Christopher is an internationally-renowned sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic and public speaker. He travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a VIP judge in the world’s top wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USA Today, MSN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Redbook, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler and CNN.
Gordana is the Instructor and the Wine Director at San Francisco Wine School. She had been a part of the San Francisco restaurant industry for years and participated in numerous highly-acclaimed wine competitions. Born and raised in Serbia, she traveled extensively to many of the world’s greatest wine regions and learned from the top wine professionals from around the globe. Gordana holds the French Wine Scholar and Italian Wine Scholar credentials, and the Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is currently preparing for her Master Sommelier Exam.
Kenneth is currently the board president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance and the Owner and winemaker of Auteur Wines (producing amazing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). He is also a consulting winemaker for multiple acclaimed wineries including: The Donum Estate, Dunstan Wines, Pali Wines, Blue Farm, and Attune.
Toby is a graduate of UC Davis, where he earned a degree in agricultural and managerial economics, and later received his MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He currently sits on the Unified Symposium’s Program Development Committee and the National Grape and Wine Initiative’s Committee on Understanding and Improving Grape Quality. Toby has worked in vineyard management in Sonoma Valley and has been a consultant for premium grape growers – developing sustainable, site-specific plans for pest control and plant health.
Virginie has been a Contributing Editor with Wine Enthusiast since 2010, and has had regular features in the New York Times and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Virginie is also the author of Napa Valley and Sonoma: Heart of California Wine Country, and she is regular panelist and speaker on wine topics in California and beyond.
Tadeo began his professional career as a 6th grade school teacher in the Arizona desert, but his love for wine brought him to Sonoma County in 2002. Making wine in New Zealand, along with extensive travel through winemaking cellars and vineyards throughout France and Italy, has enriched his winemaking palette and provided a strong foundation on which to continue his lifelong love and pursuit of wine. Since 2004 Tadeo has been making wine for the Neyers family in the Napa Valley and now he has his own label: Camino Cellars (2014 Cab received 95 points: Robert Parker).
Winemaker Russ Langord, along with his wife Sharon founded lovemore vineyards in 2014, based upon the idea that life, good wine and love are all best when shared. Russ has worked 13+ years in the wine industry with harvests in Napa, Sonoma, Lodi and New Zealand. He has worked with many wineries including Robert Mondavi, Drylands and Ravenswood. His wines are made to be expressive and food friendly.
Jean is one of the most respected wine professionals in the region. Previous to working with the Sonoma County Vintners, she was the president of the highly acclaimed Hanzel Vineyards. She is founder of the Jean Arnold Group, a strategic consulting firm, and creator of Women in the Business of Wine. Jean also serves on the board of directors of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation and has been named “woman of the year” in wine by North Bay Business Journal.
Katie Hamilton Shaffer is a wine country entertainer, chef, philanthropist and vintner in Napa Valley. Wishing to merge her passions for all things food, wine and philanthropy, Katie created the lifestyle brand "Feast it Forward" to raise a glass, awareness and funds while offering insight on how each person can make an impact and live beyond their backyard. Katie is a driven entrepreneur that has been named one of San Francisco’s “Magnificent 7” in Bay Area Food and Wine, as well as one of San Francisco’s 40 Under 40 emerging leaders in business.
Born and raised in Sonoma Valley, Kyle has an appreciation for the wine industry that runs as deep as some of the oldest vines in California; literally. Kyle is the Great Great Great Grandson of Agoston Haraszthy, pioneer of the California wine industry responsible for bringing the first vinifera vines to California. With over 15 years of industry experience, Kyle is now a private wine cellar consultant, helping wine novices and enophiles enjoy a variety of wines from California’s top producers.
David’s winemaking career spanned nearly 5 decades, which began in the cellar of the highly acclaimed Ridge Vineyards in 1970. Over the years he has worked in Monterey, Mendocino, France, and Sonoma Valley. In 1989 he helped launch Kunde Estate Winery, and then started his own label, David Noyes Wines, in 2001. His label produced small lots of pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay and friulano from select Sonoma County vineyards located in the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Sonoma Valleys.
David began his career in wine with Cakebread Cellars, and began traveling the wine world in 2001, working harvests in South Australia and visiting over 100 wineries before continuing his studies at the University of Adelaide. He returned to California and has led winemaking teams for some very prominent wineries including: Paraduxx, Gundlach Bundschu, Bartholomey Park, and Madrone Vineyard Estates. He is now a consulting winemaker, has his own labels offered on Naked Wines, and has recently launched an exciting new wine venture: Zeila.
