We consider it both a privilege and an honor to work with names renown in the food & wine worlds. From award-winning wineries to executive chefs, our “Taste of Life” Vintages have featured some of the best company around aboard luxury 5 star cruise lines. Below are just a few notable names we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming aboard our A Taste of Life collection. View our current hosts & sailings here.

Eileen Crane: CEO/Founding Winemaker, Domaine Carneros by Taittinger

Eileen Crane, often referred to as America’s Doyenne of Sparkling Wine, has spent 38 years in the wine industry. This makes her the most experienced Sparkling Winemaker in the United States. Eileen is equally at home in the world of food and wine having both a culinary and science background.

In 1978, Eileen made the decision to turn her passion for wine into a profession, headed west, and began her career at Chandon. Six years later, she was hired as winemaker and vice president of Gloria Ferrer Caves, she was entrusted with the responsibilities of overseeing the design and construction of the facility, developing the company and the line of sparkling wines.

It turned out to be an experience that served her well. Eileen was selected by the President of Champagne Taittinger, for the position of CEO/Winemaker of Domaine Carneros. Once again, she oversaw the planning and development of a major winery this time the beautiful Carneros landmark chateau.  Today Domaine Carneros consistently produces top-rated Sparkling and Pinot Noir wines. Under Eileen’s direction, Domaine Carneros has been a leader in the Wine Industry’s Green Movement.  In 2003, Domaine Carneros housed the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world. Eileen is one of a handful of women who are now in the forefront of the wine industry in California. Recently recognized by Forbes as the most powerful woman in Napa Valley, Eileen is actively involved in numerous wine and civic organizations.

Cyril Chappellet: Chairman of the Board, President & CEO, Chappellet Winery

Moving to Pritchard Hill when he was 10 years old, Cyril Chappellet has witnessed the transformation of the Napa Valley into one of the world’s great winegrowing regions. The eldest son of Molly and Donn Chappellet, Cyril grew up working in the vineyard and winery. At 18, Donn and Molly encouraged Cyril to make his own career choices and to explore life away from the family business.

After studying farm management at Cal Poly and completing his business education at Pepperdine University, Cyril began a career in corporate planning and acquisitions. In 1988, after nearly a decade of honing his business skills, Cyril returned to Pritchard Hill to join the Chappellet team. “The finest wineries around the world reflect a commitment that goes beyond one generation,” says Cyril. “At Chappellet, this ongoing commitment is key to our continued ability to make extraordinary wines. It has also elevated Pritchard Hill as one of the world’s finest locations for producing ultra-premium wine.”

Prior to being named chairman of the board, Cyril spent many years as the winery’s managing director. In this role, he was instrumental in guiding the day-to-day workings of the winery, overseeing sales and marketing efforts and working with his parents and siblings to ensure the ongoing vitality of the business. During his tenure as managing director, Chappellet was recognized for making some of the finest wines in its storied history, and Pritchard Hill catapulted to center stage as California’s premier location for mountain-grown Bordeaux varietals, most notably, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cyril was elected chairman of the winery’s family-run board of directors in 2012, becoming the only person other than his late-father, Donn, to hold this position in the history of Chappellet. Today, Cyril is actively involved in every aspect of the winery’s operations and works closely with his family to ensure the continued success of Chappellet.

Cyril’s intimate connection with Pritchard Hill, where he lives with his wife, Blakesley, and their quarter horses, often finds him lending a skilled hand wherever needed. Whether building a horse corral, driving a forklift in the winery, or barbecuing for guests, Cyril enjoys being hands-on. “Doing whatever it takes is the nature of a family business,” says Cyril. “It is also part of the charm.”

In addition to the many hats he wears at Chappellet, Cyril is currently on the board of the Napa Valley Vintners, of which Chappellet was the 18th registered member. (There are more than 548 members today.) He is also involved with the Wine Service Co-Op that Chappellet helped to found in 1972. Cyril and his wife Blakesley are actively involved with the many charities that are critically needed to support the Napa Valley Community. Blakesley is an incredibly accomplished woman who has had successful professional careers in marketing and banking, is an author of Napa Valley Entertaining and a philanthropist. When not working on behalf of Chappellet or the Napa Valley wine industry, Cyril is an avid horseman, and a member of the Charlie Russell Riders and Los Rancheros Visitadores.

Blakesley is the author of Napa Valley Entertaining a beautiful coffee table book thatinspires readers to bring a bit of wine country flair to their own gatherings by highlighting the people, dishes, decor  and wines that make Napa Valley unique.  She isactively involved in supporting charitable causes across the country, serving on several not-for-profit boards.   Her creative fundraising efforts have raised over $20 million for charity.

Justin Baldwin, Founder of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery

Former investment and international banker Justin Baldwin founded JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery in 1981 when he purchased 160 acres west of Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast and planted his estate vineyards. Since its inception, Justin has focused his efforts on producing world class Bordeaux style blends from the estate vineyards for the JUSTIN label. Justin is a pioneer in producing this style of wine on the Central Coast and his efforts have been rewarded with past and present vintages earning 90+ points by the major wine trade publications. More encompassing recognition has come from awards such as the Grand Sweepstakes award winner, Best of class, Best of Region, the coveted Pichon Lalande trophy for “World’s Best Blended Red Wine” and Wine Spectators Top 10 Wines of the World. Vintages have received numerous accolades by capturing Decanter Magazine’s “4 Stars”, Restaurant Wine’s “3 Forks” and Connoisseurs Guide’s” 3 Puffs”. Justin has consistently earned the praise of the wine press with recognition from the likes of Robert M. Parker Jr. naming Justin Baldwin one of his “Wine Heroes of the Year” and the “Star of Paso Robles”, the James Beard Foundations “Great American Winemaker Award”, Quarterly Review of Wine’s “Top 3 Cabernet Producers of the Year”, and Wine Enthusiast’s “Top Cabernet and Blended Wine Producers List” for seven years running.

Food and JUSTIN wines go together. In fact, JUSTIN is the only winery on California’s Central Coast to retain a full-time chef whose kitchen works daily to pair acclaimed JUSTIN wines with fresh seasonal and vineyard grown offerings. Justin is an active participant in the wine world. He is a frequent panelist at prominent food and wine events worldwide, is a board member of the Family Winemakers of California, board member of the Wine Institute, board member of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, vice-chair Paso Robles AVA committee, co-founder of the West Side Grand Crew, the Far out Wineries of Paso Robles and The Wellness Community Central Coast. For his contributions Justin has been named the Paso Robles Wine Industry person of the year and has been made a Commandeur d’ Honneur De L’Ordre Du Bontemps Du Medoc. When not on the road or enjoying his winery home Justin divides his time between residences in Carmel and Palm Desert, California.  In addition to the vineyards, winery and tasting room you will find the highly acclaimed country inn, The JUST Inn, and its intimate gourmet restaurant, The Restaurant, on the property.

Jim Gerakaris, CWE, JUSTIN Winery Sommelier and Wine Educator

Jim Gerakaris is the Winery Sommelier and Wine Educator at JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, CA. Kindled by an early introduction to Bordeaux and other European wines, Jim was able to build on his passion for food and drink through extensive international travel as a Technical Salesperson in the Semiconductor Industry during the eighties and nineties.  In 2002, he jumped ship and entered the wine industry in various hospitality positions at wineries including Bonny Doon Vineyards, Peachy Canyon and most recently at JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery since 2008.

Jim is known for his ability to explain complex concepts regarding the world of wine in a way that entertains and memorably educates both the novice and the pro. He is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers since 2010 and is also a Certified Wine Educator through the Society of Wine Educators, having passed this difficult exam on his first attempt in 2014. In addition, Jim has gained experience in the cellar by working harvest and making a little wine of his own.

As Winery Sommelier and Wine Educator at JUSTIN, Jim manages their staff training and conducts regular winery guest seminars and workshops on a variety of topics from food and wine pairing, basic deductive tasting, to cellaring and serving older wine.  He maintains the library of JUSTIN wines dating back to the 1980s, writes the tasting notes for the JUSTIN’s wines and gives trade and VIP tours of the facility. Jim is also a frequent winery representative for JUSTIN at dinners, conferences, and other events around the country. Jim joined the JUSTIN team in April of 2008. Jim is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as a Certified Wine Educator through the Society of Wine Educators. Jim’s knack for explaining complex wine processes in an approachable and entertaining way makes him popular with guests and staff alike.

Chris Mazepink: Winemaker & General Manager, Archery Summit Winery

Christopher Mazepink joins the stellar team at Archery Summit by way of a rich line-up of well established Oregon wineries. At Archery Summit, Mazepink manages all vineyard and winemaking operations. This includes the oversight of six estate vineyards across 120 acres in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Prior to taking his role as General Manager and Winemaker at Archery Summit, Mazepink worked as Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Benton Lane Winery in Monroe, Oregon, where he created highly-regarded wines and oversaw all vineyard and winemaking operations for the winery, including a 145-acre estate vineyard. Before working at Benton Lane Winery, Mazepink worked for Shea Wine Cellars, starting as Assistant Winemaker before being quickly promoted to Winemaker. During his four-year tenure at Shea Wine Cellars, Mazepink worked with a consultant to fine-tune the house style and introduce new blends, simultaneously growing the winery’s production from 2,400 cases to 6,000 cases annually. He began his impressive career as an assistant winemaker at Lemelson Vineyards, an ultra-premium winery located in Carlton, Oregon in 2002.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Hartwick College in New York, Mazepink went on to pursue his passion for winemaking. He completed his graduate studies at Oregon State University, where he graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science. At Archery Summit, Mazepink’s focus will be on expanding the winery’s impressive Pinot Noir program, as well as raising the profile of the winery’s Pinot Gris production. He describes his role as, “a dream job for a winemaker who specializes in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.” He also says,“I firmly believe that the best wines in Oregon are made from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. With Archery Summit’s six estate vineyards planted in these regions, we have all the ingredients to build upon the winery’s past successes.

Michael Beaulac: Winemaker & General Manager, Pine Ridge Vineyards

In his own words, Michael Beaulac learned about winemaking from “the school of hard knocks, starting as a cellar rat and working my way up.” Originally hailing from Burlington, Vermont, reading a single interview with winemaker Christian Moueix of Bordeaux’s renowned Chateau Petrus inspired him to find an entry into the wine industry.

In a previous job as wine buyer for a Portland, Maine jazz dinner club, Michael met Tim Murphy, co-founder of Murphy-Goode Winery. During a sales visit to the club, Tim was impressed by Michael’s palate and jokingly offered him a job. Little did Tim know that the following year, inspired by Moueix’s philsophy of winemaking, Michael would call him and take him up on his unintended job offer. Thus began Michael’s eight-year career at Murphy-Goode Winery where he spent four years as assistant winemaker and ultimately led the development of new varietal programs for Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Eager for a new challenge, Michael crossed the Mayacamas Mountains and, in 1997, began making wine from the Bordeaux varietals that first inspired him to learn his craft. Four years as winemaker at Napa Valley’s iconic Markham Vineyards in St. Helena, the fourth oldest continuously operated winery in Napa County, were followed by eight years as vice president and winemaker for Rutherford-based St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery, where he worked with consulting winemaker Michel Rolland. St. Supéry’s roots in Southern France afforded Michael the unique opportunity to blend, taste, and consult on wine made for the US market in the vineyards of the Languedoc-Roussillon, Corsica, and Châteauneuf-du- Pape.

Michael joined Pine Ridge Vineyards at the beginning of 2009 as winemaker and general manager. After 26 harvests, he still subscribes to Moueix’s philosophy of wine growing, and brings this commitment to managing the winemaking and bottling of more than 200 acres of estate fruit from premium vineyard sites and appellations in the Napa Valley. “We have 12 vineyards comprising 200 acres in 5 appellations, and all of the fruit is completely different,” he says. “I came to Pine Ridge expecting the interesting challenge of showcasing these differences both by creating individual, appellation-specific wines as well as balanced blends that combine the outstanding qualities of the different vineyards.” “I have the best job in the world,” Michael explains with a smile, “I get to make wine in one of the most prestigious grape growing areas of the world and then I get to share and enjoy that wine with everyone I meet. I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Except, perhaps, for spending a little more time on the ski slopes. Michael, his wife, and their two children live in Santa Rosa, but can be found most winter weekends in the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe.

Jennifer Lamb, Herb Lamb Vineyards Owner

Herb Lamb Vineyards is owned by Herb’s widow, Jennifer Lamb, who continues to nurture this cool-climate hillside property that consistently produces some of the finest wines in the Valley. Originally from Pasadena, with no prior agricultural background, she attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the early ’70s as an Ag Science major where she raised hogs and farmed row crops. There, she met the Aggie of her dreams, Napa native Herb, who after graduation took her home to his sleepy community of Napa Valley to start a life together in agriculture. They quickly established jobs in the growing wine industry, gaining valuable connections and knowledge.

Jennifer began forging relationships with the Valley’s wineries and vineyards through her own tour business, Wine Country Tours, in the early ’80s. She then expanded into the Hospitality, Public Relations, and Marketing arms of the industry, where she stayed for more than 20 years. In 2002, she left the corporate wine world to focus her energies and passion on Herb Lamb Vineyards and its labels.

Herb spent his youth in the Napa Valley, working in the hay fields, walnut and prune orchards, a fruit dehydrating plant, and even a local feed store. After graduating with a degree in Soil Science in 1975, he and his business partner opened the Napa Valley Ag Supply, one of the first agricultural chemical businesses in the Napa Valley. Herb’s intimate knowledge of soils and growers in the area were unmatched. In his 35 years of work, he knew every gate code in the valley and became acquainted with nearly every vineyard manager, winery owner, and ranch dog. His experience with many of the finest vineyards in the Valley led him to choose our rocky hillside parcel to plant the vineyard of his dreams. He passed away on December, 12 of 2014.

JOSH JENSEN, Owner of Calera

You can immediately tell when you meet Josh that he doesn’t really follow the herd. Always decked out in bold colors and unique attire he stands out (and above) a crowd in stature. Not only does his outward appearance make you step up and take notice, but there is a quiet reverence he has that draws you in, inviting you to question, explore and dive in. Visionary is an understatement, Josh doesn’t ask why or how but sees the goal in perfect clarity and walks towards it, sometimes with blatant disregard for logic. No feasibility studies or side roads just hard work to get to his goal.

