Session Topics & Tracks
8:30am - 9:30am
10:00am - 11:00am
11:30am - 12:30pm
This hands-on sensory workshop is designed to help attendees better understand how different additions impact mouthfeel and improve wine balance. Participants will come away with a better understanding of mouthfeel components in wine, their interactions and how to balance wine mouthfeel with winemaking practices and tools.
This workshop includes:
For most wineries, tasting room sales represent a large percentage of direct to consumer sales. But what happens after that initial visit? Many of your guests may never return and many more will not have the opportunity to visit in the first place. In addition, with the growing trend towards appointment-based, intimate tasting experiences, consumers are opting to visit fewer wineries per day. As a result, to truly scale your DTC business, it’s critical to engage your existing and potential customers through multiple channels, especially online.
From data collection to email marketing, website design and wine club optimization, in this session, we’ll showcase results-driven marketing techniques that will help you capture new customers and increase sales and loyalty among existing ones throughout each stage of their relationship journey.
The luxury wine category is a very challenging and can be an intimidating proposition to undertake, however if done well it can be one of the most rewarding, and profitable, segments of the wine industry. If you’re thinking about creating a new luxury brand, or struggling to have your current brand achieve the level of success you’ve planned for, luxury wine expert Eric Guerra will inspire you by leading you through the many decisions and directions to consider... like, why some focus on a region or a particular varietal, while others produce many types from a variety of locations. Or there are those that concentrate efforts selling direct while other producers focus on the general marketplace, but what do the successful wineries have in common?
Come to be inspired and leave with the answers that will help you and your brand achieve luxury-wine excellence.
During fermentation, glucose is generally preferentially consumed at a higher rate than fructose meaning that in a number of cases the proportion of fructose increases as fermentation progresses. This can lead to stressful conditions toward the end of fermentation where residual fructose remains, thus leading to sluggish and stuck fermentations. This can be prevented through the use of fructophilic yeast strains. During this session we will taste trial wines with the winemakers, learn the importance of analyzing glucose and fructose levels, the potential cost impacts of grape analysis management by ensuring the right yeast for the right grapes, and obtain insights on the latest technology in the world of yeast strain development.
Why do some wineries excel at direct sales and achieve well-above average results while others struggle to maintain? According to the 2017 VinQuest Tasting Room Survey, the most glaring distinction between tasting rooms and wine clubs that performed beyond the average and those that didn't was their level of commitment to staff training.
How often should you offer on-going training? What should you be focused on, closing or customer service? Is it better to train in-house or go with outside training? These questions and more will be addressed by a panel of direct marketing experts.
This workshop is for winery owners, GM’s, Tasting Room, etc. who believe that their tasting room sales should be better than what they are.
Founder, CEO / Wine Industry NetworkRead Bio
President / VingDirectRead Bio
Founder / DTC Wine WorkshopsRead Bio
Vice President / Charles Krug WineryRead Bio
Founder / In Short Direct MarketingRead Bio
This session will feature a branding and design expert and intellectual property attorney to highlight best practices with regard to protecting your brand. The workshop will also cover why brand names, designs, and packaging should not only meet a company’s goals, but involve proper vetting as to availability and ongoing review to confirm that the intended and actual brand use(s) are consistent for purposes of messaging and IP registration. Attendees will learn why trade dress and copyright infringement concerns can never be 100% ruled out, especially as international use of brands becomes more prevalent, and the steps they can take to reduce risks and streamline the brand development process.
This workshop will put into perspective the impact of closure oxygen ingress and oxygen transfer rate (OTR) on the sensory profile evolution of wine after bottling, and how closures can be tailored to the different wine style needs. A panel of winemakers will comment on the sensory profile differences of wines aged under different closures with variable OTR. This session will include a trial tasting.
Wine Quality and Education Manager / VinventionsRead Bio
Winemaker / Schug WineryRead Bio
Winemaker / Matthiasson WineryRead Bio
Winemaker / Brutocao Family VineyardsRead Bio
Are you thinking of updating your label? Are you worried that your wine doesn’t have the shelf presence you think it could have? Does your package need a facelift?
In such a competitive sales environment, maintaining a package that clearly reflects the quality of your product and supports your brand position is critical. But, change is difficult and striking the perfect balance between freshening your look, while maintaining the brand equity you’ve built can be a challenge. Learn from a panel of wineries with rebranding experience along with design and packaging experts how they approach a brand refresh project, their recommendations on what steps to take and what to look out for.