Lance is a featured columnist for Wine Business Monthly, and also writes regularly for other magazines. Lance performed as winemaker/general manager for the historical Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, California, where he was named Sonoma County Winemaker of the year in 1983. He was also the winemaker and owner of his own Relentless Vineyards from 1999 to 2010. He is a highly sought after speaker in the industry and has done hundreds of presentations at winemaker dinners held at some of the most prestigious restaurants around the United States.
Steve is a third generation partner with his family’s business, which oversees over 1600 acres of Sonoma County vineyards in the Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Valley, and Carneros appellations, as well as grape sales to more than 70 premium wineries. He is a former board member and chair of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and of the Carneros Wine Alliance. He serves on the Development Committee of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and was selected as a North Bay Business Journal “Forty Under 40” in 2013.
Nicole completed her degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis in 2003. After graduation, she honed her winemaking skills in Sonoma and New Zealand before joining Far Niente in 2005 as its enologist. Soon thereafter, she was promoted to assistant winemaker and in 2009 became only the fourth winemaker in the over 30-year history of the winery. During her tenure, Nicole has gained a deep understanding of Far Niente’s estate vineyards, working with the sites and individual blocks to bring forth the discrete character of each.
A native of Oberwesel, Germany, Anne came to California in 1981. She rose through the ranks at Buena Vista through the 80s and 90s, while working along side many of the industries foremost authorities. She was integral is helping establish the Carneros Wine Alliance, which brought recognition to Carneros as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Today, she is the President and Winegrower at The Donum Estate, and co-owner of Blue Farm (amazing Pinot Noir & Chardonnay).
Mary Orlin is the wine and food writer for the Bay Area News Group and a James Beard Award and Emmy award-winning journalist, Certified Sommelier and WSET Advanced certified wine professional and frequent wine judge. Prior to joining the newspaper group in 2014, Mary contributed to local and national wine publications, and produced the wine TV show "In Wine Country" on NBC for nine seasons. Mary's journalism career began at CNN in Atlanta. She enjoys cooking and traveling throughout the world’s great wine regions.
Jess has been a grape grower and winemaker for 10 years, completing numerous harvests in California, New Zealand, and Australia. He specializes in organic wine growing and minimal intervention winemaking in order to best showcase each vineyard’s unique characteristics. Growing up in a family of chefs greatly influenced his approach in making wines that are complex and food-friendly. He is in the midst of launching Topophilia (“A Love of Place”) Wines, where he is both owner and winemaker, initially specializing in Pinot Noir and Rosé.
Paul has taught at Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department for 18 years, and co-authored the book: Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market which won the Gourmand International Award for the best wine book of the year. He is a columnist for Vineyards & Winery Management Magazine, and a member of the board of directors of the Society of Wine Educators. Paul judges many national and international wine competitions, is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, and is co-host on the popular podcast Bottle Talk.
When discussing California’s most sought after female wine makers, Mia Klein is among the top of the list. She has made wine for several critically acclaimed wineries including Chappellet, Araujo Estate, Cimarossa, Spottswoode, Viader, Dalla Valle, and Robert Pepi. Mia is currently producing excellent wines under her own label, Selene, as well as producing wine for Bressler Winery and Cimarossa.
After studying Bio-chemistry, Philosophy and Modern European Intellectual History in college, Erich chose the path of school teacher before quickly realizing that his true passion is in winemaking. He started his career at Arrowood Vineyards and then moved on to Audelssa Estate Winery. He then founded Sojourn in Sonoma, and has since added Pangloss Cellars and Repris (among others) to his expanding winemaking empire. Erich continues to be one of the most sought after winemakers around.
Scott quit his job as a chef at age 20 and got his degree in Fermentation Science from UC Davis. His early resume lists the who’s who of wine. He honed his craft with Chateau St. Jean, Ironhorse, Kendall Jackson, and Chateau St. Michelle, but he eventually left the corporate winery world to consult with other top winemakers in Northern California and Argentina. He launched his first label, S.P. Drummer in the late 1990s and founded Rumpus Cellars in 2006. Today he makes award winning wines for his various wine labels and consults with wineries all over the world.
Neil is a resident in the town of Sonoma and has been working in the wine business for the last eight years, He Currently heads up Texture – a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay project based in Sonoma, with wines made by Erich Bradley. “The face of the brand”, Neil runs the Texture Membership and conducts Texture’s by-appointment, food and wine pairing experiences.
In 1990 Peter packed up an old school bus and headed west from Massachusetts, landing at Ravenswood winery. He honed his craft and became the head winemaker, than took over as GM of the winery. He truely loves the wines of the south of France, particularly Grenache. This passion led to purchasing a hillside vineyard above Sonoma which he cultivated, planted, and now makes wines under his own label, Mathis. Year after year he continues to make celebrated, award winning Grenache.
