A - L | M - Z
Chief Strategy Officer, VinTank.com
Paul has been in the wine and spirits industry for over sixteen years. He has worked for Napa Ale Works, Niebaum~Coppola, WineShopper/Wine.com and also was the North American Beverage Consultant for Sumitomo Corporation of America from 2003 through 2005.
Paul founded Inertia Beverage Group in 2003 as one of the first major companies established to bridge the barrier between wineries and their customers. He served as CEO from 2003 until 2008 creating the largest and most powerful e-commerce platform for the wine industry, the Rethink Engine. Under his leadership, Inertia created incredible new products for the wine industry to help open up the ability to sell and market direct including the innovative Direct to Trade, ReThink Compliance, Brix Open Source CMS, Marketplace Enablement, and many more.
Today Paul is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer of VinTank.com - a digital think tank for the wine industry doing key market research and strategic planning and business development services. VinTank is a continuation of his desire to help revolutionize the wine industry through e-business and innovative digital products and marketing.
A key contributor to the Inertia blog, a two time American Wine Blog Awards finalist, he has also been a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, UC Davis and many other symposiums, seminars, blogs, and periodicals for his leadership in the wine industry. Paul formerly sat on the Board of Snooth.com and of Openwineconsortium.org. He serves on the Board of Cruvee.com and Taste.com.
Paul lives in Napa with his wife Sherry, and his son Finn.
Manager, Direct to Consumer Sales, E&J Gallo
Liz Mercer grew up in the Napa Valley, which instilled a deep respect for the culture and lifestyle of wine and the industry supporting it. She left the area to attend Northwood University, where she majored in Finance and Business Management and was active in student leadership. During college, she was a retail sales manager. She joined the wine industry in the tasting room at Sterling Vineyards in 1999. Shortly thereafter, she was drawn into direct to consumer sales via wine clubs and e-commerce. Liz witnessed the landscape of direct to consumer sales environment change drastically over the last 10 years as the industry has matured. As the Wine Club and E-Commerce manager of Mumm Napa, she rebranded the wine club, established it as one of the largest wine clubs in the country , and relaunched the Mumm Napa website.
Marketing Director, Consumer Direct Sales, E&J Gallo
Dan Michael joined Gallo in 2005 to spearhead the development of their Direct to Consumer programs and now drives the strategic planning and operations of their tasting room, wine club, eCommerce and consumer event businesses. He currently manages the direct marketing of three brands in the North Coast: Gallo Family Vineyards, Louis M. Martini and William Hill Estate as well as working closely with Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Ynez and the company-wide CRM effort centralized in Modesto.
Prior to Gallo, Dan was Director of Hospitality at Domaine Chandon where he managed all aspects of this world-class destination including the visitor’s center, restaurant, tasting salon, boutique and events in addition to the wine club and internet sales. While at Chandon, he developed branding for the direct-to-consumer channel and a small lot program to support their club. He also hosted the Thursday Barrel Auction at Domaine Chandon in 2004.
Leading to his career with Chandon, Dan spent five years at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone where as Director of Special Events and Hospitality he helped build their event program from the ground up. While at Greystone, he developed a strong relationship with the Napa Valley Vintners, contributing to the success of their events such as Premiere Napa Valley and Napa Valley Wine Auction.
Prior to moving to the Napa Valley in 1997, Dan spent ten years in tourism in New Orleans. He is a graduate of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration at the University of New Orleans. He was the Assistant Director of Food & Beverage for the New Orleans Hilton Riverside and managed fine wine retail for Martin Wine Cellar. His career started with two tours cooking at a Michelin starred restaurant outside of Cognac, France.
When not immersed in the wine world, Dan loves to play golf and cook for his wife Erin and daughter Hannah and travel back to New Orleans.
Principal, Decision Applications, Inc.
Ann has been teaching and coaching teams, management and individuals in various industries on Sales, Service and Phone Specialization for over 10 years. She has worked with numerous companies designing their phone-based strategies and implementing and launching telephone programs for Direct Sales, Customer Service and Retention.
She began her career in science and research, as Geophysicist in a major oil company during a period when “continuous Improvement” philosophies were being sought. Her career then transferred into Director of Business Process Improvements which focused on the bottom line and designing organization workflow and employee skills and decision-making to efficiently meet and exceed the goals. Since then, Ann has been leading organizations and groups in the development of new and emerging efforts, including customer service and sales skills in both retail and direct-to-consumer markets.
