All Sessions are Now Available for Replay.
The Wine Industry Sales Symposium is an in-person conference focused on delivering insights, advice and predictions from industry experts to wineries looking to grow sales and/or profits.
This year's program will kick off with an in-depth look at how the wine category is performing overall and what the key indicators could mean for sales in the near future. The conference will also touch on every aspect of sales and marketing efforts including 3-Tier and Direct channel strategies, packaging innovations, pricing and public relations programs, and more.
“As consumer purchasing trends evolve, our industry needs to examine the things we must change if we hope to continue to be successful in driving engagement, loyalty and ultimately profits from the relationships we enjoy with our customers,” says George Christie, President of Wine Industry Network.
“By bringing together top industry experts to share their insights and predictions, we hope to equip wineries with the tools and strategies they need to not only grow their sales and profits, but also to thrive in a rapidly evolving market,” adds Christie.
Symposium Topics & Schedule
Break: 9:45am - 10:00am (PT)
Break: 10:45am - 11:00am (PT)
Lunch (Outdoors): 11:45pm - 1:00pm (PT)
Break: 1:45pm - 2:00pm (PT)
Sli.do is a web-based Q&A and polling platform for live events for attendees to ask questions and vote in live polls via your phones, tablets or computers.
To ensure we meet your expectations and provide an interactive, productive conference, we’d like to find out what your specific questions are for our speakers in advance of the show. Your questions will then be shown on stage and our speakers will be answering them during the in-person event.
Click the button below to head over to Sli.do and get started.
Q&A is Closed
Follow the signage to the Symposium's registration / check-in area. Grab your name badge then hang out and mingle while enjoying a Continental Breakfast Buffet featuring: Freshly Brewed Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee and Tazo Tea Selection | Assorted Chilled Juices | Seasonal Sliced Fruit & Berries | Assorted Freshly Baked Croissants, Pastries and Muffins.
This data-driven session will provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of the current state of the wine industry and consumer, as well as valuable insights and predictions for the future.
Specific areas covered will include a review of how the wine industry is performing in comparison to other alcoholic beverage categories and analysis of the key drivers of growth. The discussion will include ideas on how wineries can better target and engage younger consumers, and the ever growing multi-cultural consumers to expand their customer base and more.
These valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences can inform and prepare marketing and sales professional to better target and engage potential customers.
Change is inevitable and how we manage our media relations in wine is no exception. To succeed in your public relations efforts requires paying close attention to how wine consumers, specifically the demographic you're targeting, are being influenced and by whom. While the "traditional" wine writer still plays an important role, there are new influencers and content creators on the scene that are having just as much of an impact on brand awareness, and ultimately, sales.
Attendees will hear from a panel of public relation professionals, who will share their experience and advice, on how best to navigate the ever changing world of wine media, from the traditional, to pay to play, to lifestyle influencers and more.
This session is for anyone looking to grow their wine business in a challenging market. The session will explore the challenges of operating in a flat wine market and provide attendees with practical strategies for balancing retention and acquisition efforts to drive growth.
Attendees will hear from industry colleagues about best practices for retaining current customers, acquiring new ones, and maximizing the return on investment for their sales and marketing efforts. Whether you're a winery owner, sales and marketing professional, or industry analyst, this session will provide you with valuable insights and practical advice to help you succeed in a competitive and dynamic market.
The wine industry is facing a challenge in reaching new audiences, especially younger people who are not consuming wine as much as previous generations. However, this session will focus on tangible solutions and real-world tactics for overcoming this challenge. Our panelists, who represent different stages of the consumer communications web including suppliers, agencies, influencers, and retailers, will share their insights and experiences on successful case studies.
This session will highlight selling strategies that cater to a modern audience, and how to cultivate the next generation of wine enthusiasts. These experts will discuss various methods for reaching out to potential customers and engaging them in a meaningful way, such as using social media, creating personalized experiences, and leveraging technology to provide a seamless purchasing journey. Attendees will walk away with practical knowledge on how to sell wine directly to consumers and grow their customer base.
This session, featuring notable wine industry experts, will focus on how your direct-to-consumer sales data can provide insights to open new points of distribution more effectively and efficiently. Attendees will learn how to create a more focused annual sales plan, how to customize effective marketing campaigns leveraging age and geographical demographics, how to better equip sales representatives and strengthen buyer relationship, along with how to reduce travel budgets and improve ROI by developing smarter sales campaigns and meaningful offsite events.
Mixed green salad with Belgian endive, dried cranberries, spiced walnuts, white balsamic vinaigrette
Grilled chimmichurri marinated hanger steak
Pan seared Pacific salmon
Veggies and rice pilaf
A la cart desserts
Traffic is down, what can we do to drive revenue? The 'new' frontier DTC business is a focus on phone sales, text messaging, virtual, and cross-trained/utility staff members is where wineries are succeeding. In this session, we'll hear what the trends are, examples of wineries who are really doing well regardless of traffic, and consider ways we can drive more traffic by better engaging and connecting with consumers.
