At the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition this past weekend, I was flattered to be honored by the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association with its Monteith Trophy, presented “to individuals or organizations that have performed exceptional contributions to the development and sustainability of the American wine industry by actively providing leadership and motivation in addressing both legislative and regulatory issues that confront the industry, supporting innovative and technical research in both the fields of enology and viticulture, also encouraging wine and health related studies, as well as contributing to consumer public wine education and appreciation through the arts, literature and the public media.”
Gordon Murchie, president emeritus of the AWSA, made the presentation, mentioning my writings about local and regional wines and my role in co-founding Drink Local Wine. Michael Birchenall summarizes Gordon’s tribute at Foodservicemonthly.com.
I’m in good company. The ASWA, originally called the Vinifera Wine Growers Association, first presented the trophy in 1980 to Dr. Konstantin Frank for his work in promoting vinifera grape varieties in the eastern United States. The trophy has also been presented to Margrit Mondavi, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Congressional Wine Caucus, and Bobby Koch, for his work as president of the Wine Institute.
I didn’t have any prepared remarks, but improvised a brief thank you, which went something like this (with the benefit of hindsight and what I should have said):
I am not the story. The winemakers who produce better wines each year are the story. The work of organizations like the ASWA and the judges who devote a weekend each year to evaluate wines from the East Coast — they are the story. The viticulturists, university extension experts who experiment with different grape varieties, trellising systems, and vineyard sites — they are the story. The consumers who are increasingly willing to try local wines with an open mind — they are the story. My job is to tell their story.
That said, when Jeff Siegel, “The Wine Curmudgeon,” and I started Drink Local Wine in 2008, we felt like we were beating our heads against a brick wall. Locavore restaurants ignored local wines. The Winestream Media ignored American wines that didn’t come from the West Coast. Our mission was to encourage wine writers to highlight their regional wines.
That has changed, dramatically. Today, it’s hard to go a few weeks without seeing a writeup of top wineries to visit or wines to try from around the country. Virginia seems to be the hot wine region, but Maryland, Texas and others are getting their share of ink, too. I’d like to think that Jeff and I, and our colleagues at Drink Local Wine, had a little to do with this. This trophy is theirs as well, though I’ll be sure to polish it before I give it back.