Ann has a Master’s degree in Geophysics, a post-graduate degree in Conflict Resolution, is a certified State Mediator and a National Baldrige Business Examiner. She has done work for companies such as TiVo, OpenTable, SGI, Mywaves, DIRECTV, ClientLogic, and continues to work with groups to help their DTC business.
Ann joined Decision Applications in 2006 and consults regularly.
Founder & President, Call for Wine
Mark Parton has 17 years of sales and marketing experience with 12 of those years spent developing and growing inside sales teams in a number of different industries. From computer equipment and wholesale print consumables to inbound and outbound calling campaigns in the call center industry, Mark has exhibited a clear understanding of what makes a happy customer, while helping companies exceed their sales goals. While in the computer industry, he was responsible for growing a business unit form $32 million to $45 million in a two year period. Mark’s current passion is introducing this style of direct marketing to the wine industry, allowing wineries to experience the potential of their customer database.
Mark is originally from Chicago and has a BA in Economics from Southern Illinois University. Over the past 10 years he has traveled through wine country in the United States as well as Europe and South America.
An entrepreneur at heart, Rachael Poer has enjoyed a rich career in hospitality for fourteen years. Her appreciation began in the business as a young child, moving from hotel to hotel to support her father’s career in hotel management. From these experiences, Rachael knew that providing a memorable experience for a guest was her true calling. She has had the pleasure of working solo as a private chef and event planner for many years in San Francisco and Napa Valley while rounding out her experience by working for several luxury brands such as: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Silver Oak Cellars and Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley.
Throughout Rachael’s broad career in the wine business and hospitality she has always remained focused on the details and presentation of a brand that has lead to a superior guest experience. In 2010 Rachael created “Hopscotch Events” where she consults for wineries and their brands by conceptualizing programs, promotion and business development initiatives. The drive behind Hopscotch Events is to provide “hospitality with purpose,” by concentrating on event marketing goals that support customer retention and direct to consumer wine sales.
Full Circle Wine Solutions
With decades of experience in the food and wine business, Jeff Prather shares his wealth of knowledge through engaging, and often amusing, wine content for the website and wine shop both at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco and Oxbow Wine Merchant in Napa.
Having been an actor in his earlier years, Jeff is a natural instructor, entertaining and educating students in tasting classes. After opening the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley in 1995 as the Restaurant Director and Cellar Master, Jeff served as Director of Wine Education at Shafer Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, as well as the historic Beaulieu Vineyard. After serving as Senior Wine Merchant for the original Wine.com with Peter Granoff and Bo Thompson, Jeff was the managing Director of Azalea Springs Winery. Jeff became known for his decade of work as Wine Director for Ray's Boathouse in Seattle which merited him several awards, including four James Beard Award nominations, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine's Best American Wine List, Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence, and Restaurant Wine Magazine's Wine Marketer of the Year nominee. Jeff judges at wine competitions and is a frequent speaker and guest sommelier at national wine events. As a writer, he has been published in several magazines, was a correspondent for the Microsoft Online Network (MSN), a contributor to Oz Clark's Microsoft Wine Guide CD-ROM and is co-author of the book "Northwest Wines."
Former Managing Director, Chateau Montelena Winery
Greg Ralston is a graduate of Portland State University, where he graduated with a BS in Economics and Certification in Urban Studies. While attending college, Greg began his career in fine wines with a position in a prominent Portland restaurant. Upon graduation, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, accepting another restaurant position in Berkeley, where he was responsible for selecting wines and crafting the wine list.
Over the next five years, Greg enhanced his wine knowledge and skills by working as a sales representative for an importer of small, family-owned estate wines from Italy and France; as a regional sales broker for artisanal wine estates from California’s Sonoma County; and as a fine wine merchant. These experiences provided Greg with the industry perspective necessary for his next career step, working directly for a family-owned and operated winery.
In late 1988, Greg joined Chateau Montelena Winery as Sales & Marketing Manager. In May of 1990, he was appointed Director of Sales and Marketing and in 1998 he assumed the position of Managing Director. During his tenure, he represented the winery at extensive speaking engagements and presentations before consumer, trade, and professional groups around the world. Now, with more than 20 years in the wine industry, Greg continues to be involved with every level of wine marketing, sales and distribution.
As a licensed private pilot and avid fly-fisherman, Greg escapes to trout streams when the opportunity arises.