To sustain growth, wine brands need to continually reach new consumers and market segments, and for them to take notice, it's vital that the first impression, whether by bottle or box, attracts their attention and connects with them. In the next few years young wine consumers will become the largest consumer segment, and in order to ensure long-term success, wineries must present a brand package that appeals to them.
In this session, wineries and their designers will share their story about the process of creating their package specifically with the goal of making their product more attractive to new, younger consumers without alienating their existing consumer base.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is exploding across the digital landscape and more and more businesses are showing interest in understanding the basic mechanisms of AI and ways to use the technology for creating content, enhancing customer engagement and experience. Generative AI, a type of artificial intelligence technology that can produce various types of content, can be applied extensively across every area of the business. It can make it easier to interpret and understand existing content and automatically create new content including text, imagery, audio, and synthetic data.
In this final session, we'll cover the basics of AI, the various generative artificial intelligence services, and how it's being used by brands to supplement marketing, engage with customers, and drive sales.
Finish the day visiting with sponsors, exhibitors and other attendees at our networking social featuring a Mediterranean Antipasto Platter & Sonoma Valley Artisan Cheese Display with selected wines from the North Coast Wine Challenge winners.
Meet the Experts
Sandra Beals-Hess is a wine consumer engagement & direct sales strategist supporting winery teams 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 formed a partnership with Wine Tourism Australia in 2017 and provides online coaching as well as training programs to winery teams across Australia and New Zealand. In addition to her professional contributions, Sandra is the Past-President of Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma chapter. Prior to joining the wine industry, Sandra supported businesses nationally and globally in the areas of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solutions, compliance management software solutions, customer engagement workflow automation and sales/marketing strategic planning.
Sandra is considered a thought leader in the DTC Wine Industry and has developed proven methodologies over the past 10 years. Sandra has been featured in Forbes, Wine Business Monthly, Wines & Vines, Market Watch, Silicon Valley Bank on Wine. Sandra was a keynote speaker at the Australian Wine Suppliers "Impact Conference" in Adelaide Australia, October 2018. Wineries of BC featured Sandra as a keynote speaker at the Direct to Consumer Wine Canada Conference in November 2016 and she also provide a keynote address at the International Wine Forum in Mendoza Argentina, October 2014. Sandra developed the first of its kind, Direct-to-Consumer Sales Roadshow Program for Vin65/WineDirect and The Winery CRM (Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution). Sandra publishes a DTC Sales Blog at: https://dtcwineworkshops.com/blog/. She and her consulting team provide winery association workshops across California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Texas, Maryland, New York and Virginia. Past speaking engagements include:
Danny Brager has a wealth of experience in the U.S. Beverage Alcohol industry, analyzing trends over many years. He formerly headed Nielsen's Beverage Alcohol Practice Area in the U.S, leading teams that supported relationships with Nielsen's clients as well as key industry groups and the media.
In his current consulting role, Danny provides data driven analysis and insights to Beverage Alcohol companies seeking to translate information into fact-based insights in support of their goals. Each year, he presents at a large number of notable industry and company events, and is a frequent thought leader contributor to the media/press. His informed opinions are highly respected by the beverage alcohol industry.
Danny is a Special Advisor to the Wine Market Council, and is Managing Director of Category & Consumer Insights at Azur Associates, founded to bring comprehensive advisory & consulting services to wine and spirit companies, including mergers & acquisitions, route to market, and strategic advisory support.
Danny was born in Calgary and moved to Toronto where he graduated from the Schulich School of Business at York University. He relocated to Mission Viejo, California in 1993 where he now resides.
Stacy Briscoe is the senior editor of Wine Enthusiast and reviews the wines of California for the publication as well. She is the former managing editor for Wine Industry Network and former assistant editor of Wine Business Monthly. She has bylines in numerous publications including SevenFifty Daily, Sonoma Magazine, SF Chronicle, among others. Briscoe regularly speaks at wine industry events, has completed her WSET Diploma and now teaches wine education courses at the Napa Valley Wine Academy in Napa. She has her Bachelor of Arts in English-Language Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz and is often found with a book in hand (and a glass of wine in the other).
Katie (pronounced "Kah-tee") has devoted her entire career to the wine and spirits industry, and today brings over 30 years of public relations expertise to Calhoun & Company Communications. Prior to founding her own agency in 2003, Katie worked with public relations veteran Edwin J. Schwartz for 15 years, managing wine, spirits and restaurant clients for his agency.
Through her work with a wide variety of wine and spirits companies, Katie has developed a broad perspective on the industry and built strong relationships in the press. She travels frequently to meet with media throughout the country and track emerging trends so that she and her staff can generate individualized and meaningful story ideas.