Founder / GrapeSeedRead Bio
Director of Marketing / Cline Family CellarsRead Bio
Creative Director / Kraftwerk DesignRead Bio
Director of Strategy / Affinity CreativeRead Bio
Managing Partner / Stolo Family Vineyards & WineryRead Bio
This session, presented by Brian Clements and Bryan Foster of Turrentine Brokerage, will recap the 2018 harvest and provide an update of the current state of the bulk wine market and grape market with specific emphasis on the North Coast. The session will also examine sales data, trends in the marketplace and cyclical activities that have historically impacted the North Coast and forecast what we might expect that impact to be. Additionally, other events or occurrences will be addressed such as new technology, mergers, acquisitions as well as pressure from other grape producing regions, domestically and internationally.
This workshop, which includes a trial tasting, will examine the impact of adding oak extracts from different sources, along with grape skin tannins, on a Pinot Noir after one year in the bottle. Each tannin addition was kept isolated resulting in a sample set of 5 different treatments, Control, French Oak medium toast, American Oak medium toast, American Oak high toast and grape skin tannins.
Country Manager North America / AEB Biochemical USARead Bio
Director of Winemaking, General Manager / Cacciatore Fine WinesRead Bio
Owner, Winemaker / SNG Wine WorksRead Bio
Winemaker / Peltier WineryRead Bio
Has your winery or wines been written about? Why do some wineries always seem to be included in articles when others are not?
The world of Public Relations for the wine industry has changed drastically over the last 10 years. Very few newspapers still have dedicated wine writers left and while the internet has made it easier for wine bloggers to have a platform, determining which ones to pursue can be a challenging decision, especially for smaller wineries with limited time and resources. And, while social media has allowed producers to have their own direct channel, the fact remains that 3rd party endorsements, whether in the form of a score or review, do impact the buying behavior of trade and consumers.
This interactive session, featuring leading wine industry publicists and writers, will provide an overview of how the PR landscape has evolved over the last decade and how the promotional tactics have had to change as well. Wine writers will also share their advice on different ways to garner press and best practices of wineries that do the greatest job capturing media attention.
Director of Communications / Rodney Strong VineyardsRead Bio
Contributing Editor / Wine EnthusiastRead Bio
President / Calhoun & Company CommunicationsRead Bio
Wine & Food Editor and ConsultantRead Bio
President / Balzac Communications & MarketingRead Bio
How have major industry events over the last year impacted the North Coast wine industry? What lingering effects remain from last year’s fires? How has the emerging cannabis industry affected the industry? What can we expect for the region in 2019?
This executive round table discussion, led by Dr. Damien Wilson of Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, will feature a diverse panel of industry experts with different perspectives to address these questions and more. The program will also examine the current obstacles facing the region along with the panel’s insights and predictions for the North Coast wine industry in 2019.
Meet the Experts
Expert in the wine industry, Jim leads WineDirect's business development efforts. Jim has 15 years business-to-business sales and sales management experience in software-as-a-service and logistics. Before joining WineDirect, Jim held positions with WineAccess, ShipCompliant and FedEx Services. At Fedex, he was Subject Matter Expert at Fedex field sales and earned recognition as a top performer and leader (President’s Club and Five Star). He also created the landmark affinity relationship between the Wine Institute and Fedex. Jim was responsible for sales at ShipCompliant, a leading regulatory compliance SAAS provider. He played an integral part during the early years of their explosive growth. Jim and his family live in Napa. He loves being a Dad and all things outdoors.
Claudio Basei was born and raised in Italy and graduated with a degree in Enology and Viticulture at Milan University. His early career started in Piedmont, working primarily with Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Dolcetto grapes. In 1998 he joined the winemaking staff at Tenuta Ornellaia in Tuscany. In 2000, he began his venture at Azienda Agricola Fratelli Muratori where he specialized in producing “Champagne method” wines using Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Viognier and Roussane. In 2007, he left his home country to start a new challenge in California at Cacciatore Fine Wines in Tulare County.
Marco Bertaccini was born and raised in Italy. He developed a taste for wine and winemaking when working in a farm in Emilia Romagna. Bertaccini worked 5 harvests at the farm while studying Agriculture at the University of Bologna. He graduated in 1996 with a thesis on aging wine on oak and the influence of tannins extracted from lignified stems.
