I am beyond humbled to have been recognized with a Toast! Award for ‘Wine Industry Champion’ as part of this year’s Auction of Washington Wines. The Auction is in its 35th year and has raised over $55M to provide money for Seattle Children’s HospitalWashington State University’s Viticulture & Enology program, and the Auction of Washington Wines’ Industry Grant

Each year the Auction has recognized an honorary grower and vintner. This year the Auction expanded the award program and created an event to celebrate honorees, taking place on August 11th. 
Auction executive director Jamie Peha wrote “This evening we recognize individuals and organizations who have given the best of themselves to ensure the on-going success of the industry. From those who have put Washington state on the world stage to get us to where we are today, to the next generation who will build on these successes and lead us into the future.” Recipients were nominated and final selections were made by a judging committee of industry peers.

Congratulations to the other individuals who were recognized: Bob Betz (Lifetime Achievement Award); Dick Boushey (Award of Distinction); Kevin Corliss (Honorary Grower); John Bookwalter (Honorary Vintner); Chateau Ste Michelle (Auction of Washington Wines Star Award); Washington Winegrowers (Healthy Land, Healthy Communities); Senator Kurtis King and Representative Larry Springer (Martin Clubb Washington Wine Hero Award); Patrick Rawn (Vine to Wine); Lacey Lybecker, Sadie Drury, Andrew Januik, and Shae Frichette (Emerging Leaders); and honorary chairs Marchese Piero Antinori (Marchesi Antinori SpA), Renzo Cotarella (Marchesi Antinori SpA), and Marvin Shanken (Wine Spectator).

Below are the remarks that I prepared in accepting the award. To those in the industry who weren’t at the event, these words are for you. What I said at the time varied slightly, but both came from the heart.

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It’s a long time ago now, but in the year 2000 I moved to Seattle from Boston, leaving behind a career in medicine and research. I can honestly say I had no idea what I was going to do next.

If you had told me then that pretty soon I would be spending all my time writing about Washington wine, I would never have believed it. I didn’t even know Washington made wine and didn’t know anything about wine other than I liked to drink it occasionally. If you told me that today I would be standing here in front of you all receiving an award for that work, I wouldn’t have believed that either.

But almost immediately after moving to the Northwest I began a love affair with Washington wine. I was captivated by the youth of the region and by the sense of possibility.

I was captivated by the quality of the wines I was tasting, yes. But most of all I was captivated by the people, their stories, and their passion for what they were doing.

So in 2004 I started writing about and reviewing wines under the name Washington Wine Report. Today, 18 years later, I continue to be driven by people growing, making, and marketing wine in this state. By the people who have made Washington’s industry what it is today and what it will be tomorrow.

And that is all of you. The truth is, I would not be up here today if it were not for each of you.

You inspired me when I first moved out here 22 years ago looking for a new direction in my life. You continue to inspire me today. Not just the wines you make but the people that you are.

You are truly the ones deserving recognition. I have merely been the messenger telling your stories. But telling those stories has been the greatest privilege of my life.

Thank you all for letting me into your cellars, for walking with me in your vineyards, and for sharing your stories and your passion.

Thank you for listening to me talk endlessly about cork taint, wine temperature, and smoke impact. Thank you for letting me ride along with you on the journey of Washington wine.

I want to thank my wife Annie for her love and support. I also want to thank my friend Patrick Skillings who unknowingly launched my wine writing career by sharing my reviews with some friends. Thank you to the people who nominated me for this award. I’m truly grateful.

Please, keep making the wines and I promise to keep telling your stories and keep championing Washington wine. Thank you so much!

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Pictured here from left to right: Curtis King (Senator, Washington), Shane Collins (Washington Winegrowers), David Dearie (Chateau Ste Michelle), Kevin Corliss (Ste Michelle Wine Estates), Lacey Lybecker (Cairdeas Winery), Andrew Januik (Januik, Andrew Januik), Larry Springer (Representative (Washington), Patrick Rawn (Two Mountain Winery), Bob Betz, MW, Dick Boushey (Boushey Vineyards), Shae Frichette (Frichette), Renzo Cotarella (Marchesi Antinor SpA), Vicky Scharlau (Washington Winegrowers), Sean Sullivan (Washington Wine Report), and John Bookwalter (J. Bookwalter). Picture by Annie Sullivan.