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October 2, 2017

Sommelier Zach Olson to open Birch in Seattle

Olson will partner with chef Jeffrey Kessenich on the restaurant, which will offer two different tasting menus. In keeping with the Northwest focus of the restaurant, Olson will offer plenty of Northwest wine in addition to global selections.

Sommelier Jake Skakun to open Le Swan in Toronto

Skakun, will also serve as general manager, is teaming with restaurateur Jen Agg on the revamp for the restaurant, which closed in 2015. He currently runs the wine program at Agg’s wine bar Grey Gardens.

Brent Stone promoted to chief operating officer at King Estate

Stone, who also serves as winemaker for the Willamette Valley winery, will now oversee day-to-day operations. He has been with King Estate since 2011.

Ernest J. Gallo named chief operating officer at E. & J. Gallo

Gallo is the son of current president and chief executive Joseph Gallo, and the grandson of founder Ernest Gallo. He is slated to take over as president and chief executive in 2020, and previously served as the vice president and general manager of the international wine marketing company’s spirits division.

Sommelier Spencer Wolff named executive chef at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, California

Wolff will oversee food and wine pairing experiences for visitors to the Napa winery, as well as serving trade members who visit the estate. (Press Release)

Sommelier Mindy Lopus opens SheWolf in Detroit

To pair with the handmade pasta focus of the Italian restaurant, Lopus, who also serves as general manager, has focused almost exclusively on Italian wines, with two dozen available by the glass and another 100 or so bottle selections.

Lanie Bayless to open cocktail bar in Chicago

The small cocktail bar will be situated underneath her father Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill, and will emphasize a variety of Mexican medicinal herbs. Lanie Bayless serves as spirits director for the family’s restaurant group.


Virginia wine industry pioneer Dennis Horton passes away

Horton began growing grapes in the early 1980s, and in the late 1980s planted nearly 30 acres of grapes, including the first Viognier grown in Virginia. Horton also became the first Virginian to replant Norton, a native varietal that was ripped out during Prohibition. He was 73.

Aaron Reed to open Tiki Tatsu-ya in Austin, Texas

Reed will oversee the beverage program at the upcoming tiki bar with the owners of Ramen Tatsu-ya, which currently operates three Texas locations, with a fourth to come. Reed will be assisted by the company’s beverage director Michael Phillips and sake and shochu sommelier Bryan Masamitsu Parsons.

Steve Schwob to open Fort Oak in San Diego

Schwob will serve as general manager at the cocktail-focused eatery— the third he and chef Brad Wise have opened in the last three years. Fort Oak will also offer a deep selection of wines from around the world.

Justin Chin to open Hina Yakitori in San Francisco

Chin, formerly of Gary Danko, will serve as beverage and service director at the new restaurant, which will offer a 16-course tasting menu from chef and owner Tommy Cleary. Chin will offer wine pairings, as well as sake and shochu.

Patrón Spirits creates two new executive roles

Marc Roberts will serve as vice president of control states, Canada, and strategic accounts, while Danny Primo will be the new vice president, commercial excellence, and execution. Both will report to Darren Doalson, newly-appointed managing director of North American sales.

Ian Burch named winemaker at Archery Summit

Burch joins the Dundee Hills, Oregon winery after serving as winemaker for Scott Paul Wines, also based in the Willamette Valley. In the role, Burch will oversee all aspects of the winemaking process.

Fever-Tree USA names Charles Gibb North American chief executive officer

Gibb most recently served as president and chief executive at Belvedere Vodka. The move comes as the producer of tonic water and other mixers takes direct control of US operations. (Press Release)

Joe Volpert to open Corzetti in Portland, Oregon

Volpert, who also partners with chef Johnny Nunn at Verdigris, will serve as wine director at the new Italian restaurant. The emphasis will be on affordable wines from Italy, Spain, and the Pacific Northwest.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards names Clarice Turner president

Turner joins the iconic Napa Valley winery after serving as the founder and chief executive officer of Carneros Associates, a strategic advisory firm. She is also the advisory board director for Women of the Vine & Spirits and a member of the Culinary Institute of America Society of Fellows.