Sarah is an enthusiast in all things wine, food, and travel. She galavants as a freelance journalist, having contributed to numerous publications including Huffington Post, Sonoma Magazine, Sonoma Index Tribune, to name a few. As a photographer, her work has been featured by WAMU, National Parks Service, KNPR, Lonely Planet, NBA, Red Bull, and numerous others. In addition to her many activities, she is also an editor of Wikipedia, the former Wikipedian in Residence at the Smithsonian Institute and Library of Congress, and former Susan B. Miller Fellow at Cal, Berkeley.
Born and raised in New York City, Eric’s family instilled in him an appreciation of French and Italian wines at an early age. He studied music at Boston University and the Julliard School of Music. After many years of managing a chamber ensemble, he decided to pursue his love for wine while earning a degree in enology from Cal State Fresno. He first apprenticed at Carmenet and Acacia wineries, then in 1989 began his career with Landmark Winery. As head winemaker, Eric led a successful career with landmark for over 22 years, earning national acclaim with numerous wines.
After studying Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, Ellie purchased the renowned Durell Vineyard in 1998 and exclusively grows premium wine grapes, which are now sold to over 20 top-tier wineries. In 2005 she replanted the 8 1/2 acre Ranch House Block at Durell, which is dedicated exclusively to her own Dunstan Wines. Dunstan produces a few hundred cases of award-winning wine each year.
Sheri’s love of wine began in when she attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She studied wine business and viticulture and has had the good fortune to work in the wine industry for the past 18 years, traveling to wine destinations across the globe! She has experience with many brands – both big and boutique, as well as domestic and imported wine. Sheri lives in Napa with her husband, two children and their pound puppy.
Upon graduating from College, Ray left the US for 7 years, living in Japan, Singapore, and Bangkok. Within the first months of returning home he revisited his passion for winemaking and began working on bottling lines, then crush for Kenwood winery, and then working in the cellar at Bouchaine in Carneros while also starting his wine export company, California Terroirs. In 1986 he started working at Laurel Glen, which lasted all the way up until 2011. Ray has now embarked upon making wine for his newest wine ventures: Adelante Wine and Tierra Divina.
Molly’s depth of experience is impressive, having worked with numerous notable winemakers, including Heidi Barrett, Philipe Melka, Mike Hirby, and Julien Fayard. Her experience includes being Associate Winemaker at Moone-Tsai Vineyards, and Assistant Winemaker at Paradigm. She has also worked with Duckhorn Vineyards, Relic Wine Cellars, and Talisman Wines, and gained international experience at Whitehaven Vineyards in New Zealand. Molly is now the winemaker for Volker Estates in Napa, and recently launched her own label: Proxy Wines.
Charles has had a long career in wine: Starting at Fillipelli Ranch, then as the first vineyardist in the Carneros for Moet – Charles then worked for Chateau St Jean as their fourth employee. After some local wine education, he became the assistant winemaker at Donna Maria Vineyards, before he became the winemaker at Chalk Hill, where he produced their first gold medal wines, achieving silver or better medals for every varietal he fermented. Wildcat Wines (his double gold award winning label) was a natural evolution that lead Charles to a place where he could practice his craft and help others with consultation to develop their own vineyards, wines and labels.
Chef Jones is the creative force behind the unforgettable dishes served at St. Francis Winery, which was voted “#1 restaurant in America” by OpenTable diners in 2013 and again in 2015. Chef Jones’ ability to achieve perfect balance and harmony in masterfully creating dishes to pair with specific wines has earned him a highly regarded reputation amongst his peers, diners, and critics alike.
Sondra is a “wine country restauranteur with a fig and Rhone wine obsession.” She has many irons in the fire and has built a mini-empire as the Proprietor/CEO of The Girl & the Fig restaurant in Sonoma, an owner of the Fig Cafe and Wine Bar in Glen Ellen, The Girl & the Fig Caters, Suite D event space, the Fig Rig food truck, and is the author of multiple cook books. Sondra is not stopping there, with other wine and food related endeavors in the works.
Following graduation from the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis, Andrew served as enologist with MacRostie Winery. He was then appointed assistant winemaker at Pellegrini Family Vineyards in the Russian River Valley where he worked with Olivet Lane Vineyard. He concurrently made wines for several well respected custom crush clients, and then became the winemaker at the single-vineyard specialist Nickel & Nickel in Napa Valley. When the winery partners created EnRoute in 2007, Delos was the obvious choice for the head winemaking position, where he has been ever since.