Chef John Pisto

If Chef John Pisto’s zest for food, travel and life could be bottled, he’d be the most popular carbonated drink since Coca-Cola. Undeniably Monterey’s most famous chef and restaurateur, Pisto has owned six restaurants, hosted nationally syndicated cooking show Monterey’s Cookin’ Pisto Style, and authored two cookbooks (“Monterey’s Cookin’ Pisto Style: From Sicily to Monterey” and “Cooking with Mushrooms: Chef Pisto’s Favorite Fungi.” He also markets his own line of gourmet food products and a signature cast-iron grill. Over the past 60 years, Pisto has changed the culinary atmosphere in Monterey through innovation, risk-taking, hard work and business intuition.

Pisto, grew up in Monterey, California and spent his Sundays making spaghetti, soaking up marinara with bread and listening to the uproarious dialogue among Italians loving life. The magic all started with Pisto making sandwiches at his cousin’s deli in Millbrae where he found his passion for feeding people. After High School, he attended chef’s school in Monterey.  His first chef’s job came in 1960 at The Golden Tee, the restaurant at the Monterey Airport. A short time later he opened The Captain’s Gig on Fisherman’s Wharf, serving something unfamiliar; fish and chips. The restaurant was an instant hit, with young Clint Eastwood and other celebrities frequenting the place.

In 1971, John Pisto opened The Whaling Station, where he had his first breakthrough, cooking local seafood over an oak fire. Bill Rice, food writer of the Washington Post raved about Pisto’s technique, calling it “new cuisine.” Later, when he altered the concept of the restaurant to a steakhouse, he became the first to hang Prime beef in his own dry-aging room.

But he wasn’t done yet. In 1981 he opened the renowned Domenico’s on Fisherman’s Wharf and introduced white-tablecloths and French techniques. Then, in the ’90s he purchased an old restaurant on Cannery Row and transformed it into Paradiso Trattoria, and also added to his fold Abalonetti Seafood Trattoria on the Wharf.

His syndicated television show “Montery’s Cookin’ Pisto Style” made him an international celebrity. The show primarily showcased California-Mediterranean Cuisine, but also often took on an international flavor. Often, Pisto took viewers on adventures to culinary points of interest in various places around the globe, then returned to his Monterey, California kitchen to prepare a recipe related to the excursion. He filmed shows with Julia Child, The Red Rocker Sammy Hagar,  wine critic Jerry Mead, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, racing legend Mario Andretti, French Chef Paul Bocuse and more. In Portugal, Pisto hosted a cooking demonstration at the ’98 World Expo in Lisbon. In China, he toured remote areas never seen by Westerners, sampling and preparing exotic dishes. Segments of the show have also been filmed in Tunisia, Italy, Thailand, Spain, as well as dozens of US locales. Pisto was the first Monterey local chef to highlight artichokes, the first to have an all-local wine list, and the first to source and serve wild mushrooms.  He has a healthy ego, but remains remarkably humble about his accomplishments. In the end, he gives full credit to his wife Cheryl, his family and friends.

Karen MacNeil, Author of the Wine Bible

In knowledge, skill, style, and presentation, no one in America tops Karen MacNeil when it comes to wine. The preeminent wine educator, wine consultant and author of The Wine Bible and President of Karen MacNeil and Company. Karen has won every top wine award in the English language. With her extensive wine knowledge and uniquely creative viewpoint, she knows how to captivate audiences large and small, and how to present wine in an engaging, real-world, American manner. For Karen, wine is more than a beverage; it’s a communal passage into the business of living well.

Karen MacNeil is the President of Karen MacNeil and Company and one of the foremost wine experts in the United States. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Wine Bible, recognized as “the most comprehensive and authoritative book on wine written by an American author.” Karen’s articles on wine and food have been published in more than 50 magazines and newspapers including The New York TimesFood and WineU.S.A. TodayElleCooking Light, and Town & Country. Karen has also brought her style and love of wine to television—first as the wine correspondent for NBC’s Today Show, and later as the Emmy-award winning host of the PBS television series Wine, Food & Friends with Karen MacNeil. In 2006 her companion book, Wine, Food & Friends, was released. With her team at Karen MacNeil and Company, Karen creates and consults on one-of-a-kind wine experiences, seminars, and education marketing programs for corporate clients, wine related businesses and individuals. Some recent past clients include: Lexus, Merrill Lynch, Disney, General Electric, UBS, Boisset Family Estates,SunsetMagazine, Singapore Airlines, and Mattel (who, in recognition, designed a wine-glass-holding Barbielook-alike after Karen!) An educator at heart, Karen is the creator and Chairman of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley. The multi-million dollar center with its advanced wine curriculum and state-of-the art wine sensory classrooms has been called the “Harvard of Wine Education.” In a full page profile in 2004, TIME magazine named Karen “America’s Missionary of the Vine.” She holds an Advanced Certified Wine Professional Degree.

Karen MacNeil received the highest honor awarded to a wine professional in the United States when, in 2004, the James Beard Foundation named her Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year. The following year, she joined award winners Morley Safer (60 minutes), filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and winemaker Robert Mondavi by being namedWine Educator of the Year by the European Wine Council. In 2006, the organization Women Chefs and Restaurateurs presented Karen with the Women Who Inspire Golden Goblet Award.And in 2007, Karen was honored with the Wine Literary Award by the Wine Appreciation Guild for her substantial contribution to the literature of wine, joining laureates Hugh Johnson, Robert M. Parker, Jr., and Jancis Robinson. In 2008, she received the global trophy for Communicator of the Yearawarded by the London-based International Wine & Spirits Competition who recognized Karen as “the voice that has most effectively communicated wine and spirits to the public.” And in 2010 Karen was inducted into the Wine Media Guild Hall of Fame for her “significant contribution to the body of wine writing and education. Lastly, Karen MacNeil has won an Emmy for her PBS television series, and has been named a “Woman of Achievement” by the State of California.

Garen and Shari Staglin, Staglin Family Vineyard Owners

Together Garen and Shari Staglin learned about wine, first through his parents at meals where they served good California or Italian wines, and then later when Garen went to Stanford Business School and Shari would go north to visit. They would often spend a day in Napa Valley, where their dream began to one day have a vineyard and make wines of great quality. In 1968 they married, went to Vietnam, Japan, Washington, D.C., then New York where their first child Brandon was born in 1971.

When it was time to move back to California in 1975, one of the key criteria for where to live was proximity to wine country, so he and Shari chose Lafayette, CA, only one hour from Nzzapa and 3 hours from Tahoe for skiing. 1979 proved to be a year of prosperity for the Staglin’s giving birth to their second child. This year also marked their purchase of their first company. After many years of rapid growth, they were able to sell a portion of this business, creating capital to finally pursue their dream and become owners of a premier vineyard in the Napa Valley.

By the end of 1985, the dream came true with the purchase of the historic 50 acre vineyard owned by Beaulieu Vineyards and an adjacent 12 acre parcel. Using their contacts and background, Garen and Shari built a business and marketing plan that remains the foundation of Staglin Family Vineyard: family ownership, commitment to quality, and a personal approach to selling and encouraging memorable experiences. Brandon and Shannon grew up on the property, pursued their education and have both returned with new perspectives and experiences to rejoin the family business. They hope to cultivate this tradition for many generations to come.

When Shari and Garen Staglin’s son Brandon was diagnosed with schizophrenia, they realized that advancements in scientific research were vital to understanding mental illness. And so they took action. In 20 years the Staglins have made great leaps to help increase funding and awareness for brain disease and injuries research.The human suffering of mental illness is as old as classical literature and as timely as today’s headlines. Because people don’t like to talk about it, mental illness has grown into a bigger societal issue than most of us realize. If IMHRO has anything to say about it, it will not stay that way—and you can help.

Today, one out of every four people on this planet suffers from a psychiatric illness. These illnesses are the number one cause of disability worldwide. The global economic burden from mental illnesses is estimated at nearly $2.5 trillion dollars annually. Over one million people each year will end their lives in suicide, and about 90% of these people will have had a psychiatric condition. Although psychiatric treatments available today aid many people, each comes with troublesome side effects, incomplete therapeutic effects, and, for significant proportions of patients, no beneficial effect at all.

Sondra Bernstein, Proprietor of the girl & the fig

Just like a plump ripe fig, the girl & the fig food is fresh, healthy and bursting with flavor. With a seasonal menu featuring sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, garden vegetables, herbs, and an abundance of creativity, the rustic Provencal-inspired cuisine allows Mother Nature’s true and natural flavors to flourish.

Owner Sondra Bernstein quietly opened the girl & the fig in 1997 originally in Glen Ellen, California. Slowly people began to discover the rustic French food and the distinctive way of marketing and presenting it. In 2000, she relocated the restaurant into more upscale quarters on the northwest corner of the Plaza in Sonoma in the historic Sonoma Hotel. Over the past fourteen years, the girl & the fig has made its mark in Wine Country becoming a favorite for both locals and visitors. the girl & the fig continues to be featured in many magazines as well as on national television.

Sondra believes the dining experience should continue after your time at the restaurant. She wants her guests to be able to take home a tangible piece of the girl & the fig and something to remember their visit to wine country. December 2011 brought the release of Sondra’s celebration of Sonoma’s bounty—Plats du Jour—a coffee-table style book featuring full page color photos and intimate stories of local food purveyors along with over 100 recipes, as a follow-up to the girl & the fig Cookbook, published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster. The other way to extend the “fig experience” is with the “FIGfood” product line, which includes jam, chutney, compote, vinegar, vinaigrette and herb blends that are sold nationwide. These are all natural, artisan-produced gourmet food products available in the restaurants, at www.thegirlandthefig.com and in stores across the country.

Sondra sets the tone at her restaurants—just the right balance of quirky and elegant—to create a casual yet very singular dining experience. And the impeccable attention to the flavor and freshness of the cuisine, as well as your service, culminate in a memory that will linger long after the meal itself. Sondra Bernstein’s acclaimed Sonoma restaurants have been cited by food lovers and national media as iconic wine country destinations. the girl & the fig and the fig café and winebar offer country food with a French passion. Both restaurants are ingredient driven and in 2012 The Huffington Post observed, “Sondra Bernstein’s restaurants have focused on seasonality since 1997.” Her commitment is enhanced by an award-winning in-house salumi program, hand made pastas, the FIGfood line of gourmet food products and their 2+ acre biodynamic farm that supplies the restaurants. In 2012, Sondra was celebrated “Person of the Year,” by the Hospice du Rhone, an international vintners association at their 20th anniversary event for her commitment to promoting Rhone wines. the girl & the fig was the first restaurants to offer a “Rhone-Alone” wine list in 1997, introducing patrons to new varietals and expanding their palettes. Along with her partner Executive Chef John Toulze, Sondra has created the only restaurants in the California Wine Country that offer you the California version of Wine Country cuisine from both Italy and France–two wine country regions whose micro climates match that of Sonoma.

Her short story … D.C. born, Philadelphia bred, BFA from Philadelphia College of Art (photography), TGI Friday’s Trainer & Team Leader for their national restaurant openings, graduate of The Restaurant School (culinary & restaurant management),  Operations Manager for several restaurants in Philadelphia (The Fish Market & Marabella’s) and Los Angeles (Alice’s Restaurant & Tavern on Main), and Director of Operations for Viansa Winery in Sonoma County. The long story … Sondra has spent over twenty years dedicated to the hospitality business. With a passion for food and wine, the trip from Philadelphia to Sonoma County was inevitable. Having restaurants in Sonoma County is a tribute to the efforts of the farmers, ranchers, cheese makers and, of course, grape growers & vintners in this bountiful landscape.

One sure thing that can be said about Sondra Bernstein is that, as a true Restaurateur, her restaurants are a real expression of her personality. Many of the guests who frequent Sondra’s establishments feel as if she is a friend of theirs, which is understandable given her close attention to ensuring that their experience is distinctive and memorable. Her passion for the hospitality business is her driving force and continues to inspire her to create and recreate. Sondra is the Proprietor of the girl & the fig and  the fig café & winebar in Glen Ellen. She is also the author of the the girl & the fig Cookbook published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster and her newest book, Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country, which was called “enchanting by NBC TV in their 2011 holiday round-up of cookbooks. Her gourmet food product line is available nationwide under the girl & the fig label.

John Conover: Partner/General Manager of PlumpJack , CADE, & Odette Estate Wineries

John Conover joined PlumpJack Winery as general manager in January 1999 to oversee the daily operations of the estate winery and vineyard, provide strategic direction for the newly-established property, steadily increase production from 1,000 cases to 10,000 cases annually, and create the image, awareness and global distribution channels that would ultimately support that level of production.

The critical and fiscal success of PlumpJack Winery ultimately inspired the purchase of a new 54-acre property on Howell Mountain. CADE Winery, founded in 2005 by partners Conover, Gordon Getty and Gavin Newsom, is nestled against dramatic slopes at an elevation of 1800 feet. The grapes grow in soil characterized by mountain ash and minerals, and the temperatures provide the perfect conditions for ripening, producing grapes with balance and density.

From the outset of this new endeavor, the partners were committed to building CADE as the first Gold LEED-certified estate winery. “No one had ever attempted this, even the contractors, so the responsibility fell to us to develop a completely original plan,” says Conover. “We used everything from recycled concrete to insulation made from blue jeans. We incorporated solar panels to minimize the amount of electricity we use on the premises and utilized renewable cork flooring. We also made the commitment to be extremely careful with water use. Since it’s opening, CADE has served as a model for those seeking this level of green building, from UC Davis to other private winery ventures,” Conover concludes.

With CADE’s success mirroring that of PlumpJack’s, the three partners were open to a third winery when the opportunity to purchase an historic property in Stags Leap was presented in the fall of 2011.  Soon thereafter, in February 2012, they founded Odette Estate. Odette, which spans 45 acres and is currently in the late stages of development, will also be Gold LEED certified and farmed organically. The winery’s first vintage, a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, will be released in February 2015. Early critical reviews of this wine are hinting that Odette will follow in the footsteps of its celebrated siblings.