Bertaccini then completed his Masters at UC Davis between 1998 and 2000, doing his research in the Bisson’s Lab. When he moved back to Italy he always missed the Pacific. Bertaccini made wine in Sicily and then moved with his family back to San Francisco. He started up AEB USA in 2009 and is now the general manager and technical advisor for the United States branch of AEB.
Prior to founding VingDirect in 2009, Tammy served as the head of Foster's Wine Estates U.S. Direct to Consumer division. In this role, she was acting President of Windsor Vineyards from 2005-2007 and President of International Wine Accessories from 2004-2007. Windsor Vineyards is the largest U.S. shipper of wine direct to consumer and utilizes outbound telemarketing as the primary sales channel. Tammy has 20+ years direct marketing and general management experience, beginning with her position at Collin Street Bakery in 1990 as General Manager of Cryer Creek Kitchens, a producer of specialty baked goods. She is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and passionate about helping family wineries grow their direct to consumer sales. VingDirect is the recipient of the North Bay Business Journal's 2014 award for direct to consumer in the wine industry.
Contributing Editor Virginie Boone has been with Wine Enthusiast since 2010, and reviews the wines of Napa and Sonoma. Boone began her writing career with Lonely Planet travel guides, which eventually led to California-focused wine coverage. She contributes to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine, and is a regular panelist and speaker on wine topics in California and beyond.
As President of her own San Francisco-based, boutique public relations agency, Katie Ballou Calhoun offers clients a blend of big-picture strategy and nitty-gritty technique ranging from traditional PR and event execution to insight on earning and nurturing relations with social influencers and bloggers. Calhoun & Company Communications’ preferred clients include wine, spirits, epicurean and lifestyle brands.
Highlights of Katie’s 30 years’ experience include long-term relationships with Symington Family Estates, Chateau Montelena Winery and E & J Gallo Winery, in addition to representing famed vintner and winemaker Warren Winiarski. The breadth and depth of her experience is showcased through her client history, featuring global brands, consortiums, distributors, corporate parents and family-owned outfits.
Recognized for her tasting skill, Katie has judged Sunset Magazine’s Sunset International Wine Competition, the San Francisco International Wine and World Spirits Competitions, and was a standing taster on Wine & Spirits Magazine’s tasting panel until the publication’s move to Los Angeles
George Christie, a New Jersey native, settled in Sonoma County after college in 1991 where he quickly realized that the wine industry was where he wanted to concentrate his efforts. Since that time, he has been involved in nearly every aspect of the wine industry, from vineyard operations and grower relations to distributor realignments and national marketing campaigns. Always an active member in the wine community, Christie has also held board positions with the Russian River Wine Road, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and the Sonoma County Vintners. In 2008, George and his wife Tami, along with the Saini Family, partnered to create Saini Vineyards, a winery specializing on Old Vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.
In 2009, with Elizabeth 'E' Slater, George launched the Wine Industry Network (WIN). What began as an online directory has evolved over the years into one the leading B2B marketing and media companies serving the wine industry. WIN works with over 600 industry product and service providers and produces the Wine Industry Expo (WIN Expo), the 2nd largest trade show for the wine industry, along with the Wine & Weed Symposium, the Wine Industry Advisor news site and the Afternoon Brief daily news email with over 35,000 industry subscribers.
With over 25 years of experience, Brian is a wine business veteran who has worked with small high-end growers and wineries and also with the largest players in the wine business. Brian is Vice President and Partner at Turrentine Brokerage, his responsibilities include managing Turrentine’s industry-leading grape brokerage team and working with clients throughout California, including the North Coast, Central Coast and the Central Valley.
A featured speaker at many wine business events, Brian is an expert in how to effectively balance risks in a volatile market and how to anticipate supply cycles. He has personally negotiated well over $500,000,000 in wine grape contracts, including spot market sales, multiple-year agreements and planting contracts.
Brian is frequently quoted in business and other media regarding wine business conditions and forecasts.
A graduate of Fresno State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant Science/Viticulture, he lives in Sonoma County and enjoys time with his family and participating in tennis, racquetball and scuba diving.
Michael Cox grew up in the town of Sonoma and spent time in the Sonoma Valley wine production region as a student. Mike first attended the University of California at Los Angeles, studying chemical engineering before transferring to U.C. Davis and graduating with a degree in Enology in 1991. Prior to joining Schug in 1995, he held the Head Winemaker's position at Napa Cellars. Working at Schug for the past 20 years has afforded Mike the opportunity to return to his hometown. His youthful passions of music and mountain biking have evolved. These days, his spends most of his free time on a road bike and listening to music louder.