A college year abroad spent in Paris and in Burgundy introduced Katie to the world of fine wine with its ancient traditions and rich history. Upon her return to the United States, she published her college thesis on Women & Champagne in 19th Century France.
Katie's palate and tasting skills have earned her a place among top wine and spirits professionals as a national competition judge. She has judged at the Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Monterey County Wine Competition, and San Francisco World Spirits Competition; she also served as a regular taster at Wine & Spirits Magazine for over a decade.
With a deep love for kids and education, Katie was a volunteer for 15 years in San Francisco schools, served six years on The Thacher School Alumni Council and is currently in her second term on the Board of Directors at Edgewood Center for Children & Families, supporting thousands of Bay Area at-risk youth with severe mental health challenges, aiming to achieve their potential.
Katie's wine industry affiliations include membership with Women for WineSense, Family Winemakers of California, Society of Wine Educators, Association of African American Vintners and Women of the Vine & Spirits. She also serves as a Level Two mentor for Bâttonage and is on the UC Davis Library Wine Writers Collection Advisory Board.
She rejoices in electronic-free backpacking trips, loves to host dinner parties and is fond of travel in pursuit of a great cocktail.
Originally hailing from Tampa, Florida, Walter initially made his journey into the hospitality industry as a Banquet Coordinator for large-scale private events. In 2012, Walter relocated to Temecula and quickly found his place at Danza del Sol Winery as a Tasting Room Manager and Event Coordinator, where he oversaw bookings, wine club events, educational tours, and group visits.
In 2019, Walter was named Director of Hospitality for Danza del Sol Winery and a second Temecula Valley winery, Masia de la Vinya, where he currently oversees all aspects of the guest experience. Since moving into his role as the Director of Hospitality, Walter has achieved his Level 1 Sommelier and C.H.I.P. (Certified Hospitality Industry Professional) certifications.
Walter is the recipient of two Xenia Spotlight on Service Awards, and was recently nominated for the prestigious 2021 Xenia Ambassador Award. He attributes his successes to his dedication to teamwork, employee development, and to creating a workplace environment that strives for unforgettable guest experiences. Walter believes that a team of dedicated individuals that seeks to exceed expectations is what guarantees lifelong partnerships, community impacts, and loyal guests.
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 of 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.
Hilary Cline is a second-generation member of the Cline Family, which owns and operates Cline Family Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Winery in Sonoma County. She joined her family’s business in 2015 as part of the wholesale sales team at Cline Cellars, and worked for three years supporting distributor partners in the Northern California and Nevada territories. In 2017, she worked her first harvest at Sojourn Wines, a small production Pinot Noir producer in Sonoma County. She followed by working a viticulture position for Pernod Ricard at in New Zealand, which continued with a viticulture role at Mumm Napa and Kenwood Winery back in Northern California. After gaining outside production experience, she re-joined her family in early 2019 and has recently been promoted to Vice President of Marketing & DTC. She recently launched her own small-production Pinot Noir and Chardonnay brand called Gust with her sister Megan. The wines are all sourced from her family’s property in the Petaluma Wind Gap.
Susan DeMatei has over 30 years of luxury direct marketing experience, but in the past 18, she has worked exclusively in the wine industry. In 2012 Susan started WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing agency for the alcohol space.
Susan holds a B.S. in Communications from Boston University and an A.S. in Viticulture from Napa Valley College. She is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist in Wine/Wine Education with the Society of Wine Educators and was awarded a DMA (Direct Marketing Association) award for strategic excellence. She is the marketing columnist for Grapevine Magazine, Crush Magazine (Canada) and a frequent freelance writer and speaker at conferences. Susan also is a marketing instructor at the WISE Academy as well as Napa Valley Community College, and a repeat lecturer at the Institute for Enology & Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and California Polytechnic State University. She is currently collaborating on two marketing and sales textbooks.
Her firm, now in its tenth year, is based in downtown Napa and supports domestic and international wine and spirits clients with both B2B and DTC marketing in digital as well as traditional channels. For two consecutive years, Inc. Magazine recognized WineGlass Marketing as the only Napa company listed in the top 250 hyper-growth tier of the "5000 Series California's Top Companies". WineGlass Marketing is also admired by the community winning the North Bay Bohemian "Best Creative Agency" spot for the past three years as well as being honored as Napa’s "Best Company to Do Business With" in the 2021 North Bay Business Journal. The firm’s creative strength is acclaimed winning 12 Platinum, 5 Gold and 7 Silver national and international creative awards for websites, social campaigns, and emails within just the past 24 months.
WineGlass Marketing is located at 531 Jefferson Street in Napa and also can be reached online at www.wineglassmarketing.com or by calling 707-927-3334.
