyards in San Bernabe and the renowned Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs, was a unique, toasty twist on the expected buttery Chardonnay wine. In contrast, the 2018 Caraccioli Cellars Escolle Vineyard Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands was a good example of how a sparkling wine producer might make a more acidic and lemony Chardonnay.

Sharon Houy

Sharon Houy

Always seeking the educational factor in her presentations, Sharon talked about the impact of California wildfires on the 2020 vintage, resulting in winemakers getting creative about how to repurpose their red, smoke tainted grapes. The 2020 Chesebro Gamay Rosé, Arroyo Seco AVA, as an example, was made from the Gamay grape for the first time, instead of their usual choice of Grenache.

Moving into the reds, Sharon selected the 2019 Idle Hour Clone 667 Pinot Noir, Griva Vineyard, Arroyo Seco AVA. This wine, from a small women-owned winery in Oakhurst, California, is fuller bodied than a typical Central Coast Pinot Noir. For the first time, Sharon was able to present a wine from the San Antonio Valley AVA down near the border with Paso Robles. The 2017 Pierce Ranch Maçon, is composed of 53% Petit Verdot, 30% Tempranillo, and 17% Graciano. She also included a rare bottling of the 2018 Boëté Reserve Merlot, Carmel Valley AVA. Thanks to deep industry discounts, she included 2 of Mark Bunter’s (Bunter Spring) big red blends: the 2018 Spring Red Wine “Garagitage,” Highlands Vineyard, Monterey County (76% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon) and the 2018 Spring “Pizza Wine,” Highlands Vineyard, Monterey (65% Zinfandel, 35% Syrah). She wrapped up the evening with the 2014 Chesebro La Montagne Sauvage, CM Ranch Vineyard, Carmel Valley, a Rhône-style blend of 80% Syrah, 15% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre.

She wrapped up the presentation by encouraging attendees to visit Monterey Wine Country by highlighting the primary wine tasting areas of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley Village, Monterey, and the River Road Wine Trail in Salinas Valley. We very much enjoyed Sharon’s presentation. We hope she comes back in the future.


Adrienne Turner

To have your event included in the AWS News, e-mail your tasting results to me at Please follow the format specified for Chapter Events, which you can download from the AWS website. Include the cost of the wines you tasted, plus scores or rankings. This information lets other members know what you liked and which wines were good values.

AND … Please send us sharp, interesting pictures from your event. We would love to share those, too.

–Adrienne Turner, Chapter Events editor

AWS News Staff We welcome your comments and suggestions.
Jack Kraft, Editor
Adrienne Turner, Chapter Events Editor
Mike Blake, NTP Coordinator
Kevin Kourofsky, Winemakers’ Corner
Kristen Lindelow, AWSEF
Diane Meyer, Conference Planner Diane@AmericanWineSociety