Pacific Northwest winemakers populate writer’s top 100 list

By on July 30, 2013
Lynn Penner-Ash worked at famed Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley before moving to Oregon in 1988 and becoming the state's first female head winemaker.

Lynn Penner-Ash worked at famed Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley before moving to Oregon in 1988 and becoming the state’s first female head winemaker. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Johnson Photography)

Pacific Northwest winemakers and vintners with close ties to the region made up 17 percent of‘s recent list of Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers.

Michael Cervin, a writer from California’s Central Coast, developed the list for He’s authored a series of travel books, most recently California Wine Country, and his résumé notes contributions to magazines such as Decanter, Tasting Panel, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits. He’s also a member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association and judges several California wine competitions.

Cervin’s blog devoted to adult beverages is BoozehoundZ. A quick search indicates the lone post related to Pacific Northwest wine in the past 12 months was made Dec. 23. It highlighted Columbia Gorge producer Naked Winery and reviewed the Wanderlust White from its Outdoor Vino brand, packaged  in an innovative lightweight, recyclable plastic bottle.

From a Northwest perspective, Cervin created an intriguing and not absurd list, although there are a number of surprising omissions from Walla Walla and the Willamette Valley. There’s a placement or two that are curious but at the same time refreshing and show some insight. And each entry includes a short, informative snapshot of the winemaker’s place in the history of American wine.

The Northwest mentions kick off at No. 95 with Ron Bitner (Bitner Vineyards, Caldwell, Idaho).

* No. 94, Garrit Stoltz (Stoltz Vineyards, Hood River, Ore.)

* No. 92, Steve Doerner (Cristom Vineyards, Salem, Ore.)

* No. 76, Caleb Foster (formerly of Buty Winery, Walla Walla, Wash.)

* No. 75, Charles Smith (Charles Smith Wines, Walla Walla)

* No. 73, Ben Smith (Cadence, Seattle)

* No. 59, Jim Bernau (Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, Ore.)

* No. 57, Bob Betz (Betz Family Winery, Woodinville, Wash.)

* No. 54, Wendy Stuckey (Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, Wash.)

* No. 49, Gregg Harrington (Gramercy Cellars, Walla Walla)

* No. 48, Cameron Hughes, a negociant who often reaches into the Northwest

* No. 46, Tony Soter (Soter Vineyards, Lafayette, Ore.)

* No. 40, Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Newberg, Ore.)

* No. 33, Chris Camarda (Andrew Will Winery, Vashon, Wash.)

* No. 29, Rick Small (Woodward Canyon Winery, Lowden, Wash.)

* No. 11, Randall Grahm (whose history includes founding Pacific Rim Winery, West Richland, Wash.).

* No. 1 — Napa and Sonoma valley producers understandably crowded everyone else out of the top 10. However, topping the list is Phillipe Melka, the Napa superstar from Bordeaux whose long list of winemaking partnerships includes the Pirouette label for Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla.

Most of us with an interest in sports, cars, music and/or wine find lists interesting, especially if you have a favorite or a friend who gets mentioned.

So who deserved or didn’t deserve to make Cervin’s top 100?

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.


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