Healdsburg area leaders in food and wine production have a strong showing in the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair "2012 Contributors to Agriculture" awards, announced today.
The annual awards, to be presented at a dinner Sept. 29, honor community leaders for their achievements in producing, managing, processing or marketing the region's agricultural crops.
The 2012 Agricultural Award honorees from Healdsburg area and the categories for which they are receiving recognition are: Louis M. Foppiano and Foppiano Vineyards, Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry; and Clay Mauritson, Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness.
Other awardees are: Art Ibleto, Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture; John Ash, Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture; and Mark Sanchietti, Outstanding Young Farmer.
About the honorees:
Clay Mauritson, Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness
A sixth-generation grape grower, born and raised in the Dry Creek Valley, Clay Mauritson was destined to be in the wine business. For over 15 years, he has been devoted to the Sonoma County wine industry, currently running the family label, Mauritson Family Winery.
Mauritson made many strategic choices while developing his career. He was a member of Kenwood Vineyards' sales and marketing team, before graduating from the University of Oregon in 1997, where he earned a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on marketing. He has a minor in economics (while in college, he also played outside linebacker for the UO Ducks in the 1995 Rose Bowl, and the 1996 Cotton Bowl). As Kenwood Vineyards' assistant national sales manager, he spent a substantial amount of time on the road making sales contacts. He then worked with winemakers at Taft Street Vineyards and Dry Creek Vineyards, which gave him the opportunity to develop his winemaking skills and to learn more about winery operations.
Mauritson released the first wine under the Mauritson label in 1998 - Dry Creek Zinfandel. For the past decade, his full attention has been on his family's winery. Their 270 acres of vineyards, and solid relationships with other growers, provide access to exceptional fruit from Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile. Mauritson is clearly on his way to becoming one of California's foremost young winemakers.
Mauritson says receiving the 2012 Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness award is an honor. "I feel very fortunate to do be able to do something that I am so passionate about. I share this award with my family; it is their dedication to growing outstanding grapes that gives us the opportunity to make great wines."
He lives in Healdsburg with his wife Carrie-Anne, their children Brady (4) and Davis (2), and dogs SoHo and Chelsea.
Louis M. Foppiano and Foppiano Vineyards, Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry
Louis M. Foppiano's family has been making wine for six generations. His great grandfather bought the winery and vineyards in 1896, and Louis' father, Louis J. Foppiano, worked seven days a week for most his life. The patriarch of one of California's oldest family-owned wineries passed away last March at the age of 101.
Louis M. Foppiano is now the winery's general manager, and his brother's son, Paul Foppiano, manages the vineyards. Foppiano Vineyards produces a number of wines, including Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Petite Sirah.
Foppiano Vineyards is a 160-acre estate in the Russian River Valley. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the vineyards, taste the wines and use the picnic tables for a family outing. Foppiano says his family always strives to make quality, well-balanced wine that people can drink with dinner, or just enjoy with friends.
The Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry award is a new Harvest Fair addition this year. "My father was born in the business and died in the business," says Foppiano.
"Our family is proud and honored to be receiving this award. We'll try and live up to it."
John Ash, Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture
Chef John Ash is considered one of the original creators of "Wine Country Cuisine," so "Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture" is a fitting title.
Now an internationally admired chef, author and educator, Ash stood out in the Sonoma County culinary scene in 1980 when he opened John Ash & Co. - the first Northern California restaurant to focus on local, seasonal ingredients that complemented regional wines. Within five years, he had earned rave reviews from Food & Wine magazine, and garnered national recognition.
Ash's passion for food and wine education is well known. He trains and teaches in his position as Culinary Director for Fetzer Vineyards, and travels frequently to edify enthusiastic students around the world. His knowledge and zeal led to being named dean of the Brown-Forman Center for Global Wine Education, an intensive wine education program designed for the wine trade, with particular emphasis on restaurateurs, retail wine buyers and distributors. Ash also works as a consultant within the restaurant and hotel industries.
