2020 writing competition – who won?

Brooks Wines of Willamette Valley

Drumroll, please … and see Dr Irina Santiago-Brown’s appreciation of this competition, published yesterday, as well as this guide to all published entries.

Well, we managed to whittle the 75 published entries in this year’s writing competition down to a shortlist of 18 but had to try to come up with a winner. We needed evidence that the writer could not only write but had made a sound choice in their subject.

The JancisRobinson.com team was helped by our two external specialist judges, Dr Irina Santiago-Brown based in South Australia and Tobias Webb of the UK. We all submitted our favourites and two equal winners from those submissions very clearly emerged:

Pascal Brooks’ profile of his family’s Brooks Wines in Oregon

and

the account of Spottswoode in Napa Valley written jointly by Ashley Hausman MW and Martin Reyes MW

We made clear at the outset that entrants were allowed to write about wineries with which they had an affiliation, so long as they made that affiliation clear. Pascal’s father Jimi Brooks suffered a fatal heart attack when Pascal was very young. He is still very young – 24 – and has been based in Paris for the last two years, while gaining European harvest experience as his late father did before him. But he does seem to have fully grasped the import of the wide-ranging philosophy of Brooks Wines. As his aunt Janie Heuck at Brooks Wines commented when expressing her delight at seeing his name on the shortlist, ‘Good for him! He loves to journal and write just like Jimi did. I just reread his entry and saw that he wrote "profits" for our commitment to 1% For the Planet. It is actually 1% of our gross revenues [corrected – JR]. As you know, that is a big difference in the wine industry. I thought you would be interested in their latest work which is the documentary coming out on Netflix today. We are so proud to support their work.’ The picture below, like the one above, is of Brooks Wines and is the work of Andrea Johnson.

Brooks Wines insectary, Oregon

Ashley Hausman became a Master of Wine in 2017 and was until recently Director of Education for GuildSomm, an important role, as well as conducting all sorts of wine events. She was due to do the harvest this year at Screaming Eagle, and is presumably going through similar experiences to our own Napa harvest intern. Martin Reyes was her study partner and is the first MW of Mexican descent. He consults, sells and educates and is closely involved with research programmes initiated by Spottswoode, a very early adopter of organic viticulture and all-round sustainability in Napa Valley.

We congratulate all three of them and will arrange for them to receive copies of the latest editions of The Oxford Companion to Wine, The World Atlas of Wine and Wine Grapes, all books of relevance to sustainability in wine, as well as two years’ complimentary membership of JancisRobinson.com.

In addition to these joint winners, five runners-up clearly emerged:

Canadian Jacky Blisson MW, a previous contributor and very recently minted Master of Wine, for her description of Southbrook, Ontario. She also made the shortlist in our 2017 wine writing competition.

Sustainability specialist Anna Chilton for her wide-ranging account of Dr Wehrheim in the PfalzAnna has worked in sustainability for over 10 years and is currently doing an Executive MBA in sustainable business at Business School of Lausanne. 

Californian Dr Chris Howard lectures in Hawaii and lives in New Zealand. Another contributor with a professional interest in the topic of sustainability, he treated us to a fascinating description of Felton Road, Central Otago.

Karen Magner toils for a London tech company in Denver by day and feeds her love of wine and terroir at night. Studying for Oregon Wine Expert certification, she chose to profile Sokol Blosser of Oregon.

It’s difficult to pigeonhole Chris Struck, currently living in Brooklyn, because he has done so much. May I simply suggest you read the long introduction to his thorough account of the sustainable ways of the Matthiassons in the Napa Valley.

Clearly these are all extremely high-powered contributors and we are very grateful to them all, and indeed to everyone who had a go at this extremely demanding task.

It is so cheering to have all this evidence of wine producers going the extra mile to be truly sustainable. As the entries made all too clear, there are so many interrelated issues involved and no single way forward. The main thing seems to be being as aware as possible of all that can be done and to do it, not just for the environment but also for workers, neighbours, society in general – and in pursuit of commercial success. Quite a tall order.

May all those who take steps in the right direction be rewarded.