Philippe Melka named lead winemaker at Westwood Wines

Melka is an acclaimed winemaker and consultant famed for his work in Napa Valley. This venture, working with Pinot Noir and Rhône varietals for the Sonoma, California-based winery will be his first in Sonoma County. (Press Release)

Fred Furth, founder of Chalk Hill Winery, passes away

Furth, an acclaimed lawyer, founded the Sonoma County winery in 1972, eventually expanding to more the 1,200 acres outside Windsor, California. He sold the winery to William Foley of Foley Family wines in 2010. Furth was 84 years old.

C. Mondavi & Family names Maria Steckler vice president of national accounts

Steckler joins the iconic Napa Valley wine company after serving as director of national accounts (off-premise) at Duckhorn Wine Company.

Victoria Ash to serve as national sales manager for Westwood Estate Wines

Ash, formerly the Pacific region manager for Purple Wine & Spirits, will oversee sales for the Sonoma Valley-based winery.


Jessica Retif opens Saba with chef Alon Shaya

The New Orleans restaurant focuses on modern Israeli cuisine, but Retif, the general manager, has selected wines from Europe and the Middle East. There is also a Champagne and caviar menu.


Leslie Rudd, founder of Vintage Wine Estates, passes away

Rudd owned a number of businesses in California besides the Santa Rosa-based wine company, including Distillery No. 209 in San Francisco, the Oakville Grocery, and PRESS restaurant in Napa Valley, as well as endowing the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. He was 76 years old.


Dunham Cellars promotes Robert Campisi to head winemaker

Campisi joined the Walla Walla, Washington-based winery in 2008 as a cellar worker, before being promoted to assistant winemaker in 2012. He will oversee all aspects of the winemaking process starting with the 2018 vintage. (Press Release)


Sommelier Freddy Foot opens Birdsong in San Francisco

Foot, formerly of Gary Danko, has assembled a list focused on classic European wines supplemented with smaller Pacific Northwest producers and craft beers, designed to match the restaurant’s emphasis on Pacific Northwest cuisine.

Jared Burns set to unveil new destination winery in Walla Walla, Washington

Burns, the founder and winemaker at Revelry Vintners, will unveil the nearly 12,000 square foot facility situated on 20 acres of farmland on May 4th. (Press Release)

Terravant Wine Company adds two executives

The Santa Barbara County winery announced Mike Jackson as chief sales officer and Tracey Mason as chief marketing and business development officer as they look to more than triple production by 2023.

Precept Wine names Dan Ewer chief sales officer

Ewer joins the Seattle, Washington-based wine company with holdings in four western states after spending almost two decades with Young’s Market Company, most recently as senior vice president of business development for 10 western states.

Winemaker David Heitz to depart Heitz Cellars

Heitz is the son of the iconic Napa winery’s founder Joe Heitz, and has served as winemaker since his father’s death in 2000. The move comes after the recent sale of the winery to billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Jr.

Purple Wine + Spirits adds two to executive team

The Sonoma County-based wine and spirits company named Barry Sheridan chief marketing officer, and Eric Gilliland as vice president of supply operations. Both are joining Purple after working for Treasury Wine Estates; Sheridan as senior vice president of marketing, Americas, and Gilliland as general manager of Beringer.

Leonildo Pieropan, iconic Soave producer, passes away

Pieropan took over his family’s winery in 1967, and for decades was among the few quality-minded producers in the Soave region, including producing the first-ever single vineyard Soave and the first oak-aged Soave. He was 71.

Napa Valley winemaker David Stevens passes away

Stevens worked in management and winemaking for Napa Valley icons like Freemark Abbey and Domaine Chandon, as well as teaching at Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Winery Technology program. He was 57.

Argyle Winery names Robert Alstrin director of sales and marketing

Alstrin joins the Newburg, Oregon-based winery after more than 15 years working in the Willamette Valley wine industry. He’ll manage marketing and direct-to-consumer efforts for the winery, as well as guiding brand planning. (Press Release)

Alessandro Boga new Italian portfolio specialist at Wilson Daniels

Boga will seek to expand national distribution for Italian wines at the New York-based importer. (LinkedIn)

Far Niente makes two more executive changes

Current chief executive officer Dick Hampson will give way to incoming CEO Steven Spadarotto, though Hampson will remain chairman of the board. Current president Larry Maguire has been named vice chairman.

