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Honorees to Receive Lifetime Achievement, Icon and Innovator Awards from Sonoma County Vintners at Ninth Annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction

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Live Wine Trade Event at MacMurray Estate Vineyards

SANTA ROSA, CA (March 20, 2023) – Sonoma County Vintners, in collaboration with presenting sponsor American AgCredit, will honor Tom Klein, proprietor of Rodney Strong Vineyards, with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Sonoma County Barrel Auction (SoCoBA) at MacMurray Estate Vineyards on Friday, May 5, 2023. During the event, pioneering Sonoma County wine industry couple Lee Sr. and Carolyn Martinelli, owners of Martinelli Winery, will also be recognized as Sonoma County Icons and Theresa Heredia, Director of Winemaking at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, will be named as a Sonoma County Innovator. This year’s collection of “never before, never again” wines from Sonoma County’s leading vintners will be auctioned to trade buyers from across the country and around the world during SoCoBA.

2023 SoCoBA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Tom Klein

“This is a wonderful time to honor our outstanding vintners for their groundbreaking work and forward-thinking innovations that have elevated the entire industry,” said Sonoma County Vintners Executive Director Michael Haney. “We are grateful for their incredible contributions and continued support of our mission in keeping Sonoma County wines in the spotlight for wine lovers everywhere. Each year we are thrilled that national and international trade buyers travel to the SoCoBA events to bid on these world-class wines made by our Sonoma County vintner community.”

Lifetime Achievement Award recipients have made a significant impact in the wine community, pioneered new techniques with groundbreaking work, elevated Sonoma County and put Sonoma County wines on the world stage. Sonoma County Icons are individuals who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of Sonoma County wine. Sonoma County Innovators are visionaries, who are introducing new methods, ideas or products. They provide fresh insight and new ways of thinking about wine and Sonoma County that help shape the future of our wine region and industry.

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. Trade registration for the 2023 Sonoma County Barrel Auction is by invitation only and open now. To learn more visit SoCoBarrelAuction.com.

All previous Lifetime Achievement, Icon and Innovator honorees are listed online at SoCoBarrelAuction.com. Proceeds raised from the Sonoma County Barrel Auction assist in creating Sonoma County Vintners marketing programs and initiatives that support the wine trade and community.

ABOUT THIS YEAR’S SONOMA COUNTY BARREL AUCTION HONOREES

Tom Klein, Proprietor, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Lifetime Achievement Award

Following completion of his MBA at Stanford University and travelling through the great wine regions of the world, Tom became a management consultant for Rodney Strong Vineyards in the early 1980s. The opportunity to work with Rod Strong, one of Sonoma County’s wine pioneers, along with his love for fine wines, led the Klein family to purchase Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1989. Tom’s feet were firmly in the soil of Sonoma County for good.

Tom’s accomplishments at Rodney Strong Vineyards are astonishing. His third generation farming family’s significant and ongoing investments in vineyards, including the breathtaking Cooley Ranch Vineyard high above Lake Sonoma, planted but a decade ago and already hailed as one of the greatest vineyards in Sonoma County, have created the kind of wines Rod Strong himself could only have dreamed about. Under Tom’s direction Rodney Strong became an early leader in philanthropy and sustainability. Investments in sustainable farming, solar energy (Rodney Strong Vineyards has one of the largest solar arrays of any winery in California), becoming the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma County, and innovative winemaking have produced world-class wines while simultaneously improving the environment and supporting the community.

Lee Sr. and Carolyn Martinelli, Owners, Martinelli Winery
Icons

Lee Sr. and Carolyn Martinelli are both Sonoma County natives who met while attending Santa Rosa Junior College and have spent many years since farming the land that has been in Lee’s family for generations. Carolyn grew up on the far Sonoma coast helping her father raise sheep for wool. Lee Martinelli Sr. is the patriarch of Martinelli Winery and the sole farmer of Jackass Hill, home to the same vines that were first planted by his grandfather over 100 years ago and known for having the steepest non-terraced vines in Sonoma County. After 47 years, Lee Sr. has passed many of his responsibilities on to his children, the fourth generation; however, he has no plans to retire and pass on the responsibility of farming Jackass Hill anytime soon. He still enjoys finishing up a day’s work in the vineyard and opening a bottle of wine when the day is done.
 
Theresa Heredia, Director of Winemaking, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
Innovator

Theresa Heredia has received numerous accolades by focusing on site-specific wines. She joined Gary Farrell Winery in 2012 and under her winemaking leadership, the Gary Farrell 2015 Russian River Selection Chardonnay took the top spot as #1 Wine, Top 100 Wines of 2017 from Wine Enthusiast. Gary Farrell has been named Winery of the Year twice, a Top 100 Winery by Wine & Spirits, and a Top 50 Sonoma Producer by Wine Spectator. Theresa was also a 2020 Winemaker of the Year Nominee from Wine Enthusiast.

As a Sonoma County Innovator, Theresa has been a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) not only at Gary Farrell Winery, but within the entire wine industry. The winery has implemented a wide-ranging diversity pledge to create a diverse workforce and support those underrepresented in the wine industry.

About Sonoma County Vintners

Sonoma County Vintners is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to raising awareness of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier wine regions. Sonoma County Vintners represents over 250 wineries throughout the county. The organization actively promotes Sonoma County through educational programming; advocates for its members at local, state and federal levels; and contributes to the local communities through our Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. Sonoma County Wine Auction, its annual fundraiser, benefits non-profit organizations throughout the region. To learn more about Sonoma County Vintners, visit SonomaWine.com.

About American AgCredit

American AgCredit was chartered in 1916 as part of the nationwide Farm Credit System and is the nation’s fourth-largest Farm Credit association. American AgCredit specializes in providing financial services to agricultural and rural customers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada and Oklahoma, and serves capital market customers throughout the United States. Financial services provided by American AgCredit include production and mortgage financing, equipment and vehicle leasing, crop and life insurance, lines of credit, and the Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Program. In addition, the Association provides interest-free loans for qualifying 4-H and FFA AgYouth programs, as well as college scholarships to young people interested in agriculture. Learn more at AgLoan.com.

About MacMurray Estate Vineyards

With vineyards in California’s most sought-after Pinot Noir regions, MacMurray Estate Vineyards is synonymous with one of the world’s most celebrated grape varieties. We grow our grapes where Pinot Noir thrives — in the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast. By carefully tending to each vineyard block and making discerning choices in the cellar, we create wines that reflect the unique terroir of each estate vineyard while showcasing the elegant flavors of the delicate Pinot Noir grape. Our namesake in the Russian River Valley, the 1,500-acre MacMurray Ranch, has a rich farming history that stretches back to the early 1850s. In 1941, actor Fred MacMurray bought the ranch as an idyllic family retreat and cattle ranch. In 1996, MacMurray Ranch was transformed to include a world-class vineyard with 450 acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines, ushering in a new era for the legendary Sonoma County property. Learn more at MacMurrayEstateVineyards.com.
 
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