Michelle is a Senior Account Supervisor with Colangelo & Partners Public Relations where she splits her time between New York and San Francisco. Since joining Colangelo & Partners in 2019, Michelle has played an integral role in bringing client activations to life and securing impactful media placements for clients in the food, wine, e-commerce, and financial sectors including Barolo & Barbaresco Consorzio, Paul Hobbs, Liv-ex, Benchmark Wine Group, and Joseph Phelps. From Account Executive to Senior Account Supervisor at C&P, Michelle has gained significant experience in understanding the nuances of bringing a brand's vision to life through strategic storytelling that resulted in coverage in widely read publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Wine Spectator, CNN, and Real Simple.
Michelle holds an MBA with a concentration in food, beverage, and hospitality through Johnson & Wales University. In 2020, Michelle earned her Crisis Communications Certificate through Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. She is a graduate of the Intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center (French Culinary Institute) and a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. In 2017, she became a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador.
Tim Gatto serves as Co-Creative Director for Gatto Rivera. For over ten years, he has specialized in brand development and package design for clients ranging from small-production distillers and winemakers to multinational beverage corporations. After completing formative roles at Auston Design Group and CF Napa Brand Design, he struck out on his own in 2016. Tim devotes tremendous care to visually convey each client's story in a unique and compelling way. Tim graduated with a B.A. in Communication Design from CSU Chico.
Rebecca Hopkins is an experienced wine communications strategist, speaker, moderator, host and writer. Raised in South Australia, and a graduate of wine business from the University of Adelaide, Rebecca spent 15 years in the Australian wine industry in sales, marketing, distribution and communication roles before relocating to San Francisco with Constellation Brands as the Vice President Public Relations and National Events in 2007. Five years later, she joined national fine wine importer, Folio Fine Wine Partners, leading the US market communications strategy and programming for the 20+ family-owned producers prior to striking out on her own in 2022. Today Rebecca represents small, luxury global wine producers in developing and sharing their unique brand stories.
Rebecca has moderated and presented speaker panels in the US, Italy and Australia, and her work has been published in Wine Business Monthly (US), SevenFiftyDaily, Meininger’s Wine Business International magazine and Wine Business Monthly (AU).
With a three-decade career in the wine business spanning Australia and the U.S., Rebecca founded and launched A Balanced Glass in March 2018 with a mission to provide education and resources to wine industry colleagues to help maintain health and wellbeing while working in the beverage alcohol industry.
Cathy Huyghe is an entrepreneur, writer and mindfulness proponent. She is the co-founder of Enolytics, a technology-centric disruptor and provider of business solutions for the wine industry whose most recent development combines DTC with wholesaler data for full 360-degree sales channel visibility. She writes about the business and politics of the wine industry in her column for Forbes online, and she also co-creates the content for A Balanced Glass, a community dedicated to wellness in the wine and spirits world. All three of those ventures have been recognized for their innovative contributions. In 2021 Huyghe was named one of the industry’s Most Inspiring People by Wine Industry Network, and she was also a Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Award finalist for Innovator of the Year.
In June 2012 I decided it was time for a change. For seven years, I'd found major success building web-based businesses in Washington DC, co-founding two companies in that time: Benton Consulting, where our clients included high-profile entities like the World Bank; and ARMS College Athletics Software, where I led a 300% growth in three years before being acquired. However, despite my success, I was in search of more than the fast-paced city life. I wanted a rural, hands-on, self-sufficient lifestyle. I wanted to grow my own food, build things, and be part of a smaller, more intimate community. So, like the pioneering homesteaders of old, I moved west to Mendocino County, CA where I grow and cook my own food, live healthier, and – it's also worth mentioning – drink some excellent wine.
In time I found that while you can take the boy out of the business, you can't take the business out of the boy. I became eager to find ways to use my skills and experience in entrepreneurial enterprise to contribute to my new community. Following a six-month internship with world-renowned agriculturalist John Jeavons, I started a business growing and selling market greens. Seeing that the area was, for many, a great place to live but a tough place to make a living, I also began consulting with small local businesses – especially wineries. I helped them organize and build financial and data systems to vastly improve their record keeping and sales. I found purpose in helping small business owners and wanted to help more.
A wine industry veteran, Nadia has over 15 years of experience in Direct-to-Consumer sales and marketing. Joining the team at Far Niente Wine Estates as Wine Club Manager in 2018, she has now assumed the role of Director of DTC. In her current capacity, she oversees the strategic direction of the wine club, customer service, e-commerce, outbound sales and virtual experience teams. Prior to joining the team at Far Niente, Nadia honed her skills at Wine Glass Marketing and Domaine Chandon.
Debi Leal has been lending her considerable talents to the Napa Valley wine industry since 1992, after moving from Washington, D.C. to California. Her early career in Public Relations made her the perfect fit for leading teams as a General Manager at boutique wineries in the region and she joined Knights Bridge Winery in 2014.