Dub is one of the most well respected specialty coffee industry experts in the world. His palate and tasting experience speaks for itself, as he was formerly Starbuck’s top coffee expert and master taster, in charge of new blends and coffee education company wide. He now owns and operates W.C. Hay Coffee Consulting, where he focuses on coffee procurement, ethical sourcing, and other coffee related endeavors. Dub has been a board member of numerous business and charitable associations (too many to count), and currently sits as the Chairman of the Board of the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley.
Allison, who grew up in Southern California, quickly fell in love with "wine country" and all that it has to offer, while attending UC Davis. Jumping in feet first, Allison successfully opened Cornerstone Cellars first tasting room in Yountville, CA, as well as rebranded and grew consumer and wine club sales at Rutherford Ranch Winery in Rutherford, CA. Allison is now consulting for luxury producers in the Napa Valley to elevate their consumer experiences and help grow their consumer wine sales.
David graduated from California Culinary Academy of San Francisco and worked for various restaurants in SF. He moved to Sonoma and worked at The Girl and the Goucho and The Fig Cafe, then moved on to be the Executive chef at St. Francis Vineyard. In developing a renown food and wine pairing, his culinary expertise was recognized by OpenTable as the BEST restaurant in America. David is now the Chef and Owner of the critically acclaimed and nationally award winning Oso restaurant in Sonoma.
Jack is a seasoned veteran in the wine industry, having spent 10 years in New York in the import and wholesale business and 20 years traveling the world selling Napa Valley wines. His extensive travels took him to the Rhone Valley in France, where he fell in love with the wines and the people. His passion for the surrounding area grew so he decided to start The Jack Edwards Collection, a direct wine importing company that specializes in small production, high quality wines from southeast France. His portfolio represents multiple family owned French wineries in the US and Canada.
Anne is a French native, raised outside Bordeaux, France. Growing up, she was exposed to Cognac making by her grandfather and participated in Harvest during school vacations. She spent 12 years in Boston and helped grow BeveragesToGo, a wine consulting & sales service. In 2006, Anne moved to Sonoma with family and became an independent wine broker, working for two importers/distributors (Weygandt-Metzler and Five Grapes) specializing in Boutique European wineries and private cellar acquisitions.
TJ is the still winemaker at the renown Domaine Carneros. Upon completion of his master’s degree in 1997, TJ worked harvest at New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate and apprenticed at France’s 500 year-old Domaine Jean Louis Chave. He has been the winemaker at La Crema and Alderbrook Winery, and in 2005 travelled to Chile to work with Vinedos y Bodegas. TJ joined the winemaking team at Domaine Carneros in 2008.
Raised in French speaking Europe until the age of 19, a passion for food and wine came naturally to Dan. He started as the marketing and PR contact for Schug Carneros Estate Winery, and went on to work for several importers and distributors throughout the bay area as a wine sales specialist. Functioning as an independent wine broker for the last 6 years, Dan specializes in hard to find wines and lesser known wine growing regions. He is currently writing a cookbook focussed on pairing wines and foods from around the world.
Bart is a highly respected winemaker in Sonoma. He started his career in 1986 working for Kenwood vineyards. In 1998 he left his position of Cellarmaster and joined the wine-making team at Benziger Family Winery, where he was introduced to biodynamics and organic farming. Bart currently has his own wine label called Dane Cellars, where he is producing excellent Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the early 2000’s Cindy left a 15-year law enforcement career in Northern Virginia to pursue her ultimate passion: winemaking. She moved to California and studied enology at Napa Valley College. She worked her way up to winemaker at Crushpad (custom crush facility), but then left in 2012 to dedicate herself full time to building her own Passaggio brand. In August, 2014 Passaggio opened up their tasting room in downtown Sonoma where you can taste her award winning wines year round.
Didier was born and raised in southwest France, with his first apprenticeship taking place in Gradignan, just outside of Bordeaux. He moved to the US in 1989, landing in the Napa Valley in 1994. Didier opened the first Dean & Deluca on the West Coast as the senior wine buyer. In 2004 he opened DDC Shipping, LLC, an international wine shipping company. That same year Didier launched Loustau Wines and Marketing, a company focussing on exposing small production, artisan wines to a broader audience. In 2009, he launched ToutSuite, a unique web platform for luxury brands.
Maggie first discovered her passion for wine over 15 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Wine has taken her around the world: from wine classes at the University of Adelaide, National Wine Center, to working in Sonoma with the Benziger Family in 2007, and then continuing her wine education at Gundlach Bundschu as the Lead Public Tour Coordinator. Since 2016 she has been the Chief Concierge & Wine Director at the prestigious Kenwood Inn & Spa, joined the Court of Master Sommeliers, and became a member of the National Concierge Association.