President and Publisher, Streetwise Reports
Karen Roche is the President and Publisher of Streetwise Reports. Streetwise Reports publishes multiple on-line investor magazines which focus on aggregating information from investor sector leaders and companies to provide individual investors with information to make investment decisions.
Karen's position before Streetwise Reports was COO of The Winetasting Network. During her tenure with Winetasting, she grew the company fourfold by focusing on relevant sustainable activities and reinventing the company from a dot.com to a winery service provider. In November 2004, The Winetasting Network was sold to 1-800Flowers.com.
Prior to joining Winetasting, Karen spent the majority of her career helping companies with strategic and tactical leadership required for rapid growth. Her background includes ten years of management consulting first at Towers Perrin and then at Sibson & Company, where she was a managing partner, and 10 years of sales and marketing experience at technology services firms including ADP – Network Services and Control Data.
Karen has lectured at both the UCLA and USC graduate business schools and is published in several business journals. She earned her MBA from the UCLA Anderson Graduate School and BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Partner, Girard Winery & Windsor Vineyards
Pat Roney is an active partner in several wine related ventures, including Girard Winery, Windsor Vineyards, Napa Valley Specialty Wines, Bin to Bottle and Put a Cork In it.
Pat has also been actively involved with the development of Dean & DeLuca where he served as CEO. He currently sits on their Board of Directors. Pat has also served as President of Chateau St. Jean and Kunde Estate Winery. Prior to that he was Executive Vice President of Marketing for Christian Brothers and spent eight years with the Seagram Wine Company in marketing and sales capacities.
Pat holds an MBA from Southern Illinois University and a BS from Northwestern University.
President, Visitor Management Resources
Craig Root has over 30 years experience working with the public in visitor centers, including twelve years as staff and then manager of the Beaulieu Vineyard tasting room.
As Manager at Beaulieu, he more than doubled the business with many innovations including a very successful direct mail program. The Sacramento Bee and the McClatchy newspaper chain rated his operation as one of the top ten visitor centers in Northern California.
As Manager of Trefethen’s Visitor Center, Craig increased business by over 70% by revitalizing the staff and tours as well as creating another highly profitable direct mail program which grew to 900 members in eight months. For the last 15 years, Craig has provided successful consulting for tasting rooms all over the United States, Canada, and China. He is the only person to teach and lecture Tasting Room Design and Management at UC Davis. He has also been a regular speaker for the Wine Industry Symposium, the Unified Symposium, and colleges and organizations throughout California and Oregon.
In addition, Craig still works one Saturday per month on the floor at a busy tasting room in order to stay in touch with the public and the work. He averages one wine club sign-up and two tours per shift. This experience keeps his seminars fresh and updated.
Craig lives outside of St. Helena with his wife, a professor of Speech and Theatre. He serves on the board of the Napa Valley Wine Library.
Vice President, Direct Marketing & Sales, St. Supéry
Lesley Russell is responsible for all direct-to-consumer sales and marketing efforts at St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley, California. She oversees St. Supéry’s visitor operations (host to 70,000 guests annually), wine clubs, web presence and e-commerce, as well as consumer marketing. She has 15 years of experience selling wine in the U.S. and international markets. She was International Sales Manager for St. Supéry for seven years; responsible for business development in Western Europe, UK, Asia and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Lesley received an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002 while working full-time for St. Supéry. Lesley was raised in California and now lives in Napa with her husband, two daughters and a Labrador Retriever.
Co-Founder & Principal, WISE Academy
Mack Schwing is a co-founder of The WISE Academy. Previously, he was Director of the Wine Business Program at Sonoma State University for five years following his retirement from Deloitte Consulting. At the University, he was responsible for all wine industry business education and developed a passion for wine industry professional education. During his thirty years at Deloitte, he held several senior management positions including Global Director of Information Systems Consulting and Director of Management Consulting for Asia-Pacific.
Mack has an MBA and a BS in Mathematics from Michigan State University. He is a board member of the Sonoma County Food & Wine Center and of Webview, Inc. as well as Co-Chair of the Green Wine Summit. Mack also serves as Vice Chairman, Shone Farm Foundation where he oversees the winery for Santa Rosa Junior College. He also shares his broad wine knowledge as Chairman of the Wine Committee at Fountaingrove Golf & Athletic Club.
Jody Stewart has 27 years of retail management experience. She firmly believes that quality customer service and creating a community for our guests are key attributes to any successful business.