Of his partners, Conover says, “I’m exceedingly fortunate to have had the opportunity to develop these properties alongside Gordon Getty and Gavin Newsom. We share an absolute passion for these three properties, our wines and our people. This level of alignment can be very rare and it is the foundation of our success.” Conover spends time at each winery each day. “Running wineries isn’t something one does remotely,” he says. “It’s an agricultural business and requires a feet in the soil approach to management. It’s also a very human business and that means spending time with the people who are the bedrock of our organization.

On the topic of what makes him eager to start each new day after 30 years in the wine business, Conover credits the team. “Not a day goes by that I do not acknowledge what an honor it is to work with our winemakers: Aaron Miller at PlumpJack, Danielle Cyrot at CADE and Jeff Owens at Odette. These are among the best, brightest and most passionate individuals in the business. Their talent and level of commitment to their craft and their teams make me proud beyond words.” And,” Conover concludes, “I think anyone who’s been to any of the three wineries would agree that our hospitality team provides experiences that are nothing short of magical.” Conover lives in St. Helena with his wife, Ann Marie, having raised two daughters who are now in their twenties. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of The Napa Valley Grape Growers.

Robin Daniel Lail, Proprietor of Lail Vineyards

Robin was born in Napa Valley and grew up among the vineyards of Inglenook which was founded by her great-granduncle, Gustav Niebaum.  Her father, John Daniel, Jr. was the owner and manager of Inglenook, and a legendary figure in the wine business.  While Robin was not curried to work in the wine business in her youth, she was surrounded by it, and touched by the passion and focus of her father. Robin attended Stanford University, and returned to the valley after graduation.  It was not until 1970 and her father’s death that she began shepherding the remaining estate vineyards.

Robin’s partners in Lail Vineyards are her husband, Jon and her daughters, Erin and Shannon.  The Lails make 5 wines – 3 Cabernets and two Sauvignon Blancs. Production of their flagship wines is limited.  They have been working with Philippe Melka, their winemaker for 20 years.  While the wines have consistently won high critical acclaim, the Lails were particularly delighted when their 2012 J. Daniel Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon received 100 points from Robert Parker with the comment “Absolutely Perfect!” Each year the team pursues the blending of wines which are just a little bit better than the wines which they made the year before.

Robin Daniel Lail’s heritage began in 1879 with the founding of Inglenook Vineyards by her great -granduncle, the iconic Captain Gustav Niebaum.  By the early 1890s, this brilliant man’s obsession for achieving the pinnacle of excellence earned Inglenook wines the status of being considered by many as the finest produced in the country. The determination to achieve excellence was carried forward through the decades following Niebaum’s death in 1908, with a crescendo in the thirty years following the repeal of Prohibition under the meticulous, passionate stewardship of John Daniel, Jr., Robin’s father.  The collection of Cabernets coming from his years of ownership is still celebrated today as some of the finest red wines on earth. Although Inglenook was sold in 1964, the passion for winemaking did not fade.  Robin inherited her father’s respect for tradition.  Today her family honors his legacy with their relentless pursuit to produce wines second to none. 

A 100 Point Score Might Sound Like a Momentary Success, Unless You Have Been Making Wine for 135 Years.  Lail Vineyards scores the coveted, Robert Parker 100-point perfect score  in The Wine Advocate with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, J. Daniel Cuvée.I’m flattered, humbled and extraordinarily proud of this superior honor.–Robin Lail. 

Words like “absolutely perfect” are as rare as valley rain in August when it comes to Robert Parker, lauded critic of The Wine Advocate and guru of the wine tasting world. So powerful are his reviews that wineries have quadrupled their sales price in response. In today’s frenzied market of hyper-proliferated wine labels, often consumers cling to ratings, basing their purchasing decisions solely based on Parker’s validation. Parker’s 100 point review of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon J. Daniel Cuvee, aged 20 months in 75% new French oak and representing 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from three vineyard sources: Calistoga Oakville and Howell Mountain was about perfection. Parker states: Robin Lail and winemaker Phillippe Melka hit pay dirt with a wine that has an inky purple color, an almost amazing bouquet….sweet truffle-infused earth, graphite, forest floor, black currant and black cherry notes are followed by a full-bodied wine with a hint of mocha and licorice. Superb purity, an incremental yet full-bodied mouthfeel and an extravagant layered texture and finish make for the finest wine Robin Lail has produced to date.” 

Proprietor Robin Lail– whose family can be traced back five generations, when her great-granduncle Gustav Niebaum founded the iconic Inglenook in 1879– was born with wine in her blood and was absolutely determined to resurrect the family business 19 years ago when she launched Lail Vineyards in her fifth decade. Ironically, at the same age that her father, John Daniel, Jr. (namesake of the eponymous wine) retired. Robin states: “I’m flattered, humbled and extraordinarily proud of this superior honor. This accolade really does feel like after the many years of determination, perseverance and hard work, my father is smiling down at me.” In keeping with the understated elegance that the Lail family brings to the wine industry, pricing will remain unchanged since the market price was set in March, 2014. Release is scheduled for June of 2015. Lail Vineyards currently produces five labels with winemaker Philippe Melka: two Blueprints, Georgia, J. Daniel and Mole Hill. Lail Vineyards is located on Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley. 

Matt & Will Weese, Winemakers at Weese Family Winery

Brothers Matthew and William Weese grew up in the heart of Sonoma County with dreams to make their mark on the wine industry. With the support of their family, they each pursued wine and developed their skills to reflect their passion and dedication to this artisanal craft. With patience, a great palate, creativity, and a lot of elbow grease, they have cultivated exceptional wines stemming from one of the newest most thrilling appellations Sonoma county has to offer – Rockpile.

Chef Louis Pacquelin of Panache, a Relais & Chateaux Property

Louis Pacquelin made his start in France in several Michelin starred restaurants, such as the Hotel du Palais with Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Jean-Marie Gautier and with the Coutanceau family. He continued his training in the Alain Ducasse Group for 5 years and was forever marked by Mr. Frederic Thevenet, (his spiritual father), before crossing the Atlantic to continue his career at Panache. Louis Pacquelin joined the team at the four diamond restaurant, Panache, in 2012. He was promoted in May 2013 to sous-chef, and was promoted again in August the same year – this time to head chef. At only 27 years old, Pacquelin’s natural abilities, impeccable skill, team spirit and strong will for success have granted him this rapid move to the top. “I thrive for perfection with a cohesive team,” says Pacquelin. “I love to be involved in everything, from all the kitchen stations to the gardener on our farm, and of course our local suppliers. I am really excited about what’s to come at Panache.” His style is based on going back to the basics – creating classic, simple and delicious cuisine, using local produce. His cuisine, both traditional, tasty, generous and bold, perfectly reflects the personality of this very talented young chef.

 Chef Jacob Jasinski of Ocean House, a Relais & Chateaux Property

Jacob began working in restaurants during his high school years. He spent time in several restaurants in Providence and the surrounding area before traveling West to experience a much different style of cuisine in the Rocky Mountains. Later he ventured to Tucson, Arizona where he worked as a personal chef. After a year in Arizona, Jacob, eager to learn more, bought a Michelin Guide for France and emailed every Michelin star restaurant until a chef in the Rhone Valley invited him to work and stay for several months at his hotel. He took the money he had saved and traveled abroad, working diligently as a stagiaire at  Domaine de Clairefontaine, and then briefly at Osteria da Fiore in Venice Italy. Jacob took every opportunity to visit markets and other restaurants, hungry to absorb as much of the culture and European standard for food as he possibly could. After returning to the States, Jacob cooked at The Dining Room at Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, at the time one of only twelve Five-Star restaurants in the U.S. From there, he accepted a position at Kennebunkport’s White Barn Inn and, a year later, took his first head chef position at the yet to be opened Salt Exchange Restaurant in Portland, Maine. Here he was exposed to an entirely different side of the industry. He not only ran his own kitchen, but experienced the many challenges of running a business. With a desire to return to a more refined cooking style, Jacob moved on to Joël Robuchon at The Mansion MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Here he quickly learned and adhered to the standards necessary to manage and succeed in a Three-Star Michelin restaurant. Back on the east coast, Chef Jacob spent two years at Newport’s Castle Hill Inn, another Relais Châteaux property on Rhode Island’s coast. In Early 2014, Jacob left Castle Hill to join the Ocean House team, assuming the role of Chef de Cuisine in Seasons.  In February 2015, the Seasons restaurant team was awarded their fifth star from Forbes Travel Guide, making Ocean House one of only ten fifteen-star resorts in the world. “My objective is to create an experience that conveys a sense of place in a classic restaurant setting utilizing all the ingredients the area has to offer at their peak freshness.”

Chef Gunnar Thompson of Glenmere Mansion, a Relais & Chateaux Property

Gunnar Thompson joined Glenmere Mansion as Executive Chef with a culinary career dedicated to excellence and 5-star service garnering him awards and recognition at some of the world’s leading restaurants. His culinary resume includes being awarded the prestigious Taittinger “2012 Grand Chef of the Year” for Relais & Châteaux worldwide. He won designation as a “Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef” in 2011. During this time he was executive chef at the esteemed Erna’s Elderberry House, the restaurant at the renowned Chateau du Sureau in Yosemite, named by Zagat the #1 restaurant/hotel in the Bay area. Prior to joining Glenmere Mansion, Chef Gunnar was executive chef for three restaurants on the vast 12,000-acre Primland Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There he was named by First Lady Michelle Obama and Epicurious “Celebrity Chef” for “Healthy Kids Initiative” additionally being named one of Virginia’s “Top 10 Chefs.” He has held both Mobil/Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5-Diamond culinary recognition for many years. Chef Gunnar found his passion for the culinary arts, and much of his culinary education, by working at a number of Michelin-Star restaurants in Europe, including 3-Michelin Star, La Pyramide in Vienne, France. Chef Gunnar’s culinary journey has been showcased on cooking segments on the Food Network, PBS and NBC with an emphasis on his love of gardening, sustainable agriculture and farming, and his passion for foraging for mushrooms. He enjoys sharing his passion for the culinary arts and has amassed 4,800 hours of culinary teaching during his career. When not foraging for mushrooms and gardening, he enjoys baking bread and discovering new wines. He lives with his wife Chrissy & their 2 young children in the Hudson Valley in Warwick, NY.

Rich Frank, Owner of Frank Family Vineyards

Rich’s passion for the Napa Valley and Frank Family Vineyards underscores a wildly successful, long-term career in Hollywood. He was Chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications and headed Disney’s syndication arm Buena Vista. He was then President of Walt Disney Studios for nearly a decade and oversaw the development of The Disney Channel. Prior to his tenure at Disney, Rich was President of the Paramount Television Group, President of Chris Craft Television, one of the founders of the USA Network and also served on their board. Under Frank’s leadership, television and movie properties such as “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “Family Ties,” “Shogun,” “Winds of War,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Golden Girls,” “Home Improvement,” “Ellen,” “Regis and Kathy Lee,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Pretty Woman,” “Father of the Bride,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” achieved phenomenal success. He also launched Telerep, a television ad sales firm, and was a buyer and media planner at BBDO.It’s no wonder that Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative, vibrant and ingenious players owns one of Napa Valley’s most unique wineries, Frank Family Vineyards. In the late ‘80s, Rich, a long-time Disney executive, couldn’t find the time to get away for long vacations. Soon he started coming to Napa on the weekends, realizing it was only a short plane flight away from Los Angeles. In 1990, he purchased a home in the eastern hills of Napa in Rutherford.

Two years later, in 1992, Rich received a midnight phone call at his home in Los Angeles from a friend, telling him that the Kornell Champagne Cellars on the site of historic Larkmead Winery was for sale and, if there was ever a time to get into the wine business, it was now. Rich, unsure of entering the business full-swing wisely offered half the asking price, and less than 24 hours later he was an owner of the Calistoga winery.

Rich was President of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for an unprecedented six years, a board member of the MPAA for eight years and is currently Vice Chairman and Executive Board Member of the American Film Institute. In 2007, the Television Academy showed its appreciation for Rich’s contributions by awarding Rich the Syd Cassyd Founders Award, only the eighth time the Academy has bestowed this prestigious honor. In June of 2011, he received an Honorary Doctorate degree from the American Film Institute (AFI), along with Helen Mirren and Spike Lee.

Rich is a partner and currently provides executive producing and consulting services for Prospect Park, a talent management and production company focusing on music, film and television that was founded in 2008. Through Prospect Park, Rich is currently Executive Producing “Royal Pains” on the USA Network, and “Wilfred” on FX, along with his son, Paul. He also recently formed The Online Network, reviving popular soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” in April 2013.

Before his association with Prospect Park, Rich merged his brand, advertising and marketing strategy company, Integrated Entertainment Partners (IEP), into The Firm, one of Hollywood’s largest and most successful talent management companies, where he was named Chairman. The Firm was launched in 1997 by Jeff Kwatinetz, and made its most significant acquisition in 2002 when it bought the assets of Artists Management Group. Additionally, Rich sits on the board of Ecoya and Napa Style.

Never one to rest on his laurels, the former adman turned Hollywood film and TV exec, stepped into his role as Napa Valley vintner with ease and is actively involved with the winery operations. Rich is the proud grandfather of four. His son, Paul Frank, is Executive Vice President for Prime Time programming for BabyFirst, and son Darryl is Co-President of Dreamworks Television. Rich splits his time between Los Angeles and Napa with his wife, Leslie Miller, LA’s most beloved ABC7 reporter, until she recently left to host “MORE One Life to Live” and “MORE All My Children” for The Online Network.

Anthony Bell, Proprietor & Winemaker

Anthony Bell believes in terroir, the French term encompassing all the factors that differentiate one vineyard from another: climate, soil and clonal selection. “Wine is grown in the vineyard,” explains Bell. “We are merely stewards of nature while the wine is in our cellar.”

