Awards & Recognition
Pennsylvania Wine Excellence Awards
Each January, the Pennsylvania Wine Society showcases the best Pennsylvania wines made from vinifera grapes and hybrids such as Chambourcin, Traminette, and Vidal. The wines are judged by the Board with the able assistance of Gary Pavlis, from Rutgers University, who is also a teacher of the wine judging certification course for the American Wine Society. The top-scoring wines are presented at the tasting, where we also give our annual award plaque to the winery that has made the top-scoring wine. The plaque is proudly displayed at the winery for the rest of the year.
PWS Lifetime Achievement Award
The first Lifetime Achievement Award was presented in 2019 to Averill Shepps, Past President, Board Member and 30-year Patron Member of PWS. The award was presented on behalf of the Board by three Past Presidents, Frank Fritsch, Ritner Casey, and Lynne Beeson. Frank Fritsch speaking: Pennsylvania wine excellence started as an idea to honor Pennsylvania winemakers, and has become a world-class event honoring these winemakers for their excellent wines.
Much of the credit goes to Averill Shepps and countless loyal PWS members for this wonderful, annual award event. And so it is a great day to recognize Averill for her devoted and tireless work for the Pennsylvania Wine Society and wine education in general. Her work over the last three decades at PWS is punctuated by holding the presidency more than any other person in the history of the Society. She has devoted countless hours to the Pennsylvania Wine Society. It has paid off! PWS has become a remarkable wine society in the United States.
Averill has personally and tirelessly worked on countless outstanding events, newsletters, media communications, and leadership and education initiatives. So, it is a great honor for the board of the Pennsylvania Wine Society to recognize Averill Shepps with the Lifetime Achievement Award for wine appreciation and wine education.
PWS thanks Averill Shepps for more than 30 years devotion to loving good wine and sharing the joy through her PWS leadership involvement. Congratulations Averill!
In the Winelight!
Spotlight on Laura Reich
by Marty Cook
Our WineLight this quarter shines on Laura Reich of Santa Fe, New Mexico. You have that correct: Santa Fe, New Mexico. A transplanted self-described hometown girl and “Cheese Head” Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers fan from Wisconsin, Laura has made her retirement home in the outskirts of Santa Fe since 2016 with her spouse, Debbie Zabinski, who has been Laura’s “better half” for 23 years.
Laura was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and spent the bulk of her formative years in that State. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee with a BS Degree in Geology and an MS Degree in Geophysics before beginning her professional career in Houston, Texas with Amoco in 1989 as a Geophysicist. During college, Laura also served in the Air National Guard, where she rose to the rank of Sargent. Beyond the professional aspects of her life, Laura thoroughly enjoys travel, gardening, cooking, hiking, theater, volunteering, and anything adventurous.
Coming from Milwaukee, which Laura describes as a “beer city”, Laura’s adult beverage of choice, albeit, somewhat by default, became a tall, cold glass of “barley water”. But, Laura also learned to like red wine in the early 1990’s. She has never been a fan of white wines, but really enjoys a nice bottle of rich red wine… especially Amarone!
During the pandemic shutdown in 2019, Laura and Debbie let their creative juices flow when they devised an entertaining series of Facebook posts entitled Coronavirus Daily Cocktail (CDC). This series ran for 242 consecutive days and could be the essence for a book! Somewhere during that chain of drink recipes, Debbie caught up with the online happenings at the Pennsylvania Wine Society and got Laura involved with our virtual tasting events. It should be noted that Debbie is originally from western Pennsylvania and is also my cousin; hence, the initial connection.
Discovering the Pennsylvania Wine Society when she did was the perfect new involvement for Laura, as she and Debbie had long since wanted to learn more about wine. Laura says that she now looks upon those decades when she enjoyed wine but had no knowledge of what she was drinking as “a lost opportunity” to learn more about the topic of wine. After viewing the virtual wine tasting event conducted with Joe Via that featured Beaujolais Nouveau, Laura was hooked. So, plunging headlong into the wine education process, Laura fully embraced all that she could learn about wine and its appreciation by first joining the Pennsylvania Wine Society and then several other wine-education groups shortly thereafter.
Things move more quickly during a pandemic than one might imagine and Laura quickly became a familiar face on the Pennsylvania Wine Society virtual wine tasting events. By June of this year, Laura had joined our Board of Directors and then took on the role of Social Media Strategist on July 1st. Simultaneous to this, Laura instituted a regular column in the Pennsylvania Wine Society eNewsletter entitled Vittles & Vine. This column incorporates one of Laura’s passions (cooking), and gives her the opportunity to share recipes along with supporting wine pairing suggestions (see page 10 of this issue).
Stay on the alert for more interesting developments from Laura, who has many ideas about how to make wine education and wine appreciation even greater fun than it already is!