She began her management career in Aspen Colorado at Les Chefs D’Aspen, a gourmet housewares store and cooking school. Starting in a sales staff position, Jody quickly became the store manager and full time buyer for this high end retail store. Next she was hired to manage the sales floor at Boogies, a luxury boutique clothing store with annual revenues of $6M and a sales floor staff of 30 employees. In 1992 Jody moved back to her home state of California to open the flagship store for Wolf Coffee Company. This led to opening two more locations and becoming the Retail Operations Manager of four stores, 65 employees and annual budgeting. Her love for food and wine led her to her last position as the Consumer Direct Manager and Tasting Room Manager at Kunde Family Estate for 10 years. Responsible for the Tasting Room, Wine Club, Hospitality & Events, and Website as well as long term planning and annual expense and revenue budgeting.
Jody lives in Santa Rosa with the best guy in the world, her husband, one cranky cat, and a loving dog.
Founder & Chief Exectuvie Officer, Full Circle Wine Solutions
Limeng founded Full Circle Wine Solutions, Inc. in Fall 2007, as a global wine and spirits education firm to deliver tailored onsite seminars and engaging online content.
Previously, Limeng was the Senior Director of Marketing at Beam Wine Estates where she managed the company's core brands including Clos du Bois, Geyser Peak and Wild Horse Winery. Her cross-functional experience in working closely with winery operations, regional sales and finance management enabled her to lead the brands to successful positions in the competitive wine marketplace. During her tenure, the Sonoma County-based Clos du Bois brand grew from 1.5 million cases to surpass the 2-million case mark.
Her professional background includes a position as the MBA summer intern at Pepsi-Cola North America's Strategic Planning division. Previously, Limeng spent three years in a rotational management achievement program at Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery where she held sales, marketing, operations and business development positions. As a native of Singapore, Limeng is particularly excited about the opportunity to build a global business in Asia through wine education and hospitality programs.
In 2003 Limeng graduated from Harvard BusinessSchoolwith a Masters in Business Administration. She also graduated with Honors from Duke University in three years with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
Managing Director, Juice Box | direct
Kristi Taaffe specializes in helping build and grow lifestyle brands through direct engagements with their end users. She has deep experience in building online marketplaces - providing robust revenue streams and developing innovative new ways to engage consumers in lifestyle interests and brands. In her most recent role as VP, Marketing for Inertia Beverage Group (IBG), she lead the Corporate and Product Marketing strategies for the wine industry's leading direct-to-market service provider, assisting over 350 wineries in building their brands and gaining access to their desired markets..
Prior to IBG, she oversaw the Consumer Relationship Marketing division at Foster's Wine Estates, where she led direct sales and marketing for nine Foster’s brands, including Beringer Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean, Stags' Leap Winery, Etude Wines, and Souverain, among others.
Kristi's experience in the Wine Industry goes back to the late 90's, where she was responsible for the marketing efforts for Virtual Vineyards, and its re-brand initiatives around a new name - wine.com. She has led marketing for several leading lifestyle and luxury brands, driving the direct-to-consumer strategies for early eCommerce players like Preview Travel (now Travelocity), and multi-channel retailers like Smith & Hawken, where she helped modernize their brand and accelerate their DTC sales, preparing the company for its subsequent purchase by Scotts-MiracleGro.
Kristi lives in Marin County with her husband and two children.
Director of Finance & Partner, Folio Wine Partners
Susan Vowell, Director of Finance at Folio Fine Wine Partners, is responsible for strategically managing the company’s day-to-day finance operations, including financial oversight and analysis of all production, sales and marketing, and administrative/human resource operations. Her knowledge of and experience in the wine industry and vineyard operations was gained during her tenure with G&J Seiberlich LLP in St. Helena, as Director of Finance for Vine Cliff Winery, and as CFO with Trefethen Family Vineyards. Susan’s previous public accounting experience included senior management positions with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington, DC and Ernst & Young in Philadelphia. Susan received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business & Economics-Accounting from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, and is professionally licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Susan and her husband John maintain a small vineyard and produce wine under the commercial brand name of Rocinante Wines & Vineyards.
Principal, Vyenielo & Company LLC.
