Washington Winegrowers Honor Industry Leaders
The Washington Winegrowers Association recognized achievements of industry leaders last week at an Honor Luncheon during their annual Convention & Trade Show in Kennewick. The annual awards included Grower of the Year, Industry Service, Lifetime Achievement, and the Grand Vin award. About 2,000 state, national, and international participants from the grape and wine industry attended.
Grower of the Year
Mike Andrews, owner of Coyote Canyon Vineyards and Winery, received the Erick Hanson Memorial Winegrape Grower of the Year Award for demonstrated viticultural skills that provide impact in the vineyard and in the bottle. Andrews has been growing grapes for more than 20 years and has consistently produced brilliant results. His grapes have been part of numerous 90-point wines from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In the award presentation, it was noted he understands grape growing from a vintner’s perspective and treats all grapes as if they are destined for reserve wines. Andrews’ hybrid of machine and hand labor has allowed his vineyard to evolve while maintaining perennial quality. A common comment from visitors to Coyote Canyon is that it is one of the best-kept vineyards they’ve ever seen.
Tom Waliser, owner of Beresan Winery, received the Industry Service Award for a lifetime of effective service to and for the grape and wine industry. Waliser was actually one of the first growers in the Walla Walla area to plant ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’ apples, and was instrumental in bringing new apple varieties and high-density plantings to the area. Shortly after he started with winegrapes, he became a local authority — consulting on planting and managing vineyards. Waliser has planted more winegrape acres in the Walla Walla Valley appellation than anyone. He has trained many of the vineyard managers who now oversee the competition and some orchard managers over the past 20 years, teaching young men and women in the vineyard, the what, the how, and the why.
Paul Champoux, former owner of the famed Champoux vineyards, received the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize his work as a pioneer of the Washington grape and wine industry. Champoux is one of the state’s most respected vineyard experts with more than 40 years of experience. As a forerunner in the industry, he worked to produce the same quality of grape for the winemaker. He took unbelievable chances to get highest-quality, sought-after crops, and kept his nose to the grindstone and made a difference, making a legacy.
Rick Small, owner of Woodward Canyon Winery, was awarded the Grand Vin Award, for making a significant impact on the winery, the wine, the brand, or the process. Small has done them all. With deep agricultural roots in the Walla Walla Valley, Small believes strongly that the quality of the wine starts in the vineyard and that one must never compromise by cutting corners. He is known for setting a standard of quality, collaboration, and camaraderie amongst Washington wineries. Studying agriculture at WSU and then going back to school for architecture, Small never planned to grow grapes or make wine. But then curiosity got the best of him after seeing work being done at Chateau Ste. Michelle and his passion for wine began. He started planting winegrapes at his family wheat farm at Woodward Canyon, educated himself about viticulture, and through lots of trial and error, started crafting award-winning wine. For many, it’s impossible to imagine the Walla Walla wine valley without Small and his family.