In the Winelight!
Spotlight on Kevin Ostrowski
by Marty Cook
The Pennsylvania Wine Society is honored to feature wine educator Kevin Ostrowski in this quarterly edition of “In The Winelight”. Anyone who has enjoyed viewing one of the PWS Virtual Wine Tasting events on a Sunday afternoon via Zoom will no doubt recognize Kevin, who has delivered a number of quality presentations for our online audience.
Kevin is a modest but confident personality who currently enjoys retirement and “everything wine” with Cheryl, his high school sweetheart and wife of 46 years. Kevin and Cheryl make their home in Beaver County (PA), and Kevin summarizes their lifetime as “Too many stories over the years. Lots of adventures.” Kevin and Cheryl raised two children and also have one grandchild.
Kevin’s passion for wine was sparked by his introduction to German Kabinett Riesling wines in 2000. And, like many aspiring wine aficionados, Kevin began to research the vast world of wine as well as the craft of winemaking, an offshoot of his wine interests that Kevin pursues to this day. Kevin’s first foray into winemaking was a Chardonnay. Visiting northeastern Ohio wineries in the Lake Erie AVA also served to amplify Kevin’s winemaking and wine appreciation interests.
Kevin discovered the American Wine Society in 2010 while living in Atlanta, attended his first AWS conference in 2013, and now serves as the AWS Western Pennsylvania Regional Vice-President and Chapter Chair in Beaver County. Kevin’s “rap sheet” of wine and wine judging certifications and training is vast and spans many organizations, including the AWS, the Society of Wine Educators, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, the Wine Scholar Guild and others. Kevin has participated as a judge in a lengthy list of wine competitions and has also earned awards for his winemaking prowess from the AWS as well as WineMaker Magazine.
Kevin joined the Pennsylvania Wine Society after serving as a judge in the PA Wine Excellence Awards in 2017, an event in which he continues to participate. You will have an opportunity to meet Kevin in person when he serves as the Master of Ceremonies at the next PA Wine Excellence Awards in January 2022 which will follow this year’s upcoming iteration of the PA Wine Excellence Awards competition in November.
Kevin and Cheryl found enjoyment during the pandemic by cooking foods from recipes of the world over. Now that countries may be opening up, Kevin and Cheryl are optimistically planning to resume travel adventures. Wine regions are high on their list, including riverboat cruises on French rivers. In the meantime, look for Kevin online during future Sunday afternoon episodes of the PWS Virtual Wine Tasting events!
In the Winelight!
Spotlight on Joe Via
by Robyn Meadows
If you have participated in the Pennsylvania Wine Society Sunday afternoon Virtual Wine Tastings in recent months, you are probably familiar with Joe Via. Joe is the retired wine educator who, along with Marty Cook, has taken us on virtual wine journeys from the west coast of the United States (Oregon Pinot Noir and West Coast Cabernet Sauvignon) to the Old World wines of France (Beaujolais Nouveau and Cabernet Sauvignon) and regions of Italy (Piemonte) and Spain (Rioja). Joe has eagerly shared his vast wine knowledge with PWS members and friends through these virtual tastings. Joe’s presentations have been particularly adept at appealing to the broad range of wine expertise of those virtual tasting audiences. His talks are accessible for novices and provide something for even the most experienced wine aficionado.
Joe came into his decades-long wine career with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board as somewhat of a fluke. Having just finished his service in the U.S. Army in the communications field, Joe took a part-time seasonal job in one of the state’s wine and spirits stores while he looked for a civilian communications position. This part-time gig led to a passion for wine that resulted in his decision to make wine his career, one that has included almost every wine related job within the PLCB, from store clerk to wine buyer to statewide wine educator.
Joe had to take his first wine education course via correspondence long before the Internet and the growth of wine certification courses nationwide. He followed up that course as one of the first PLCB employees to attend L’Ecole de Vin, a wine school in Philadelphia. Joe ultimately became certified in French wines. In his travels as a wine purchaser, Joe has visited almost every major wine region in the world, including Germany, Austria, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. Surprisingly, one wine region Joe has never visited is France, a place that also appeals to another interest of Joe’s: military history; so, a trip to France is definitely on his retirement bucket list!
When asked for one piece of advice he would give to someone who wants to learn more about wine, Joe said “Don’t be intimidated by wine.” It is a beverage you should enjoy drinking. Be open to trying new wines; you can learn as much from wines that do not suit your tastes as you can from the wines you love. Explore different wines and you will learn to find the wines you like.
In these times when we cannot travel, and thanks to volunteers such as Joe Via, wines and the Pennsylvania Wine Society Virtual Wine Tastings bring a little bit of the outside world to us.
Previous Pennsylvania Wine Excellence Awards
2002 PA Wine Excellence I
No award given
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