Perhaps this belief comes from a life lived with wine, from his birth into a South African wine family and through his youth at play among the vineyards.  Teenage work experience in Spain, France and South Africa developed an appreciation of the elegant, sophisticated   European wine style.  After completing his undergraduate viticultural degree at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and his Masters degree in enology at U.C. Davis, Anthony began a 15-year career at Beaulieu Vineyard, California’s royal house of Cabernet Sauvignon.

During his innovative tenure as director of winemaking and later as general manager, he pioneered educational grower-vineyard programs, wrote the definition of the Carneros appellation, and raised the bar on BV’s grape quality by conducting the now famous, groundbreaking research into the differences and impact of clonal variations on Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 1980, Anthony planted 14 different clone selections of Cabernet Sauvignon on BV’s block #4. With the help of Austin Goheen, professor at Davis and retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one clone was from a former UC experimental agricultural field station in Jackson, California that was closed in 1903.  Using an old parcel map from the Davis library archives, Goheen tracked down the abandoned field station, where he found the vines, overgrown and wild.  He brought back several vine cuttings from the Jackson station, including one believed to have been originally imported from Bordeaux to Santa Clara by either the Masson or Wente families in the early 1880’s. After repeated blind tastings a clear consensus developed among the panel at BV that the Jackson Clone, or Clone 6 as it was also called, exhibited lushly textured fruit, finesse, and exceptional concentration.  One hundred years after it arrived in California, this old world clone was to become the pedestal upon which Anthony created his dream.

A Rutherford grape grower for BV replanting his phylloxera stricken vineyard was convinced of the clone’s greatness, and planted 10 acres in 1984.  Anthony crushed his first vintage of Bell Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone Six in 1991, thought to be the first single vineyard, single clone Cabernet produced and labeled in Napa. In 1994, Anthony left his positions of Director of winemaking, VP and GM of Beaulieu Vineyard to pursue fulltime his passion for Cabernet Sauvignon at Bell Wine Cellars, with a mission of producing small quantities of hand crafted, vineyard expressive wines.

In addition to their unique Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bell Wine Cellars produces Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from select Napa Valley vineyards. We also produce limited quantities of Syrah from the Canterbury Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills, and both Chardonnay and Merlot from the estate vineyard surrounding the winery in Yountville. Each vineyard has been specifically chosen for its unique terroir, true expressions of the land and varietal.

Robin Baggett, Alpha Omega

Robin Baggett is a Managing Partner of Alpha Omega where he oversees sales and marketing. Winery owner, attorney and athlete, he moved to Napa Valley in 2006 to found Alpha Omega as a high-end boutique winery. Discovering his passion for wine as an amateur winemaker, in 1988 Baggett and a partner bought 3,000 acres in the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo and planted 800 acres in wine grapes, Edna Ranch Vineyards. With a bumper crop and high market demand in 1997, they sold their harvest and began looking to establish a winery. In 1998, the two men and a third partner founded Tolosa Winery and Courtside Cellars, a custom crush facility in San Luis Obispo for which he is still a partner of today.

Born and raised in Salinas, California, Baggett was a three-sport varsity athlete in high school who attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo on a baseball scholarship. At Cal Poly, he was chosen Most Valuable Player and a two-time All-Conference catcher. Elected Student Body President his senior year, he graduated with honors in 1973 with a degree in Business Administration.  Electing not to play professional baseball, Baggett went to law school. Baggett earned a law degree from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1976 where he was on the Law Review and graduated 10th in a class of 530.   He went on to clerk for Justice William Clark of the California Supreme Court and Judge Samuel Conti of the United States District Court in San Francisco.

Following his clerkships, Baggett worked for Morrison and Foerster as an associate in their San Francisco office and then joined Sinsheimer, Schiebelhut and Baggett in San Luis Obispo as a partner in 1981 where he continues to be Of Counsel.   From 1994 to 2001, he served as General Counsel to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Besides wine and law, Baggett plays golf where he carries a 2 handicap, is a member of Santa Barbara’s Rancheros Vistadores (the oldest trail ride in the country) where he is a four-time reserve All-Around Rodeo Champion, and operates a registered Brangus and commercial cowherd in San Luis Obispo. He served as president of the San Luis Obispo Vintners for five years and currently is a board member of the Wine Institute and President of the Rutherford Dust Society in Napa Valley. In 1998, Baggett was inducted into Cal Poly’s Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2001, Cal Poly’s new baseball stadium – Baggett Stadium – was named after him.

David Tate, Winemaker at Barnett Vineyards

David Tate is a native of British Columbia and has been Barnett Vineyards winemaker for eight years. David brings with him a wealth of experience having been involved in the industry for over 18 years. Most recently David was with Ridge Vineyards as the Assistant Winemaker. During five years atop Montebello he garnered immense amounts of knowledge in every facet of premium wine production. His experience at Ridge working with the Montebello Cabernet is especially relevant with respect to working with Mountain fruit.

In the 90’s David worked in the Barossa Valley in Australia amongst old vine Shiraz. David then traveled to Provence and worked as an Assistant to the Winemaker in one of Provence’s top wineries, Domaine Richeaume. He learned the passion and skills involved in every aspect of winemaking, particularly those needed to produce premium, small production wines.

After these two geographically far diverse hands on experiences David attended Brock University obtaining a four-year honors degree in Enology and Viticulture with first class standing, while working for Vineland Estates winery. Within this David completed a one year academic program in New Zealand to gain knowledge at Lincoln University and work for a small startup winery in Canterbury. David’s thesis from Brock University, A Spectrophotometric Assay of ?-glucosidase, was published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture in 2005. David also completed the Diploma for the Wine and Spirits Education trust (WSET) and currently aids in instructing portions of the program. Outside of making wine David is an avid classic VW enthusiast, motorcyclist, and world traveler.

Georges Daou, Proprietor of DAOU Vineyards & Winery

With a head for business and a heart full of passion for life, Georges Daou oversees the marketing and branding of DAOU Vineyards, keeping his sharp eyes on the direction of the winery and the steady growth of the family’s beloved vineyards. As children, Georges and his brother day-dreamed of a bucolic American ideal, replete with roaming cattle, ripening grapes and a thriving family culture.

Now, he wakes up most days simply amazed to discover that he’s living that dream. A warm, philosophical and very social man, he is an avid golfer, cyclist, and polo player. This love of both people and the great outdoors feeds his irrepressible joie de vivre. Georges’ attention to excellent terroir, great climate and the fine art of winemaking results in a unique experience not just for visitors to DAOU, but for wine connoisseurs around the world and, in fact, anyone who opens a bottle of DAOU wine. He looks forward to welcoming you to the top of DAOU Mountain, an inspiring place where life seems to stand still, and great times await. Visit the winery and taste it for yourself. “Love is the most powerful emotion in Life and we hope to enhance it when you visit us at DAOU Mountain. In the end, our story and message is in the bottle” – Georges Daou

Daniel Daou, Proprietor & Winemaker of DAOU Vineyards & Winery

You could say that all of Daniel Daou’s aspirations for his ideal vineyard and winemaking experience have been reached.  The confluence of geography, climate, viticulture, and opportunity has allowed him to become the winemaker he always wanted to be. Winemaking is far more than just a job for Daniel. It’s a highly contagious passion, particularly for Cabernet Sauvignon, that is reflected in his wines. Although his prime motivation is passion, his background as an engineer informs his every decision as a winemaker. Daniel goes to extraordinary lengths, such as employing methods only used in producing first-growth Bordeaux, to ensure that his wines are balanced with nonintrusive tannins to provide structure for the full bodied fruit while the wine matures, first in the barrel and later in the bottle. In the vineyard, he walks a fine line by letting the grapes struggle, yet never crossing over to the point where the vines would shut down.

Often, friends and fans of his wines describe Daniel as a man both charismatic and passionate, yet always ready to listen to others. He is seen as a committed member of the community whose drive and resources will take Paso Robles to a whole new level. For Daniel, putting his cherished family name on the bottle means everything. What’s inside the bottle must warrant that privilege, so every day he thinks about how to ensure the level of excellence he expects from his wines. “It’s rare to have all the elements needed to achieve perfect balance and ripeness in a terroir. We found all these elements on our mountain and work hard to capture that magic from vineyard to bottle” – Daniel J. Daou

Chef Kurt Grasing, Owner of Grasing’s Restaurant

Chef Grasing has worked in some of the finest restaurants in the world. His apprenticeship began at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, after which he refined his craft at Narsai’s in Berkeley, first as a saucier and then as chef. Afterward he worked at the Pierre Hotel in New York as Executive Sous Chef. In the years that followed he was at the three-star La Gavroche in London and Four Seasons in Boston, then left to open 231 Ellsworth in San Mateo in 1986, which was soon considered one of the top restaurants in California. In March of 1998 Kurt opened the door to his namesake restaurant: Grasing’s.

In an impressive first year it received enthusiastic reviews and was voted Best New Restaurant and Best Chef by the readers of Adventures in Dining Magazine. Grasings has been featured in Bon Appétit Magazine’s Best of the Year issue in 2004, and was awarded Carmel Business Association’s Business of the Year award that same year. Carmel Magazine proclaimed Grasing’s the Critic’s Choice. More recently, Grasing’s was awarded Carmel Business Association’s Restaurant of the Year as well as a Celebrated Chef of the Year Award from the American Culinary Federation – Monterey Chapter, in 2007. In 2013 Grasing’s was voted Best Restaurant in Carmel by the readers of the Monterey County Weekly.

As a restaurant with a most impressive contemporary menu, it offers the finest coastal cuisine paired with a Double Goblet Wine Spectator awarding winning wine list featuring the best California wines. Grasing’s has honored by Wine Spectator for “having one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world”, bestowing the Best of Award of Excellence for eleven consecutive years.

In 2010, Kurt revamped Grasing’s by constructing a new bar and lounge along with completing a restaurant make-over. The warm hues and contemporary décor in the restaurant and bar gives Grasing’s an even more inviting atmosphere, giving it a new look with the same great food and first-rate service to which guests are accustomed.

Growing up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Kurt’s love of food began early, from buying raspberries bushes to grow and sell berries in the neighborhood, to cooking apples from the family tree in four different methods, Kurt has always gravitated to great tasting food. One highlight of Chef Grasing’s career was to do a cooking show with Julia Child, an icon in American cooking history. She was an inspiration to millions and helped shape Kurt’s lifelong love of food. It was a once in a lifetime experience and one he will always treasure.

In the last several years Kurt and Christine have enjoyed traveling, experiencing the best food and drink the world has to offer. Recent highlights include trips to Patagonia, Chile and to Scotland where a tasting at the Macallan Estate was a rare treat. Recent cruises have included Istanbul to Greece, Budapest to Prague and Paris to Provence and a Fall Foliage cruise from Montreal to New York.

Kathryn Walt Hall,  Proprietor & Vintner at Hall Winery

Kathryn Walt Hall is the proprietor of HALL Wines and has been involved in the California wine industry since her family first purchased a vineyard more than thirty years ago. She has had a distinguished career as a successful businesswoman, community activist, and most recently as the United States Ambassador to Austria.

Kathryn Hall and her family have been grape growers in Mendocino County since 1972. The Walt family owns 63 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc in the Redwood Valley and has sold their grapes to such wineries as Fetzer, Parducci, and Beringer. Kathryn managed the family vineyard from 1982 to 1992. During this time she produced Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon under the label Walt Vineyards. Continuing her family tradition, she maintains a strong emotional attachment to vineyards, wine, and the wine country.

Kathryn began her public career as assistant city attorney in Berkeley, California. Later she joined Safeway Stores, where she was responsible for developing and administering one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs. Subsequently she worked as an attorney and businesswoman in Dallas, Texas, where she was president of an inner city development company and partner of Hall Financial Group, Inc.

Long committed to social issues, Kathryn has served on numerous non-profit and institutional boards, addressing issues related to social care and mental health. She cofounded the North Texas Food Bank, served on the United States House of Representatives Hunger Advisory Committee, and was the director/vice president of the Texas Mental Health Association. Kathryn has served on the National Advisory Council for Violence Against Women and as a trustee of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

From December 1997 to July 2001, Kathryn served as the United States Ambassador to Austria. During her term as ambassador, she worked hard to promote American wine in Austria and Europe. Since her return to America, she has resumed her role as proprietor of Kathryn Hall Vineyards. Continuing upon her experience promoting American agriculture in Austria, in September 2001 she was appointed to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for international trade. Kathryn earned an A.B. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of Law. She is married to Craig Hall and the mother of two children. She speaks French and German.

Craig Hall, Vintner at Hall Winery

Craig Hall is chairman and founder of Dallas-based Hall Financial Group and along with his wife, Kathryn, is creating a premier vineyard and winery company in the Napa Valley.  A life-long entrepreneur and investor, in addition to the vineyard and winery business, his professional interests today include real estate, venture capital, technology and hotels in the United States and Europe. Craig Hall is the author of five books, the most recent being Timing the Real Estate Market: The Secrets to Buying Low and Selling High.

An avid lifelong art collector, Craig Hall’s collection includes contemporary art from former communist Central and Eastern European countries. A portion of his collection was loaned to the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris as part of a show on Central and Eastern European art. He also recently developed and assembled the Texas Sculpture Garden featuring forty contemporary sculptures by living Texas artists, the largest of its kind open to the public.

Previously, Craig Hall was part owner of the Dallas Cowboys; formed one of the first stock savings and loans in Michigan; founded one of the first for-profit HMOs in the country; and participated, along with Time, Inc., in growing the nation’s largest chain of health and sports clubs.

Craig actively supports new entrepreneurs and often speaks publicly about the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship worldwide. He and his wife, the Honorable Kathryn Hall, former United States Ambassador to Austria, funded the Fulbright – Kathryn and Craig Hall Distinguished Chair for Entrepreneurship to teach entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe.

While living in Vienna from 1997 to 2001, Craig served on the board of the Fulbright Austrian-American Educational Commission. He was also a consultant to the United States State Department and became one of the first Americans to obtain a degree in International Studies from the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna. Hall also served as director and chair of the investment committee for the American University in Bulgaria. In 2007 Craig earned the Horatio Alger Award honoring people who have succeeded in spite of adversity. He was honored in Washington, D.C., with ten other recipients—including NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubauch.

Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls and Paul Woolls – Proprietors of O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery

Betty hails from Minnesota, having spent her childhood growing up in a rural farming community. After college she raised a family while building a career in real estate investment/development in Minneapolis. Her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for food and wine fueled the fires that transitioned her from owner/teacher of a cooking school in Minneapolis, to creating a winery in Napa Valley.

In Napa, Betty fell in love with the beauty of the land, the vineyards, and the climate. In 1990 she landed in Oakville with a parcel of land, including vineyards and a home site. Betty reconnected with her deep rooted appreciation of the soil and the bounties it brings. Over the next few years, additional vineyards on Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder added to the source available for varieties of grapes. The new century brought a cave, grapes crushed into wine and a design for a winery structure. The project completed in time for the harvest of 2003.

In addition to the winery, Betty remains an active volunteer and philanthropist in the community. In 2002, Betty took on the role as Chair of the Board of Directors for Napa Community Bank, where she still serves as a director. In 2009, her community involvement expanded to include an exciting new role as Trustee for Napa’s Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

Paul, too, began life in the Midwest. Born almost on the campus of Indiana University, Paul later moved to New Mexico. He now sheepishly admits there developing the beginnings of a passion for wine ? albeit on brands that today no serious vigneron would admit consuming. From those beginnings, Paul found in college that starving for a month would allow for one great meal at the only French restaurant nearby. Then law school and his practice allowed the drive to learn about wine to thrive. That drive culminated in a fortuitous wine tasting where he met Betty.

Together, they now share a challenging goal of making the best possible wine from the exceptional vineyards they steward. Likewise they are most fortunate to enjoy family life provided by numerous children (all girls) and even more grandchildren (mostly boys). Betty and Paul continue life’s joyous ride as companions, partners, and winemaking buddies in the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery.

Brian & Johnine Talley, Owners & Wine Growers at Talley Family Vineyards

For three generations the Talley family has farmed in Coastal San Luis Obispo County. The tradition began in 1948 when Oliver Talley founded Talley Farms and started growing specialty vegetables in the Arroyo Grande Valley. During the 1970s extensive planting of wine grapes began in the neighboring Edna Valley and Santa Barbara County areas.  After observation and extensive analysis, Oliver’s son, Don Talley, was convinced of the potential to grow high quality chardonnay and pinot noir on the steep hillsides above Talley Farms.  Don planted a small test plot in 1982 on the west hillside of the Rincon Vineyard that included chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon. Over time the varietal and clonal selections were refined and planting expanded to a total of 189 acres in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys.

Talley Vineyards produced its first wine in 1986 with the production of 450 cases. The winery’s first five vintages were produced in a small winery adjacent to one of Talley Farms’ vegetable coolers. In the fall of 1991, a state-of-the-art winery was completed at the foot of the Rincon Vineyard. A 12,000 square foot barrel and case goods storage building was added in 2000, followed by a new tasting room in 2002. Talley Vineyards currently produces about 36,000 cases annually.  Brian and Johnine Talley own and operate Talley Vineyards, while Brian, Todd, Ryan and Rosemary Talley manage Talley Farms.

Brian Talley is a third generation farmer born and raised in Arroyo Grande.  While attending UC Berkeley, where he earned degrees in History and Natural Resource Economics, he worked in a wine shop called Curds and Whey where he fell in love with wine. Brian began his career in the family business at age 12 when he started harvesting vegetables at Talley Farms.  He became General Manager of Talley Vineyards in 1991 and now serves as President of Talley Vineyards and Talley Farms.  Brian is recognized as a leader in the local wine industry and was cofounder of the World of Pinot Noir, has served as President of the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association and been recognized by both Robert Parker and the local wine industry as a Wine Industry Person of the Year. Brian loves cooking, wine and travel as well as running, cycling and golf.  He lives at the edge of Talley Farms with his wife Johnine and daughters Elizabeth and Olivia.

Johnine Talley was born in Monterey California and lived in Germany for 5 years before her family settled in Paso Robles.  It was during her stay in Germany that she visited her first vineyard and winery.  Johnine graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business Management.  Her senior project was to study the feasibility of a Wine Marketing Certificate Program which became the progenitor of the Wine and Viticulture Program at Cal Poly.  It was during this time that she began her career in the wine industry as an intern for the Central Coast Wine Classic, the largest charity wine auction on the Central Coast. Johnine joined Talley Vineyards in 1988 to work in the tasting room.  She has served in a number of roles at the winery over the years including Tasting Room Manager and National Sales Manager and she managed the construction of the current Tasting Room in 2002.  She currently oversees the winery’s administrative functions including Human Resources. Johnine focuses much of her energy on philanthropy and was a founding member of the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation and a founder of the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers.  Her early travels fostered a love of travel, food and wine and she enjoys gardening as well.  She lives at the edge of Talley Farms with her husband Brian and daughters Elizabeth and Olivia.

Larry Turley, Proprietor of Turley Wine Cellars

Born in Tennessee and raised in Georgia, Larry has spent the better part of his life on a farm.  This being the south, they were primarily tobacco and dairy farms; nevertheless, his respect for the land and its cultivation began at a young age.  As an adult, Larry channeled this passion for preservation towards people, studying medicine and working as an emergency room physician.  After moving to California in the mid-seventies, Larry came home from the ER one night to discover someone camped on his property.  After first driving his motorcycle through the tent (this was, after all, the 1970’s in the “wild wild west”) he met its occupant, John Williams, the soon-to-be winemaker at Spring Mountain.  After sharing a glass of wine, they became friends; a few bottles later, they became business partners.  Frog’s Leap Winery was begat in 1981, with Larry on a tractor by day and suturing by night.

The winery enjoyed quick success; however, much like Athena originated as an ache in Zeus’ head, the impetus for a smaller, more focused project began to take shape in Larry’s mind.  He’d taken a shining to the wines made from Zinfandel & Petite Syrah, growing particularly fond of those made from old vine vineyards.  Eventually he sold his half of Frog’s Leap to John and started Turley Wine Cellars in 1993.

Because Larry has never met an old vine vineyard he didn’t like, Turley now makes 28 separate wines from 35 different vineyards, some with vines that date back to the late 1800’s.  Often weak and decaying, these old vine vineyards require extra care and attention in order to restore them to their former glory.  After twenty-five years in the emergency room, Larry can now focus his resuscitative skills on the various old vineyards that comprise the wines he loves.

Christina Turley, Director of Sales & Marketing at Turley Wine Cellars  

The oldest of Larry’s four daughters, Christina spent summers growing up working beside her father in the winery.  She moved to New York to attend Barnard College at Columbia University, and graduated in 2006 with a BA in Art History.  After a brief stint at Matthew Marks Gallery, she buckled down and finally got serious about wine, becoming a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and passing the WSET Advanced program with Honors.  She became entrenched in the NYC restaurant scene and eventually worked her way up to become the beverage director for the Momofuku Restaurant Group.  After 8 years in New York her father finally guilted her into returning to her roots, and following a temporary period as a sales representative for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants, Christina joined Turley full time in 2010.

Chef Ken Frank of La Toque

Ken Frank’s passion for excellence at  La Toque has earned him a prestigious Michelin Star. La Toque moved from Rutherford to the new Westin Verasa Napa in September 2008. Their beautiful home at the Westin, adjacent to the Oxbow Public Market, is at the heart of a vibrant dining scene in downtown Napa.

The menu evolves constantly to show off each season’s finest ingredients. We work with a network of local farmers and purveyors who supply us with the finest foods in the world. We aim to optimize the flavors in these exceptionally fresh products and create dishes that harmonize with great wine.  The Core menu is presented in four sections from which you can create your own multi-course experience. We also feature two extensive tasting menus; the Chef’s Tasting Menu with nine courses, and a six course Vegetable Tasting Menu.

Our award winning-cellar has grown to over 1,700 selections, now presented as an iPad application. Our Sommeliers literally bring the world to your table, choosing the finest wines from every major wine-growing region to pair with the Chef’s dishes. Their many years of food and wine pairing experience add a layer of service to the dining experience at La Toque that is unmatched, anywhere. In addition, we have a full bar with fine spirits for you to enjoy before and after dinner.

Tom & Beverly Porter, Proprietors of Porter Family Vineyards

We (Tom and Beverly Porter) wanted to grow a few grapes and perhaps start a winery one day. But no idea stays little for very long with the Porter Family. All of us are avid scientists, once our family purchased this wonderful property south of the Stag’s Leap district in Napa Valley, we began to study it and discover its joys. During that process, we unearthed an intriguing piece of history which gave us clues to the history of life on Earth itself.  We discovered the fossilized footprints of a sandpiper dating back millions upon millions of years ago, only heightening our wonder and love of this property.

Of course, we continue to study it, and discover more. And each day we find new reasons to love and treasure it.  “We love the wonders of nature and the rules that connect these wonders together in endless patterns,” says Tom Porter. This love affair with the land began with patience. Our family watched the hillsides, the terrain, and the seasons. We studied the vines, the soil, and put our faces up to the wind. As we followed the growth of the vines, we realized we absolutely had to share this land with others—to turn the fruit of this place into a wine to be shared by many. Not wanting to disturb the terrain we had come to know and love, we decided that the best thing to do was to create an underground cellar in which to craft our wines. So in a hillside in the middle of the vineyard, we created a winery. The only clue to its existence is two entrances on either end. Vines still stand up and around and over the hill.

“It was here, in creating our 17,000 square foot underground cellar, that we discovered the long ago history of this land in the form of our sandpiper’s fossilized footsteps. It was an electrifying find,” says Tom Porter.  “The hill actually began as a shoreline millions of years ago,” says Tom. “Over the millennia, it was uplifted into the hills above our vineyard, and then much later slumped downhill to its present location. The tracks of that tiny bird, once on the surface of a sandy beach that was catastrophically covered with volcanic ash, were only discovered when we dug into the hillside to create our winery. Buried many feet below the surface, it was a reminder that we are not the first to tread this ground, nor will we be the last. And it is our responsibility to steward this land in a way that protects and preserves it, not just for our children, but for the planet.”

The fossil has now become part of our family, and the sandpiper from long ago now leaves its tracks on every label of Porter Family Vineyards wine. “It’s part of us now,” says Tom. “In one way, we discovered it – but in another way, it has discovered us and led us to understand so much more about this place, and our role in it.” “Science does not know its debt to imagination.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tor  Kenward, Founder & Proprietor of TOR Kenward Family Wines

Tor Kenward spent 27 years as a senior executive with Beringer Vineyards working in winemaking and marketing, helping to build a wine company known to collectors worldwide for its outstanding Reserve and single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. He retired in 2001, and along with his wife Susan, started TOR Kenward Family Wines, a small wine company based on single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays.

“For three decades I made a least one barrel of wine each vintage from Beringer’s best vineyard sites,” recalls Tor Kenward. “I had great mentors, Ed Sbragia and Bob Steinhauer, encouraging me to make wine and grow grapes. We had different approaches, but shared the same passion: great wine, and how to make it. We tasted together, traveled together to Europe to learn more, and shared the secrets we unearthed along the journey.”

“I walked every corner of Napa and Sonoma those three decades, an avid student of what makes a great vineyard. Luckily, I am working today with people whom I consider to be extraordinary growers dedicated to growing the highest quality grapes,” explains Tor. “We farm these special vineyard sites by acre-by-acre — meaning we work together to achieve the best possible grapes regardless of cost.”

Our winemaking is driven by the same philosophy: constantly striving for the best, whatever it takes. Tor works exclusively with small cooperage houses in France to ensure we have the best barrels, and uses natural yeasts for both primary and secondary fermentations. Grapes are hand sorted, and our wines are crafted in very small cuvees so as to receive minimal handling. “If we harvest what we consider world-class grapes, our job as winemakers is to stay out of the way. That takes experience and patience, but can be very rewarding when it all comes together,” explains Tor.

Ray Signorello Jr, Director of Winemaking at Signorello Estate

One of the wine industry’s young mavericks, Ray Signorello is a true wine entrepreneur. He is the director of winemaking at his own Signorello Estate in Napa Valley; partner in Edge, Fuse and Trim Wines, Napa Valley and wine distributor in Canada through his Evolution Fine Wines venture. Ray’s commitment to the best quality grapes and labor intensive vineyard and winemaking practices are core principals that permeate all of his endeavors.

Born in San Francisco, Ray moved to Vancouver at a very young age where his father worked in the oil and gas business. His parents longed for California and in 1977 purchased some property on the Silverado Trail in Napa, now known as Signorello Estate. The property, formerly a race horse retirement home, was virgin to grapes until Ray’s father began to plant Chardonnay vineyards. The Signorellos were soon in the wine business selling their grapes to Caymus, Cakebread and Cuvaison. After a few years, the Signorello family decided it was time to make their own wines since the quality of their grapes were among Napa’s finest.

After graduating from University of British Columbia in 1988, Ray moved to Napa and dedicated himself to wine education and managing the winery operations. Ray has been fortunate to learn winemaking from a number of Napa’s top winemakers including Steve Devitt, previous winemaker for Signorello and now with neighboring Darioush winery. “Like all serious vintners – for whom winemaking is as much a higher calling as it is a profession – I have dedicated as much time to the craft and aesthetics of winemaking as I have to the science of it. Ultimately, the wine business demands a combination of science and personality,” says Ray. Today, Ray is a dedicated vintner and winemaker at Signorello Estate, producing quality grapes and wines from their property in addition to wines produced in other nearby appellations. Under Ray’s supervision, The Signorello Estate produces Seta, a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the flagship Padrone, a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend.

Ray travels frequently between Vancouver and Napa and to important wine markets around the U.S. promoting Signorello Estate. Concurrently he directs the Vancouver based company Evolution Fine Wines. Ray’s Canadian distribution company, Evolution Fine Wines, specializes in representing the world’s finest wineries for British Columbia and Alberta. His philosophy is to build a portfolio that represents family-owned wineries that are not only friends but people he personally respects for their own dedication to making high-quality wines. He continues to pursue wineries that not only reflect quality but also offer relative value at any price. Ray distinguishes his portfolio by saying “We do not represent brands; we represent family-owned estates that share my personal passion for the artisanship of making great wines.”

