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Robert Aldridge

Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer – St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

After an extensive career with General Electric Company, Robert (Bob) Aldridge joined St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma in 2002 when he was hired as the chief financial officer. After two years, Bob was promoted to chief operating officer, in addition to being chief financial officer.

 

With an interest in all aspects of the wine industry, Bob became a sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Bob also enrolled in UC Davis and graduated from their two-year viticulture and enology extension program.

 

Today Bob is the vice president of French American Vintners West and oversees the financial management and operations of Sequoia Grove Winery in Napa, Domaine Carneros in Napa, and Résonance Winery in Oregon.

 

Bob finds endless inspiration taking in the view from the top of St. Francis’ Lagomarsino Estate vineyard and enjoys tasting wines and comparing blends with the winemakers to craft distinctive wines that are reflective of the beauty and diversity of the sites they are from.

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Zos C. Alivia

Central Division Wine Manager – Sonoma Cutrer

With over 20 years of experience in the beverage industry, Zos Alivia is considered a thought leader in wine marketing, commercial strategy, and educational instruction. From producing seminars to building brands and creating successful tactics and programs, Zos continues to make it his quest to get more people to drink more wine! Born in the Philippines, but having lived in the South Pacific, Europe, and across the United States, it’s not surprising that his approach with wines comes from a multi-faceted lens. Throughout it all, Zos fully subscribes to some sage advice bestowed by an esteemed winemaker, “enjoying great wine, is made better with great company”.

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Sean Barret
Sean Barret

Mid-West Regional Manager and Brand Ambassador – Grgich Hills Estate

Sean Barrett attended the University of Wisconsin – Stout for their hotel and restaurant management program. He has worked in the food, wine, and hospitality industry for the past three decades. Barrett worked in the Napa Valley for over 11 years in wine sales and hospitality positions. He was the maître d’ of the award-winning `Etoile restaurant at Domaine Chandon. He also was the food and beverage director of the famed Meadowood Resort, home of the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Napa Valley Wine Auction. Barrett left Napa to return home and become the general manager of the English Room inside the historic Pfister Hotel. He then moved into wine sales with local distributors United Wine and Spirits and Edison Liquor. He became the midwest regional manager for AV Imports, Inc., an importer of fine wines and spirits from Columbia, Maryland. Today, Barrett is the mid-west regional manager and brand ambassador for the iconic Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley. Throughout his experiences, Barrett has traveled the wine regions of Croatia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the U.S. Barrett is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers.

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Matt Bauer
Matt Bauer

Executive Chef – Destination Kohler

Chef Matt Bauer was born and raised in the Village of Kohler, Wisconsin. Matt started in the industry at age 15 as a dishwasher at Destination Kohler. He worked through the ranks of that kitchen to become a lead cook by the time he graduated from high school in 2002. A colleague was a former graduate of the California Culinary Academy and encouraged Matt to apply.

 

During his schooling in California, Matt completed an externship at a private restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii called 3660 On the Rise. There he learned about Pacific Rim cuisine and a true appreciation for fresh and raw seafood.

 

After his stint in Hawaii, Matt traveled back home to Kohler and took a position at The Immigrant Restaurant & Winery Bar. He worked under talented mentors for eight years before becoming the head chef of the restaurant in April 2011. 

 

In 2013, Matt took on additional responsibility and accepted the role of Chef/Restaurant Manager for the Immigrant Restaurant. In this role, he focused on continuous improvement and maintaining five-star service standards in the Immigrant Restaurant and Winery Bar.

 

In February 2015, Matt was promoted to the Food and Beverage Manager at The American Club. He was responsible for overseeing the Immigrant Restaurant, Wisconsin Room, Horse & Plow, Greenhouse, and In-Room Dining at The American Club Hotel. In this role, he looked to maintain and develop all parts of the team to keep striving for innovation and excellence.

 

Matt played a huge role in the development and execution of the food and beverage services at the newest hotel offering, Lodge Kohler, in Green Bay, WI. Lodge Kohler offers premier dining on the top level of the hotel at Taverne in the Sky – overlooking the legendary Lambeau Field – and main level café, Leaps & Bounds.

 

Following the opening of Lodge Kohler in 2017, Matt became the Executive Chef of Destination Kohler, overseeing all kitchens and back-of-house areas across the resort.

 

At Destination Kohler, the mission of contributing to a higher level of gracious living for those who are touched by our products and services lives strong and is ingrained in its people.

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Nicolas Blouin
Nicolas Blouin

Executive Pastry Chef – Destination Kohler

Raised in Toulouse, France, Chef Blouin began his pastry training when he was only 15 years old at a small bakery in his home town. He trained at the Pastry School of Muret and completed apprenticeships specializing in pastry and chocolate confections.

 

Chef Blouin moved to America and worked at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort hotel under two-time world champion pastry chef Laurent Branlard. Eager to expand his knowledge, Chef Blouin returned to Europe and worked at Michelin-starred restaurants Le Richelieu in France and Didier de Courten in Switzerland.

 

In 2006 Chef Blouin returned to America to work at the Bellagio in Las Vegas under renowned Chef Jean-Philippe Maury. He served as a pastry chef at the Aria Resort & Casino, where he managed two locations of the Jean-Philippe Pâtisseries. In 2011 Chef Blouin joined Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in the role of pastry chef. In August 2017, he joined Kohler Co. as Head Pastry Chef for Destination Kohler.