A multi-talented winemaker with a love of balanced wines, Alison believes that brands need to be firmly planted in consistent vineyard sites in order to grow. A graduate of the UC Davis Viticulture & Enology program and recipient of an MBA from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, Alison brings over 15 years of winemaking experience to bear on every lot of wine. Stints at Chalone Vineyard, Bonny Doon Vineyard as well as in Mendoza, Argentina instilled in her the important lesson that great wines begin in the vineyard.
John is head of the Intellectual Property practice group at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross LLP, as well as a member of CMPR’s Food & Beverage group. John’s practice focuses on advising clients in the selection, registration, licensing, and enforcement of trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property rights around the world, as well as in mergers and acquisitions involving food and beverage companies.
John began his career as an associate at a large international law firm in New York City, however his love of wine led to his move to Sonoma County in 2005. John’s work on many high-profile winery acquisitions over the past five years has further informed his understanding of the importance of brand building in the alcoholic beverage space.
John is a member of the California, New York, and Connecticut state bars, and federal courts throughout the U.S.
Raised near Johannesburg South Africa, Tinus Els decided to attend the Elsenburg College of Agricultural in Stellenbosch, where he earned a Diploma in Viticulture –Husbandry and Diploma in Science and practice of cellar Technology.
He started as Winemaker/Viticulturist at a small winery in Paarl for 2 years, then moved to bigger wineries and complete 5 harvest in Stellenbosch and Robertson regions. Tinus joined a team of UK based Flying winemakers in 1999, which he completed 6 years of intense project winemaking in Bordeaux, Languedoc, Spain, Chile and South Africa. After, he accepted the CEO / Winemaker position for the Laroche Group and oversaw all aspects of operations and winemaking at L’Avenir Vineyards for 7 years. In 2013, Tinus joined Vivelys US in California as Technical Consultant. After 16 years of French collaborations, he joined the BSG team in December 2016 as Technical Sales Manager for Sonoma and Pacific Northwest.
With a passion for people and traveling, Tinus’ energetic style illustrates how enjoyable he finds winemaking and now the small global wine community.
Bryan Foster began his career in the wine industry right out of Chico State University with an entry level position with United Vintners representing Inglenook & Italian Swiss Colony as a Sales merchandiser servicing retailers across Southern California. This experience launched a 30-year journey in the wine industry which parallels the Turrentine Wine Wheel. Bryan has held sales management positions with organizations such as The Wine Group, Seagram Chateau & Estates, Kendall Jackson and Constellation.
This career path has enabled Bryan to gain an effective sales skill set, a keen understanding of the retail trade (On/Off Premise) and to build strong relationships with Wholesalers and Chain store accounts across the United States. Bryan also has a strong understanding of the global wine regions, varietals and production planning from vineyards to store shelves. His broad background gives him a unique advantage in advising clients on sourcing successful strategic brands.
Bryan resides in Sonoma County with his wife Nancy and three children. When he’s not calling on clients, in his spare time Bryan can be found enjoying his extensive wine collection.
With over 15 years of wine experience having managed or sold over 50 million cases and developed over 500+ wine brands… executive, marketing & sales professional, packaging designer, wine blogger, fine wine investor, wine public speaker and winemaker Eric Guerra has lead some of the industries’ most iconic wineries and luxury wine brands.
His roles have been diverse, from three-tier and D2C sales, brand marketing, tasting room, finance, sourcing, winemaking to production. He’s managed iconic brands like the industry leader Kendall-Jackson, the Napa Valley destination of Mumm Napa, the Rioja gem Campo Viejo, the Russian River boutique Gary Farrell Winery and the prestigious Maison Perrier-Jouët Champagne as just a few.
In his most recent role as Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for the prestigious Vineyard 29 located in St Helena Napa Valley, Eric oversees all aspects of sales & marketing for this ultra-luxury winery.
As a professional speaker and a top multi-channel wine blogger with over 50k followers and 2k-3k unique impressions per week "Reserve Tastings with Eric Guerra" focuses on educating the wine consumer through travel, education, wine reviews and general expert wine entertainment.
In his free time Eric… drinks wine.