Evolution Fine Wines and its predecessor Seacove California Selections have been doing business in British Columbia and Alberta for 9 years and is committed to providing great, personalized service with Ray’s team of highly dynamic and knowledgeable staff dedicated to providing expertise in world class wines. Ray also lends his wine savvy to Edge, Fuse and Trim Wines where he is a partner. Produced using quality California grapes, these wineries were founded by Ray and long-time friends to provide customers with high quality Cabernet at a reasonable price. Blended and bottled with meticulous care, Edge, Fuse and Trim are award-winning wines that consumers can enjoy directly from the shelf or after several years of aging. Beyond professional commitments that fill up most of the calendar year, Ray takes annual pilgrimages to Burgundy and Tuscany, two places of great influence to his personal palette and winemaking experience.

John & Tori Williams, Owners & Winemakers of Frog’s Leap Winery

My grandfather always said that you could pretty much tell how good a farmer was by how straight his fences were. Perhaps the Napa Valley equivalent would be that you can predict the quality of a winery’s product by the health of their vines. After four decades of making wine in the Napa Valley, I am proud to say that Frog’s Leap grows almost all of our own grapes. And a visit to the winery always starts in our beautiful vineyards.

For more than 25 years we’ve been well known for our advancement of the principles of organic grape growing, dry farming and many aspects of biodynamics. It would be understandable for one to attribute our actions to a deeply held political agenda or, quite the opposite, to a thinly veiled marketing plan. While both are fair assumptions, neither are true. In point of fact, it has always been wine quality that drives our farming choices.

Darioush & Shahpar Khaledi, Proprietors of Darioush Winery

Darioush Khaledi’s life story has inspired the creation of Darioush and continues to shape it today. Darioush is a man dedicated to wine and the ideals of the American dream – a deeply rooted belief in individualism and opportunity. Born and raised in Iran, trained as a civil engineer, and a lifelong entrepreneur, his fascination with wine was instilled at an early age by his father’s winemaking efforts and the cultural history of winemaking in Shiraz.

Darioush emigrated to the US seeking opportunity, reinventing his career by building what became at one point the largest family-owned grocery business in California through determination, experimentation and a commitment to pursue opportunities others overlook. Together with his wife Shahpar, he founded Darioush in 1997, and set out to produce wines that celebrate individualism and craftsmanship. The winery is Darioush’s realization of his American dream.

Shahpar Khaledi’s founding vision for Darioush combined her experience in fashion and boutique retail, her trendsetting sensibility cultivated over decades as founder and creative director of Echelon, an influential women’s boutique that offered niche European designers. Treating her clients and guests well is more than a cultural tradition for Shahpar, it is a way of life – one she has added to the hospitality experience at Darioush.  Tarof is the Persian art of social etiquette, the art of politeness, a way to make your guest feel more at home than home itself. Shahpar’s welcoming philosophy has defined the Darioush experience of today.

Chris Phelps, Winemaker at Swanson Vineyard

Born in the vineyard-rich region of Livermore, California, Chris Phelps fell in love with two things early on in life: wine, and the French language. So it was natural that he studied enology and French at UC Davis, and after graduation in 1981, entered the Institute of Enology at the University of Bordeaux.

In addition to participating in an intensive wine program, his requirements demanded practical experience, and he was fortunate enough to discover a landmark immersion opportunity, serving as winemaker at Château des Laurets in Puisseguin-St. Emilion during the blockbuster 1982 harvest. During Chris’s Bordeaux experience, Christian Moueix (often referred to as “Mr. Merlot”) and winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet became his mentors, an association which allowed Chris to work and live at Chateau Pétrus for a winter. “Many luminaries in Bordeaux are very in touch with the cycles of nature, how they ‘feel’ about a vineyard or a wine,” says Chris of what he learned while in France. “Berrouet taught me about the passion of wine, and why he was inspired to write a book of poetry about terroir.”  Chris was then invited by Moueix to join a new Napa Valley winery, Dominus Estate. Following six months of intensive training at Pétrus, Chris was named winemaker at Dominus, where he worked from 1984 through 1995, honing his skills with iconic Bordeaux styled, or ‘Meritage’ wines.

In 1996, Chuck Wagner of Napa Valley’s Caymus Vineyards recruited Chris for several winemaking projects, hiring him as full time red specialist winemaker in 1999. While there, he led the production of both the prestigious Caymus Napa Valley and Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. When Chris joined the Swanson Vineyards team in April 2003, it was an ideal partnership for both winery and winemaker. The Swanson family’s passion for innovation and history of consistently producing French-style wine from its Oakville vineyards posed an irresistible draw.

“Merlot was a big reason to move to Swanson, bringing me back to my Bordeaux roots,” Chris explains. “Merlot is the biggest red variety in Bordeaux, and in all of France. It is a winemaker’s grape, with natural acidity, lots of tannin, but the gentle kind that makes drinking red wines pleasurable.”   Since then, Chris has contributed a fresh, cutting-edge perspective to all phases of winemaking, from pre-harvest through blending and bottling. His style can be summarized as minimalist, in respect of excellent grapes. “If the fruit is picked when it is physiologically ripe and balanced, intervention through winemaking techniques is minimized,” Chris says. “My job as a winemaker is to form an honest interpretation of what a specific vineyard site in a specific vineyard is trying to tell me.”

Chris is a member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Maria, and their four children, with whom he shares a love of swimming and backpacking. An assistant scoutmaster, he also leads his local Boy Scout troop on expeditions.

Ken and Grace Evenstad, Proprietors of Domaine Serene Winery

When Ken and Grace Evenstad bought land in the Dundee Hills of Oregon in 1989, it was generally believed that only Burgundy, France could produce exceptional Pinot Noir.  California had pretty much given up on the “heartbreak grape”. In Oregon they found a tiny community of dedicated wine producers, who sold all of their wine locally.  The Evenstad’s mission was to produce consistently exquisite Pinot Noir, and they believed if the wine was world class quality it would sell anywhere.  Beginning with their first vintage in 1990, they sold almost all of their wine in major markets outside of Oregon, establishing for the first time a national and international market for ultra premium American Pinot Noir.

Over the years the Evenstads have increased their original 42 acre Willamette Valley, Oregon, property to over 700 acres, of which 220 are planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and are sustainably dry farmed.  A diversity of factors, such as elevation, slope facings, soil types, root stocks and clones, all kept separated during picking, fermenting and barreling, results in over 300 different Pinot Noirs in barrel each vintage. These labor intensive techniques provide marvelous blending opportunities for layers of complexity in their flagship “Evenstad Reserve”, as well as their single vineyard and “Yamhill Cuvée” labels. The Evenstads, as passionate as ever about Pinot Noir, and committed to the continued possibilities in Oregon, have no interest in retirement.

Matt Viotto, Executive V.P. Talbott Vineyards

In 1982, Robb Talbott began planting his original Diamond T Estate vineyard on a cold, windswept mountaintop in Carmel Valley. Conventional wisdom was against him, and many said the steep, exposed site with its massive shale boulders was “too cold,” “too difficult to plant” and “too challenging to grow on.” But Robb had a vision—a vision he held on to as he prepared the cliff-side vineyard by hand, breaking apart its massive boulders with a 12-pound sledgehammer. “It all began with my first taste of a great Burgundy,” says Robb.“That experience profoundly shaped my palate, and as I grew older I knew that I wanted to create unique and exceptional Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Wines that took their inspiration from the traditions of Burgundy, but had their roots in California’s soils.”

To achieve this goal, Robb Talbott established one of the Central Coast’s most esteemed estate programs, featuring two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: Diamond T Estate and the legendary Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Though located a mere 18 miles apart, these two vineyards offer remarkably different growing conditions, yielding rich and distinctive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that embody their unique terroirs.

At its heart, the history of Talbott Vineyards is the story of one family’s determined focus and commitment to excellence. In 1950, Robert Talbott, Sr., his wife Audrey, and their son, Robb, moved to Carmel, California, where they started a luxury tie company. Audrey sewed the ties by hand and Robert, Sr. sold them up and down the California coast. During silk buying trips to Europe for their business, the Talbotts visited French and Italian vineyards and soon became interested in fine wine. As their interest grew, they aspired to produce their own California wines, using the Burgundian techniques that they had become passionate about.

In 1982, Robb planted Diamond T, and the Talbotts built their original winery in idyllic Carmel Valley. For his first plantings, Robb selected the storied Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay clone, planting it in Diamond T’s almost soil-free chalky shale. Robb knew that the vines would have to struggle to survive at Diamond T, producing miniscule yields and wines of great intensity.

After years of working with fruit from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, in 1994 the Talbotts achieved another important milestone when they were able to acquire the property—making Talbott an all-estate winery. Featuring blocks of old Wente clone vines planted in 1972, Sleepy Hollow has earned a reputation for producing wines of great depth and voluptuousness. Today, Sleepy Hollow’s River Road block is home to the winery’s state-of-the-art winemaking facility, where Robb Talbott and renowned winemaker Dan Karlsen guide Talbott’s storied Chardonnay and Pinot Noir programs. These estate wines have gained a reputation for their lushness, grace and great aging potential, and have become benchmarks of quality on the Central Coast.

Judy Jordan, Founder and President of J Vineyards & Winery

Judy Jordan, Founder and President of J Vineyards & Winery and second generation vintner, chose to honor her family’s heritage with a courageous and different path. Respecting her family and the Jordan Winery, Judy decided as a young woman to build her own brand and winery. More than twenty years later Judy has succeeded at building a world-renowned reputation for her signature J Vintage Brut. Part of Judy’s ongoing vision for the future is to enhance J’s magnificent Russian River Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Earth Sciences/Geology, Judy worked in Geophysics at Western Geophysical Corporation in Denver, Colorado before returning to work at her family’s businesses. The experience of working for her family allowed Judy to hone her skills in business, marketing, soils and geology — all from a geologist’s and vintner’s perspective.

In 1986, Judy founded what is now called J Vineyards & Winery. With her typicaljoie de vivre, she began weaving the vines of tradition and elegance with those of contemporary innovation to build a successful winery of her own. Judy purchased the former Piper Sonoma winemaking facility south of Healdsburg in 1996, in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Judy was one of the first – if not the first – to pioneer wine country’s elegant food and wine experience for guests. The sumptuous tasting room, which opened in 1999, incorporated bite-sized delicacies to complement each wine and illustrate how wine pairs with cuisine. The award-winning Visitor Center continues to be the people’s choice for an ultimate luxury experience. One of Judy’s great mentors is her father, Tom Jordan.  

Pam Starr

Pam Starr, Co-Owner, Manager & Winemaker at Crocker & Starr

Pam Starr has been the co-owner, manager and winemaker of Crocker & Starr since its inception in 1997 when she helped resurrect the vineyards on the Crocker Estate in St. Helena and established a winery to create world-class wines. After toiling as a winery employee for 18 years, Pam’s transformation at a relatively young age into owner, manager and winemaker was unique and remarkable. It required a special mix of skill, passion and dedication. All of which describe Pam Starr. Pam’s love affair with winemaking began as a harvest intern for Sonoma Cutrer in Sonoma after graduating from the University of California at Davis in 1984 with a degree in Fermentation Science. Headed down a different path, the daughter of an orthopedic surgeon who was planning to go to dental school quickly switched gears. Attracted by the fast pace, the pleasures of working the land and the wine itself, Pam knew she’d found her calling. “I was simply smitten – the way one is when falling madly in love. Winemaking is mysterious, it’s sexy, it’s magical.” And it’s been her life since. After the internship, Pam worked for Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo stacking barrels for a season. Her dream of becoming a winemaker began to take shape. For the next six years she was an enologist and assistant winemaker for Carmenet Winery in Sonoma, a job that taught her how to run a winery from cellar to bottle. In 1991, she became the winemaker for Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery in Napa Valley where she worked until she and Charlie Crocker established Crocker & Starr and she built the foundation of the business. At the same time Crocker & Starr opened its doors, Pam began wine consulting for Adastra Vineyard in the Carneros, Gemstone Vineyard in Yountville and Garric Cellars of Calistoga, among others. Passionate about translating terroir into wine, Pam is known for her distinctive Bordeauxstyle blends that express a deep sense of place. For this enthusiastic and inspired winemaker who views her job as translating soil into wine, great wine must taste of the sun, of the earth it comes from and of the place it grows. Pam is a member of the Napa Valley Vintners, Appellation St. Helena, American Society of Enology and Viticulture, Concierge Alliance Napa Valley and Wine Entre Femme, an international consortium of women winemakers. She is married, lives in Napa and embraces mountain biking, scuba diving, water skiing, sailing, gardening and motorcycling wine roads with her husband. Pam’s dog Griffin, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, is her loyal vineyard companion.  

David Fink, Founder / CEO, Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group, Relais & Chateaux Property

For more than 30 years, Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group CEO, David Fink, has been associated with some of Northern California’s finest luxury resorts, hotels and restaurants. Fink’s “heart of a servant” philosophy, and constant focus on guest satisfaction, has ensured success of all properties under the company’s direction.

When Fink opened his first restaurant, Bouchée in Carmel in 2002, it quickly became the region’s premier choice for fine dining. With the 2004 opening of L’Auberge Carmel, a member of Relais & Chateaux, a luxury inn and restaurant in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Fink cemented his reputation as a dedicated and innovative hotelier. It was also the beginning of Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group, the management company, Fink started with the dual purpose of managing a growing list of properties as well as exploring possibilities for new acquisitions. The group’s third real estate acquisition resulted in the concept and design of Cantinetta Luca (Carmel) opened in 2006. The popular Italian eatery offers authentic Italian cuisine in a casual, modern setting, and consistently receives critical accolades and awards.

Fink acquired a development permit and land in 2008 and oversaw the development and construction of Hotel Luca in 2009. The 24-room luxury hotel, spa and restaurant is located in Yountville, in the Napa Valley. The same design team that created L’Auberge Carmel, restaurant Aubergine and Cantinetta Luca, brought their vision to Hotel Luca, a classic two-story Italian design featuring contemporary Italian decor and Tuscan cuisine.

