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 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 Pennsylvania Wine Society President 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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