Sandra Hess is a direct to consumer sales and customer engagement strategist supporting wineries throughout the US, Canada and Australia. Sandra founded DTC Wine Workshops Consulting Agency, based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, in July 2013 and also launched an online training division in August 2014. Sandra publishes the DTC Wine Case Study Series and is a frequent speaker at wine industry events nationally and globally. Sandra serves as a steering committee member for the DTC Wine Symposium and an advisory board member for the Wine Business Monthly WiVi Conference Central Coast. Sandra has also formed a partnership with Wine Tourism Australia to offer online training webinars to winery teams across Australia and New Zealand. In addition to her professional contributions, Sandra is the President of Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma chapter. Prior to joining the wine industry, Sandra supported businesses nationally and globally in the areas of CRM software implementations, compliance management software solutions, customer engagement workflow automation and sales strategy.
Sandra launched the DTC Consultant Network in August 2014 to offer a full-service solution by matching direct wine sales and marketing specialists with winery teams on a project or retainer basis. Sandra has been featured in Forbes, Wine Business Monthly, Wines & Vines, Silicon Valley Bank on Wine and was a keynote speaker at the International Wine Forum in Mendoza Argentina, October 2014. Sandra developed the first of its kind, Direct-to-Consumer Roadshow Program for Vin65/WineDirect and The Winery CRM (Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution).
Sandra most recently moderated a panel discussion at UNIFIED Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento January 2018 on "Direct to Consumer: The Big Picture". Wineries of BC featured Sandra as a keynote speaker at the Direct to Consumer Wine Canada Conference in November 2016. In June 2016, Sandra moderated a panel, “DTC Wine Case Studies Revealed” at the DIRECT ShipCompliant Conference in San Francisco. Sandra joined Rob McMillan in May 2016 for a live Video-Cast to analyze results from the Silicon Valley Bank Tasting Room Survey. In April 2016, The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance invited Sandra to present a workshop on "Customer Engagement & Retention Best Practices". Sandra presented a lecture at Merryvale Vineyards in St. Helena, CA on "DTC Wine Sales Best Practices" in November 2015. Sandra is a regular guest presenter on DTC wine sales and marketing fundamentals at Fresno State University wine business program and mentors college students studying wine business.
After brewing a particularly bad batch of homebrew he took a friend’s advice to investigate the brewing program at UC Davis. After completing a quarter’s worth of prerequisites at HSU, Jeff, followed, excited to become a professional brewer, and caring not a whit about wine.
After graduation, loan debt and a lack of brewing jobs permanently (and serendipitously) detoured him into the wine industry and an enologist position at Christian Brothers in Napa Valley where, under Tom Eddy and Derek Holstein, he helped develop their Oxygen control program.
From Christian Brothers he returned home to Mendocino County to become winemaker for Dennis Patton at rustic, overachieving Hidden Cellars. Later, Jeff, along with College friend Sam Gabrielli founded Gabrielli Winery and Vineyards, specializing in Avant- garde blends and Old vine Zin aged in native oak barrels.
Jeff joined Hanna Winery & Vineyards in 1998 where he currently directs winemaking, working closely with Chris Hanna and assistant winemaker Marti Quan to create Hanna’s portfolio of wines; each of which must be intense, vibrant, terroir driven and most importantly, delicious.
A wine industry veteran with communications, marketing, sustainability and winemaking expertise including his own brand Swope Family Estates. Currently, Don is responsible for wine quality/education programs for winery customers and wine industry influencers within the America’s for Vinventions LLC. Before joining Vinventions to manage their sustainability and education programs, Don was a creative director/owner of a Napa Valley based marketing and communications firm. Don is keen on sustainability issues within the ag community and was appointed by Governor Brown to sit as a board member for the 25th Agricultural District of California. He’s in the middle of his third term as an elected board member of the Napa County Office of Education. Father of three, he enjoys talking wine and judging at several international wine competitions including Los Angeles, San Francisco and London.
After over two decades as a successful sales and marketing leader in the Fortune 500 sector, Laura launched Virtual Vines with the intention to introduce DTC industry best practices among the growing DTC channel within the winery community. Since 2015, Laura has developed an extensive client list and is an active leader and advocate within the DTC Winery Community.
She serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Napa Valley Hospitality Forum and Committee Chair and speaker for the Save the Grapes DTC Wine Symposium. Laura is a contributing writer with Napa Valley Life Magazine and Wine Industry Advisor, specializing in features showcasing winery experience best practices.
Laura’s passion for wine fueled her extensive studies of wine theory, supported her sommelier accreditation from the Court of Master Sommeliers and ultimately led her to embark on her own winemaking journey with the launch of her own label in 2018.
