Wine Business Institute Board of Directors

The Wine Business Institute Board of Directors offers senior industry expertise to guide the Institute's work, expand deep connections with all aspects and regions of the wine industry, and ensure the Institute's long-term sustainability.


Gary Heck - Board Chairman

President & Owner, Korbel Champagne Cellars

Gary Heck is the owner, President, and Chairman of Korbel Champagne Cellars. Heck was appointed as the President in 1982 and has continued the legacy of his father, Korbel's previous owner. Heck grew up in the champagne-making business and now produces the leading premium champagne in this country. Learn more about Gary Heck.

Ron Rubin

Proprietor, Ron Rubin Winery | CEO

Ron Rubin is dedicated to enriching people's lives through premium teas, education and innovation - emphasizing a "Sip by Sip Rather Than Gulp by Gulp" lifestyle. Rubin is also the owner of the River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, a small-production winery located in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley American Viticulture Area located in Sonoma County, California. Learn more about Ron Rubin.

George Hamel - Board Vice President

Managing Director, Hamel Family Wines

George has overseen the financial, sales and business operations of Hamel Family Wines since 2011, although he has been actively involved in his family business for 30 years. Prior to joining his family business, George was a Financial Advisor with the Private Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in New York City and Palm Beach. Learn more about George Hamel III.

Ed Adams

Vice President, Capital Markets Group, American AgCredit

Ed is a financial services professional with over 25 years of experience in business development, structuring and underwriting corporate finance transactions for middle market and large corporate companies in the food and beverage industries. Learn more about Ed Adams.

Kaj Ahlmann

Proprietor, Six Sigma Ranch & Winery

In 2000, Kaj Ahlmann and his wife purchased a 4,300-acre ranch in Lake County and named it Six Sigma Ranch. The release of the first wine under the label, Six Sigma Ranch, was celebrated in 2006. Kaj Ahlmann applies the Six Sigma methods on this ranch in both the grape growing and winemaking processes, and continuously monitors and refines data at each stage. Learn more about Kaj Ahlmann.

Michelle Ausburn, CPA

michelle-ausburn headshot

Partner in Charge, North Bay | Assurance | Wine & Craft Beverage | BPM LLP

Michelle is a Partner in Assurance and Craft Beverage Industry Group Leader at BPM. Her area of expertise is GAAP-compliant financial accounting and reporting. She serves middle-market, privately-held, family owner-managed, and institutionally owned businesses and publicly held companies. She is active in the Firm’s recruiting efforts at SSU and leads the Firm’s WIN! Initiative. Michelle is a 5th generation Californian. She was born and raised in the agricultural community of California’s Central Coast where her great-grandparents were cattle ranchers. Michelle Ausburn holds an active CPA license in California. Learn more about Michelle Ausburn.

Jean-Francois Coget, Ph.D.​

Dean, School of Business and Economics

JF (Jean-Francois) Coget joined Sonoma State University as Dean of the School of Business and Economics on July 1, 2020. Prior to that, he served for 14 years at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as Associate Dean, Chair of the Management, Human Resources, and Information Systems Area, and Professor of Organizational Behavior. Learn more about JF Coget.

Caroline Coleman Bailey - Founding Board President

Gallo Family

Caroline Coleman Bailey is a third-generation member of the Gallo family and her experience within the company includes public relations, corporate and brand communications, as well as marketing and sales. She has served as the lead spokesperson for the Gallo Family. Learn more about Caroline Bailey.

Tom Bonomi

President & CFO, Price Family Vineyards & Estates

Tom and Bill Price established Classic Wines in 2007. Classic Wines and its affiliates own interests in several wine companies including Buccella, Gary Farrell, Kistler Vineyards, LUTUM and Three Sticks. Independent from the wine companies, Classic Wines and its affiliates own 300 planted acres and 6 vineyard properties including Durell Vineyards and Gap's Crown Vineyard. Prior to joining Classic Wines, Tom was a Managing Director with Global Wine Partners. Tom currently serves on the Pride Mountain Vineyards Board of Managers. Learn more about Tom Bonomi.