Matthew Owings new chief financial officer at Rombauer Vineyards

Owings joins the Napa Valley-based winery after most recently serving as the vice president of finance at Jackson Family Wines.

Sommeliers Janice Dean and Eli Traverse to open wine bar in Seattle

Claret will feature over 200 bottles and more than 50 wines by the glass, including half-glass “duos” of each varietal on the list. It’s slated to open in April.

Washington Wine Industry Foundation adds four new board members

Corina Davis, Joe Hattrup, Jordon McEntire, and JJ Williams will join the fund-raising and gift-giving organization. Hattrup farms 165 acres of grapes in Washington’s Yakima Valley, and Williams is the sales manager for Kiona Vineyard and Winery in Red Mountain, Washington.

Frederick Wildman & Sons adds three new leadership appointments

Bill Seawright has been named senior vice president of the company’s East Division; Tim Daffin has been named vice president of the Central Division; and Barry Walsh has been named vice president of the West Division for the New York-based wholesaler and importer.

Jean-Marie Heins new chief marketing officer for Broken Shed Distilleries

Heins, a longtime executive at Sidney Frank Importing Co., was heavily involved in the launch and development of spirits brands like Grey Goose and Jagermeister. She will be in charge of the overall marketing strategy for the New Zealand-produced Broken Shed vodka.


Mercedes O’Brien to open Cold Beer in Atlanta

O’Brien, currently the beverage director at Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow, is collaborating with the acclaimed chef on the upcoming cocktail and beer bar, which will highlight her innovative cocktails, including some made tableside.

Vintage Wine Estates adds two to leadership team

The Santa Rosa, California-based wine company promoted Erin Luby to vice president of tasting rooms and wine clubs, and Kimberly Benson to vice president, finance. Luby has been with the company since 2009, while Benson joined in 2014.


Distilling maven Pearse Lyons passes away

Lyons, also the founder of global biotech company Alltech, entered the distilling industry in 1980 as the founder of the Lexington, Kentucky-based Alcohol School. Eventually, he opened Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, and in 2017 the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin, Ireland. He was 73.

Maggie Campbell promoted to president of Privateer Rum

Campbell has been the head distiller at the Massachusetts distillery since 2012. In her new role, she’ll look to continue to grow the Privateer brand, as well as expand their stock of aged rums.

Woodford Reserve promotes Elizabeth McCall to assistant master distiller

McCall, previously a master taster for the Louisville distillery, will work under master distiller Chris Morris on product innovation and development.

Benovia Winery names Ed Thralls general manager

Thralls joined the Russian River-based winery in 2016 as director of marketing and business operations. In his new role, he will oversee all sales, marketing, hospitality, finance and business operations for the winery.

Sommelier Ryan Arnold launches wine label

Arnold, wine director for the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, is teaming with music industry managers Pat Corcoran and Tim Smith on No Fine Print Wine.

Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma adds six new board members

Maryam Ahmed, currently director of public programs at the Culinary Institute of America, will be the new president. She’ll be joined by Kate Spadarotto as vice president, Brandi Brown as secretary, and Michelle Ruggirello as treasurer, while Teri Cirillo and Antoine Casanave will serve as program director co-chairs for the non-profit wine education organization.

Changes at Craft Brewing Alliance

John Glick is out as vice president of emerging business, and Karmen Olson has been tabbed for the newly-created director of innovation role.

Jean-Pierre Savare purchases Château Franc-Mayne

The French billionaire paid an undisclosed sum for the St.-Emilion Grand Cru Classé estate, which includes the winery, 17.3 acres of vines, and a bed-and-breakfast. The winery currently produces about 2,500 cases of wine annually.

Matt Dogali appointed new president and chief executive officer of the Presidents’ Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry

Dogali replaces Vicky McDowell, who resigned in December, as the head of the industry lobbying and governmental outreach group.

Robert Rowland named bar manager at Joli

Rowland will run the drinks program at the new Seattle restaurant after a longtime stint at nearby cocktail bar Oliver’s Twist.

