By Paul Vigna
The release, the Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemakers, is a one-day event.
But the collection of rising superstars in the beverage industry that’s assembled annually encompasses months of conversation before the list is completed and announced. That alone, says executive editor Susan Krostrzewa, produces this ongoing talent search that sharpens the radar of her staff to the diversity of talent that’s bubbling up around them nationally.
“We love doing it because it so much speaks to our brand,” she says. The fourth annual list was unveiled in late August. ”Obviously as a magazine, as a media brand, we’re very much about a slightly younger audience, progressive audience, people making change in the wine and spirits and beer industry. These are 100 percent the people we want to support and we’re doing projects with anyway. … If you think about it it’s sort of a trade-driven piece in that all of these people are really working in the industry but they’re doing things that impact the consumer, and will impact the consumer in interesting ways. So it’s a fun crossover between trade and consumer for us.”
The selections span both geography and niche: from the owner of a brewing company in Eugene, Ore. (Cheryl Collins) to a lecturer in food and beverage management at Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. (Cheryl Stanley) to the head of brewing operations at a producer in St. Louis (Emily Parker) to the outreach coordinator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture in Littleton (Kyle Schlachter).
Not only a blend of gender (17 are female) and age (from 29 to 39), the list puts the full breath of the industry on display, from beer and wine to cider and spirits to . . . marijuana. The latter is the partial domain of Tawnie Logan, the cofounder and chairman of the board of the Sonoma Growers Alliance and a member of the County of Sonoma Cannabis Advisory Group. With California permitting both medicinal cannabis and recreational weed, it has become the testing grounds for how that crop and grapes can co-exist, putting Logan in a unique spot that others across the country eventually will occupy. It’s a topic that drew hundreds to the one-day Wine & Weed Symposium that Wine Industry Network organized on the subject in early August. Said Logan in the Tastemakers piece, “Our two high-value crops will be learning how to collaborate, from resource sharing to cultural and lifestyle trends.”
All of which makes her perfect for the Tastemakers list, which Krostrzewa says focuses on the present, but also on people whose impact and scope are still developing. “Wine and weed to me, obviously with what Tania is doing was incredibly topical. This is just the right time for us to be talking about what she’s doing,” Krostrzewa says.
That recognition is as appreciated on the other side, says Devin Parr, the marketing director for Temecula Valley Wine Country whose backstory is as interesting as her assignment now, raising awareness of what she calls a “hidden-gem” wine region in southern California. A public relations pro for video games, she left that for culinary school in Florence and was smitten by wine. That brought her back to New York City, where she sold Italian wines, managed wine ships and launched an events business called Champagne & Hot Dogs before changing coasts.
“I hold Wine Enthusiast in the absolute highest regard, which is why being named one of their Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers was a career highlight for me,” Parr says. “They are one of the few publications to truly understand and further the notion that wine is part of a broader lifestyle – one that includes food and culture and entertainment. They are among the first to underscore that, yes, while wine can and should be taken seriously, it is also a product of pleasure and camaraderie.”
With this list pushed out online, in print and on social media, the process will start again, the names to be gathered over the next eight months and Krostrzewa’s team sitting down in the spring to identify the top candidates. “We’ll look at what they’re doing and obviously how they’re representing the trends that are relevant right now,” she says. Could that list move beyond the U.S. borders? They’re talking about it, she says. “You know, the fact is, we’re really a domestic magazine. Obviously, we cover international topics in wine but our readers are mainly in the U.S. So part of why we kept it domestically initially was that’s really where our focus is.”
While the magazine will begin looking toward its fifth list, Krostrzewa acknowledges that they’ll stay connected with the 160 individuals they have embraced so far, people whose ambition and talent will continue to elevate a profile that Wine Enthusiast helped to raise. “The thing that’s really great about it is that, from the first year on, people who are on this list really identify with being part of Wine Enthusiast. We stay in touch with all of them and they really have a loyalty to us and we have a loyalty to them. In some cases we’re the first larger brand to talk about them openly, and they really appreciate that. It’s a nice sort of reciprocal relationship that gets created.”