During her tenure she has created a strong culture focused on success while leading a team of skilled and enthusiastic professionals. Most recently, she collaborated with proprietors Kelley and Jim Bailey on building the new estate winery, completed in 2021 and the second ever built in Knights Valley, sharing their commitment to excellence in this exciting journey.
Working at the Knights Bridge Winery in the beautiful and untamed landscape of Knights Valley, amid rolling hills and the organically farmed estate vineyard suits Debi’s style perfectly. She believes that there is nothing more important than developing and enhancing the relationships between the vineyards, the winery, the team, and the guests. This essential philosophy is the foundation of her success–a multi-layered approach, much like the wines that she enjoys.
While not busy at the winery, Debi devotes time to the non-profit organization she founded in 2009, Notes for Education. Comprised of Napa Valley wine professionals and Nashville music professionals, Notes hosts fundraising events to support music education programs in local communities. To further the fundraising effort, Debi puts her winemaking experience to use by making a small amount of Napa Valley Zinfandel called Harmony, with all sales proceeds benefiting Notes.
Debi and her husband Javier live in Napa with their lively rescue dog, Stryker. They have three grown children and enjoy family travel in their spare time.
Paul Mabray has been a powerful change agent in the wine industry for over twenty years. He has been at the forefront of all major digital trends for the wine industry, working with WineShopper.com and Wine.com when they entered the wine-digital space. He founded two companies that significantly changed the digital US wine landscape, first by introducing winery e-commerce with Inertia Beverage Group that transformed into WineDirect.com pioneering winery e-commerce and then again introducing social media and social customer relationship management with VinTank.com. He is considered the wine industry’s foremost futurist and thought leader, harnessing the power and potential of digital tools and methodologies to move the industry into the future.
Amanda McCrossin is a certified sommelier, wine personality, and TikTok/Instagram/YouTube creator. As the former Sommelier & Wine Director at PRESS Restaurant in Napa Valley, Amanda worked with the world's largest, deepest restaurant collection of all Napa Valley wines in the world. During her time the wine program thrived; garnering nominations, accolades, and awards from nearly every major publication and outlet in food, wine, and hospitality. She has been featured by Food & Wine Magazine, Food Network, San Francisco Chronicle, on the cover of SOMM Journal and most recently by Wine Enthusiast who named her a Wine Star nominee for 'Sommelier of the Year.'
Today, Amanda is widely considered an expert in Napa Valley wine and regularly sought after for media appearances and speaking engagements including the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and Premiere Napa Valley. A Napa Valley resident, Amanda can be found creating daily content for her popular TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube channels - SommVivant - as well as hosting the Wine Access Unfiltered Podcast.
Justin Noland is the Senior Director of DTC Marketing and E-Commerce at Treasury Wine Estates, one of the global leaders in wine. From the start of Justin's career in wine, he has worked to bring digital transformation to marketing and consumer experiences. He, working with an incredible team, is helping to enable new technology and build better ways to connect with customers online. With vast experience in marketing, Justin specializes in a channel-agnostic approach to digital marketing, giving brands the opportunity to deepen their engagement with a consumer, explore new experiences, learn through data, and support the customer towards the purchase path of their choice. He is a marketing leader with a vision to drive positive change in the wine industry and help new generations of wine drinkers engage with brands through digitally native channels.
Tosha Norris is the Direct Sales Manager for Boisset Collection, overseeing the Wine Club, Guest Services, and Luxury Sales departments for four brands in the collection: Raymond Vineyards, Buena Vista Winery, Deloach Vineyards and Wattle Creek. She has been with Boisset since 2014 and brings a passion for hospitality and guest experience that she developed in her previous positions in wine marketing, as wine director in NYC, and restaurant and hotel management in San Francisco and Vermont. She now lives in Napa and loves the fast-paced, ever evolving nature of her work with Boisset Collection.
Chris is a wine marketing and communications professional with over 20 years of wine business experience. Growing up in Healdsburg, California, he became enraptured by wine and food at an early age, and he began working as a cellar hand at wineries in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.
Following a year at the University of London, England, graduation from U.C. Berkeley and a stint as a sports and politics writer, Chris made his way back to the wine business in sales at Scott Street Portfolio, which imported boutique Southern Hemisphere wines with a focus on terroir. After a year, he was managing all of California, the largest wine market in the United States.
In 2002, Chris joined E. & J. Gallo as public relations project manager at their Healdsburg winery. The next six years would be instrumental in learning fine wine public relations and marketing.
In 2007, Chris left Gallo for Merryvale Vineyards in the Napa Valley, where he was Director of Marketing and Communications and served on marketing and public relations committees with the Napa Valley Vintners. In 2013 he joined Paul Hobbs Wines to take over marketing and communications for Paul's various projects domestically and abroad. In 2016 Chris became the Director of Communications for Sonoma County Icon Rodney Strong Wine Estates.