 

“Creativity and invention are my favorite parts of the pastry industry,” said Chef Blouin. “Creating a dessert that is unique and that guests truly enjoy is the art of pastry at its best,” said Chef Blouin.

 

Chef Blouin continues to follow global pastry trends and French pastry chefs, including culinary icons Pierre Hermé and Christophe Michalak, who have had a profound influence on him both professionally and personally. Visionary creativity drives Chef Blouin to construct adventurous and delectable desserts for his guests at Destination Kohler.

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Ron Breitstein
Ron Breitstein

Group Manager North Central United States – Kobrand Fine Wine & Spirits

Ron Breitstein, Certified Specialist of Wine, is an industry veteran with over 30 years in retail, wholesale, and supplier experience. He is the coauthor of Wine & Dine: California Fine Wines Matched with Gourmet Recipes, which was published in 1996. He currently is the wine expert for CBS 2 TV in Chicago. He often contributes to Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Beverage Retailer magazines. Currently Breitstein is the group manager for Kobrand Fine Wine & Spirits and oversees the north-central United States. When relaxing with family and friends, Breitstein’s favorite wines to enjoy are Champagne Taittinger and Ports from Fonseca and Taylor Fladgate.

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Elizabeth Butler
Elizabeth Butler

Director of Wine – Vine Connections

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Butler has lived and worked with wine on both sides of the Andes. She started in Argentina working for the Catena family and then landed in Chile, working for Viña Mayu in the Elqui Valley. Butler joined the Vine Connections team in 2013 as the Chile brand specialist. In 2017 she took on Argentina too, leading education, sales, and marketing for the entire Vine Connections wine portfolio as director of wine.

 

Butler doesn’t just know a lot about South American wines—she lives and breathes them. Her electric energy and knowledge make her a dynamic educator and have caused all she comes into contact with to fall in love with South American wines. Among her many other accomplishments, Butler was recently an IWSC 2021 finalist for their coveted Emerging Talent in the Wine Industry award.

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Ondine Chattan
Ondine Chattan

Head Winemaker – SHARE A SPLASH Wine Co.

SHARE A SPLASH Wine Co. Winemaker Ondine Chattan is a passionate Sonoma County winemaker with experience ranging from cult boutique producers to notable household name brands. Her love of the diversity of Sonoma and California at-large fuels her enthusiasm for making a range of varietals from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet. Ondine takes a hands-on, multidisciplinary approach to winemaking, a credit to her years spent earning a master of science degree in enology from Fresno State and a bachelor of science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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Lynn Chisholm
Lynn Chisholm

Owner/Chef, Paddock Club, Elkart Lake, WI 

Lynn Chisholm was raised in a family that loved cooking traditional, tasty food. Her mother grew up on a farm and her father’s family owned a local tavern and restaurant. Always inspired by good food and experience, Lynn’s first restaurant job was in the front of the house at Famous Dave’s in Minneapolis. 

 

After getting a taste of restaurant life, Lynn moved to Milwaukee to pursue a culinary career. She worked for Shully’s Catering while earning a culinary degree from MATC. She then moved to Madison to help Chefs Patrick and Marcia O’Halloran open Lombardino’s restaurant -- an institution recognized for its seasonal Italian cooking and use of local ingredients. 

 

Lynn joined the Bartolotta Restaurant group in 2002 where she spent the next five years working at Lake Park Bistro, Bacchus and Ristorante Bartolotta. In her time with the Bartolotta Group, she worked with James Beard award-winning chefs Adam Siegel and Paul Bartolotta. She also had the pleasure of learning from various visiting Michelin star chefs from Italy and France. 

 

To expand her skills and experience, Lynn has completed programs at the French Culinary Institute in New York and has taken numerous food and wine trips through Europe. 

 

In the spring of 2007, with the encouragement of her family, she opened the Paddock Club restaurant in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. 

 

Lynn has a knack for balancing creativity with refinement and sensibility. She continues to be inspired by all things delicious and loves working with all the great local ingredients rural Wisconsin has to offer.

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David Darst
David Darst

Chef – Inn on Woodlake & The American Club Carriage House

Originally from Arizona, Chef David Darst worked a series of jobs including lens tech, merchandiser, and machinist before becoming a chef. In 2000 he began his career at Kohler as a machine operator, and soon after he decided it was finally time to pursue his passion for food.

 

After earning his associate degree in culinary arts, Chef Darst joined the hospitality team at Kohler. He built his skills at Cucina (now Taverne on Woodlake®), The Wisconsin Room, The Horse & Plow, Blackwolf Run®, and Whistling Straits®. He is currently the chef at Inn on Woodlake and The American Club® Carriage House.

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Thibaut Delmotte
Thibaut Delmotte

Winemaker – Bodega Colome

Originally from France, Thibaut Delmotte began his wine career in 1998 when he was just 21 years old, spending three years in Burgundy, followed by three years in Bordeaux, all providing intensive hands-on experience rather than book-based learning. Over the past decade he has adapted to the uniquely challenging and rewarding winemaking that is part of farming the world’s highest vineyards in the Salta province. Delmotte’s love affair with Argentina as well as his insights and experiences clearly show in the wines, which are now being touted as being among Argentina’s First Growth in quality. His first trip found him visiting Chile, Bolivia, and Perú, and then hitchhiking all over the country. On his second visit three years later, his travel brought him to Salta, where he stayed for six months and taught French at the Alliance Française and conducted wine tastings. The remoteness has become his touchstone, and his appreciation for nature and admiration for the people of Colomé are the touchstones and comfort he finds far from his native France. One thing he misses from home: the cheese.

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Julio Diaz
Julio Diaz

Chef – Taverne on Woodlake

Julio Diaz developed a love of cooking at a young age working alongside his grandmother in her kitchen. As she shared her knowledge of and passion for food, he grew to realize that cooking could become a career.

 

Upon moving to Philadelphia, Chef Diaz had his first experience in a professional kitchen where he washed dishes, did some prep work, and diligently learned by observing the cooks. At the same time, he enrolled in The Restaurant School, where he learned traditional French cuisine and earned an associate’s degree.

 

In the three decades since, Chef Diaz worked at resorts throughout Florida honing his skills in restaurants and banquet settings. He has extensive knowledge of Caribbean, Novo Latin, and Italian cuisines and well as steakhouse and seafood favorites. Chef Diaz enjoys fusing cuisines, an approach he’s using to bring new and seasonal flavors to the Taverne on Woodlake menu.

 

After earning his associate degree in culinary arts, Chef Darst joined the hospitality team at Kohler. He built his skills at Cucina (now Taverne on Woodlake®), The Wisconsin Room, The Horse & Plow, Blackwolf Run®, and Whistling Straits®. He is currently the chef at Inn on Woodlake and The American Club® Carriage House.

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Robert Dillon

Central Regional Manager – Ken Wright Cellars

After spending 11 years running a retail liquor chain in the Fort Worth area, Robert Dillon moved into the distributor side of the industry where he spent the next 14 years. He then transitioned to the supplier side and was fortunate to have hung his hat with Ken Wright Cellars in August 2018. Dillon is very proud to represent this spectacular portfolio of wines and to be able to share his 34 years of knowledge and experience in this industry with wine lovers everywhere!

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Adam Etchegoyen
Adam Etchegoyen

Sales & Hospitality Director – Melville Vineyards & Winery

Adam Etchegoyen started his career in the Santa Ynez Valley before working as a sommelier in Los Angeles, California, and Aspen, Colorado. He popped bottles with celebrity chef Fabio Viviani and was the wine director for the iconic restaurant Casa Tua in Aspen and Miami.

 

During his travels to the world’s top wine regions, Etchegoyen realized that he wanted to be closer to the vines, the dirt, and where the magic happens. He then followed his heart back to the Santa Ynez Valley, where it all began, to work in his favorite wine region, the Sta, Rita Hills AVA for Melville Winery.

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Zeke Fitzgerald
Zeke Fitzgerald

Chef – Whistling Straits

A self-taught chef, Chef Ezekial Fitzgerald chose to build his culinary knowledge right in the kitchen instead of taking the traditional path through culinary school. He began as a line cook at Blackwolf Run nearly 15 years ago and worked at restaurants in Napa Valley, Elkhart Lake, and Milwaukee before his return to Destination Kohler. Chef Fitzgerald emphasizes local resources and enjoys incorporating fresh, seasonal produce into his creations. He joins Whistling Straits after having served as the chef for both The Horse & Plow and The Wisconsin Room.

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Tony Gatti
Tony Gatti

DWSET, Midwest, Great Lakes Region Manager – Hall Wines

Tony Gatti is a 12-year industry veteran with an eclectic background. He began his wine career managing an all-Italian wine importer on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving to the Chicago area in 2013. Gatti is a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and holds a diploma (Level 4) from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). He also teaches both the French Wine Scholar and WSET curriculums for the American Wine School. He joined HALL Family Wines in April of 2019 and manages their business across the Midwest and Great Lakes region.

 

Gatti resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family.

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Allisun Grandy
Allisun Grandy

North Central Region Manager – Wilson Daniels

Allisun Grandy is the North Central Region Manager for Wilson Daniels and has been with them for five years. She got her start in the wine business in 2001 with a small wholesaler in Minnesota, World Class Wines, and has experience in brand management, sales, and marketing. Prior to joining the team at Wilson Daniels, she ran Spell Estat , a small Sonoma-based producer, and was their general manager, overseeing everything from viticulture to production and from DTC to national sales.

 

Born and raised in Minnesota, Allisun has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. She lives in Minnetonka with her husband Brandt and their four children, Jack, Kate, Finn, and Mae.

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Tim Grimes
Tim Grimes

Senior Brand Ambassador – Templeton Distillery

Tim Grimes, Templeton Distillery Senior Brand Ambassador, is a proud Iowan and whiskey enthusiast who loves to educate on all things Templeton. Grimes has spent the last 30 years in the alcohol beverage industry with a focus on both whiskey and fine wine. He is currently in his third year working for Templeton as senior brand ambassador, spending most of his time educating the public and the trade industry. In addition to his regular ambassador duties, Grimes helped conceptualize and launch Templeton’s hottest recent distillery exclusive release, Templeton Toppling Goliath Imperial Stout Finished Rye. He also helped to connect three other local distilleries with Templeton during the height of COVID to create a onetime collaborative whiskey known as Distillers Handshake where a portion of the profits went to helping bartenders and servers in Iowa during the pandemic. Grimes also spearheaded getting the Templeton Distillery Single Barrel program off the ground—it is now in its third year and growing.

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Thomas Hauck
Thomas Hauck

Head Chef – The Immigrant Restaurant 

A Wisconsin native, Chef Thomas Hauck discovered his passion for cooking as a teen. His family relocated from Port Washington, Wisconsin to Georgia when he was young, where he started working in the kitchen of a local restaurant while attending school. After graduating high school, he began working in steakhouses in Roanoke, Virginia, and that’s when it clicked: he wanted to attend culinary school to continue learning the business and shaping his experience and skills into a career. He attended the Culinary Institute of America and landed an externship in Washington D.C. Upon graduation, he spent a year working in Cincinnati and then moved to France for two years of eye-opening culinary experiences. When he returned to the U.S., Hauck secured a position under the late chef Richard Michel in Washington D.C.’s Citronelle, where he honed his skills for four years. In 2010, Hauck moved back to Wisconsin where he spent a year and a half working at the historical Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee while planning to open his own business. In 2012, he opened c.1880 where, as chef/owner, he helped to change the face of the Walker’s Point neighborhood. The restaurant’s menu earned him three James Beard Foundation award semifinalist nominations for Best Chef in the Midwest in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and a yearly spot among the top restaurants in the Journal Sentinel's Top 30 list. In 2016, he purchased Karl Ratzsch in downtown Milwaukee, one of the area’s oldest and last historically German restaurants. In 2018, Hauck was forced to close his beloved restaurants, but soon after earned the Culinary Director position for Lowlands Group in spring of 2018, overseeing and elevating the culinary program for eight European-style cafes in the state. In the fall of 2020, he joined Destination KOHLER as Head Chef of Taverne on Woodlake, in the Village of Kohler. When he’s not in the kitchen, Chef Thomas enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife Sara and their two young boys. An avid musician and music lover, he also tries to make time to play his growing collection of Gibson guitars.

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Dave Hemdal

Chef – The Horse & Plow

An award-winning chef, Dave Hemdal began his career as a line cook, dishwasher, and general manager of a small Indiana restaurant. He quickly learned that working with food was far more than a job and decided to expand on his passion by earning a certificate in culinary arts. As executive chef of Strongbow Inn—a Valparaiso, Indiana,  favorite for 75 years—he managed a bustling kitchen and banquet facilities. As someone who enjoys exploring a wide range of cuisines while also learning about their cultures,  Hemdal doesn’t necessarily have a favorite style of cooking—although he does love to sauté.

 

As chef at The Horse & Plow, he’s excited to take the restaurant up a notch with a gastropub feel while helping employees hone their kitchen skills. Chef Hemdal notes that while Destination Kohler is full of remarkable restaurants, he’s particularly excited about The Horse & Plow because so many guests pass through its doors. And the opportunity to delight those visitors with delicious food and a welcoming atmosphere is exactly why he started cooking nearly four decades ago.

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Zach Henderson

Account Development Specialist – Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Zach Henderson is the account development specialist for Tito’s Handmade Vodka for Wisconsin and has been with the brand for nearly two years. He started in the beverage industry as a bartender at an Irish pub in Green Bay, then transitioned over to bar manager and lead bartender at The Libertine craft cocktail bar for five years, developing beverage programs and cocktail lists. Since that time he has shifted from behind the bar over to spirits and wine sales with Breakthru Beverage Wisconsin for three years.

 

Born in Illinois and raised in Wisconsin, Henderson has over 13 years of experience in the service and beverage industry. He still calls Wisconsin home with his wife Jordan and two sons, Liam and Hudson.

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Trey Johnson

Regional Sales Director – Alexander Valley Vineyards

Trey Johnson has been a regional sales director for Alexander Valley Vineyards for nine years. During that time he has been responsible for two different territories, covering 21 states total. Before coming on board at AVV, Trey was a wine manager for Binny’s Beverage Depot in Illinois. Outside of the Alexander Valley, favorite wine regions include Rioja, the Rheingau, and Champagne.

 

In a previous life Trey was a professional French horn player, conductor, and music educator, and finds time to make music every once in a while. When not on the road, he enjoys gardening, fishing, and the occasional round of golf. A native Texan, he and his family currently live in Illinois.

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Sofia Auricchio Krans
Sofia Auricchio Krans

Project Manager, BelGioioso Cheese Inc.

Born in Cremona, Italy and raised in Green Bay, WI in America’s Dairyland, Sofia was exposed to two different cultures.  Her family’s heritage is deeply rooted in Italian cheesemaking, dating back to 1877 when her great-great-grandfather began producing provolone in San Giuseppe Vesuviano, Italy.

 

A century later in 1979, her father Errico Auricchio immigrated with his young family and began his American dream, BelGioioso Cheese in Denmark, WI.  BelGioioso prides itself in traditional artisan cheesemaking techniques married with modern technology. 

 

As a 5th generation cheesemaker, Sofia’s driving force is “doing what is best for creating the highest quality cheese”.  Although this statement seems simple, it guides the decision-making process at BelGioioso, where “Quality Never Stops”.

 

Sofia’s love of food began at a young age, when she was taught traditional focaccia and fresh pasta making by her mother Patrizia, inspiring her joy of cooking.  Sofia and her husband Andy recently founded Strada Pizzeria in De Pere, WI where you will find many BelGioioso Cheeses incorporated into the authentic Italian Roman street pizza they serve.

 

In Sofia’s kitchen, cheese is incorporated into most meals, with a slice, shred or grate, adding plenty of JOY to family dinners.

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Veronique Lamotte
Veronique Lamotte

Head of Marketing – Champagne Charles Heidsieck

Véronique Lamotte joined the Charles Heidsieck House as head of marketing and communications in January 2012 after many years of experience in marketing and communication for a consulting agency in Paris and the Taittinger Champagne company in Reims.

 

Born in the Champagne region, she is married with three children. When not tasting champagne in her professional position, she has developed an interest in wine with her in-laws, a champagne-producing family, and her husband, an oenologist himself.

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Kyle Lee
Kyle Lee

District Manager – Wisconsin & Minnesota Duckhorn Vinyards

Kyle Lee is the District Manager for Wisconsin and Minnesota for The Duckhorn Portfolio. His responsibilities include managing sales execution, increasing distribution, sales team and trade education, hosting events, and facilitating growth of the Duckhorn Portfolio family of brands.

 

After graduating college, where Lee was a four-year letter winner on the university’s baseball team, he began a career in the wine industry as a sales representative for a distributor in Wisconsin. His many accomplishments include numerous performance recognitions and completion of requirements to become a certified specialist of wine.

 

When not working, Kyle enjoys spending time on the lake or in the mountains, golfing, skiing, and hanging out with family, including his wife, chocolate lab, and his adorable three-year-old daughter, Raegan. He and his wife are also expecting their second child any day!

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A.D. Lewis
A.D. Lewis

Director of National Accounts – Tooth & Nail

A.D. Lewis joined the Tooth & Nail team as director of national accounts in May 2021, and he has helped grow their chain retail presence across the country with key retailers such as Kroger, Walmart, Safeway, HEB, and Food Lion.

 

Prior to coming on board with Tooth & Nail, Lewis distinguished himself as director of national accounts for Rogue Ales & Spirits of Newport, Oregon, where he was named salesperson of the year in 2017 and 2018.

 

Leading up to his career with Rogue, he worked for J.J. Taylor Distributing of Tampa, Florida, where he helped manage the state’s largest craft and specialty import beer portfolio, and for Whole Foods Market, where he was the beer and wine buyer for their Portland, Oregon, and Sarasota, Florida, locations. Lewis was also a vital member of the Whole Foods national store setup team, where he played a crucial role in the establishing of various new locations, including Ann Arbor, Michigan; Charleston, South Carolina; Portland, Oregon; and Orlando, Florida.

 

Lewis currently resides in Bradenton, Florida, with his wife, two children, and one cat. In his down time, he enjoys gardening, fishing, cooking, and playing cards and board games with his family.

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Cynthia Lohr
Cynthia Lohr

Co-Owner/Chief Brand Officer – J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

As the daughter of industry pioneer Jerry Lohr, Cynthia Lohr spent a large part of her youth in the vineyards and cellars, absorbing the business of fine wine firsthand. As an adult, she chose her own path, establishing a reputation for excellence in strategic marketing communications and brand development while working with a who’s who of leading technology companies. In 2002 Lohr joined the family business as director of communications. In 2009 she was named marketing vice president, and today she is J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines’ wide-ranging chief brand officer. She shares operational oversight of the company with fellow Lohr family co-owners father Jerry and brothers Steve and Lawrence.

 

Lohr is passionate about service and community. She is responsible for the J. Lohr Touching Lives program, a partnership with National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. to support mammograms for women in need. She is a past and current board member and advisor to many wine-industry, educational, and philanthropic organizations.

 

Equally comfortable as a back-end strategist and front-end spokesperson, Lohr is much in demand as a speaker and presenter at trade and consumer events. Recent recognitions of Lohr’s impact include a nomination for the Wine Enthusiast Magazine Wine Star Award for Wine Executive of the Year in 2019 and being named to the 2021 Top 100 Women of Influence list by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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Giovanni Masucci
Giovanni Masucci

Brand Ambassador – Donnafugata

Born in Naples, Italy, Giovanni Masucci lived in New York during his childhood before returning to Italy. He has an American mother and has both American and Italian citizenships. Masucci graduated in 2006 from Naples University with a Ph.D. in economics and from Bocconi Milano University with a master’s degree in marketing.

 

Masucci started in the wine business in 2012 when he moved to Tuscany to work for small producers of Brunello and Chianti Classico. He then moved to Sicily and joined Donnafugata’s hospitality staff in early 2013. Since August 2014 he has been in charge of the Donnafugata hospitality department. Starting in 2017 he has held the position of brand ambassador for the U.S. and Far East, and since 2019 he is also in charge of VIP & trade hospitality. Beginning in 2020 Masucci took on another responsibility with the Donnafugata export team and assists the export managers in every task, contributing in achieving the team’s goals.

 

Masucci loves travelling and the wine business. Thanks to his experiences and love of his job, he has great knowledge of Sicilian wines and shares the passion that Donnafugata owners and the Rallo family feels for their beloved Donnafugata winery and its iconic wines.

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Beth McCauley
Beth McCauley

Midwest Division Manager – Hess Persson Estates

Beth McCauley is the Midwest Division Manager for Hess Persson Estates where she oversees the sales & marketing for 8 states. An industry veteran, Beth has worked for many top companies including Constellation Brands, Beam Suntory, Allied Domecq and Breakthru Beverage in various sales capacities.  Working at such diverse companies has provided Beth unparalleled access to visit the top wine regions and wineries of the world. A passionate advocate for wine, education, and hospitality, Beth has achieved Level 1 Master Sommelier and WSET Level 3 certifications. Beth was a recently featured guest on Napa Valley Wine Academy’s: Wine Work & Passion. Listen to the podcast here

 

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Diva Moretti Polegato
Diva Moretti Polegato

Brand Ambassador – Donnafugata & Villa Sandi

Diva Moretti Polegato was born into a family with a long tradition in winemaking. The family winery, Villa Sandi, is located in the Prosecco area, one of the most renowned wine regions in Italy.

 

Although she grew up in the picturesque scenery of vineyards and experienced the fascination of the charming Prosecco hills, she has also developed an international attitude and point of view. She attended Regent’s University in London where she obtained her degree in political science, earned her sommelier degree in London, and continues to enhance her knowledge with wine business and culture classes.

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Greg Morthole
Greg Morthole

Winemaker – Rodney Strong Vineyards

Raised in Sacramento, Greg Morthole attended the University of Wyoming, where he earned a B.S. in natural sciences. He entered the wine industry in 1999 as a laboratory analyst at Vinquiry in Windsor, California, leaning on wine microbiology and wine chemistry. After working for years in the lab at Vinquiry, the desire to work at a winery led him to accept the enologist position at Chalk Hill Winery in 2003. When the QC lab manager position opened at Rodney Strong Vineyards, Morthole jumped at the chance and started in that role in 2005. His interest in making wine at Rodney Strong was discussed in the interview process, and in late 2007 the longtime director of winemaking at Rodney Strong Vineyards, Rick Sayre, invited Morthole to accept a new position as the associate winemaker. In the spring of 2010 he was promoted to winemaker, overseeing all aspects of operations and winemaking in the Artisan Cellar, making the Davis Bynum Russian River Wines and the Rodney Strong Reserve and Single Vineyard Wines. In 2018, he accepted a new winemaking role focusing only on the Burgundy varietal for Davis Bynum and Rodney Strong Vineyards.

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Gillian Murphy
Gillian Murphy

National Brand Ambassador – Tullamore D.E.W.

A native of Cork, Ireland, Gillian Murphy is the U.S. ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Murphy studied at the University College Cork where she fully immersed herself in the rich traditions of her home country, including taking all of her classes in Gaelic, the traditional Irish language. It was during this time when she discovered Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey and developed a passion for the cocktail and spirits industry. Upon graduation, she got the opportunity of a lifetime to join the brand ambassador trainee program with Tullamore D.E.W. in the U.S. She packed her bags and moved to South Florida to immerse herself in the world of Irish whiskey and develop her skills as a local ambassador, driving brand awareness and sales across the state. A year and a half later, Murphy left the U.S. and moved to London to expand her sales career with William Grant in the global travel retail department. In 2018 Murphy moved back stateside to Chicago, where she currently resides full-time as the Tullamore D.E.W. ambassador. She is responsible for engaging directly with consumers, media, and the trade, educating all about the exciting world of Tullamore D.E.W. When she’s not working, you can find her on the ski slopes or traveling in Northern Spain.

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Breck O'Neill
Breck O’Neill

General Manager, Spirits Division – O’Neill

Breck O’Neill has been with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers since 2014, holding a variety of roles. He began his career selling wine and spirits in the business-to-business division, then moving on to managing the Robert Hall Winery. He is currently the general manager of the newly created spirits division. Breck holds an undergraduate degree from Lehigh University and an MBA from Notre Dame University.

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Lucas Oppeneer
Lucas Oppeneer

Head Chef – Destination Kohler Special Events

A graduate of the American Culinary Federation Apprenticeship Program, Chef Oppeneer has 17 years of culinary experience. He has worked in every Kohler restaurant, including The Immigrant Restaurant, Cucina, The Wisconsin Room and the Horse & Plow, and has been involved in Kohler Food & Wine Experience event each year.

 

During his five years at The Immigrant Restaurant, he was part of the team that moved the restaurant from a three-star rating to four-star status. While head of the culinary team at the Horse & Plow, Chef Oppeneer developed a new menu for the remodeled restaurant featuring innovative pub fare with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. He oversaw events for the 2015 PGA Championship, Kohler Festival of Beer and the 2015 and 2016 Wisconsin Sports Awards events.

 

Chef Oppeneer left the American Club in June 2016 to lead food and beverage operations for Holy Family Memorial Hospital in Manitowoc where he improved patient and employee dining with healthy, fresh, local produce and also lead the community health goals team to promote healthy eating/nutrition and exercise. Chef Oppeneer rejoined Destination Kohler in September 2017 as Special Events Chef just in time to lead the team through this year’s Kohler Food & Wine Experience.

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Kieran Quigley
Kieran Quigley

Head of Guest Experience – Cakebread Cellars

Kieran Quigley joined Cakebread Cellars as the Guest Experience Manager in April 2021. Quigley is a graduate of Miami University and The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. After interning in Napa in 2007, she made the permanent move to Napa Valley in 2011 to be part of the wine hospitality industry. Her first job was as a seasonal host in the visitor center at Cakebread Cellars. She went on to work at a few small wineries in the valley. Most recently Quigley spent eight years with Quintessa where she was the hospitality operations manager. She is excited to work in the new visitor center and to bring some new tasting experiences to Cakebread Cellars. She enjoys spending time with friends, cooking, traveling, and continuing to explore Napa and Sonoma wineries.

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Sara Rathbun
Sara Rathbun

Director of Marketing & Communications – Dry Creek Vineyard

Sara Rathbun is the director of marketing and communications for Dry Creek Vineyard and handles all aspects of marketing and public relations for the winery’s wholesale and direct-to-consumer business.

 

After receiving her B.A. in journalism at California State University, Sacramento, Rathbun started her career in collegiate and professional athletic media relations. Her journey in the wine industry began in 2004 at Clos du Bois, and two years later she accepted a position with winery supplier Scott Laboratories as the marketing manager.

