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2023 SLO County Wine Industry Award Winners

July 26, 2023

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 2023 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Awards go to – Wine Grape Grower of the Year, Erin Amaral, Pacific Coast Farming; Winemaker of the Year, Matt Trevisan, Linne Calodo; Wine Industry Person of the Year, Mike Sinor, Sinor-LaVallee Wine Co. & Ancient Peaks Winery; and Lifetime Achievement Award, Linda Cooks, Albertsons – Paso Robles.

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 2023 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 21 at the California Mid-State Fair within the Mission Square.

these awardees elevate the reputation of this area through the cultivation of high-quality grapes, the creation of award-winning wines, and the distribution of many iconic labels. their passion and devotion have helped build the brand awareness of the san luis obispo county wine region as a world-class viticultural area.

Wine Industry Person of the Year

Mike Sinor, Founder/Co. Founder, Sinor-LaVallee Wine Co. & Ancient Peaks Winery

Mike Sinor is a 30-plus-year veteran on the winemaking scene on the Central Coast of California. To help pay for college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mike got a job as a tasting room attendant. Within months he was hooked and ended up working part-time for six local Edna Valley wineries during college. He worked in the tasting rooms, vineyards, and cellars and found his passion.

In 1994, he got his first full-time cellar worker job at Robert Mondavi owned, Byon Winery in Santa Maria. On a research trip to Burgundy for Mondavi, Mike and Cheri LaVallee got married. They founded Sinor-LaVallee Wine Co in 1997.

Sinor helped found the World of Pinot Noir Event in 2001. In 2006, he co-founded Ancient Peaks Winery, of which he is still the founding winemaker and business partner. Mike and Cheri purchased the Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach, California in 2013. There he biodynamically farms 30 acres of winegrapes. Mike was part of a small group of winegrowers who successfully founded the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA (SLO Coast AVA) in 2021. Mike currently serves as the SLO Coast Wine Collective board president.

Wine Grape Grower of the Year

Erin Amaral, Vineyard Manager, Pacific Coast Farming

Erin Amaral joined Pacific Coast Farming in 1999 shortly after graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in Plant Protection Science, with an emphasis on viticulture. She’d moved to San Luis Obispo from Crows Landing, CA, where she’d grown up on a second-generation almond farm. As she spent time in vineyards, she became aware of the climate’s impact in the vineyard along with the people who are working in the field, inspiring her studies in viticultural sustainability. In addition to her work as a Vineyard Manager, Amaral is a recent graduate of the California Ag Leadership Program Class 46, she also sits on the Board of Directors of the San Luis Obispo Farm Bureau.

Winemaker of the Year

Matt Trevisan, Owner & Winemaker, Linne Calodo

Matt Trevisan helped spark the Rhone-variety blend movement in Paso Robles when he and his wife Maureen started Linne Calodo in 1998. Matt is also a longtime champion of Zinfandel blends that reflect the heritage of Paso Robles. Over the past 25 years, he has created some of the region’s most notable and enduring wines, including Rising Tides, Overthinker, and Cherry Red. He is driven by a devotion to Paso Robles—its wines, land, and community.

Matt studied Biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where he also caught the wine bug. He bootstrapped his way up through the cellar trenches at Justin and Wild Horse before striking out on his own to start Linne Calodo. He later planted Linne Calodo’s two estate vineyards in the Willow Creek District—the main winery estate and Stonethrower Vineyard. Matt handles numerous roles at Linne Calodo, including farmer, winemaker, cover crop sower, fix-it man, amateur electrician, and sheep herder. He practices a quiet dedication to what he calls ‘nature positive’ farming and the conservation of natural local resources.

Matt and Maureen have raised their three children in Paso Robles and are active supporters of the local performing arts scene.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Linda Cooks, Wine and Liquor Manager, Albertsons – Paso Robles

Linda started her career in the supermarket business 30+ years ago. She soon found her knack as a wine and liquor department manager where she was able to bridge the gap between corporate and small-town America. Paso Robles was a budding wine region and by bringing the wine culture to the store it also carried with it the small town feel into the supermarket environment. The outreach that Linda undertook, along with her dedication, and relationships with the local wineries, is how Albertsons Paso Robles was the first supermarket in California to have wine tastings in the store! That is how Albertsons in Paso Robles is the number one liquor sales in California. Linda says, “It’s not just me, but rather it is because of the local wineries and the relationships we harbor.  It is important to note that the local wineries have been generous to our community and our endeavors to feature them at Albertsons.” Linda’s most recent activation was to create in-store banners that help tell the story of the individuals behind the label. Again, bringing the hometown feel into our supermarket environment.

Linda has not always been a wine connoisseur. It wasn’t until her relationships with these wineries back in 1996, where she fell in love with wine, the people, and their stories. Linda has learned the art of winemaking from the winemakers themselves. “I understand the hard work and dedication that is needed to become a distinguished winery. I have been honored to be invited to judge at the Central Coast Wine Competition. When customers come to my store, I talk to them, give them the history of our community and wineries, make suggestions to their likings, and most importantly, treat them like family who want to come back to this beautiful community.”

Linda shares, “It has been a pleasure to be able to work in a corporate industry and have some latitude to do my job the best I can. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get where I am today. My relationships with these wineries are more than just a working relationship, they are family.”

“It is an honor to accept this Lifetime Achievement Award.  It is humbling to be recognized and honored in this manner. I am towards the end of my career, and this could not be more fulfilling as a manager of the wine and liquor department. Thank you for the opportunity to serve this community with compassion, hard work, and the love of this industry.”

California Mid-State Fair Photo Credit – Brittany App