Chris has been judging wine professionally since 2004 at some of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world, including Finger Lakes International, San Francisco Chronicle, Jerry Mead, North of the Gate, Great American International, and Bacchus of Spain.
Chris lives in Cloverdale, Northern Sonoma County with his wife Alexandra, son Liam, and daughter Sophia Jane. In their free time, they enjoy raucous dinner parties, tennis, travel, and living a blessed life in wine country.
Kathy Pyrce is marketing leader in the wine industry, with a career that spans 14 years developing and growing some of the U.S.’s most innovative and successful wine brands. A native of Ohio, Pyrce received her MBA from J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and began her career at Unilever in Chicago, Illinois, where, over a decade, she led development and marketing of personal care products for brands such as Suave and Axe. Pyrce brought that foundational expertise in creating brands that consumers love to the wine industry when she joined Don Sebastiani & Sons as Director of Marketing in 2009, spurred by a family move from the Midwest to Napa Valley. In 2011, Pyrce joined Delicato Family Wines, where she currently serves as Vice President of Marketing and oversees a portfolio of brands that collectively sell more than 12 million cases of wine yearly, including Bota Box, Noble Vines and Gnarly Head. Pyrce lives in Napa with her husband, three children and their Havanese pup. When she’s not working or attending her kids’ theatre performances, she can be found cheering on the Cubs or hiking around beautiful Napa Valley with her husband.
Kristen Reitzell is the Senior Vice President of Communications & Digital Marketing at Jackson Family Wines. Kristen manages all aspects of the company's communications strategy, overseeing corporate and family communications, as well as PR and digital marketing across the company's global portfolio of wineries in California, Oregon, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, and South Africa.
In her 10 years with the company, Kristen has managed trade and media relations, overseen strategic communications for numerous product launches and estate openings, spearheaded brand partnerships, and led international PR campaigns. Kristen also oversees the company's digital marketing and e-commerce team, a function she's helped developed over the past decade to build an infrastructure that reflects the everchanging digital landscape.
Previously, Kristen managed PR for several companies in the technology sector, before making wine her full-time focus. She attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to further her academic studies in wine and in 2008 she became a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Kristen also worked for Calhoun & Company Communications, a boutique public relations agency that specializes in luxury wine and spirits. There, she worked with wineries in California, Oregon, Chile, Spain, Italy, and Austria.
Kristen approaches her work with the same enthusiasm and passion she has for life, taking full advantage of everything Northern California has to offer. If she's not at the ballpark cheering on the San Francisco Giants, she's hiking or skiing in the mountains with her family.
AJ has nearly 20 years of experience helping brands transform by adopting a more data-driven approach to marketing. Prior to joining Wine Access AJ was Director of Acquisition & Analytics at PillPack, who was acquired by Amazon. AJ has also held various positions at advertising agencies such as Starcom and Ogilvy, leading accounts like Allstate, ESPN, and Kraft.
Ed Rice serves as Managing Director for Affinity Creative Group, a leading, award-winning agency providing branding and packaging design, digital marketing and retail activation services for wine, spirits, and other luxury categories. The firm occupies a mansion and several other buildings along Officer’s Row on Mare Island, a former Navy base in Northern California, convenient to the wine producers of Napa, Sonoma and beyond. Recently, Affinity has formed an alliance with kabookaboo, a digital first agency, to increase the firm’s expertise in social media programs, 360 campaigns and other digital marketing disciplines.
Ed has over two decades of experience in agency management, account supervision, brand strategy, identity and design, and client development. He began his branding career at Landor Associates, the international brand consultancy, where he built their beverage practice with particular emphasis on wine and spirits. For Landor, Ed eventually opened and managed a Seattle office and studio, leading a team of 60 creative and strategy professionals.
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 in Marin County. It was there he learned the value of movie trailers, animated characters and theatrical trade shows.
Early in his work life, Ed endured long cruises across the Pacific, directed Naval Support exercises and often stood watch as OOD on the ship’s bridge as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.
Prior to his time at sea, Ed attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, on a NROTC scholarship, 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, a Clinical Specialist with Genentech, and a neurotic Mini-Aussie, Maya. Their son, Kevin, a graduate from University of California, Davis, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences also works at Genentech, as a Technical Process Leader.
Haley is a born-and-raised Santa Rosa native. She spent four years in Las Vegas where she attended UNLV and worked in public relations in the hotel industry. Upon moving back to Santa Rosa in 2015, she started her career in the wine industry with PEJU, where she has now worked for nearly 8 years.
As the Director of DTC Sales for PEJU Winery, Haley oversees the Wine Club, E-commerce sales and inbound/outbound phone teams. She loves connecting with wine club members and new customers alike while sharing her passion for wine and food.