Chris Burt

Vice President & Managing Director West Division, Brown-Forman

Chris heads up sales and marketing execution within the Western United States. Chris has been with Brown-Forman since 1985. Chris is an alumnus of Sonoma State University, has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and is a graduate of the UCLA Anderson Executive Program in Management. Learn more about Chris Burt.

Brian Clements

Vice President/Partner, Turrentine Brokerage

Brian Clements, who has negotiated over half a billion dollars worth of wine grape contracts during the last twenty-five years, is well-rooted in the agricultural side of the wine business, with all of its complexity and constant changes. Brian is Vice-President and Partner at Turrentine Brokerage, where he manages an industry-leading team of grape brokers dedicated to helping brand owners fuel sales growth, growers find the best homes for their fruit and financiers manage risk and take advantage of supply cycles. Learn more about Brian Clements.

Matt Franklin

Principal and Co-Founder, Zepponi & Company

Experienced M&A and corporate finance professional with nearly two decades of advising high-growth, multi-channel consumer brands in the beverage alcohol industry. Learn more about Matt Franklin.

Steve Gross

Director of State Relations, CA Wine Institute

Steve Gross is Director of State Relations at Wine Institute, where he has been employed since 1986. Steve's duties entail overseeing the activities of Wine Institute's six State Relations Regional Counsels and Regional Managers as they address state legislation affecting the wine industry, as well as coordinating Wine Institute's legislative and regulatory activities with staff, contract lobbyists and member wineries. Learn more about Steve Gross.

Jay Johnson


President, RNDC West Region, Republic National Distributing Company

Johnson joined RNDC in 1991 as the Executive Vice President of South Texas. He held a number of progressive career roles until being appointed to the position of Region President in 2011. Johnson has been in the wine and spirits industry for more than 25 years and began his career in the supplier tier working with E & J Gallo. Johnson is an active member of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) and Vistage and previously served on the board of trustees for the United Way, University of the Incarnate Word Development Board and the San Antonio Sports Foundation. Learn more about Jay Johnson.

Ray Johnson

Executive Director, Wine Business Institute

As executive director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, Ray's role includes organizational development and program execution as well as operational oversight of programs and events at the future Wine Spectator Learning Center. Previously his work in the VESTA alliance as well as with his company - TasteWine - has led to teaching seminars from San Francisco to New York. His international experience and network in Australia, Europe, Canada, and South Africa will connect students and alumni to wineries across the globe. Learn more about Ray Johnson.

Walt Klenz

Vice Chairman, The Vincraft Group

Walt Klenz began his California wine industry career in 1973. In 1976, he was named Director of Marketing at Beringer Vineyards. Klenz held a number of senior marketing, financial and operations positions at Beringer until his appointment in 1990 as President. After Beringer was sold to Foster's Group in 2000, he headed Foster's global wine business. Klenz served on the Advisory Board of ASC Fine Wines from 2008 to 2010 and also serves on the Board of Directors of J. Lohr Winery and Columbia Sportswear Company. He is a past President of Napa Valley Vintners and a past Chairman of the Wine Institute. Learn more about Walt Klenz.

Erle Martin

Executive Vice President, Wholesale West, The Winebow Group

Erle Martin is a wine industry executive with over 25 years of experience. Erle has a demonstrated ability to recruit and build strong teams, resulting in exceptional performance. He turned both the Coppola and Crimson Wine Group entities into industry leaders with combined topline growth exceeding 5X. During his tenure at Crimson, he took the company public in 2013, which consistently traded at a premium to book value. Erle has served as President of the Stag's Leap District Winegrowers Association and has been active on several Napa Valley Vintners committees. Learn more about Erle Martin.

Steve Meyers

Managing Director, North America of Distinguished Vineyards and Wine Partners

Since 2010, Steve Myers has served as the Managing Director for Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners, owner and importer of highly acclaimed wineries from Oregon, California, Australia, and New Zealand - including flagship brands Argyle Winery and MacRostie Winery in the US. Steve previously served on the executive teams for Duckhorn Wine Company, Beam Wine Estates, and Allied Domecq Wines in sales, marketing, and business development roles. Learn more about Steve Myers.