Christine Lilienthal is the Director of Marketing for Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma. She has over 25 years of experience in the wine business, with a breadth of experience that includes operations, public relations, brand management and creative services.
She grew up in Sonoma County, California on a small family-owned farm that included organic grape growing and winemaking—one can truly say that wine has been a constant in her life. Outside of work, Christine is an avid jogger and walker who puts her strides to work supporting numerous charity walks.
Jason Mabbett was born and raised in New Zealand. He developed a taste for wine and winemaking when growing up in West Auckland. He graduated from the University of Lincoln, New Zealand. He subsequently worked harvests in Argentina, Australia, Chile and the United States. Hired by AB Biotek in 2009 he has managed the Americas as a technical advisor but of late has moved to St Louis where he is now focusing solely on the North American marketplace. Additionally during this time he was involved in the establishment of the Argentinean brand Manos Negras.
Steve dreamt of farming his entire life. He became an obsessed gardener and cook while studying philosophy in college. In 1994, while back in grad school for horticulture after three years as a bike messenger/wannabe farmer, he found a job in vineyards and orchards working for a small sustainable agriculture consulting firm. In 1999 he co-authored the California manual on sustainable vineyard practices. In 2002 he started consulting on vineyard practices in Napa. He still loves the challenge of solving vineyard problems for others, but since 2003 the primary focus has been on our own family farming and winemaking. Steve is a life-long student of the craft of viticulture.
Hoss started his wine career at the age of 5, working on the Milone Family ranches, vineyards and orchards in Hopland, California. In 1977, his family started Milano Winery where he split time between farming and winemaking. In 1983, he became the assistant winemaker.
In 1990, Hoss ventured to Australia for a harvest in Southern Victoria for White Gate Vineyards to learn new techniques and technologies.
In 1991, he went to work for an old friend and winemaker George Bursick at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery for over 18 years.
Hoss returned home with the Brutocao family in 2009 and assumed the head winemaker role. Hoss is a fourth generation Hoplander and winemaker who is married to his beautiful wife Beverlie and has two wonderful daughters, K.T. and Ally. Hoss loves everything outdoors, especially fishing.
Jim Morris is a senior level adult beverage professional. He has worked in creating memorable, authentic experiences for customers in the tasting room and beyond. He has focused his efforts in providing next level hospitality that fit the brand, clientele, and desires of the winery owner. Morris is the Vice President, Estate Manager & Guest Relations at Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley's oldest winery. He leads an experienced team of professionals who execute amazing guest experiences, run a unique wine membership program, creates strategic partnerships, and manages spectacular events.
Prior to that, Morris was part of successful winery launches (St. Anne's Crossing/Truett Hurst) and participated in the buildout/launch of new locations for Flanagan Winery, MacPhail Winery, and Martin Family Vineyards. He was also General Manager of Michel-Schlumberger Winery.
He has experienced all sides of the wine business throughout his career including national sales "dragging a bag" locally and nationally, DTC sales, created large and small events and successfully run tasting room/retail operations. He is very active in social media circles and is known throughout SM as @sonomawineguy, though with his relocation to Napa, he has the @napa_wineguy handle as well.
Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and further a transplant of San Jose, George Natsis remains active in research through travel and other resources to learn more about the miracle of wine; his tremendous technical background, empirical wisdom, desire for discovery, and meticulous quality standards are the guiding force at SNG Wine Works.
Upon graduation from Lincoln Law School of Sacramento in 2002, George began working hand-in-hand with Napa Valley winemaker Aaron Mosley to craft the inaugural vintage of Omega Cellars’ Lodi Appellation Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zinfandel.
After Mosley’s decision to step away in 2005, George was thrilled to accept the challenge to elevate quality even higher. Consistency in fruit sourcing became George’s first objective, identifying the best blocks of Chardonnay, Bordeaux and Rhône varieties planted on the Natsis Family Estate. Beginning as well in 2005, an extensive soil-mapping study was incorporated, decreasing malolactic fermentation on Omega Cellars’ Chardonnay to retain even more minerality, balance and acidity as well as increasing the amount of French oak in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel barrel aging. Always tinkering, his experiments were constantly in progress in the vineyards, laboratory and cellars.
Now as owner and winemaker for SNG Wine Works, George’s commitment to the timeless qualities of balance and elegance has never wavered. While many California winemakers have followed the trend of making overripe, heavily oaked, high-alcohol wines to wow critics in blind tastings, George continues to pick his grapes at optimal sugar levels that preserve acid and keep alcohols below 14 percent. His philosophy of aging in a combination of new and used barrels helps create wines that are complex but not over extracted.