An award-winning author, Ash has published three books: American Game Cooking (1991), From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine (1996), and John Ash Cooking One-on-One: Private Lessons in Simple Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher (2004). He has also hosted both radio and TV shows.
Mark Sanchietti, Outstanding Young Farmer
Mark Sanchietti is a fourth-generation Sonoma County farmer, having grown up among grape vines on a west Santa Rosa property originally purchased by his family nearly a century ago.
He always knew he wanted to follow that path. "I wasn't forced to do this, I chose to do this," says Sanchietti. "I enjoy my work, and not everybody can say that. I feel very fortunate." Clearly, he's made the right choice. At 28 years old, Sanchietti farms over 200 acres of vineyards, has five years under his belt with his own farming business, Sanchietti Farming LLC, and has handled four harvests at Santa Rosa Junior College's Shone Farm.
Sanchietti, who lives in Santa Rosa with his wife Jenny and their one-year-old son Mason, started Sanchietti Farming in 2007 after graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. The business provides a full spectrum of vineyard services, from new site development to farming established vineyards. It uses sustainable methods and always strives to be a steward of the land. The venture has seen steady growth, and Sanchietti credits his crew for this success. "It's not an 'I' game, it's a team effort," he emphasizes, "and I've got a good team."
Shone Farm hired Sanchietti in 2008. Their 70-acre vineyard was suffering both in yield and quality, and as the new vineyard manager, he was a perfect fit. Viticulture instructor and program director Dr. Merilark Padgett-Johnson, who works closely with Sanchietti, says "Under Mark, the vineyards have made a complete turnaround. His grasp of farming would be exceptional from someone who's been in the business for decades."
Sanchietti says he felt very privileged when he learned the Sonoma County Harvest Fair had named him 2012 Outstanding Young Farmer. "I think it's a huge honor, I really do. My father won this award, as well as a lot of close family friends. I grew up here, so I know what it means."
Art Ibleto, Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture
Art Ibleto's Spaghetti Palace has been an icon at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds for nearly four decades. Its yearly presence at the fairgrounds eventually earned him the title of "Pasta King" of the region. However, this role is only one fragment of Ibleto's significant history in Sonoma County.
Ibleto (now in his mid-80s) left Italy for America at the age of 22, where he broke into the workforce as a zucchini picker in Petaluma. He's worn many hats over the years: cow herder, Christmas tree farmer, butcher, pilot, mechanic, grape grower, vintner, opera singer and caterer, to name a few. As a zucchini picker he met and married the farmer's daughter, Vicki Ghirardelli, in 1951. Over the years, they acquired their own farms, including 50 acres of vineyards.
The success of the Spaghetti Palace at the fairgrounds motivated Ibleto to open a retail store on his Cotati property. His sauces, lasagna, polenta, minestrone and ravioli have rightfully made him famous in the area. Ibleto's products have won multiple awards at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. He won gold medals for his pesto sauce in 1999, and his herbed oil and vinaigrette salad dressing in 2001. Also, wine made from his first commercial grapes harvested in 2002 won a gold medal in 2004 under the Bella Sonoma label.
Ibleto is a true community leader, and cares about people. Friends say he gives away more food than he sells. He frequently donates food for fundraising events, allowing countless individuals and organizations to raise much-needed funds. Ibleto was presented with a Spirit of Sonoma County Award by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau in December 2011 for his efforts. Additionally, the cities of Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park have made him an honorary citizen. He has also been commended by the Volunteer Center of America.
About the Sonoma County Harvest Fair
The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 5-7. It's a three-day celebration of the bountiful Sonoma County and Wine Country lifestyle, with chef demonstrations, delicious cuisine, wine tasting and sales (all three days), wine seminars, an art exhibition and sale, ongoing music performances, the World Championship Grape Stomp (more than a dozen qualifying stomps), microbrew tasting (Saturday only), and farm and harvest agricultural activities for children and adults.