Historic contributions by the Red Mountain wine industry will be in the spotlight for the second straight year at the Auction of Washington Wines with Scott Williams of Kiona Vineyards chosen to serve as the 2019 Honorary Grower.
A year ago, Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas, a neighbor of the Williams family on Red Mountain, was named the auction’s Honorary Vintner. This year, the Honorary Vintner is Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery and Ashan Cellars in Woodinville.
“We’re thrilled to recognize Chris and Scott because for years, they’ve worked tirelessly to lift up the Washington wine community,” board director Ted Baseler stated in a news release. “Chris’ commitment to producing high-quality, award-winning wines – as well as Scott’s contribution to some of the most lauded wineries on the West Coast — made our decision to honor them this year an easy one.”
Both will be feted Saturday, Aug. 17 during The Gala for the Auction of Washington Wines. Their duties that week begin Thursday, Aug. 15 with the Winemaker Picnic and Barrel Auction at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, however, the year-round schedule of events tied to the 32nd annual Auction of Washington Wines takes off in April with the Spring Winemaker Dinners throughout Seattle and then the Vineyard Dinner on May 31 at Kiona Vineyards.
A year ago, Kiona Vineyards was selected as the 2018 Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine.Auction officials make their selections based on leadership in the industry and contributions to the Washington wine community. The positions are nominated by peers. Last year’s Honorary Grower was Marshall Edwards of Shaw Vineyards and Northwest Vineyard Management.
“Being named honorary vintner made 2018 a positive and eventful year,” Hoppes said. “We value the Auction of Washington Wines’ partnership with growers and vintners of Washington state, both big and small. I’m happy to welcome Scott and Chris into the circle of those of us who have been honored by the Auction of Washington Wines – their recognition is well-deserved.”
Auction of Washington Wines moves to No. 3 in U.S.
Allen Shoup, an inductee into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame, helped create the Auction of Washington Wines during his 17-year career as CEO of what is now Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. During its history, the auction has raised more than $45 million for Seattle Children’s Hospital and wine research at Washington State University.
Wine Spectator magazine recently ranked it No. 3 among live charity-driven wine auctions in the United States after having raised $2.7 million in 2018, edging out the Destin Charity Wine Auction in Florida and Sonoma County Wine Auction.
And yet, the Auction of Washington Wines continues to search for a long-term successor to Sherri Swingle, who served two stints as executive director between 2011 to 2017. Her replacement, Shelley Tomberg, and managing director Melissa Pederson recently moved on after helping the Auction of Washington Wines raise more than $4 million in 2017 and 2018.
Scott Williams grows for top wineries, including Kiona
Williams, whose parents were voted into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame in 2007, grew up in Richland a few minutes from his family’s vineyards on Red Mountain and graduated from WSU with a degree in agricultural engineering. His acclaimed work in the vineyard and as head winemaker for Kiona Vineyards has helped blaze the trail in Washington for varieties such as Syrah, Lemberger and Chenin Blanc.
As a grower, his customers include luminaries such Betz Family Winery, Fidelitas and Long Shadows Vintners. The family business spans more than 260 acres on Red Mountain, and he and his wife Vicky have the third generation firmly in place. One son, JJ serves as general manager. JJ’s younger brother, Tyler, will replace Scott as the head winemaker this fall after graduating from WSU’s wine program. Scott said he’s looking forward to spending more time in those storied vineyards.
“It’s flattering be to included in this fine group of grape growers,” Scott Williams said. “We’ve worked with Chris for a long time, and we know he’ll do a great job. Should be fun.”
Gorman builds brand with Kiona fruit
Gorman entered the wine industry in 1991 as a sales rep after graduating from Western Washington University. In 2002, he relied on Kiona Vineyards grapes to launch his eponymous brand in Woodinville, which has focused on reds from Red Mountain.
In 2008, Wine Spectator named him one of its 10 rising stars in the U.S. His 2014 Zachary’s Ladder, a proprietary red based on Red Mountain fruit, ranked No. 68 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list in 2017.