Sonoma County Vintners in collaboration with presenting sponsor American AgCredit will honor four Sonoma County Icons and Innovators during the Sonoma County Barrel Auction (SoCoBA) to be held at MacMurray Estate Vineyards on Friday, May 6, 2022. The Icons and Innovators have been named and will be recognized for their pioneering and forward-thinking contributions to Sonoma County and the wine community. During the event, a new collection of “never before, never again” wines from Sonoma County’s leading vintners will be auctioned to trade buyers.
“This event is an important program in elevating awareness of Sonoma County’s world-class wines for a national trade audience. It’s the perfect time to shine a light on the incredible talent and achievements of iconic and innovative vintners in our local wine community,” said Sonoma County Vintners Executive Director Michael Haney. “These individuals have forged a path for Sonoma County wines to be acclaimed globally and continue to improve winemaking and vineyard care techniques that are widely adopted. We are honored that they continue to care so deeply for their craft and share their expertise with our winemaking community.”
Sonoma County Icons are individuals who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of Sonoma County wine and have helped raise the global perception of Sonoma County wines. Sonoma County Innovators are visionaries, who are introducing new methods, ideas or products.
This year’s Icons and Innovators include:
Audrey Sterling, Co-Founder, Iron Horse Vineyards Icon
Audrey Sterling is the matriarch and standard-bearer of Iron Horse Vineyards, which she and Barry Sterling founded in 1976. Iron Horse was their vision and they were full partners in everything they did. In the early years, Audrey ran the winery and vineyard while Barry commuted from Los Angeles. It is hard to remember how pioneering it was to put down roots in western Sonoma County in the mid-1970s. The Sterlings knew the value of a cool climate for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their years in France and Audrey was familiar with the area from childhood summers on the Russian River. They were the pioneers of the Green Valley appellation. In 1983, the name of the applicant for federal recognition of Green Valley as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) was Audrey M. Sterling with her attorney of record, Barry H. Sterling.
Randy Ullom, Winemaster & Senior Vice President, Kendall-Jackson Icon
A legend in Sonoma County winemaking, Randy Ullom is known as a pioneer in the California Chardonnay movement. Prior to his time as Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster, Randy was Vice President, Winemaker at DeLoach Vineyards for more than 12 years where he helped grow the brand from four thousand cases to about 80 thousand cases of Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and White Zinfandel. Randy is now entering his 29th year with the Jackson family, spearheading all winemaking operations for Kendall-Jackson and the signature Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, America’s #1 selling Chardonnay since 1992. He has been a fixture in the Sonoma County wine scene for years, and his success stems from his deep-rooted passion for winemaking, hard work, and dedication. Randy is responsible for creating some of the most industry-leading initiatives in the wine space today, such as barrel-fermenting almost every drop of Chardonnay, an unprecedented commitment to artisanal winemaking techniques for a winery of considerable size.
Benziger Family, Benziger Family Winery Innovator
For more than 30 years the Benziger family has farmed their ranch on Sonoma Mountain, as well as other vineyards, using certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods. As innovative leaders in sustainability efforts, every wine in their portfolio carries a third-party certification of green farming practices. Created with the help of environmental experts, their certified-sustainable vineyard program is one of the most comprehensive in the country. The program, which emphasizes environmentally sound growing methods such as biodiversity, soil revitalization and Integrated Pest Management, shows growers how to cultivate grapes with more character, flavors and aromas with the goal of making better, genuinely distinctive wines. Benziger Family Winery was the first winery in Sonoma to be certified biodynamic and all four of the Benziger estate vineyards still hold the Demeter Biodynamic certification, the highest level of organic farming designed to focus on natural processes for minimal human intervention. The Benziger family uses their experience and insight to mentor a network of growers interested in farming in a way that cares for the land while producing quality wine.
Ames Morison, Co-founder, Medlock Ames Innovator
Ames Morison is the Co-founder of Medlock Ames winery. He spent three years in the Peace Corps in Guatemala which solidified his desire to be a vocal supporter of organic farming. Ames planted most of their 55-acre Bell Mountain vineyard site as well as supervised the winery’s construction. He is a pioneer in the area by farming organically and promotes healthy, living soil that nurtures, feeds and protects the vines and embraces age-old, low impact farming methods like crop diversity, which allow the vineyard to shine through in the fruit. Preservation of the land is the driving ethos for Ames, as well as educating his customers and the public about organic farming. Medlock Ames’ new Bell Mountain Immersive Sound Experience gives winery visitors another way to learn about sustainability and organic winemaking practices.
The Sonoma County Barrel Auction is a live auction featuring one-of-a-kind wine crafted specifically for licensed members of the trade. This year’s auction lots will be announced in March. For more information, head over to the official website.
Proceeds raised from the auction assist in creating Sonoma County Vintners marketing programs and initiatives that support the wine trade and community.