Over the past fifteen (15) years, George honed his own style and philosophy to winemaking. The goal is to always make wines that exemplify the character of the vineyards, that are fresh and lively, yet at the same time focused, balanced and structured.
Chris is a dedicated wine marketing and communications professional with over fifteen years of wine business experience. Following graduation from U.C. Berkeley, Chris made his way into the wine business in sales at Scott Street Portfolio. After a year, he was managing all of California, the largest wine market in the United States.
In 2013, he joined Paul Hobbs Wines to take over marketing and communications for Paul’s various projects domestically and abroad, and in 2016 Chris became the Director of Communications for Rodney Strong Wine Estates. Chris has been judging wine professionally for over ten years at some of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world, including Finger Lakes International, San Francisco Chronicle, Jerry Mead, and Bacchus of Spain.
Punk rocker turned ultra-runner, Thomas Reiss is the owner and leader of Kraftwerk Design. Reiss has hand selected his designers to bring a range of backgrounds – from small town locals to big city swingers and former dwellers of lands overseas. Kraftwerk’s varied perspectives and experience enliven and enrich the company and the work they provide for clients.
When he's not busy disrupting his team, he assumes his second job as father/coach to his two boys.
Ed Rice serves as Director of Brand Strategy for Affinity Creative Group, on Mare Island, CA, a successful boutique agency providing branding and design, digital media and retail activation marketing services in the wine, spirits, beer and luxury categories.
Ed has over two decades of experience in account supervision, brand strategy, identity and design, client development and agency management. He began his marketing career at Landor Associates, the international brand consultancy, where he built their beverage practice with particular emphasis on wine and spirits. At Landor, Ed went on to open a Pacific Northwest office and studio for the firm, after spearheading the team that won the Microsoft account. He led a group of 60 in Seattle as Managing Director, to service the firm’s largest client at that time.
Ed also understands what it’s like to be on the client side of the desk, having served as Global Brand & Marketing Director at THX Ltd., the entertainment technology company founded by George Lucas.
Early in his career, Ed endured long transits across the Pacific, directed Naval Gunfire Support exercises and stood many mid-watches on the ship’s bridge as an officer in the U.S. Navy.
Ed attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a BS in Economics. After moving to the west coast, he acquired his MBA from Pepperdine University, graduating summa cum laude.
Ed lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Caren and a neurotic Border Collie, Maya. Their son, Kevin, recently received his BS degree in Community and Regional Development from the University of California, Davis, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.
Sara Schneider has been a wine, food, and general lifestyle editor and writer for 25 years, most recently as Contributing Wine and Spirits Editor for the Robb Report. Previously, as Sunset’s Wine Editor, she was responsible for writing a monthly wine column as well as wine-related food and travel stories; organizing tasting panels; pairing food and wine in the test kitchen; leading wine seminars at Sunset events; overseeing the magazine’s wine club; and developing and overseeing Sunset’s International Wine Competition.
Sara has judged many wine competitions, both on the West Coast and internationally. In 2007 she co-authored the book California Wine Country, a Sunset Field Guide. She has been nominated for multiple James Beard and IACP journalism awards and holds the Academy of Wine Communication’s Certificate for Excellence in Wine Writing.
Elizabeth “E” Slater, is an inspirational staff & management trainer & coach, With a proven track record of increasing sales for small and large wineries through teaching persuasive customer service and sales skills, Elizabeth’s insights motive and galvanize both staff and managers.
A much sought after trainer and speaker at wineries and conferences throughout the United States and Canada, Elizabeth is noted for her extensive knowledge, enthusiasm, humorous delivery and easy rapport with winery staff and management. Her ability to engage and connect with her audience is infectious and the information is results-oriented easy to implement.
While earning a BA in Communication from Lewis & Clark College, Libby began her wine career in 2002, working in the tasting room and at special events at Cristom Vineyards. In 2005, she and her husband opened a small French restaurant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Throughout the three years she worked in hospitality, Libby had the opportunity to taste and study wines from around the world with some of the most prominent teachers in the country. Upon returning to the west coast, Libby worked as the Sales/Operations Manager at Willamette Valley Vineyards for six years. Libby joined Enartis in 2012 as the Area Manager for all North American business outside of California and went back to school to study Enology at Washington State University. She was promoted to Sales Manager in 2017.
