Every year I give out a very special award that comes with absolutely no benefit or prize to the winner. I call it the “Most Important/Influential Person in My Life this Year that I’ve Never Met” Award. It goes to the person who’s work or ideas have been a dominant and consistent presence in my life in the previous year. A clear indicator that a person has the qualifications has been that my friends and family can guess who I’m about to quote or refer to before I finish my sentence. Past winners of the MI/IPIMLTYTINM Award include:

1999-2009 (Lifetime Achievement Award): Brennan Manning: Author & Theologian

2010: Andy Gullahorn (@andygullahorn) & Andrew Peterson (@andrewpeterson) (Co-Winners): Singer/Songwriters

2011: Alton Brown (@altonbrown): Cook, TV personality, Author

2012: Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee): Entrepreneur, Author/Speaker, Wine Nerd

2013: Peter Rollins (@peterrollins): Philosopher & Author

2014: Brene Brown (@brenebrown): Author, “Researcher/Storyteller”, Thought Leader

2015: Jon Acuff (@jonacuff): Author, Professional Smart-Aleck.

For 2016, the award is going to Madeline Puckett (@winefolly), graphic designer turned wine nerd & writer, the co-creator of www.winefolly.com. She, and her team, have done more to not only help me understand the world of wine, but have given me tools, categories, and language to help me teach others. Her no BS, common sense, relaxed style of communicating and stunning ability to capture a complex idea in a picture or series of graphics is thoughtful and sincere, without a hint of pretentiousness, somehow straddling reverence and playfulness for her subject. Her style, more than anything else, has informed my priorities in how I try to teach: Shoot for authenticity and clarity first. If it happens to be funny, clever, articulate or insightful, that’s gravy.

Madeline, thank you. Thank you for the contributions you have made (and continue to make) to my life and my work. I’m saving my pennies for your complete set of maps, and I cannot tell you how many people I’ve shown and recommended your book to. In 2016, you were the “Most Important/Influential Person in My Life This Year That I’ve Never Met.” Congratulations!

All the previous winners have continued to have an incredible impact on my life, and I go back to their wells of wisdom and encouragement often. I highly recommend their books, their websites & their creative work to anyone, especially those who find themselves around the kind of work and play that I do. But today is Madeline’s day, so if you have any interest in learning more about my favorite beverage, check out the endless wine knowledge available at www.winefolly.com and pick up her (and co-author Justin Hammack’s) book, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine