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 - Board President
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.
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.
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
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.
Managing Director, Rabobank North America Wholesale
André has over 20 years of international experience covering corporate banking and economic development. He is a senior coverage banker with responsibilities to drive strategy for and deepen relationships primarily with Rabobank’s global corporate Beverage and Consumer Food clients based in the US. André grew up in the UK and has lived in Japan, Guyana, and Dubai before settling in the US. Learn more about André Baladi.
VP/General Manager - Kosta Browne, Canvasback, Goldeneye Wineries
As VP/General Manager for Kosta Browne, Canvasback, and Goldeneye wineries, Neil Bernardi works with the winemaking teams to chart the direction of each winery, and to extract a profound sense of place from every wine. Neil was born and raised in Northern California. After living briefly in Florence, Italy, he attended UC Davis to study Italian, Viticulture, and Enology. Since joining the Duckhorn Portfolio in 2005, Neil has held numerous key positions, including tenures as the assistant winemaker for both Goldeneye and Migration, winemaker for Migration, and as the general manager for Sonoma County winegrowing. In 2018, Neil was recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as one of the “trailblazers who are shaping the future of wine in America,” when he was named a “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker.” In addition, Neil is currently a stage two Master of Wine student. He resides in Sonoma County with his wife and three children. Learn more about Neil Bernardi.
General Manager at Peter Michael Winery
For the past fourteen years, Stuart Bockman has served as Peter Michael Winery’s Chief Financial Officer following executive roles with Beringer Vineyards and family-owned wineries like Louis M. Martini and the Hess Collection. As General Manager, Stuart leads the daily operations of the winery on behalf of the second generation of the Michael family, Paul and Emily Michael. He earned a B.S. in Marine Biology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and an M.S. in Accounting from San Diego State University. Stuart has earned both the CPA and CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certifications. Learn more about Stuart Bockman.
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.
West Division Managing Director Emeritus, 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.
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.
Caroline Coleman Bailey - Founding Board President
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.
Vicky Farrow – CEO, Amista Vineyards
Vicky Farrow is CEO of Amista Vineyards, a small 3,000-case, a direct-to-consumer winery in Healdsburg, California, co-founded with her husband in 2004. Vicky came to the wine business after a career in technology companies. As a senior executive, she played an essential role in an array of transformations—the startup of a research organization, the turnaround of a company during chapter 11 bankruptcy, the maturation of a Silicon Valley high tech company and the spin-off of a communications company from a former regulated monopoly. She was vice president and officer at Lucent Technologies, where she led a global team of 800 people. In 2000 she launched a career as an executive coach and change management advisor. Vicky has worked with several world-class organizations including Hewlett Packard, Stanford University, Cisco Systems, Williams-Sonoma, Levi, Adobe, Sun Microsystems, Duty Free Shops and Sephora USA. In addition, she spent three years as a partner at Scion Advisors where she worked with family-owned wine businesses in Napa and Sonoma and co-led two CEO Roundtables comprised of the top CEOs from wine businesses across Northern California. She and her husband Michael live on their estate vineyards in Healdsburg with their two shelties, Dylan and Torin. Learn more about Vicky Farrow.
Partner, Breathless Wines, Business Development Manager, Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services
Cynthia is a partner with her sisters in a boutique winery, Breathless Wines, that specializes in traditional method sparkling wine and unique guest experiences. Additionally, she leads the business development team at Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, a growing custom crush operation specializing in production of Methode Champenoise sparkling wines. Cynthia spent the first 15 years of her career in accounting and became a securities-licensed CFO before being invited to join the team at Rack & Riddle in 2010. That decision paved the way to jump from accounting to sales and do what she loves the most – serve the client. For the past 12 years, Cynthia has been integral in growing the sparkling private label business to over 200k cases of successful, thriving brands. Learn more about Cynthia Faust.
Principal and Co-Founder, Zepponi & Company
Experienced Mergers & Acquisitions 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chief Executive Officer, Crimson Wine Group
With extensive global experience in the fine wine sector, Jen joined Crimson Wine Group as its Chief Executive Officer in December 2019. She brings to the company inspirational leadership skills and an industrywide reputation for delivering results and leading high-performing teams in a collaborative and innovative style. Prior to joining Crimson, Jen was Senior Vice President of U.S. Luxury and Direct-to-Consumer Sales, Americas, at Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), a publicly traded global wine company, based in Melbourne, Australia. A Northwest native, Jen previously was Director of National Wholesale, Export and Direct-to-Consumer Sales at Willakenzie Estate and was Pacific Senior Regional Sales Manager at Chalone Wine Group. She began her hospitality industry career more than 20 years ago as a wine buyer and training manager at several fine-dining restaurants in Seattle. Learn more about Jen Locke.
Vice President, Public Affairs, Constellation Brands
Ed Matovcik is the Vice President of Public Affairs for Constellation Brands. Prior to joining Constellation, Ed served as CEO to an international wine sales, marketing and distribution company responsible for managing the full wine programs of major airlines. Ed has also held senior staff roles in the California Legislature and U.S. Congress, serving as the Chief of Staff to Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley) for 16 years. Ed lives in Napa with his wife Cheryl and their five dogs. Learn more about Ed Matovcik.
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.
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.
Founder & Executive Vice President, Wine.com
Mike Osborn has been a pioneer in online wine retailing since founding Wine.com 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.
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.
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.
Dana Sexton Vivier
Chief Financial Officer of Far Niente Wine Estates
Dana Sexton Vivier has been in the wine business for 20 years, mostly in an investment management capacity. Prior to CFO, she was VP of Strategy for Far Niente Wine Estates, a private equity-owned, luxury wine business comprised of six world-class brands, three beautiful wine estates and hundreds of top-quality vineyard acres in Napa and Sonoma. Dana holds an MBA from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, a BA from Whitman College and lives in Sonoma with her two children and her wonderful winemaking husband. Learn more about Dana Sexton Vivier.
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 Visser, Ph.D.
Interim Dean, School of Business and Economics
Dr. Michael Visser is the Interim Dean, Professor of Economics, and prior Chair of the Department of Economics at Sonoma State University (SSU). Professor Visser is a pedagogical innovator who introduced new courses and classroom constructs, including Behavioral and Experimental Economics, not previously offered to SSU students. He also developed short-term study abroad courses to provide students insight to international business environments and practices. In 2015, he was recognized by colleagues across the University with the coveted “Excellence in Teaching” award. Also in 2015, he was appointed to a U.S. delegation of scholars sent by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) to Cuba in the interest of education, research, and engagement following the easing of restrictions with Cuba by the administration of President Barack Obama. In addition to his focus on teaching, research, and as Chair of the Department of Economics, Dr. Visser is actively involved in supporting inclusive excellence and student success initiatives on behalf of the School of Business and Economics. Together with a committee of faculty, staff, and administration, their goal is to provide education and activities designed to improve community awareness of the role that culture and ethnicity, including privilege and bias, can play in students’ ability to succeed. Learn more about Dr. Michael Visser.
VP of Winegrowing, Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars
An experienced legacy wine-maker, Nate Weis worked at a variety of wineries before earning his MS in Viticulture and Enology and taking on high-level roles at Etude and Patz & Hall Wine Company. In 2008 he became winemaker for Antica Napa Valley, followed by Aril Wines. In 2014 he joined Silver Oak, where he is responsible for managing Napa Valley and Alexander Valley wine production from grape to bottle and serves as an ambassador for the brand. Learn more about Nate Weis here.