 

Rathbun first joined Dry Creek Vineyard in 2011, working directly with second-generation owner Kim Stare Wallace in all aspects of marketing and packaging for the family-owned winery. In 2014 Rathbun took on the role of general manager for Mercader Cork USA, but the draw of the winery was too strong, and she returned to Dry Creek Vineyard in 2016 as the director of marketing and communications.

 

When she is not at the winery, Rathbun can be found living the wine country life with her winemaker husband, Sebastian Donoso, and their two daughters.

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Michael Rennicke

Chef – Destination Kohler

With more than two decades experience, Chef Michael Rennicke has run kitchens at country clubs, casinos, a contract service that provided food for the Milwaukee Zoo, and more. He has directed events for upwards of 650 guests as executive sous chef, developed training programs and cooking classes, and volunteered as chef mentor to high school students in the Milwaukee area. 

 

In his current role, Chef Rennicke partners with chefs and culinary teams throughout Destination Kohler. He also assists in providing gracious dining experiences for our four cabins and implementing culinary training programs that support internal team development.

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Janna Rinker

Sales Director – DeLille Cellars

Janna Rinker is the sales director for DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Washington. She has been part of the Washington wine industry for 20 years and considers herself an evangelist for the growing region. She has launched and scaled multiple brands, selling across the U.S. and 25 countries during her career. When Rinker is not representing DeLille around the world, she enjoys gardening and cooking at her home outside Seattle.

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Monica Samuels
Monica Samuels

Vice President of Sake & Spirits – Kome Collective

Monica Samuels is the vice president of sake and spirits for Kome Collective by Vine Connections. The portfolio consists of sakes and spirits from 19 artisanal producers throughout Japan and is curated in collaboration with John Gauntner, the world’s leading nonJapanese sake educator. Samuels manages the sales of the Vine Connections sake portfolio throughout the U.S. and Canada.

 

Samuels has over 15 years of experience in the sake industry on the restaurant, wholesale, and import sides of the business. She has been recognized for her efforts in sales and education in Wine Spectator magazine’s “Sake’s True Believers” (2013), Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “40 Tastemakers Under 40” (2014), as a recipient of the prestigious “Sake Samurai” recognition (2017), and most recently as part of the IWSC and WSET’s “Future 50 Awards” (2019). Her education in sake includes studying under John Gauntner and his Sake Education Council, where she received both Certified and Advanced Sake Professional distinctions. She is also a WSET-certified educator for the Level 3 Award in Sake. Samuels has assessed sake for different competitions internationally and is currently a panel chair for the International Wine Challenge sake category.

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Christopher Spake

Vice President Brand-Trade Development – Cincoro Tequila

Chris Spake is a 35-year veteran in the wine and spirits industry with experience building some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Patron, Don Julio and Herradura tequilas. Spake has become brand-certified trainer in Scotch, cognac, and tequila, and he holds a CSW designation in wine.

 

Spake joined Cincoro Tequila as director of brand and trade development in November 2018, working on the executive team (and with the Mexico distillery) to develop brand training and route-to-market strategies. Currently as vice president brand-trade development, he creates and teaches Cincoro Tequila master classes to top retailers, distributors, and consumers around the world

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Paul Smitala
Paul Smitala

Head Chef / Restaurant Manager – Blackwolf Run® Restaurant

For more than a decade, Chef Paul Smitala has offered his culinary expertise to The American Club® Resort, one of only 36 hotels in the world to be both Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond. A Midwest native, Chef Smitala received his degree in hotel and restaurant management at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. After graduating with honors from The Culinary Institute of America, he joined The American Club Resort in 1996 as a banquet chef. In his tenure, Chef Smitala designed new banquet menus and dishes for groups of up to 800, serving creative dishes with only the freshest ingredients. In 1998, Chef Smitala joined the kitchen at Blackwolf Run Golf Course as head chef.

 

Chef Smitala has been involved in creating culinary masterpieces for numerous large-scale events including the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2004 PGA Championship, 2007 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 PGA Championship, 2010 Champions Toast at Augusta and the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. He has also had the honor of cooking at the James Beard House twice in New York City, and he serves as a national spokesperson for the Kitchens of Kohler.

 

In 2008, Chef Smitala received the Chef of the Year Salute to Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, and in 2009 he earned the Milwaukee Area Technical College Civic Apprenticeship Award for his work in mentoring culinary students. Under Chef Smitala’s leadership, Blackwolf Run has been honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2002.

 

In addition to overseeing the food, beverage and special events at Blackwolf Run, Chef Smitala also spends time in The Kitchens of Kohler, located in The Shops at Woodlake Kohler, teaching guests about a variety of recipes, trends and styles of cooking.

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Andrew Stenk
Andrew Strenk

Region Manager – Midwest, Copper Cane Wine and Provisions

Andrew Strenk has worked with Joe Wagner for nearly six years, managing multiple states in the Midwest. His passion for wine started while working at Gibson’s Restaurant Group and continued into a career with a wholesaler in Illinois. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife and baby girl. If not out drinking a glass of wine, you can find him out on the lake trying his best at sailing. He loves to travel—his favorite county is Croatia—and he enjoys photography in his down time.

