Nine key figures and two organizations were recognized for contributions to the global success of Oregon wine, culminating with Lifetime Achievement awards given to Kevin and Carla Chambers
PORTLAND, OR February 23, 2021 — Nine individuals and two organizations were recognized as leaders of Oregon’s wine industry during the 17th Oregon Wine Symposium on February 16-19, 2021, held virtually for the first time in its history. More than 1,100 wine professionals and guests attended the Symposium this year, and the industry awards held at the end of three days marked a perfect occasion to champion the advancement of Oregon’s $7 billion wine industry.
Two winners were presented with the awards for Vineyard Excellence. First, Esteban Ramos, field operations manager for Croft Vineyards, has worked for Croft for over two decades, said founder Lee Croft. Ramos, he said, is “the heart and soul of Croft Vineyards,” and gives special attention to growing beautiful grapes but also to planting flowers and shrubs from his own yard around the vineyard in his commitment to make it look great, too.
Said Ramos (translated from Spanish): “I want to thank each one of the organizers of this event, for giving me the time to be here with all of you. This is a big surprise that I am receiving. I am truly thankful to all of you, especially to my bosses, Mr. Chancy, Ms. Toni, Mr. Lee, and the whole Croft family, for giving me the opportunity and trust of working by their sides for 20 years. I also want to thank my co-workers that have stood by my side all this time, to the tractor operators, my son Miguel, Roberto, and all my workers.”
Antonio Mendez-Leon, vineyard manager of Eola Hills Wine Cellars, was also awarded with the Vineyard Excellence designation. He began his career with Eola Hills in 1996 planting trees, and vineyard operations manager Kate Taylor at One Love Cellars called him “The prince of Pinot noir,” noting Mendez-Leon has been in the Oregon wine industry most of his life. “I love what I do,” he said.
Board Service Award
The 2021 Board Service Awards went to Kevin Chambers and Barbara Steele, both exiting their posts as Directors of the nine-member, governor-appointed Oregon Wine Board at the end of last year. Having served two terms, 2005-2007 and 2017-2020, Chambers has been described as the historian of Oregon wine, and Bob Morus, of Phelps Creek Vineyard and chairman emeritus of OWB, pointed out his service goes back to the 1980s when Chambers volunteered for the OWB’s predecessor organization, the Oregon Wine Advisory Board.
Steele, who with her husband Bill Steele founded Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden in 2002, was also awarded the Board Service Award. Morus said she brought analytical expertise to the Board with innate ability to find unique workable solutions.
Receiving the Founders Award was Doyle Hinman in the South Willamette Valley, who first planted vines in Oregon in 1972. Friend Bruce Biehl presented Hinman with the award, thanking him for support and involvement in the wine industry, and for his dedication, achievement, and passion for Oregon wine. In 2005, the Hinman family, including Doyle’s wife, Sue Ann, and their three children, Chelsea, Brady and Cody, established DW Hinman Cellars and the Five H brand with global distribution.
A trio of wine industry leaders from the Willamette Valley were recognized for Outstanding Leadership: Leigh Bartholomew of Dominio IV and Results Partners, Anthony King of Ratio Wines and Mike McNally of Fairsing Vineyards. In their acceptance speeches, all mentioned the Oregon Wine Board for navigating challenging years, as well as the governor’s task force, which worked tirelessly to develop winery and vineyard-specific guidelines helping the state’s wine business owners navigate the COVID crisis.
Dual awards were given for exceptional performance as wine Industry Partners. First, Oregon Wine Board chair and cofounder of Winderlea Vineyard and Winery Donna Morris awarded the team at law firm Davis Wright Tremaine for their “collaborative approach and positive influence on the success of the Oregon wine industry. They never failed us. They always answered our calls and provided us with the guidance, the counsel and common-sense approach we needed in these most difficult times.”
Following that, Justin King of King Estate and an OWB Director awarded the Oregon Wine Research Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) with the second Industry Partner award. Recipients Dr. Alan Sams and Dr. F King Alexander at OSU acknowledged the OWB grants that further their role “to advance the research, teaching and extension and support of the future of Oregon wine.”
For the industry’s highest honor, Kevin and Carla Chambers were bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement award. Earl and Hilda Jones of Abacela presented the award to the couple, pointing to their success with businesses Oregon Vineyard Supply, Results Partners and Willamette Crossflow, which Earl Jones noted as all solution-oriented businesses. In 1990 the couple bought and developed the Résonance Vineyard in Carlton which is now owned by France’s Maison Louis Jadot. With a host of civic involvement commitments, the two continue to run and pour their energies into Koosah Farm in the Eola-Amity Hills.
In accepting, Kevin Chambers expressed gratitude, service to other people, and learning amidst challenges. “Oregon wine is worth the effort,” he said. Carla continued the acceptance with her excitement to grow Chardonnay for the first time at Koosah Farm, a generational farm for their family.
All awards presentations for 2021 and acceptance speeches are here on the OWB Industry site.
About the Oregon Wine Board
The Oregon Wine Board is a semi-independent Oregon state agency managing marketing, research, and education initiatives that support and advance the Oregon wine and wine grape industry. The Board works on behalf of all Oregon wineries and independent growers throughout the state’s diverse winegrowing regions. To learn more, visit industry.oregonwine.org