Jeff O’Neill, Founder & CEO, O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, has been awarded the prestigious 2022 Person of the Year Wine Star Award by Wine Enthusiast magazine. This honor recognizes people in the wine and spirits industry who are making remarkable contributions to its advancement through their vision and leadership.
Jeff O’Neill, a forward-thinking leader with 40 years in the wine and spirits business, wins prestigious industry honor.
O’Neill is highly respected for his 40-year career as a forward-thinking leader in the wine and spirits business. After leading publicly traded Golden State Vintners for 20 years, he founded O’Neill Vintners & Distillers in 2004, now the 10th largest winery in the United States. O’Neill has delivered quality winemaking at scale with a consumer-first perspective while fostering environmental and social change.
Recognized as an industry leader in environmental and social sustainability, O’Neill Vintners & Distillers achieved B Corp certification in 2022, meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental accountability.
In 2021, the company also earned Wine Institute’s coveted California Green Medal Leader Award. At a crucial time for Planet Earth, O’Neill leads by example to address the challenges of climate change, navigates global socio-economic crises, and makes the wine and spirits industry more accessible for all.
“Thank you, Wine Enthusiast, for this fantastic Wine Star honor. ‘Person of the Year’ really means ‘People of the Year’ to me,” stated O’Neill. “From our 350 team members to our 200 California growers, to all of our business partners, this is truly an achievement for all of the people with whom we have built lasting relationships for a sustainably forward business.”
From one of the world’s largest worm-powered wastewater recycling systems to a 5,000-panel solar farm to a regenerative farming study to requiring sustainable certification of all its growers across 15,000 California-planted vineyard acres, O’Neill has proven large-scale wineries have the power to be a force for good. Giving back is an essential part of O’Neill’s DNA: The Charles Woodson & O’Neill Family Wine Scholarships offer two four-year, full-ride college scholarships to BIPOC students entering the wine industry. O’Neill also served over a decade on the board of directors of Summer Search, a national leadership development program for low-income high school students. He currently serves on the UC Davis Viticulture & Enology Executive Leadership Board.
“It’s rare that best-in-class business is met with scale and Jeff O’Neill has been able to do exactly that,” said Adam Strum, Co-founder & Chairman of Wine Enthusiast Companies. “Jeff’s unstoppable vision and drive came to fruition in 2022 when O’Neill Vintners and Distillers managed to achieve B Corp certification. It’s for this achievement, and many more, that Wine Enthusiast is honored to name Jeff O’Neill as the 2022 Wine Star Award winner Person of the Year.”
Outside of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, Jeff is part-owner of Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma and is the founder of Velocity Invitational, an annual luxury wine and motorsports festival hosted at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.