Libby lives in Oregon with her husband and two sons. When she isn’t travelling, she begrudgingly attends soccer, hockey and baseball games. She would rather be working in her garden, reading, or eating her husband’s delicious food.
Cynthia Sterling is the founder and creative director of Sterling Creativeworks, a strategy, branding, and packaging design agency dedicated to building standout premium wine, spirits and food brands. Her firm’s work has been instrumental in the growth of category leaders including Beringer and Chandon.
As a luxury branding specialist, she partners with some of today’s smartest marketing minds to figure out how their brands can capture attention, then engage and delight consumers so they in turn share their discovery with friends.
Cynthia is the author of Branding: Distilled, a comprehensive guide to branding and packaging for craft distilled spirits.
Maria has been involved in the wine industry for twenty years. Her background encompasses direct and wholesale sales as well as marketing for boutique wineries primarily from the Napa and Sonoma regions. In 2004, Maria partnered with Don and Charlene Stolo to develop Stolo Vineyards’ estate label. All three partners saw the potential in the ultra-coastal vineyard location for premium cool climate growing. Over the years, as the exposure continues to grow, Maria’s focus for the label remains on quality and place. She continues to champion the unique location of the vineyard through the establishment of the Pacific Coast Wine Trail as well as being a founding member in the development of a new coastal AVA in San Luis Obispo County.
With GrapeSeed, Dave Trebilcock founded a visionary new model that gives critically acclaimed artisan winemakers resources to create original projects for the wine lovers—or Partners—who support these projects through membership. Partners gain exclusive access to these small-production, collectible wines and also to unique wine country experiences.
Dave brings more than twenty-eight years of wine industry experience to the founding of GrapeSeed, including the leadership of brand building teams and the direction of corporate innovation in winemaking. He has worked closely with luminaries of the winemaking world, and believes strongly that the best wines reveal their authenticity by evoking a sense of place, highlighting the winemaker’s style and personality, and delivering the story that ties it all together. This is his approach to the small-production brands of GrapeSeed.
Dave graduated from the Robert H Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park with a BS in Finance and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA). He lives in Healdsburg California with his wife Jane and three children.
Susana Rodriguez Vasquez was born and raised in the town of Cochabamba, located in the valley region of Bolivia. The daughter of professors, she was raised in the countryside where her love of agriculture was sparked. This lead her to Universidad Mayor de San Simon to receive her B.S. in Agriculture.
Susy made her way to the US on an internship at Cal Poly in organic crops, she then later became a liaison between the winemakers and vineyards for Gallo and soon after discovered her passion for winemaking. After receiving her Winemaker Certificate from UC Davis Viticulture Department, Susy has spent the last 10 years making her mark as an exceptional winemaker, both at Gallo and Constellation. In 2016 she joined Peltier Winery. Susy has an impeccable palate for choosing the right grapes and revels each step of the way in the winemaking process, from crush to glass.
In her free time, Susy enjoys running and RV’ing near the beach with her husband David and two children Faviola and Lukas.
Balzac is a leading marketing communications company for the worlds of beverage, food and travel. Before following his heart to wine country, Mike followed his head to Silicon Valley where he spent eight fast-paced years in communications. Armed with a “live to eat” motto and an evident passion for wine, Mike entered Balzac’s life 14 years ago and became the agency’s President in 2016.
A disciple of Walt Disney, Mike thinks it’s fun to do the impossible. He believes leadership, imagination, and innovation require a level of fearlessness and he encourages his team not to play by the rules. They are driven by the stories that inspire people to share in a dream. It’s this philosophy that has guided successful campaigns for more than 70 global wineries and regions from a dozen countries. Mike holds a WSET Level 4 Diploma. He is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and WSET Certified Educator.
Damien Wilson is the inaugural Hamel Family Chair of Wine Business Education with SSU's Wine Spectator-sponsored Wine Business Institute. Dr. Wilson arrived in California with 20 years of professional experience in the wine sector. It was this commercial experience that facilitated him achieving the first-ever Honors Degree in Wine Business, being one of his four degrees in the discipline. He joins us from Burgundy's School of Wine and Spirits Business, having just augmented a European professorial career, which began in Australia in 1999. His professional and research interests have realized an extensive list of trade, consumer and academic publications on crowdfunding, wine consumers, tourism and technology. Dr Wilson’s most recent book chapter on ‘Innovation Management in the Wine Sector’ precedes his presentation theme of Innovation Pioneering Excellence in his 'State of the Wine Industry' address.