In 2010, Fink partnered with William Foley, a highly successful entrepreneur and wine estate owner to purchase Hotel Les Mars, a Relais & Chateaux member, located in the Sonoma Wine Country. Mirabel managed the 16-room hotel which evokes the charm of a French maison, located one block from Healdsburg’s historic town square from 2010 to 2013. In the summer of 2011 Fink and Chef / Partner Balestrieri opened, as part of Cantinetta Luca, an authentic Italian deli and bakery Salumeria Luca in their Cantinetta Luca building. The Salumeria features a wide selection of cured meats, Italian cheeses, olives, sauces, fresh-baked breads, wine, pastries, desserts and gelato. And in 2012 Fink and Balestrieri also opened 400° Gourmet Burgers & Fries located in the Carmel Plaza.

Fink’s strengths lie in building successful teams by bringing together talented people. He is particularly passionate when it comes to food and wine, having his interest piqued in the subject at an early age. At Highlands Inn, in 1987, Fink was one of the original architects of the now-famous international Masters of Food and Wine event. As food and beverage director at Highlands Inn, he oversaw development of the Inn’s wine cellar collection from 57 bottles to over 1200, and prestigious Wine Spectator “Grand Award” in 1991. In 2014 he founded the Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Previously the general manager of The Lodge at Pebble Beach in 2001, Fink designed and implemented new five-star hospitality standards for Pebble Beach Resorts, and was responsible for $60 million in annual revenue. From 1984 thru 2000, Fink was with Coastal Hotel Group (CHG), a Chicago based hotel management company. He began his career with CHG as food and beverage manager at Highlands Inn, rising quickly to general manager, vice president/general manager, and later regional vice president. As regional vice president he was responsible for operations at some of their finest properties, including Salish Lodge and Spa, in Seattle, Washington; and the Orchard Hotel in San Francisco.

A native of Virginia, Fink is a graduate of the prestigious North Cross Preparatory School, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Roanoke College. He is a founding member of the American Institute of Wine and Food Monterey Bay Chapter, founding member and past president of the Monterey County Travel and Tourism Alliance, board member of the Monterey County Hospitality Association, wine judge at the Los Angeles County Fair and Dallas Morning News Wine Competition, board member and past president of the Big Sur Land Trust, and was selected in 1997 as “Monterey County Hospitality Professional of the Year”. He is also a director on the Board of Relais and Châteaux, the finest collection of independent Hotel and Restaurants worldwide. Fink has three children, and enjoys tennis, skiing, mushroom hunting and cooking. In 2000, he developed the Fink Family Vineyard, dedicated to the production of vineyard designated Pinot Noir.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

The heart of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is undoubtedly the estate vineyards and extraordinary care is taken to assure that a wine’s aroma, flavor, and texture convey a sense of place. As the difference between a good wine and a great one is often in the details, our viticultural practices are driven by extreme, even obsessive, attention to detail. Throughout the growing season and all the way through harvest, vines are cared for to achieve their optimum maturity level and ensure the ‘signature’ of the terroir is expressed to its fullest.

The FAY vineyard is where the story of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars began. Established by pioneering grape grower Nathan Fay in 1961, it was the first planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in what is now the Stags Leap District. At the time, conventional wisdom maintained that the area was too cold for Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasting Nathan Fay’s homemade Cabernet in 1969 was a defining moment for the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Here was land capable of producing a wine that could rival the best in the world. Within a year an adjoining ranch, now known as S.L.V., was purchased and in 1986, the winery purchased Nathan Fay’s vineyard and named it FAY in his honor. Today, it remains one of the great Napa Valley vineyards,
producing fruit with an abundance of supple red and black berry character, voluptuous perfume and a luscious, fine-grained texture. The 66-acre vineyard is planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon with a half acre of Petit Verdot. The soil is a combination of fine Bale gravelly clay loam and volcanic alluvium.

S.L.V., also known as Stag’s Leap Vineyards, is the winery’s first vineyard. Planted in 1970, this vineyard achieved international fame when three-year-old vines from the 1973 harvest produced a wine that triumphed over some of France’s greatest Bordeaux in a blind tasting among French wine experts in Paris. It was 1976, the American bi-centennial. The tasting, known today as the “Judgment of Paris,” fundamentally transformed how California wines were viewed worldwide and the stunning victory launched Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars into the ranks of the world’s most noteworthy Cabernet Sauvignon producers. This history-making vineyard continues to produce wines with complex black fruit and berry character, spicy intensity, excellent structure and complexity, promising long life and ageability. Today, the property encompasses roughly 35 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres of Merlot. The vineyard soil is volcanic and alluvial with good drainage, and benefits from warm afternoons and cool evening breezes.

The Story of CASK 23 began during the harvest of 1974. Back then, the winery enlisted the help of celebrated winemaker André Tchelistcheff. As he tasted through various lots of new wines from that year, one lot from S.L.V. was so beautiful and deliciously distinct the winery decided it should be bottled separately. It was named CASK 23 for the large wooden cask in which it was aged. Today, the wine is a blend of the most distinctive fruit from the S.L.V and FAY vineyards, resulting in wine of extraordinary depth and richness balanced by restraint. Over the years, CASK 23 has become one of the most highly regarded and collected wines worldwide.

American Institute of Wine & Food

Americans are so fortunate to live in a nation where there are regional-based cuisines, fresh, local ingredients, and a vast array of cultural and ethnic gastronomy. More than ever before, we are educating ourselves on what’s in season, where the ingredients are coming from, and the environment in which it’s grown. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful local heirloom tomato or a freshly plucked peach? At AIWF, we enhance the quality of a rich and flavorful life by cultivating our members through educational programs, creative scholarships, and fun social galas enjoying great wine and good food. Explore … and you will find that we’re a perfect blend of diverse food and wine enthusiasts and professionals, who have come together to celebrate the richness of our culinary culture. We have reserved a place for you at the American table. Mission: The American Institute of Wine & Food is a national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the understanding, appreciation and quality of wine and food.

Ram’s Gate Winery

Situated at the historic gateway to the Carneros wine region, Ram’s Gate Winery was created with the belief that in a world obsessed with making things faster, where speed is valued above all else, a delicious wine is the way to press pause – to savor what we love most. Each of our wines is conceived as a unique expression of one parcel of land, resulting in a portfolio from the marquee vineyards of Sonoma and Carneros. Our winemaking style is one of exception: it begins at the source, where vines are tended by growers who share over 278 years of experience. When the fruit arrives at our Carneros estate, a fastidious sorting process follows, first by cluster, then by  berry. Vinification itself is shepherded by  Winemaker Jeff Gaffner, whose 30-year industry pedigree has honed an inspiring commitment to shaping thoughtful, site-driven wines. Though our winery is only three years young, we’re honored to have received acclaim from the nation’s leading wine publications, including Robert Parker’s summary of 2011 Ram’s Gate wines, “this was my  first experience with Ram’s Gate Winery, and I must say I was very impressed!”

Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, TGO Photography

As a young man with a profound fascination of all things creative, Tom immersed himself in the study of painting and design. He attended both the Chicago Art Institute and the University of Illinois. Near the end of his college career, Tom began to transition into photography. The application of design and composition theories from his prior studies to the process of film capture was a natural segue.  The world of the camera was particularly fascinating to Tom because of its mobility. He regarded this new medium as a portable canvas and never looked back at his easel. This developing passion became the focus of a lifelong career.

Along with his burgeoning talent as a photographer, Tom also had an instinct for timing. He immersed himself in the intense Los Angeles music scene that exploded in the sixties. He found himself in great demand by several high profile rock and roll stars. Ironically, he applied both his photographic and graphic design skills in the creation of over 72+ album covers, including the iconic Déjà Vu cover used by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Other notable groups were the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell, Poco, Crazy Horse, the Mamas and the Papas, B.B. King, and The Three Tenors. He developed relationships with entertainers that created opportunities for many years to follow. Two of Tom’s shots are part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

The seventies found Tom searching for a change in genre. Perhaps his intuition once again was a factor, for he shifted his focus to photojournalism and set off to work in Africa. There he was hired worked for the Peace Corp with key shooting assignments in the Congo. From Africa he traveled to Paris and London where he absorbed and photographed the European art scene.  He experimented with light and shadow, developing techniques that remain innovative and contemporary in the current environment.

Ready to have a more permanent location Tom returned to the Monterey Peninsula where he has immersed himself in his commercial and art photography.  For the past 15 years Tom has worked with clients such as Rolex and The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers where he continues to travel the world shooting events, celebrities, and VIP’s   His illustrious experiences have led him into a key note speaking profession where he connects his photography experiences with a lively presentation:  Owning the Moment.  Through his entertaining stories he covers the  specifics regarding connecting with people, taking charge, creating your own circumstances, and manifesting your passion. Tom’s keynote, teaching and photographs are simply a reflection of his unbridled approach to life.

Shauna Rosenblum, Winemaker Rock Wall Company

Shauna Rosenblum grew up a cellar rat in Alameda, CA on the site of what would come to be her father Kent Rosenblum’s Zinfandel empire namesake, Rosenblum Cellars. By the age of 2, she knew how to read brix levels on a refractometer. By the age of 10 she was working on the bottling line, and helping in the cellar, and by the age of 15, she was sitting in on blends created by her father, Kent, and his assistant winemakers.

After graduating high school, Shauna got a scholarship to study ceramics and sculpture and continued to further her studies in these practices on the masters level. It was during this time that she took several chemistry classes, which felt very natural, as she had been doing it her whole life in her family’s winery.  This was her ‘light bulb’ that not only was winemaking an amazing art, but it was also her true passion.

In 2008 her family sold Rosenblum Cellars, and started Rock Wall Wine Company.  By the end of the first harvest, it was evident that not only was she in love with winemaking, but she was indeed a natural. In 2008, the 25-year-old, with 23 years of winemaking experience under her belt, was named Head Winemaker of Rock Wall Winery.  Since then, she has garnered many Gold Medals, Double Gold Medals, Best of Shows, 90+ point WS and WE scores, “Best Zinfandel in California”, and even the accolade of “Best Winemaker.”

Shauna is also one of the youngest professional wine judges in the country and judges many prestigious International Wine Competitions.   Her most recent accolades for 2016 include 93 points from Wine Enthusiast on her Monte Rosso Zinfandel and being invited to speak at Twitter’s #sheinspiresme conference.

Kent Rosenblum, CEO Rock Wall Wine Company (pictured above with Shauna)

Kent Rosenblum brings over 40 years of winemaking experience to Rock Wall Wine Company. After building Rosenblum Winery from a 400- to a 250,000-case producer, Founder/Winemaker Kent Rosenblum sold the winery in 2008. He then started up Rock Wall, with daughter, Shauna as winemaker. “We wanted to go back to a family business that focused on great wines and having a good time,” says Kent. For Kent, making wine has always been about a willingness to explore viticultural regions and experiment with winemaking techniques, which is the legacy he has passed on to his daughter. Today, Shauna heads up the cellar at the 30,000-case family venture, with Kent as CEO. A family affair, Rock Wall is about having fun, while making the best wines from the best regions and sharing the experience with others. As Kent always says, “Never underestimate the value of a little fun.”

Violet Grgich

Violet Grgich, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Grgich Hills Estate

Violet’s passion for wine began at an early age, as she literally grew up accompanying her father, Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, in the vineyards and cellar. She spent her summers at the winery, doing everything from bottling line work to laboratory analysis and working in the tasting room. Attending the University of California, Davis, Violet earned a BA in music while taking classes in biology, chemistry, and enology.  After graduation, she returned home to Grgich Hills to continue her education in the wine business, learning about daily operations of the winery from her father, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. She received her Master of Music in harpsichord at Indiana University, and then joined the winery fulltime in 1988. She’s now responsible for daily management of the winery, as well as sales and marketing. She says that she has the ideal job: “I believe that wine is part of a healthy, happy and long life. Wine brings people together and makes them happy, which makes my job extraordinarily fulfilling.” Involved with every aspect of the wine business, Violet enjoys wearing many different hats, often at the same time.  She explains, “My dad insisted that in order to lead the winery I needed to work at every single position, starting at the bottom.” Violet continues to enjoy learning something new each day and following her grandfather’s and father’s philosophy of “Every day do something just a little better.”

Monty & Sara Presier: Food, Wine & Travel Writers; Co-Owners of Shadowbox Cellars Wine Educators; Publishers; Judges

Attorney Monty Preiser and his wife Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, yet divide their time between Florida and Napa, where they have a second home and spend their time visiting wineries, studying wines, publishing a well-known guide, and owning a boutique winery.

Prior to wading full time into the wine industry, Monty was a trial lawyer who specialized in representing young children injured by vaccines and other medications. He also litigated cases for the injured workforce against the makers of defective machines, as well as medical negligence cases of note that helped improve hospital and doctor care.

Writing about wines for over 25 years, the Preisers publish the world’s most comprehensive guide to Napa and southeast Sonoma County wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key (circulation 300,000), in which they create and pen many informational and educational articles. The guides have received accolades as the best (or indispensable) from, among others, famed writer Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times, Dine Magazine, msnbc.comcnn.comTom Simoneau of KSRO Radio, and Frommer’s Guide.

Over the years, Monty and Sara have served as wine columnists and wine editors for the Boca Raton News, the South Florida Business Journal, Venu Fine Living, Coastal Carolina Life, BOCA Magazine, North Bay Biz Journal, Suncoast Living, and numerous other trade publications. They were the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.comone of the Internet’s largest travel sites with over 3.5 million readers, and for many years were regularly published by Wine-On-Line-International..

Monty and Sara write a periodic international wine column that is taken by over 12,000 people on the Web, and reprinted by many blogs. They own Creative Professional Programs, a company devoted to continuing education for professionals in conjunction with fine wine & food instruction, and also co-own Shadowbox Cellars, which produces the premium Shadowbox Cabernet Sauvignon (2014 and 2016 Gold at American Fine Wine Competition and 93 points from Robert Parker), Syrah (2014 Silver at AFWC), Pinot Noir (2014 and 2016 Double Gold at AFWC), Rose (new), Red Blend (2016 Double Gold AFWC), and Chardonnay (2014 and 2015 Double Gold at AFWC). They have presented shipboard lectures about California wines to various cruise ship passengers, as well as taught at various Fortune 500 events.