When she's not in the office, Haley spends time with her husband and son, often playing board games, cooking together or playing backyard baseball. For Haley, nothing is better than gathering around the table with friends and family and sharing a delicious meal together – always paired with wine, of course!
As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for ByQuest since 2016, Dennis works with some of the biggest Wine and Spirits brands such as Constellation, Treasury Wine Estates, Trinchero, Delicato, Don & Sons, 3 Badge Beverage, Gallo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Beam-Suntory, Diageo, Heaven Hill, Campari, etc., as well as innovative start-ups. This broad customer base is enabled by the company having two significant production facilities: one in Northern California Wine Country and the other along the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. ByQuest does a lot of work in new product development and is unique in its market offering as the Brand Package Realization® company, which means connecting the right package profile with the most powerful creative expression, to help Brands stand out. ByQuest is the only company that provides glass, stoppers, decoration, cartons together with an ability to translate a brand-idea into innovative, tangible, physical packages.
Recognizing the importance of sustainable packaging, ByQuest has developed two new glass product lines: Wildly Crafted® Spirits and Wine bottle collections and Vintage Forward™ bottle collections. Each has glass made with Infinite Way® branded, 100% recycled beverage bottles that makes sense for the environment and can be a valuable marketing claim for brands. See more at www.byquest.com
Dennis is a California-native, born on the Monterey Peninsula. He is a graduate from Claremont McKenna College and attended Stanford Business School Executive Program in Strategy and Organization, and now resides in the town of Sonoma.
From rapping, to packing boxes in the shipping department at Zachy's, to the first ever black commercial wine auctioneer, right through to being heralded as one of Wine Enthusiast's 40 under 40, Bronx native Jermaine Stone's rise in the wine industry has been driven by one key mission; to challenge the narrative about and for black men in America. In founding Cru Luv Selections, an innovative creative agency based in NYC, Stone has found a space that can use marketing, brand partnerships, and content creation to connect wine and hip hop cultures to bring wine to an audience traditionally ignored. Through their podcast Wine & Hip Hop, their YouTube shows Wine & Hip Hop TV and Tasting Notes from the Streets, and events series such as Pass the Aux, Cru Luv have brought wine to a diverse crowd both within the US and internationally, with partners including Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Domaine Dujac and Prosecco DOC. In 2022, Cru Luv held the first ever Wine & Hip Hop Festival in NYC, an event comprised of 2 days of events showcasing how wine and hip hop cultures intersect and featuring key figures from both worlds.
Dale Stratton brings over 35 years of experience in the Beverage Alcohol Industry to his role as an independent consultant. Dale recently retired from Constellation Brands where he was the Vice President, Commercial Insights working across their Beer, Wine, and Spirits divisions. While at Constellation Brands he oversaw consumer and shopper insights, consumer affairs, business analytics, market research, category management initiatives and the wine sensory program. Dale's extensive work linking consumer and shopper insights and market analysis with business objectives and strategies enable him to translate insights into action.
Dale is currently involved in projects with Azur Associates, Emetry, Wine Market Council, and Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America's SipSource Report.
Prior to joining Constellation Brands in 2006, Dale spent 22 years working at E&J Gallo where he began his career. During his tenure, he covered a wide range of responsibilities that included distributor management, account management, strategic insights and Lean Six Sigma. Dale has a bachelor's degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations from Colorado State University and an Executive MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
Leah Varvaro is an innovative and dynamic wine industry leader, passionate about developing products that resonate with Gen Z and millennial consumers. As the Director of Innovation at O'Neill Vintners & Distillers, Leah has played an integral role in understanding emerging trends and consumer preferences and expanding the company's portfolio of wines and spirits. In 2019, she launched Intercept Wines with NFL legend Charles Woodson, creating a unique and highly successful brand highlighting Woodson’s mission to bring quality wine to every table in America.
She earned her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, and her MBA from the University of California, Davis. She has since been committed to making products and marketing campaigns that reach new audiences and allows current and future consumers to engage with wine in their way.
Mike Wangbickler is President of Balzac. With nearly 30 years of experience in marketing and public relations, Mike is a trusted advisor and strategic consultant to his clients. While others are frozen when faced with barriers, Mike is energized by it. He relishes analyzing problems for his clients, finding what is wrong, and providing them with innovative solutions. Mike's strategic mind enables him to sort through the noise and find the best way forward. He embraces ambiguity and can identify paths to real progress.
Before following his heart to wine country, Mike followed his head to Silicon Valley where he spent 8 fast-paced years in technology communications, where he caught the bug for following the latest trends in marketing tech. Armed with a "live to eat" motto and an evident passion for craft food and beverages and the land, Mike entered Balzac's life in 2004 and became the agency's President in 2016.