Enologix designs predictive analytics for luxury wine growing. They created the first algorithms to predict grape harvest dates, grading new wines, digital blends and future market price, volume and taste scores - including 100-point critics' scores. Their precise analytical models predict future wine quality before conducting winemaking operations.The most important metric among winemakers are digital blends and a taste index which predicts taste quality.
Through the years Greg has held multiple roles at various wineries ranging from tasting room host to working as a cellar hand during harvest. Today, he is the co-owner of Wine Kitchen in the NoPa Neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. He has many roles as the co-owner, but most importantly he is the chef and wine buyer for his restaurant. Outside of his busy schedule at work, Greg has been following his passion for wine while honing his skills as a self proclaimed “hobby” winemaker.
Danny is a Wine & Viticulture graduate of Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo and a Wine MBA graduate of Bordeaux Ecolé de Management in Bordeaux, France. He has served as President and CEO of Envolve Winery and Director of Production at Corner 103 Winery. Today he is the General Manager at Kanzler Family Vineyards. He has also held key board of director positions with Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Harvest Auction and Real Men Drink Pink.
Tim caught the wine bug in high school while working for a major wine and spirits retailer. He followed his passion for wine and worked his way up to cellar master at Sonoma Creek Winery, while taking enology and viticulture classes at Napa Valley College. Tim was hired at the Hess Collection in Napa, and then moved on to winemaking positions at Kives-Newton’s Oak Knoll Vineyards and Curvare Winery. He has established himself as a gold medal winning winemaker and today owns TC Wine Consulting, and is the winemaker for Char Vale Winery and La Bella Vita.
Dorothe was born and raised around the wine country culture. The daughter of Anne Moller Racke, Dorothe attended California College of Arts & Crafts. In 2006 she began her career in the wine industry working as a national account specialist with The Donum Estate and Robert Stemmler Winery. Today, she is the Director of sales and marketing for Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, California.
Joe realized his passion for wine following his culinary education at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena, CA. While working at the Slanted Door in SF he realized that his next pursuit would be wine, so he returned to his alma mater to study under Master Sommelier Robert Bath and Sommelier Christie Dufault at the school’s Accelerated Wine and Beverage Program. Joe received his Certified Sommelier accreditation from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and most recently represented an international wine portfolio.
Michelle is a fresh, new Sommelier in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having just passed her CMS Sommelier Certification exam in March, she’s already planting her roots and reaching her tendrils. She’s the Tasting Room Manager for Bacchus & Venus in Sausalito and the author of the wine blog The Merlot Down. Today, she is very proud to be the new Chief of Public Relations and Brand Ambassador for Cru9 Wines led by the incredible Faythe Stone-Brocka and to be a part of her “She Army,” advocating for survivors and drinking the wine, Cru9 style.
Erica is the winemaker for Trombetta Family Wines (her family’s label) and Furthermore Wines. She knew early on that winemaking was her passion, so after earning a degree in Enology at CSU Fresno she completed internships at Vina Cobos in Mendoza, Argentina, at Rudd Estate in Oakville, and at Crossbarn Winery in Sebastopol. She worked as a technical enologist at Enartis Vinquiry for over two years, consulting with winemakers and traveling around the world. She was recently named among the “Three young Sonoma County Winemakers Turning Heads.”
Tony has been in and around the wine business since college. He got his start working as a garçon at Willi's Wine Bar in Paris, France in the early 90s. He then moved to San Francisco to pursue a retail and restaurant wine career. He has held wine-buying positions at such establishments as Silks at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hayes & Vine Wine Bar, and the fondly remembered (by some, anyway) Flying Saucer. He is the National Sales Manager for Meyer Family Cellars in Mendocino County, and is a freelance wine writer for multiple publications.
Raised in the Sonoma Valley, as the son and nephew of hobby winemakers, Tyler began learning the process of creating wine early on. In an effort to understand wine from the ground-up, he immersed himself into bio-dynamic agriculture locally as well as in the beautiful vineyards of Chile. He still enjoys making a barrel or two of wine every year in his humble garage and spends his free time crafting bean to bar chocolate. Tyler is now the Winery Liaison at Wine Country Chocolates in Glen Ellen. He works meticulously with each client to create a custom chocolate pairing that is specifically designed for each wine.
Glenda made her way to the Bay Area in 2006 and landed at Bistro Liaison in Berkeley, CA. Her love of wine quickly took root and she assumed leadership of the wine and cocktail program. She moved to Sonoma, CA in 2011 to manage the wine club at Enoteca della Santina. She became a certified Sommelier in 2013 and was invited to direct the wine program at Harvest Moon Cafe, where she has transformed the wine list into one of the most dynamic and compelling in the town of Sonoma.