Ryan Bailey opens NoMad LA

Bailey, who was previously the Head Sommelier at NoMad NYC, serves as wine director for the Los Angeles outpost from co-owners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara.

Legendary Piedmontese winemaker Bruno Giacosa passes away

Giacosa took over the family wine business in 1960, becoming the first producer in Piedmont to bottle his Barolos and Barbarescos by individual vineyard site. He was also instrumental in saving the Arneis grape from extinction. Giacosa was 88.

Royal Wine Corp. hires Jeremy Briese as Rocky Mountain Midwest manager

Briese will handle sales in that region for the New Jersey-based producer, importer, and distributor of kosher wine and spirits.

Rudy Buratti, chief winemaker at Castello Banfi, passes away

Buratti had been a part of the winemaking team at Castello Banfi since 1983. He was 56.

Pat Pokorny named executive vice president and general manager , Pennsylvania for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Pokorny was most recently the vice president of the control state and military region for Moet Hennessy USA, and will bring his experience working with control states like Pennsylvania to his new job.

Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas adds five members to board of directors

Master sommeliers Laura Williamson, Randall Bertao, Scott Carney, Reggie Narito, and Virginia Philip will all serve three year terms.

Court of Master Sommeliers names new chair and vice chair of the board

Master sommelier Devon Broglie, the global wine buyer for Whole Foods Market, will serve as chair of the board, while master sommelier Matt Stamp, co-founder of the Napa wine bar and bottle shop Compline, will serve as vice chair.

Lake County Winery Association adds three to board of directors

The newly elected members are Christian Ahlmann of Six Sigma Ranch, Jessie Zielsdorf of Langtry Estate, and Randi Sedrick of Wildhurst Vineyards.

Ferrari-Carano hires Thomas Rivers Brown as consultant

Brown will focus on the cabernet sauvignon program for the Sonoma-based winery, after work with Schrader Cellars, Kinsella Estates, and Charles Krug.

Rombauer Vineyards hires Heather Rehnberg as director of marketing

Rehnberg was most recently a brand manager at Treasury Wine Estates, and will look to further the reach of the St. Helena-based winery.

Alexander Weil joins LA’s Sprout Restaurant Group as assistant general manager and beverage director

Weil has previously been the head sommelier at Bouchon in Beverly Hills.

Paul Coker joins Specialty Restaurants Corporation

Coker was formerly the sommelier at Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Laguna Beach, CA.

Alicia Ortiz named Brown-Forman market manager for South Texas

Ortiz will make the move from Seattle to Austin for the spirits and wine company.

Sonoma State University brings on Heather Conlin as instructor of Wine Business Management

Conlin has 16 years experience in the industry, having served as general manager of ADAMVS Howell Mountain Estate, general manager of CONSTANT Diamond Mountain Vineyard, both in Napa Valley, and general manager of Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz. She will teach the Spring 2018 online certificate program in Wine Business Management beginning Thursday, January 18, 2018.

Lou Romano named CEO of Flying Fish

After four years as the national sales manager for Oskar Blues Brewery, Lou Romano has left the Colorado-headquartered craft brewery to become the president of Flying Fish Brewing Company.

18 new Advanced Sommeliers announced

Congratulations to Jeremy Broto-mur, Taylor Grant, Jay Hutchinson, Lauren Kemp, Justin King, Marissa Kipp, Nathan Morrell, Sophie Oppelt, David Osenbach, Imre Papp, Juan Quintero, Derek Reijmer, Luis Rivera, Katja Scharnagl, Joshua Stanko, Kiril Tsarev, Andres Villegas, and Lindsey Young.

Wine by Joe/Dobbes Family Estate names Travis Proctor director of winemaking operations

Travis Proctor came to Wine By Joe in 2015 as production winemaker to oversee all wine production for the company, under the direction of Joe Dobbes. Now promoted to Director of Winemaking Operations, Proctor will continue in this role, but will also participate in a broader range of company activities, including vineyard/grower relations, industry engagements, business development and promotions.

Steve Burns named president of Wine Market Council

For two decades, Steve Burns has specialized in re-alignment, board development, and management for associations. Most recently, he was the owner of O’donnell Lane L.L.C., a marketing, public relations, and strategic planning firm for associations. Prior to that, Burns was the Executive Director of the Washington Wine Commission, where he served from 1996-2004.