As a studied disciple of Walt Disney, Mike thinks it's fun to do the impossible. He believes leadership, imagination, and innovation require a certain level of fearlessness and he encourages his team to step off the worn pathways and break new ground. He leads a team who are driven forward by the stories that inspire people to share in a dream. It is with this philosophy that he's guided successful marketing and communications campaigns for more than 70 global companies and trade associations from a dozen countries.
But he'd trade it all to be a Jedi.
Jennifer is an industry professional with 24 years of experience, including 12 years with WISE. She began her career in the wine industry working for Lesley Berglund (Co-Founder & Chairman of WISE) at Ambrosia Wine Catalog/The Winetasting Network shortly after completing her BA in English Literature. Over the course of her career, she has developed expertise in project and account management, market research, copywriting, and editing. Today, in her role as The Glue, Jennifer oversees WISE Operations which includes spearheading the WISE Mystery Shopping Program (now over 5,000 shops); overseeing content development; coaching; account management of WISE wineries; overseeing marketing programs; moderating WISE Cabinets; coordinating, scheduling, and communicating with coaches, attendees and winery partners for a robust class schedule of 20+ courses and onsite training programs throughout California, Oregon, Washington, New York and more.
A New Yorker by heart, Alisha is a global (US, UK, India, Singapore) and seasoned Digital Communications professional with experience in the Food, Beverage-Alcohol and Hospitality industries. In her current role as Account Director at Colangelo & Partners, she develops integrated digital media strategy, builds e-commerce sales-driven programs, activates diverse influencer campaigns, and leads account budgets and deliverables on behalf of wine and spirits clients.
Previously, Alisha has worked with brands such as Quaker Oats, Dannon Yogurt, chef personalities like Emmy Award-winning TV chef Guy Fieri, and Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres, among others. Her campaigns have garnered the PRSA Big Apple Award, PR Bulldog Award and Produce Business Marketing Excellence Award.
Alisha holds a Double Masters in Global Media and Communication Management from The London School of Economics and University of Southern California, and an undergraduate degree in Media, Culture & Communications from New York University.
Dan Zepponi's first day of work at a winery was when he was just five years old. Today, as the president and CEO of Two Estates Wine Collective, Dan literally brings a lifetime of knowledge and experience to his role guiding the future of Cuvaison, in Napa Valley's Los Carneros region, and Brandlin Estate on Mount Veeder. Having worked in every facet of the wine industry, Dan applies what he calls a root-to-wine approach that empowers his teams to create wines that are quintessential expressions of their appellations, and of the estate vineyards where they are grown.
In 1969, the same year that Cuvaison was established, Dan's father, Gino Zepponi, cofounded ZD Wines, with a focus on Los Carneros Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A true family operation, all six of Gino's children worked at the winery on weekends and during summers. "Other than my time in school, I was completely immersed in the winery. By the time I was a teenager, I'd learned to drive a tractor, prune, fill barrels, run the crusher, do lab analysis—you name it. I also learned from my dad that running a successful family business is about care and quality, and that it requires hard work and integrity."
Later in high school, and during his time earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, Dan worked at Domaine Chandon as a crew chief overseeing crush operations. "I loved the wine industry, and I wanted to gain experience beyond our family winery," says Dan, "and unlike at ZD, at Domaine Chandon, I actually got paid." After university, Dan pursued a passion for aviation at Delta Airlines, where he spent a decade rapidly moving through the ranks from engineer to general manager. "I always knew that I would return to the wine business, but I felt it was important to gain experience outside the industry. I worked in many areas of operations at Delta. That breadth of knowledge has been invaluable in my approach to running a winery."
In 1998, Ed Sbragia asked Dan to join the team at Beringer Wine Estates (now Treasury Wine Estates). Beginning as director of Central Coast operations, Dan ultimately rose to the position of senior vice president, production, and supply chain, where he was responsible for managing all of the company's North American viticulture, winemaking, packaging and warehousing. In this role, he oversaw the winemaking and vineyard management for Beringer, Etude, Chateau St. Jean, St. Clement, Chateau Souverain, Meridian, Souverain and Stags' Leap Winery. Following his tenure at Beringer, Dan was the president of the Mark Anthony Group wine division, a multi-brand Canadian-based wine company anchored by Mission Hill Winery. He later served as president of Vintage Strategies, where he specialized in wine industry strategy and management, and most recently Dan was a president and partner at West Coast Wine Partners, where he oversaw such wineries as Valley of the Moon, Lake Sonoma, Madrone Vineyards, and PLUME Napa Valley.
In 2016, Dan returned to his independent winery roots, when he was named the president and CEO of Two Estates Wine Collective. "Cuvaison played a pivotal role in establishing Los Carneros as one of the world's great wine regions, and Brandlin Estate played an equally important role in pioneering Mt. Veeder," says Dan. "Both have influenced generations of vintners and wine lovers. These legacies are the foundation we are building on. As an independent, family-owned company with remarkable estate vineyards, the story of our next fifty years is ours to write."