Between the two of them, Monty and Sara have served as judges for the Hilton Head Island WineFest, the Mendocino Winegrowers Competition, The California Green and Biodynamic Competition, the Long Beach Grand Cru Competition, Amador County Four Fires, the Lake County People’s Choice Awards, The Sonoma Grand Harvest Awards, The Grand Rose Competition, and the American Fine Wine Competition and Invitational. For the latter, the Preisers are the co-founders, and Monty served as Chief Judge for the first 10 years of the Competition.

For many years, Monty was a voting member for the Winery Hall of Fame sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America.

Reynolds Family Winery

Was Steve Reynolds destined to be in the wine business? It sure seems so. “My father was almost fanatical about wine and was an avid wine collector,” Steve recalls. “Most of our family outings centered around wine and wineries and we never had a meal where there wasn’t a bottle of wine on the table.”It was while pursuing his degree in dentistry at the University of the Pacific, that Steve first met Suzie and his destiny. “Suzie was at St. Mary’s College nearby and we started dating. Her best friend was seeing a guy from Napa named Oscar Renteria. We all started hanging out together and going to Napa Valley on weekends where Oscar’s father was a vineyard manager.” Returning from Napa one weekend, a fifteen-minute conversation was all it took for Steve to sell his Central Valley practice and move to Napa.

“We loved Napa and I fancied myself one of those gentlemen farmers making homemade wine on the side. I started a new practice and Suzie continued to work in her family’s insurance business.” The Reynolds’ jump into the wine business began in earnest in 1995 when an old chicken ranch on Silverado Trail became available. The first wines were made in 1999 and were well-received so Steve decided it was time to make a business of it. The winery’s first release cases came amid a rash of personal problems for Reynolds. “I was really up against it,” Steve admitted. “It wasn’t the greatest time in my life – my father had just passed away – but I had no real choice. The winery demanded someone be there on a full-time basis. I called on my friends and neighbors and everyone pitched in and helped out.” That’s when Steve decided to give up his dental practice to operate the winery full time. Basically, self-taught, Steve studied at UC Davis for two years to perfect his art. He credits South African winemaker Anthony Bell for seeing him through the hardest time in his winery’s evolution. Today, Reynolds Family Winery has grown to around 7,000 cases. Through it all, Steve and Suzie have truly enjoyed the experience and path that has lead them to where they are today. They have three beautiful children – Cameron (18), Rebecca (16) and Sarah (13) – dozens of accolades, and most of all, each other.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates host Alan K. Portney

Alan Portney became Vice President International Sales for Ste.Michelle Wine Estates in June 2006 after running his own company, Worldwide Wine Services from 1995. Al began his company representing the international sales for Ste.Michelle Wine Estates along with a portfolio of Premium Estate wineries in Washington, Oregon and California. Due to the efforts of Al Portney and his colleagues, Washington, Oregon and California wines are now represented in more than 120 countries. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from Napa Valley, Erath Cellars from Oregon and the 2 leading brands from Washington State, Ch.Ste.Michelle and Columbia Crest are some of America’s best distributed premium wine brands around the world.

Al Portney is a veteran of the wine industry, going into his 40 year in the industry. Al started in the wine business in 1976 as an importer then turned his focus into exporting in 1983 with the Fetzer Vineyards winery. The twelve years from 1983 to 1995, Fetzer became one the leading exported California wine company’s. In 1992, Brown Forman purchased Fetzer Vineyards. Al stayed on with the new company for two years when the opportunity to represent internationally one of the premier fine wine company’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates was offered. With his experience exporting California wines, Al was convinced that the Pacific Northwest was under developed which gave him the confidence to establish his own company specializing in this region of the United Sates.

Al is on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Northwest Wine Coalition, the generic marketing entity for the Washington Wine Commission, the Oregon Advisory Board. He is a leading member of the export committee for the Washington Wine Commission and California Wine Institute, responsible for organizing and managing the generic marketing activities worldwide. Al travels more than 200 days a year assisting the many people engaged in representing the wines of Ste.Michelle Wine Estates and their associated wineries. When Al is not traveling, he resides in the States of New Jersey and Florida USA with his wife Amy of 35 years enjoying their 3 adult children living in other states.

Michael Polenske, creative director, chairman and founder of Bespoke Collection, was born in Bermuda to a military family. His father worked as a hurricane hunter and later worked in the Presidential Support Squadron responsible for piloting Air Force One and Two under President Nixon. After an itinerant early childhood, Polenske’s family was later transferred to Travis Air Force Base near Napa Valley, where he spent most of his youth. His first exposure to wine came with family trips to California’s wine country.

Michael began the current chapter of his life devoting his attention to “the business of leisure” with the acquisition of Blackbird Vineyards in 2003 and turning it into an ultra-premium label. He added curator to his resume when he launched Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley—“a life aesthetic”. Opened in the town of Yountville in the fall of 2008, Ma(i)sonry allows guests to appreciate and acquire art and furnishings, all while sampling artisan wines from 20+ collective winery partners, including all three labels that make up the Bespoke Collection. In 2009, Polenske added a Ma(i)sonry label to his wine portfolio followed by the launch of Recuerdo Wines with The Vines of Mendoza in 2011. In November of 2009, Polenske acquired the I. Wolk Gallery in St. Helena, as well as the sculpture gardens located at Auberge DuSoleil in Rutherford and MacArthur Place in Sonoma and added the sculpture garden at Solage in Calistoga in 2011. The I. Wolk Gallery merged with Ma(i)sonry to serve as Napa Valley’s premier destination for the appreciation of art and design and the galleries were renamed in 2014 under the ÆRENA Galleries & Gardens Brand in eight locations including a new location opened in 2014 on the Healdsburg plaza.

In 2014, Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley was sold to Restoration Hardware (RH). Michael joined the RH Management Team in June of 2013 tasked with developing the Ma(i)sonry wine bar concept as part of their full line design gallery locations currently being rolled out across the country in 50-70 locations. Philanthropically active, he is a founding board member of Festival Del Sole Napa Valley, which celebrates the art of life with components of music, art, food and wine. Prior to refocusing his time to Napa Valley, Polenske was active on various boards benefiting the San Francisco Ballet, Opera and Zoo. He was also a council member of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think-tank in Washington, D.C. and remains as a board member of the Russian National Orchestra. Through September of 2006, Polenske served as a managing director of Quellos, focusing on financial and investment activities for private clients. Prior to Quellos, he was a managing director at Mezzacappa Management, LLC, an investment management firm. Before joining Mezzacappa, Polenske was president and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank & Trust Co., N.A., heading up the private banking business in the Western U.S. Polenske joined Chase Manhattan Corporation from J.P. Morgan, where he served as the head of the private banking group’s west coast/north region. Prior to J.P. Morgan, he was the managing principal of the San Francisco region for American Express Financial Advisors and was co-founder of both the San Mateo and San Francisco offices.

Todd Newman, Dakota Shy’s Founder

Dakota Shy’s story is one of humble beginnings. A journey that differs from most of the capital intensive wine brands in the Napa Valley. As Todd says, “We put the boots on, laced them up, and put the work in.” Passion, hard-work and tenacity are at the core of his foundation.

Born in North Dakota, Todd’s journey to the Napa Valley started in 2003 when his friend Dennis Kelley arranged a job for him at the famed Michelin starred Martini House restaurant in St. Helena. Under the guidance of this Michelin-starred restaurant, he learned the wine business through the lens of hospitality & service. In 2005, Tom Garrett hired him to work in the cellar at Revana Family Vineyard under the direction of world-famous winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett. Over time, Todd transitioned from assisting with winemaking in the cellar to directing Revana’s national sales program.

In 2008, Todd created Dakota Shy using the tips he had accumulated and knowledge he had logged through his early years in Napa.

Emanuele Bartolini, Owner of La Balena and il Grillo restaurants in Carmel-by-the-sea

Here Emanuele shares his love for the simplicity of traditional Italian recipes from his native home in Florence. Emanuele’s Sardinian grandmother owned a restaurant in the San Frediano area of Florence and serves as his inspiration for La Balena. Emanuele left Florence for New York City in 1998 where he worked at Osteria del Circo, The Essex House, Barbaluc, Centolire and Del Posto then moved to Carmel in 2010. La Balena was awarded Best New Restaurant, Best Italian and Best Restaurant in Carmel by the Carmel Pinecone, Monterey Weekly and the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Food and Wine Magazine and the Wine Enthusiast.

Cristian Valbruzzoli, co-owner and founder of Lyra Wine

Before moving to the US, Cristian owned and operated numerous restaurants and bars in his hometown of Florence, Italy. Cristian’s boundless energy, strong leadership skills, and customer-focused mentality are the driving force behind the company. Lyra is an importer and distributor of fine, Italian wine produced by boutique wineries. Lyra brings to market the highest-quality, distinctive wines that best represent the region. The Lyra portfolio is carefully curated and comprised of wineries with heart, strong values, and respect for Italian winemaking traditions. Lyra has built a close-knit community of producers and customers that share in the passion and culture of Italy and its superb wines.

MaryAnn Tsai, Co-Founder & Owner of Moone-Tsai

Growing up in a spirited Italian family in Boston, Massachusetts, MaryAnn spent summers helping her grandmother tend a verdant garden featuring rows of vegetables, herbs, and an especially precious vineyard. From the last of these, the family celebrated the rite of winemaking; a tradition that young MaryAnn did not fully appreciate until years later.

During her college years, MaryAnn found herself again ensconced in vineyards; this time in a study-abroad program at the University of Angers, France. Located in the glorious Loire Valley, the idyllic town of Angers epitomized French country living and was the perfect place to spark a willing palate for simple, but well-crafted wines and inspired cuisine. It was here that MaryAnn caught “the bug” that would fuel her interest in wines, and ultimately inspire her move to Napa Valley, her graduation from Harvard Business School, and the launch of a wonderful career in the wine industry.

Hired by Mike Moone to join Beringer Wine Estates in 1989, MaryAnn realized a long-standing dream to live and work in the legendary Napa Valley. During this time, and over the next 20+ years, she was involved with producing notable wines and brands, three of which earned the distinction of being named as “Wine Spectator’s #1-rated Wine in the World”. With the creation of Moone-Tsai wines in 2006, MaryAnn and Larry have set their sights on earning a fourth #1 rating…under the Moone-Tsai banner. Alongside their shared pursuit of this grand-vins endeavor, MaryAnn and Larry are especially proud to raise their two daughters in the fabled Napa Valley wine country that they are pleased to call home.

Larry Tsai, Co-Founder & Owner of Moone-Tsai (pictured above with wife MaryAnn)

As a first generation Chinese-American boy growing up in the lively North Shore neighborhoods of New York’s Long Island, Larry held a peculiar fascination for the “yin-yang” that one might confer upon the daily experience. Indeed, in an environment where conventions frequently compelled forced choices (Yankees v. Mets; Ginger v. Maryann; dim sum vs. lox & bagels; etc.), he often instead strayed to permutations of the many possibilities lying therein, and beyond.

While this fascination might have led him to distraction, he was able to synthesize this into a world view that would prepare him for the many opportunities that awaited him in college, and later, in his professional and personal life. After earning degrees at Princeton and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Larry embarked on a variegated career that enabled him to indulge his intertwining interests in wine, food, and the arts. By way of his experiences across Fortune 500 companies, and atop emerging gourmet/food/lifestyle enterprises and Napa Valley non-profits; Larry has combined his management skills with a calling to create and deliver extraordinary wines and experiences that support the Moone-Tsai credo.

Since taking the winery’s helm in 2010, Larry has moved Moone-Tsai from its single-cabernet-infancy to the brand’s current annual production of seven acclaimed wines across 3,000 cases, with distribution in selected U.S. markets and abroad. Along the way, he has found that the simple pleasure of connecting with people who enjoy well-crafted wines is nothing less than divine. Teaching and tasting with the newly impassioned to the more studied and discerning; from Baton Rouge to Bali, Seoul to Sun Valley, Jackson Hole to Jakarta, and Manhattan to Mumbai; he is reminded of the axiom that posits how adept that Napa Valley wines can be in bringing together people over good times and fine conversation.

Henry & Olga Patland, Owners of Patland Estate Vineyards

In 1978, Henry immigrated to the United States with his family from the Ukraine.  Living during Soviet regime, he understood early on the value of hard work. He found his first job in the states at the age of twelve, delivering newspapers at night and going to school during the day.  Henry graduated from Washington High School in San Francisco and continued his education in UC Santa Cruz in Computer Engineering.  During his second year, he met Olga, who had only recently immigrated to the United States from Israel.  She later graduated with a degree in Multimedia Communication and Graphic Arts.  Two years after the birth of their first son, Michael, Henry co-founded a High Tech company in Silicon Valley.  Olga then gave birth to twins, Felix and Kevin.  While raising her three boys, she maintained her work in publishing.  And while the dream of a winery was put on hold, it was never too far from their hearts.  In 2007, Terra Del Cuore was purchased and Patland Estate Vineyards was established. In 2010, the first PEV wines were released.

Today, Henry and Olga, together with their three sons, the support of their family, and the exceptional talent of Jay Buoncristiani, have taken Patland Estate Vineyards to a great start, and continue to reach new heights.

Kyle T. Ritchie, Manager of Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards

Kyle comes to Savannah-Chanelle from many years of experience within the wine industry from harvest to sales. He started his career in Livermore pouring in tasting rooms and worked his way into the cellar. As his experience grew he was brought on as a partner with a small winery where he started making wine as well as building the tasting room and wine club. After several years of building the business Kyle decided to leave Livermore and further his career in wholesale sales and inventory management. In 2013 he came to the Santa Cruz Mountains to get back to his roots in tasting rooms. When not at the winery, Kyle can be found sitting on the beach, hiking through the redwoods, or sailing Monterey Bay…usually with a glass of wine.