Vance wears many hats in his professional career, but all of them revolve around his passion for both food and wine. He is the proprietor and chef of Du Jour Dining, a private “underground dining” concept that is embraced by foodies and wine lovers from all over. In the wine world, Vance is a partner in the wine company that makes Grieve Sauvignon Blanc and Double Eagle, a red Bordeaux. He handles everything from getting his hands dirty in the vineyard, to the winemaking, and handling the marketing and sales for the wine.
Randy’s foray into winemaking came under the tutelage of Thomas Brown and Mike Smith while working in the wine caves at Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma. This is where he was introduced to the art of making distinctive, high-end wines while producing for Schrader Cellars, Rivers-Marie, Myriad Cellars, and Tamber Bey. Randy is now the General Manager, oversees the cellar operations, and makes the wine for Sojourn Cellars. In addition to his day job, he has his own impressive wine label called Townley Wines, which produces sophisticated Cabernet, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot.
Initially majoring in corporate finance and international business, it didn’t take long for Kyle to realize that his true passion was culinary in nature. After an externship with a stockbroker in London Kyle enrolled in the culinary program at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Shortly thereafter The Fairmont Pittsburgh came knocking and he was the first cook they hired. Kyle then moved to Sonoma to work at the Michelin Star rated restaurant, Sante. A few years later Kyle was offered the executive chef position at Ramekins, where he continues to create his exquisite culinary vision.
Chris began working with Durell Vineyard in 2006 and partnered with Ellie in the launch of Dunstan Wines in 2008. Chris completed the Winemaker’ Certificate course at UC Davis, and in 2011 he merged his love for wine and technology together and launched Vinespring, which provides unmatched ecommerce solutions for wineries all over the country.
Sheana Davis has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in the Sonoma Valley cheesemaking scene. Not only is she a nationally respected cheesemaker, but she is also well known as a culinary educator, caterer, and owner of the The Epicurean Connection. She offers a creative and versatile range of food experiences and services while traveling between her beloved town of Sonoma and equally beloved city of New Orleans. Sheana has enthusiastically supported the artisan and farmstead cheese movement for more than 20 years.
A New Zealand native Blair made his way to Sonoma for the 2009 Harvest as an intern for Paul Hobbs in Sebastopol, California. He then returned in 2011 to marry his American sweet heart, Caroline. Together in 2013 they launched their Guthrie Family Wines brand – focused on fresh, food-friendly Rhone varieties. By the way: Wine is for punk rock, too!
Bethany became fascinated by the wine industry when she moved to Napa at age 21. She has worked with wine makers, tasting room managers, vineyard workers, and is well-read on the wine industry and the process of winemaking. Hailing from a culinary and service background, her experience with wine was always intimately connected to food – however, the more she experienced wine, the more she recognized that wine was something worth taking the time to love on its own. Bethany is currently studying to take her first certified sommelier test.
Originally from Connecticut, Larry found his love of restaurants after moving to Northern California. He has worked with such notable Chefs as Elka Gilmore, Jonathan Waxman, Jan Birnbaum and eventually Thomas Keller, where he joined The French Laundry in 1996 and stayed for 20 years, mostly as the head maître ‘d. During that period he also worked alongside master sommeliers Bobby Stuckey and Paul Roberts. For the past 2 years Larry has been working for Mac McQuown and Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Winery, running their private dining room, Edge, in downtown Sonoma.
After studying viniculture and winemaking technology at Napa Valley College in 2000, Jerry started making “garage” wine in Yountville, CA. He is currently working on his 18th consecutive harvest with the Ledson Family, where he is the Vice President of sales, a valuable asset in assisting the winemaker with his final blends, and a prominent contributor on tasting panels. Jerry has passed his first level with The Court of Master Sommeliers, while also representing Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Zina Hyde Cunningham, & Mountain Terraces Vineyards.
The term “Specialist” probably doesn’t do Michael justice with the amount of wine knowledge that he has. He has been tasting and seeking out new wines as a buyer in the retail arena since 1977. He broke away from that industry in 2014 and is currently working as an independent wine & spirits specialist/consultant. Michael is an active wine judge and has participated in numerous tastings over the years.
A Sonoma County native, Mark grew up outside the Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, CA and spent his summers working in a winery in Alexander Valley. After Attending the prestigious UCLA film school, Mark traveled extensively for work throughout Asia and the Pacific. After nearly 10 years in international business, Mark returned to his roots in Wine Country to work with Fosters Wine Estates. He has extensive global luxury experience, having traveled across 6 continents, and brings this expertise to the table where he is currently co-owner of Out In The Vineyard.
