Winners Announced in Battle for Napa Valley's Top Palate

Renowned Region's Second Annual Education and Tasting Program Rocks!


5/19/2009 - St Helena, CA--On Monday, May 18, the Battle was on as 60 restaurant, retail and winery staff took to the glass in the second annual Napa Valley Rocks--Battle of the Palates held in the historic Barrel Room at V Marketplace in Napa Valley's town of Yountville. This educational program for front-line wine salespeople was designed and offered by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the non-profit trade association, to help these key wine ambassadors speak more confidently about Napa Valley and its wines and learn more about the appellation and the community. The seminar was followed by a blind tasting designed to provide not only incredible Napa Valley wines, but to hone tasting skills as well.

Two contenders tied for first place in the tasting challenge known as the Battle of the Palates. The event's trophies for first place went to, Tim Costner, wine educator at Nickel & Nickel, and Annette Summersett, hospitality team member at O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery. Third Place was awarded to Thys-Jan Tepper, senior wine educator at Blackbird Vineyards/Ma(i)sonry. Costner received a scholarship for the Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Wine Educator programs, donated by Trinchero Napa Valley ($1,200 value), Summersett took home a scholarship for the Napa Valley Wine Intensive course at The Culinary Institute of America ($750 value) and Tepper will enjoy two passes to the Friday, June 5th Taste Napa Valley marketplace at Auction Napa Valley ($500 value).

The course was led by NVV members Michael Honig, president of Honig Vineyard and Winery; Matt Ashby, director of viticulture for Icon Estates; and Chris Blanchard, education director for Chappellet Winery and Vineyard. "Our goal today was to provide front-line staff including waiters, retailers, tasting room and hospitality staff with a clear understanding of what makes the Napa Valley appellation unique, enhance their ability to communicate these concepts to visitors and guests, and to instill pride about the Napa Valley appellation for our team here at home," said Michael Honig.

"We are really excited to present this program right here in our own backyard, and to have attracted such a terrific group of wine professionals. These key wine sellers are critical to our success and we hope they have found some robust information to share with their customers in easy-to-understand terms," Honig continued.

The foundation of the Napa Valley Rocks presentation was based on a series of detailed in-depth science reports by noted researchers, including Dr. Jonathan Swinchatt and Dr. Paul Skinner, among others, that have been distilled to provide an understanding of the unique attributes of the Napa Valley appellation, including geologic formation, soil structure, and climate, as well as the history of the region.

Additionally, attendees learned another key attribute of their region, its community philanthropy. Here on the eve of America's most successful charity wine auction, Auction Napa Valley, vintners brought home the three strategies of sustainability in agriculture--environmental, economic, and social equity--taking care of the community. Auction Napa Valley is the NVV's annual community fundraiser that so far has been able to give $85 million to the local community and will convene June 4-7, 2009.

Dozens of Napa Valley winery hospitality staff were joined by wait and retail staff from these renowned Napa Valley establishments; Auberge du Soleil, Bardessono, Bistro Don Giovanni, Bottega, Bouchon, Bounty Hunter, Cole's Chop House, FARM, Martini House, PRESS, Silverado Brewing Company, The French Laundry, and Tra Vigne.

About the NVV
The Napa Valley Vintners is the non-profit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region. The organization celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. From seven founding members in 1944, today the association represents nearly 350 Napa Valley wineries and collectively is a leader in the world-wide wine industry. To learn more about the region and its legendary American wines, visit

Photos from the event

Contact: Terry Hall, Communications Director 707-968-4217