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Cyrstal Thomas
Crystal Thomas

Chocolatier – KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates

Crystal Thomas, head chocolatier, graduated with honors from Charleston South Carolina at Johnson & Whales University with a degree in culinary and pastries/science. While attending college, Crystal worked in the kitchen at the Charleston Grille, one of the top restaurants in South Carolina at the time. Crystal became pastry chef in Portmeirion in North Wales, United Kingdom, and received her teaching degree in culinary and pastry arts in Wales. After graduating, she worked as an apprentice for 11 years before accepting the position of assistant chocolatier at KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates in 2018.

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Tracy Strum
Tracy Sturm

Account Development Specialist – Breakthru Wisconsin

Tracy Sturm has a long history of working with the Breakthru family. First with Judge & Dolph in Chicago, then Edison Liquors, then Wirtz Beverage, and finally Breakthru Beverage in Wisconsin. Her parents were strong advocates of personal responsibility, hard work, respect, and kindness. These values continue to drive how Sturm works today. With 29 years of work experience, she still enjoys mentoring and developing new team members at Breakthru. She is grateful for all the opportunities she has been given because of where she works.

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Troy Unruh
Troy Unruh

Chef – The Wisconsin Room

Trained in the kitchens of renowned chefs Mario Batali, Eric Ripert, David Bouley, Jean George Vongrichten and Marcus Samuelson, Chef Troy Unruh has more than two decades of experience working in the top restaurants in Minneapolis and New York.

 

Born to a Midwestern family with agricultural roots, Chef Troy learned the value of fresh produce and the importance of conservationism while working in his mother’s garden. He began working in restaurants during high school and – after a short stint in construction – realized his passion for cooking would be his path forward. He earned a degree in culinary arts from St. Paul College while working a full-time position at the celebrated Goodfellows in Minneapolis, where he was introduced to his first fine dining experience.

 

After another defining experience in Minneapolis at Aquavit, working under James Beard Rising Star Chef award-winning Marcus Samuelson, Chef Troy decided to move to New York. Arriving with a short list of chefs with whom he wanted to cook, within 24 hours he was hired to work at the famed Jean-Georges. Chef Unruh has a combined 12 Michelin stars on his resume, working in some of the world’s top restaurants. Throughout his 12-year stay in New York, he also worked in the kitchens of Danube, Le Bernadin and Del Posto. 
He then moved on to become executive chef of Ellabess at the Nolitan Hotel and Zylo at the W Hotel Hoboken. While helming the stoves at Zylo, he was invited to cook “A Taste of Italy” wine dinner at the James Beard House.

 

Chef Troy then returned to Minneapolis, where he helped several high-profile chefs launch new restaurants and took the role of executive chef at the legendary W. A. Frost & Co. A lover of the outdoors, he began searching for a way to use his fine dining experience while enjoying a more rural lifestyle. His role of chef at The Wisconsin Room provides that unique experience, allowing him to continue the tradition of using fresh, local ingredients in a fine dining atmosphere yet quickly immerse himself in nature on days off.

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Sandra Wassink
Sandra Wassink

Head Chef / General Manager – River Wildlife

Sandra Wassink, restaurant manager and head chef has been instrumental in the success of River Wildlife since its inception in 1979. Sandy, as she is known, started as a kitchen assistant in her teenage years and sharpened her culinary skills by sheer talent and listening to her many followers. Sandy insists on sourcing locally grown ingredients for her weekly changing menu such as pheasant, quail and foraged wild morels to a perennial favorite, freshly caught walleye. Using both innovative and time tested techniques, her team creates inspired comfort food that highlights the best the Midwest has to offer. Open to members and resort guests only, River Wildlife is known for its outstanding countrified gourmet cuisine and is widely accepted as one of the top dining venues in the state of Wisconsin and beyond.

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Andy Westley
Andy Westley

Senior Director, Learning, Leadership, and Sales Solutions (Product Knowledge and Central-West Region) – Breakthru Beverage

Andy Westley has been around wine his whole life. During his 30 years in the wine and spirits business, he has held various roles in sales, marketing, and sales leadership. In his current role with the Breakthru Beverage Group, he is responsible for leading a team of educators who provide learning and development to more than 2,500 associates in categories including product knowledge (wine, spirits, and beer), leadership, and sales. He holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and many beverage certifications from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, including Diploma in Wine and Level 3 Spirits; the Society of Wine Educators, Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits; and Cicerone.org, Certified Beer Server.

 

Westley is also an international recording artist—well, sort of. His songs have been downloaded by people on six of the seven continents and he once performed two songs at a bar in Ireland. He has also performed the national anthem at Chicago’s United Center. His 2015 album It’s Not About Me sold dozens of copies and received literally no critical acclaim – but is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming services.

 

His most recent project, Casks and Chords in 4/4 Time is a monthly online wine and music event where he explores the very special connection that we make with both wine and music.

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Todd Wooter
Todd Wooters

Edrington Area Manager – MN, WI & IA

Within minutes of meeting Todd Wooters, two things become evident: first, is his fiery passion for the alcohol industry, and the second is his gift for the gab. He is always willing to chat with anyone at length about his portfolio and the industry in which he has made his career. A 33-year industry veteran, Wooters started cutting his teeth working for a Miller Brewery wholesaler in the Twin Cities and continued on to Beam Brands where he represented a broad range of products that supported every category in the spirits industry. Today, continuing with his career at Edrington for the last nine years, he is continually looking to learn more about the luxury category and the products, such as The Macallan, that created it. Wooters is honored to represent the other award-winning spirits in Edrington’s portfolio that include Highland Park, The Glenrothes, The Famous Grouse, and Brugal Rum.

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