In March 2020, the Spirited team started a simple online survey in an attempt to identify individual makers who deserve recognition for their creativity, integrity, innovation, and/or leadership. The nominations we received were filled with great anecdotes and heartfelt dedications. The selection process wasn’t scientific, instead guided by those words and sentiments. So what does it mean to be chosen as a Most Admired Maker? It means you’ve made an impact on your customers, colleagues, and community. Here are this year’s winners.
(For extended versions of these profiles, click through on their names).
Emily Darchuk, Wheyward Spirit (Portland, Ore.)
“Emily Darchak is a brilliant food scientist. Her brand, Wheyward Spirit, is distilled from excess whey, which has a lower carbon footprint and requires less water for distillation [than does grain]. It solves the problem, for example, of cheese production only using about 10 percent of the whey it creates, leaving 109 billion pounds of excess whey behind each year.” —Alicia Vargo, Speakeasy Wine & Spirits LLC
Scott Harvey, Scott Harvey Wines (Plymouth, Calif.)
“Due to the pandemic, direct-to-consumer sales, of which 60 percent come from tasting room visits, have drastically plummeted. Wineries must replace that lost revenue. Using [a mobile] solution to reach wine consumers anywhere and anytime, Scott Harvey Wines is innovating to thrive in the new normal and beyond. The company now interacts with customers, ranging from 21 to 83 years old, directly on their phones to promote new releases, events, discounts, and more.” —Christy Serrato, PairAnything
Tara Jasper, Sipsong Spirits (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
“She’s an incredible distiller, entrepreneur, woman, and mom. In 2020, Tara battled aggressive breast cancer with aggressive treatments and surgeries while continuing to grow her business. When the pandemic hit, she pivoted to making hand sanitizer for our local first responders and hospitals. This pivot cost her time and resources, but also used her raw materials so she had to put her gin production on hold even though sales were booming.
“As a testament to the amazing gin she produces, she won double gold at the San Francisco International Spirits Competition for her gin this year, the first time she entered the competition. She’s amazing at her craft, but has an even bigger heart for our community and is a fighter for her family. She is the most deserving woman I can imagine for this award.” —Erin Gore, Garden Society
Jeff Restel, Elevate Wines (Sonoma County, Calif.)
“After years working with high-end brands, Jeff really wanted to make an amazing wine for everyone—something that hits it out of the park when it accompanies your midweek meal, but also tastes incredible enough to be what you reach for at a Saturday night dinner party. Elevate Wines is a fun, refreshing brand that reaches into lesser explored Sierra Foothills [Calif.] growers and varieties, and, well, elevates them into delicious, affordable yet refined and unpretentious wines. With Elevate, Jeff is working to make wine more approachable and joyful to ‘elevate’ everyone’s experience. In his heart, he thinks everyone should have access to incredible tasting wine.” —Dianna Badalament, Diane B Designs
Scott Santaniello, Copper Moon Distillery (Springfield, Mass.)
“This small, locally owned company always manages to make its presence known at sampling events. The owner, Scott, is a very gifted and talented distiller who takes great pride in his products and takes the time to educate anyone interested in learning about the process of creating such great liquid libations.
“He always manages to show up at all local sampling events and continues to wow customers with his amazing array of products. Scott’s outgoing and friendly demeanor automatically draws your attention to his sampling table and, once you try his one-of-a-kind concoctions and let him tell you about the process, you’re immediately sold.” —Mary Hodgins, MB Promos