LibDib hires Amanda Rehn as sales VP 

Liberation Distribution (LibDib), a web-based wholesale alcohol distributor, has hired  Rehn vice president of platform sales. She previously worked at Big Basin Vineyards as national sales manager.

Hakkasan Group promotes Kat Thomas to training manager, wine

Hakkasan group promotes Kat Thomas to the position of Training Manager, Wine. Thomas will continue to be based at Hakkasan Las Vegas, but will operate for its Las Vegas U.S. office. She is responsible for training staff throughout the United States on wine knowledge, selling techniques, pairings, and driving sales.

Champagne Pommery appoints Clément Pierlot as winemaker

Pierlot has been a vineyard director at Vranken-Pommery Monopole since 2004. In 2010, he became part of the Vranken tasting panel, and in 2014, took control of oenological development for champagne, as well as overseeing Pommery’s English sparkling wine.

Marc Hirten in as CEO for Frederick Wildman and Sons, LTD

Hirten comes to Wildman from William Grant & Sons where he was General Manager of Commercial Strategy. His responsibilities include overseeing sales, marketing, operations, finance, supplier and distributor relations as well as Wildman’s dedicated wholesale division.

Tim Hassett leaves Beam Suntory

Tim Hassett is leaving the company to run a startup business outside of the spirits industry. Effective immediately, Albert Baladi, currently president of Beam Suntory’s International region, will take on the role of coo and president for the Americas.

Acumen Wines appoints Daniel Saavedra as eastern regional sales manager

Daniel Saavedra has spent the past seven years working in the National Sales Division for Ladera Vineyards in St. Helena, most recently as vice president of sales.

Acumen wine appoints Carter Prasse-Freeman as central regional sales manager

Carter Prasse-Freeman spent six years as District Sales Manager for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, an Acumen partner, in Houston prior to joining the Acumen team.

Unita hires Brian Curran as new VP of sales

Curran brings two decades of beverage industry sales experience, having previously served as vice president of East Coast sales for wine importer, producer, and seller, Terlato Wines International.

Mark Guillaudeu named beverage director at Oakland’s Commis

Guillaudeu was formerly the sommelier and manager at Roka Akor in San Francisco.

Joshua Nadel named Master Sommelier

Nadel is the executive beverage director for Andrew Carmellini Restaurants in New York, as well as the founder of Gothic Wine, a producer of Oregon Pinot Noir.

Andrew Schawel launching Bullion in Dallas, TX

The former wine director at NYC’s Union Square Cafe will be the beverage manager and sommelier for the new French restaurant from acclaimed Dallas chef Bruno Davaillon (insider tip).

Jordan Lari heads to Long Island to open 2 Spring

He’ll team with chef Jesse Schenker (the Gander) to launch the restaurant in Oyster Bay, NY with a list of approximately 500 bottles, including 350 from a “private stock” list of highly sought-after wines.

Anchor Distilling Co. adds three to executive team

The San Francisco-based company has promoted Gregory Finch from president of East Coast sales to chief sales officer, promoted former vice president of marketing Morgan Rabbat to chief marketing officer, and hired Shannon Tracy as chief finance officer.

Jaki Palacios hired as director of marketing for Cuvaison Estate Wines

The former brand manager for C. Mondavi and Family was hired to expand awareness of the Napa-based winery company.

Cuvaison Estate Wines names Steve Richards vice president of international and domestic sales

The former head of domestic sales will focus on expanding the reach of Cuvaison and Brandlin Vineyard overseas.

Anheuser-Busch elevates Ken Stout and Todd Ahsmann in High End beer division

The beverage behemoth has moved pieces around as it tries to push Goose Island into international markets. Stout will transition from president of the U.S. business into the newly-created presidency at Goose Island International. He’ll be replaced by Ahsmann, who previously ran New York’s Blue Point Brewing Company.

Vanessa Vineyards names Howard Soon master winemaker

The longtime British Columbia wine industry veteran is now tasked with making the wines for Vanessa Vineyards in Canada’s Similkameen Valley. Planted in 2006, they transitioned from just grape growing into wine making in 2012.