Tobin James among local vintners, growers honored by wine groups

Tobin James and husband-and-wife team Lance and Claire Silver have been chosen as Wine Industry Persons of the Year.
Tobin James and husband-and-wife team Lance and Claire Silver have been chosen as Wine Industry Persons of the Year. Courtesy photo

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance recently recognized five San Luis Obispo County wine industry members as some of the local industry’s best.

The Alliance — along with the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association, Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area and the Vineyard Team — annually accepts anonymous nominations from its board members and past award recipients for the year’s top industry persons, said Alliance spokesperson Christopher Taranto.

The same group then votes anonymously to determine the winners.

This year, the board chose Tobin James and husband-and-wife team Lance Silver and Claire Silver as Wine Industry Persons of the Year, for their work at Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles. After several years as an assistant winemaker and working for other wineries, James founded Tobin James in 1994 and was joined by the Silvers in 1996. The winery now features one of the largest wine clubs in the area; the club had more than 20,000 members in 2011, the same year James first won the Alliance’s Wine Industry Person of the Year Award.

Winemaker of the Year winner Stephen Dooley founded his winery, Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, in 1994 after more than a decade of working at wineries throughout the area, including Edna Valley Vineyard. Dooley, who grew up in Minnesota, transferred to UC Davis for his junior year of college and eventually migrated to the Edna Valley area. The winemaker officially opened his San Luis Obispo tasting room on Suburban Road in 2008, after several years being based in Santa Maria.

Simon Graves, a native of Pretoria, South Africa, was chosen as Winegrape Grower of the Year for his more than 13 years with Treasury Wine Estates, where he got his start by managing the Camatta Hills Vineyard in Creston. Since then, Graves has moved up the ranks to become director of vineyard operations for Treasury Wine Estates, The Americas. He has served on the board for the Central Coast Winegrape Growers Association and currently is a part of the Vineyard Team.

This year’s winners will be honored at a special event July 18 during the California Mid-State Fair.