2021 SLO County Wine Industry Award Winners
July 28, 2021
The San Luis Obispo County wine industry annually comes together to honor members of the local wine community. These awards recognize dedication, stewardship, innovation, and leadership demonstrated in the San Luis Obispo County wine community. The 2021 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards go to – Winemaker of the Year, Jordan Fiorentini, Epoch Estate Wines; Winegrape Grower of the Year, Lucas Pope, Coastal Vineyard Services; and Wine Industry Person of the Year, Lorraine Alban, J&L Wines.
The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Coast Wine Collective, the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area, The Vineyard Team, and past award recipients worked together to identify the 2021 winners. The honorees are evaluated on their leadership and accomplishments in California’s third-largest wine region, San Luis Obispo County.
The San Luis Obispo County Wine Community celebrated this year’s award winners at a special event on Friday, July 23 at the California Mid-State Fair within the Mission Square.
Winemaker of the Year
Jordan Fiorentini, Vice President of Winemaking & Vineyards, Epoch Estate Wines
In 2010, after an extensive international search, Epoch owners, Bill and Liz Armstrong, found their dream partner in Jordan Fiorentini. The Epoch winemaking mission and unique vineyards stole Jordan’s heart, and before she knew it, she had packed up her family and moved from Sonoma County to the quaint Central Coast town of Paso Robles.
Passionate, dedicated, and not afraid to push the envelope, Winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, brings an enthusiastic and experienced spirit to Epoch. Her palate is the kind wine lovers dream of and one that speaks to Jordan through shapes; having an awesome artistic side, she now draws her Tasting Notes in addition to writing about each wine. Jordan oversees all the wine and vine decisions along with the day-to-day needs of the winery. Alongside her staff of four, she works tirelessly to ensure every bottle of Epoch is always at its best.
Besides being crazy talented, Jordan also happens to be wicked smart with an engineering undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in viticulture from UC Davis. Jordan earned her spurs at her family’s winery in Georgia, Araujo Estate in Napa Valley, Antinori Winery in Italy, and as Director of Winemaking at Chalk Hill in Healdsburg.
Winegrape Grower of the Year
Lucas Pope, Director of Vineyard Operations, Coastal Vineyard Services
Lucas Pope has dedicated his career to ultra-premium vineyard management on the Central Coast since graduating from Cal Poly in Wine and Viticulture in 2006. His experience has ranged from founding a vineyard management company in the Santa Cruz Mountains to nearly a decade as Vineyard Manager at Halter Ranch. In 2017 he became the first Vineyard Manager to be recognized on the esteemed list of “Top 40 Under 40” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine in response to his work on the mitigation of grapevine viruses.
Lucas has been a leader in the development and promotion of sustainable wine-growing practices in Paso Robles and beyond. He has worked closely on sustainability initiatives with the Vineyard Team, where he currently serves as Vice President. In 2019, Lucas joined Kevin Wilkinson at Coastal Vineyard Services as the Director of Vineyard Operations. Lucas and his team at Coastal Vineyard Services are responsible for developing and managing many of the most esteemed vineyards in the Paso Robles and Edna Valley regions.
Lucas and his wife, Nicole, are also proprietors of their own wine brand, Haliotide, producing single-vineyard sparkling wine grown on the SLO Coast. Lucas lives in Atascadero with Nicole and their three children: Grayson (8), Averie (6), and Ophelia (1).
Wine Industry Person of the Year
Lorraine Alban, President, J&L Wines
Coming from a small town in Northern Ireland, I grew up believing in the American dream. From the age of 17, I worked multiple jobs saving up for the day I could move to the States. I emigrated at 21 and took my first job in the charming Martin Brother’s tasting room, in Paso Robles. Besides being the entry to my wine marketing career, this position blessed me with the most outstanding mentor a fledgling businessperson could wish to meet Tom Martin. A super deserved previous Wine Industry Person of the Year awardee. Tom soon made me California Brand Manager and despite not knowing if Los Angeles were north or south of Paso, I headed off to start what would be my life’s work: promoting the Central Coast and the wines that I love.
Managing Martin Brother’s sales put me in regular contact with another remarkable Wine Industry Person of the Year: Jeanie Eberle of J. Eberle Wines. Seeing something in me, Jeanie brought me into her company as a sales representative, then manager, and ultimately partner. Wine distribution on the Central Coast has evolved and blossomed right alongside our incredible wine country and trade. I was fortunate to work under some extraordinary San Luis Obispo County pioneers and to build upon their foundations in establishing and building J&L Wines (formerly J. Eberle Wines.) I feel grateful every day that I get to collaborate with the amazing team we have today, many of whom have worked alongside me for two decades, and in some cases more.
I live in the Edna Valley with my husband John and have three grown children who have all supported me on this path. When not working with wine or enjoying my family, my passion is horses. I have a 501 C (3) rescue and sanctuary where my team and I provide care and rehabilitation for abused and neglected horses.
Recognizing Juan Nevarez
At the SLO County Wine Awards, the industry also took pause to recognize the loss of one of the long-standing members of the wine community, Juan Nevarez. Juan passed away in the fall of 2020 after a long and successful career in vineyard management. Juan was well respected by this community and to speak about him to the audience was Eric Jensen, owner and winemaker of Booker Vineyard. A plaque was given to Juan’s family that read –
In honor of a lifetime dedicated to the success of the Paso Robles Wine Region. His passion and leadership for farming and cultivation of wine grapes earned Juan the highest respect from the wine community. Presented July 2021 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards
Photo Credit: Brittany App