Lazaro’s roots run deep in Sonoma Valley. As a 4th generation vineyard grower he was destined to continue the family tradition in the wine industry. While working as the VP of sales for his family’s business, Robledo Family Winery, Lazaro is currently developing his own label called “8of9” (referring to being the 8th out of 9 children), which focuses on premium Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. He ha his level 3 WSET wine certification and also produces 10 tons of extra virgin olive oil from his Rancho Los Tres Toros.
Kristi, who lives in Napa and has been in the wine industry for the past 10 years.She grew up working in restaurants, where she acquired a love for food and wine. While she started her wine career at Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars, she has been in the wine distribution and import world for the past 9 years. She is well-traveled – having spent time in Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand and South America – visiting wineries and learning about the different regions, first hand, from the winemakers.
Ben has been in the wine industry for as long as he has been alive. Ben’s father, iconic winemaker Bob Sessions, was working at Mayacamas Cellars when Ben was just a small boy and then took over the winemaking responsibilities at the renown Hanzell Vineyard in Sonoma in 1973. Ben spent his formidable years at the winery learning everything from winemaking to farming, and from cellar work to hospitality. He truly found his niche on the sales side of the business and worked for Hanzell Vineyards up until a few years ago. He now works alongside his wife, Sheana Davis, with all their ventures.
Christine’s path to the wine industry is not so uncommon, as some of the best wine pros have started off in other business sectors. Prior to her moving to the wine country, she had experienced launching software and medical device startups, working in the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, and engaging in product development for international educational exchange programs. After 15 years in San Francisco, she moved to Sonoma to pursue her love for wine. She became a Certified Wine Specialist and opened Uncorking Sonoma, an educational wine tasting business.
Kris’s passion for wine extends far beyond her day to day occupation. Her continuous thirst for wine education and experiences has taken her to some of the most prominent wine growing regions around the world, such as France, Chile, Italy and Austria. When she is not traveling the globe in search of amazing wines, she represents 4 diverse wine catalogs of boutique wineries from all over (Vinifera Wine, Oliver McCrum, The Source Imports, and The Rare Wine Company).
Joel graduated from UC Davis in 2002 and immediately went to work at Kenwood Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma. He worked his way up to assistant winemaker within three years of joining the winemaking staff. He took his experience of working in the winery and has since moved on to become the General Manager and resident winemaker at Safe Harbor Wines, a custom wine storage and winemaking facility that utilizes cutting edge technology to give winemakers a cost-effective means of stylizing and evolving wines with a measure of precision that exceeds traditional oak barrel aging.
After growing up in San Diego and enjoying the beaches of southern California, Leo moved to France in 1974 to learn how to make (that fabulous beverage) WINE! He worked for Paul Jaboulet in Hermitage in the Rhone Valley. In late 1975, he moved to the beautiful Sonoma Valley and worked in production at Buena Vista winery for 28 years, and then went to the Michael Mondavi winery in Napa. He and his wife Nicole are very happy, to have raised two children in the Sonoma Valley!
Jayme was born and raised in Sonoma, California, so she has been engrossed in wine culture her entire upbringing. She found her love for everything bubbles while working at Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga (Napa), California. Recognizing a niche in which there was huge demand on the rise, Jayme decided to open up Sigh, Sonoma’s only Champagne and Sparkling bar. She focuses on small grower/producer Champagnes and limited production sparklers from all over. The concept was a great success and she has since moved into a much larger and more elaborate space on the Sonoma Square.
Born and raised in France, Philippe has extensive experience in all aspects of the wine business, ranging from winemaking to guest relations. His current role with Stone Edge Farm Winery and Vineyards has allowed him to implement a compelling brand story centered around the Bordeaux model which focusses on age-worthy wines that attract collectors of fine wine from all over. Philippe is a certified Sommelier.
Wine roots run deep in Manny’s family as well, so marrying Dorothe was a natural fit. He has 20 years in the wine business between the Henry Wine Group and Southern Wine and Spirits. He is a certified Sommelier, WSET Level 2, a Certified Specialist in Spirits, and a Certified Specialist in Wine. He has a highly sophisticated palate and has competed in multiple wine blind tasting competitions on a professional level.
Sara has been immersed in the wine industry for over 25 years, after joining the sales and marketing team at Honig Winery in 1992. In 2004, she accepted a position at Cliff Lede Vineyards, acting as a key player in the company’s growth and development on a national scale. Today she oversees national sales and distribution for three distinct brands: Cliff Lede Vineyards and Poetry in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, and FEL Wines from the Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast. Having traveled the world in search of adventure and great wines, she has developed an extremely talented palate.
