Seattle, Wash. — April 27, 2017 — The Auction of Washington Wines is pleased to announce the lineup of honorees for its 30th anniversary weekend of events August 17-19, 2017. Sparkman Cellars is Honorary Vintner, Tom Merkle is Honorary Grower, and Thomas Matthews, executive editor of Wine Spectator, is the 2017 Honorary Chair.
The role of Honorary Chair is reserved for leaders in the field of wine who have demonstrated a sincere appreciation for Washington’s industry. The annual roles of Honorary Vintner and Honorary Grower are peer-nominated, bestowed upon individuals within the Washington wine industry who have made or are making an impact.
“For 30 years, the Auction of Washington Wines has been very fortunate to have such impressive leadership to recognize—and this year is no different,” says board president Sam Baker.
“This year we honor two individuals in Washington who have greatly influenced our industry, one who represents the new generation and another who is upholding the family’s legacy,” said Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery and co-chair of this year’s Auction of Washington Wines. “Tom Matthews has made significant contributions that have elevated the state as a wine-growing region and advocated our wines across the globe.”
Sparkman Cellars, 2017 Honorary Vintner
Kelly and Chris Sparkman launched Sparkman Cellars in Woodinville, Washington in 2004. “It all synced up with our family’s vision: working with the finest raw ingredients this planet has to offer, crafting from it something real and living, and sharing it with folks who are literally thirsty for it,” says Chris.
Chris has been chairman of the Washington State Wine Board of Commissioners, served on the Auction of Washington Wines board, and currently serves as a member of the board of directors at Visit Seattle. He has been instrumental in helping to guide the marketing of Washington wine during critical growth years of the industry. Sparkman Cellars has made a priority of contributing to causes within the community.
Tom Merkle, 2017 Honorary Grower
Tom Merkle is a second-generation grape grower who began his career working with his father on family owned orchards in Outlook, WA. After being lured away by Boeing for a few years, he eventually returned to Eastern Washington to accept a management position for a local vineyard/orchard company.
He planted the first grapes at his own Wautoma Springs vineyard in 1999 and sells to some of the most well-known Washington wineries including Northstar and Charles Smith wineries. In 2008 Tom partnered with Jessica Munnell to create Wautoma Wines to showcase the unique fruit from Wautoma Springs vineyard. Tom continues to expand his personal holdings which include some of his father’s original wine grape plantings. He is also carrying on the tradition of mentoring his son as he begins his career in the wine industry.
Tom is committed to Washington State’s wine industry and is currently serving on the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center’s board of directors. He is employed by Zirkle Fruit Company, overseeing multiple vineyards in numerous AVAs.
Thomas Matthews, 2017 Honorary Chair
Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988 as a reporter in the London office and was quickly promoted and moved to New York where he has been serving as the magazine’s executive editor for 18 years. He is the lead taster for the wines of Spain and one of the magazine’s principal restaurant reviewers and travel writers.
About the Auction of Washington Wines
Since its inception in 1988, the Auction of Washington Wines has raised more than $37 million. The distinguished fundraising events give wine lovers the chance to support the Washington wine industry and families in the communities around the region. The 2017 events will take place August 17-19, 2017. Co-chairs for 2017 are Norm McKibben and Jean-Francois Pellet of Pepper Bridge Winery, Yahn Bernier of Valve Software and Beth McCaw of Washington Women’s Foundation. Washington Tasting Room Magazine is a media partner of the Auction of Washington Wines.