Bill O'Connor

Profile photo of Bill O'Connor

Executive Vice President, Sales, Jackson Family Wines

O’Connor is a third-generation native San Franciscan and a graduate of St. Ignatius College Preparatory School and the University of San Francisco. He joined Jackson Family Wines in 1995 as one of the first employees of the Regal Wine Company. Well-respected within the industry, Bill’s experience and in-depth knowledge of the business are the perfect combination to lead the company through the challenges of today’s marketplace. Learn more about Bill O'Connor.

Michael Osborn

Founder and Vice President of Merchandising,

Mike Osborn has been a pioneer in online wine retailing since founding as eVineyard in 1998. Mike leads the company's efforts in merchandising its wine and gifts and holds key wine industry relationships worldwide. From 1992 to 1998, he held senior management roles as VP Sales and VP Marketing for CTR Business Systems, a software and systems integration business. In 1992, Mike merged his six-year-old software business he founded as a high school student, Expert Technology Corporation, with CTR. Learn more about Michael Osborn.

Stephanie Peachey

Alumni Liaison, Marketing and Growth Marketing Executive

Stephanie Peachey has held executive positions at esteemed wine businesses including Fetzer Vineyards, Kosta Browne and Vintage Wine Estates. She holds an MBA in Wine Business Management from Sonoma State University and a BA in business administration from Stephen F. Austin State University Learn more about Stephanie Peachey.

Frederick W. Pierce IV

President & CEO, Pierce Education Properties, L.P.; Trustee Emeritus, The California State University

Frederick W. Pierce IV is the President and CEO of Pierce Education Properties, a San Diego-based owner, manager and developer of student housing and education-based real estate. Learn more about Fred Pierce.

Ali Pourghadir

Senior Vice President, Global Finance at Jackson Family Wines

Ali Pourghadir is a tax professional and finance expert working with Jackson Family Wines to grow and thrive as senior vice president of global finance. Pourghadir was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to the US when he was eleven years old. After earning a degree at Sonoma State University in business and accounting he worked with PwC's wine industry practice advising vineyards and wineries, including Jackson Family Wines. Later, he joined Jackson Family Wines as the director of accounting and tax. Early in 2021, Pourghadir was promoted to senior vice president of global finance, a leadership position that leverages his finance, tax, and accounting expertise to oversee global financial results, ensure growth and profitability, and contribute to strategic planning for the Jackson family and the enterprise. Learn more about Ali Pourghadir.

Alex Ryan

President & Chief Executive Officer of Duckhorn Wine Company

Since 1988, Alex Ryan's visionary leadership has been instrumental in establishing and growing Duckhorn Wine Company into one of the most highly respected and fastest-growing luxury wine companies in the industry. Alex started at Duckhorn as the vineyard manager, was made general manager and chief operations officer in 2000, and was promoted to President in 2005, earning him a reputation as a "winemakers president", known for his commitment to quality from grape to glass. Learn more about Alex Ryan.

Barbara Talbott

Founder and CEO, GlenLarkin Advisors | Former CMO of Four Seasons Hotels

Barbara Talbott is a former Chief Marketing Officer for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. From 1989-2008 she led the effort which introduced Four Seasons to more than 30 new global markets and built a brand that is widely recognized as one of the world's most valued. In 2009 she founded GlenLarkin, where she advises CEOs and senior teams in hospitality and related industries. She helps executives create a competitive advantage through effective marketing and excellence in customer experience. She has received HSMAI's lifetime achievement award for marketing innovation. Learn more about Barbara Talbott.

Michael Walker

Vice President, Public Affairs, Constellation Brands

Prior to working for Constellation, Walker was a member of U.S. Senator Dianne

Feinstein's staff in San Francisco, serving as a field representative and director of constituent services beginning in March 2000. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Government Affairs and Elder Rights from 1996 through the end of 1999. A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Walker earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Scranton (Pa.) and a master's in public policy from American University in Washington, D.C.
Learn more about Michael Walker.