Susan Kornblatt Idell, with her husband Richard Idell, own Idell Family Vineyards. The well-respected Michael Mara Chardonnay Vineyard, on which Susan and Richard partner with viticulturist and winemaker, Steve Matthiasson, is part of their estate vineyards and several esteemed winemakers procure grapes from this vineyard. Idell Family Vineyards also produces small lot wines from their estate Oscar Syrah vineyard as well as their Oscar Mixed Blacks, a homage to a traditional Sonoma field blend.
Tracy joined Mia Klein at Selene Wines in 2004 and quickly mastered nearly every aspect of the operations of the winery business. While Mia is the Winemaker at Selene, Tracy does “everything else” to make the operation work. She has an extremely sophisticated palate and has tasted numerous different wines and multiple vintages from around the globe.
Travels to Italy, Spain and Portugal have given Joelle the opportunity to experience some of the most exciting wine regions in the world. Fortunate to live in Sonoma, surrounded by exceptional wines and accessible wine education, Joelle the "Sommelier Whisperer" is adept at keen review of extensive wine lists for friends. Recently resigned from the fashion/tech industry, her creative world has opened up to arrange farm fresh flowers and create specialty culinary favorites for The Panel, as she launches a professional network pop-up in Sonoma for women to collaborate, work together, and give back to a nonprofit – promoting her true love for philanthropy.
Josh is wine lover from Sonoma who has traveled to many of the great wine regions of the world (including Spain, Italy, France, Argentina and Australia) trying to expand his mind and palate. He is an accomplished musician that plays numerous instruments by trade (having shared the stage with Mazzy Star, The Mother Hips, Boz Scaggs, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers and many others), and has played shows in 12 different countries. Josh's has assisted at local wineries for wine events, and wife designs vineyards, giving him an interesting perspective on grapes that many never consider.
Toni is a well respected, season veteran in the wine industry. Throughout her career she has experienced just about every aspect of the wine business. From wine sales to marketing, wine fulfillment to wine club management, Toni knows the business through and through. Today, she is a managing partner of La Bella Vita Wine Company, where she is responsible for all aspects of the business. She recently took on the role of Executive Assistant and Operations Coordinator for the highly regarded Accendo Cellars in St. Helena, Napa Valley.
After graduating in 2003 from Cal Poly SLO with a degree in Agribusiness (Wine and Viticulture minor) Carolyn joined Larson Family Winery in Sonoma as a lab tech, becoming assistant winemaker (2004) and eventually winemaker (2006). She pursued sparkling winemaking in 2015, apprenticing under Penny Gadd-Coster at Rack and Riddle and, in 2016, joined Three Wine Company in Clarksburg, CA, where she is responsible for all phases of production. She enjoys the challenge each harvest brings and working with multiple varietals and blending to make the best wines possible – many of which are award-winning wines.
Kevin’s background in wine was built from having an extensive personal collection of European wines for the past 30 years. In 2017, however, he decided to spend the summer in Europe, exploring almost every wine region, looking for a wider variety of “every day” wines that would also be very food friendly (he loves to cook!). He found that 80 percent of the wines he liked were not being imported into the U.S. and so he decided to start wUst Fine Wine imports (wines U should try!). The overall portfolio now totals 120 wines from five countries and 30 producers.
Having moved to Sonoma from New York over 16 years ago, Gary has fully immersed himself in the Wine Country lifestyle, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau. He has an extensive background in the luxury hospitality business, working at the world class Auberge Du Soliel and the renowned Girl and the Fig Restaurant. Gary is currently co-owner of Out In The Vineyard: an experiential Wine Country event and travel company promoting positive LGBT lifestyles and offering luxury itineraries and events in Wine Country.
Kathy, along with her brother John, own 37 acres in the historic Rutherford Bench in Napa Valley. In 2008 she co-founded Chaix Wines with the intent on producing fine wine with grapes harvested from their family's highly sought after Rutherford Vineyard. They create small, handcrafted vintages of award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon.
Jonathan started his wine and food career by attending the infamous Culinary Institute of America. He landed his first gig as the executive chef at the Coyote Grill in Park City, UT, and has held numerous positions in the wine and food industry ranging from Corporate Director of Food and Beverage at Nantucket Island Resorts to Member of the Board of Directors of B Cellars Vineyards and Winery. Today, Jonathan is the Food and Beverage Director at The Girl & The Fig, an ever expanding culinary and wine focussed company based in Sonoma, CA.