Wine Industry veteran, Bill Vyenielo’s love for agriculture was instilled growing up in Sonoma County. A UC Davis graduate, he began his career 28 years ago as an agricultural lender with American Ag Credit in St. Helena. He later served as Controller and Vice President of Monticello Cellars and Vineyards in Napa. After a sabbatical to earn an MBA at Pepperdine University, Bill spent the next 14 years from 1991 through 2005 leading the highly regarded Peter Michael Winery as General Manager and Chief Executive. Under his leadership at Peter Michael, Bill set a steady course for his team, helping guide the winery and vineyard estate from a fledgling start-up to one of the most respected producers of limited production, ultra-premium wines in the world.
Bill, who left Peter Michael to found his own consulting business, knows the “daunting feeling” that can accompany the many challenges faced by winery principals. He draws on the experience he’s gained in successfully developing and managing luxury-focused winery operations and brands, to help winery clientele who are committed to succeeding in the ultra premium and luxury niches. Bill helps guide them through challenges spanning marketing, operations, winery and vineyard development. He works directly with owners and managers of ultra premium wineries striving to grow their business, improve efficiency, increase profitability and build a sustainable, valuable brand.
CPA, CITP, CSPM, Brotemarkle, Davis and Company
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP, CSPM is the Countess of Communication at Brotemarkle, Davis and Company, where she helps make accounting and business concepts understandable. She is a contributing columnist for for www.theprogressiveaccountant.com and a frequent speaker at events around the country. She is a former software company executive and software industry analyst and a two-time graduate of the Jeff Justice Comedy Workshoppe. As a CPA, she is passionate about finding interesting ways to explain accounting concepts and has discovered an endless supply of formerly boring material. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.
She is the author of How to Make a Boring Subject Interesting: 52 ways even a nerd can be heard, which offers presentation help to her fellow nerds.
Vice President, Communications & Trade Relations, Trinchero Family Estates
As Vice President of Communications and Trade Relations for Trinchero Family Estates, Barry Wiss is responsible for establishing one of the industry’s most creative and innovative culinary and wine education programs, Vine to Dine®. Vine to Dine® has received international accolades and has been described as the most innovative approach to wine education. Barry is also the author of the World Wine Challenge®.
Barry is a Certified Wine Educator and Certified Sommelier, he has also been awarded Advanced Level Certification with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Wine Educators. He is also presently pursuing a Master Sommelier diploma with the Court of Master Sommeliers
Barry and his wife Kim make their home in Napa, but a love of fine wines lures them away on tours of the world’s great wine regions. Barry is an avid fisherman, whose other passions include cooking, growing culinary herbs and tomatoes, and enjoying fine Irish Whisky.
Vice President, Marketplace & Direct to Trade, Winetasting Network/Ambrosia
Matt Wood was born in England in 1965. After gaining a Bachelor of Laws degree from Leeds University, he joined Bass PLC as a management trainee. Following several assignments in retail operations and marketing he left to form his own small business consultancy service.
In 1994, Matt immigrated to California with his wife Elke and looked for opportunities within the wine industry. In 1997, he settled at Franciscan Estates starting as a tasting room assistant before moving into a management role overseeing the direct to consumer business. As the business transitioned to ownership by Constellation, the importance of consumer direct, and Matt’s role grew substantially. After ten years with Icon Estates where Matt managed ten tasting rooms, multiple wine clubs and internet sites, he transitioned to a new role with 1-800 Flowers in July of 2008.
Matt’s new role is focused on developing the wine category for the 1-800 Flowers group of companies, including 1-800 Flowers, Plow and Hearth, Ambrosia and many others. In addition he is spearheading a new co-operative marketing model with wineries to leverage the 1-800 Flowers customer database.
Proprietor, Zahtila Vineyards
A long-time wine enthusiast, Owner and Proprietor Laura Zahtila purchased a Calistoga winery estate that would become Zahtila Vineyards from the Traulsen family in 1999. At the time, Laura was a sales specialist with Cisco Systems in San Jose and had over 15 years in the high tech industry. It was a career that required intimate knowledge of high-tech product application. Knowing how the technology worked was critical to her success in selling the product.
Today, Laura's tenacity for learning systems and science is directed at running her small winery and vineyard estate dedicated to limited-production, premium red wines. Since 1999, Laura has managed all winemaking processes from grape sourcing to the logistics of launching and operating a winery. Her zeal to understand winegrowing at its root has her pruning, picking, irrigating and collecting soil samples in the vineyard. A thirst for winemaking knowledge encourages her participation in crush, pump-overs, racking and bottling.