Come Meet Vines Stars from California and Around the World at VanWineFest 2019

VanWineFest 2019 logoWe are getting closer to VanWineFest 2019 and the stars are aligning.  The stars you can see at the Vancouver International Wine Festival Tasting come from our theme region, California, as well as from around the world, and even from our own Province!  What is a vine star?  A vine star is a term the Festival uses for winery principals attending the Festival.  You may not have heard of many of them; they usually stay in the background, making wine, or guiding the winery’s prosperity.  They are interesting people and can give you insights into their wines and winery.  I have met some of the vine stars in the past, such as Mark de Vere MW, Master of Wine (Robert Mondavi Winery), Joel Peterson, Founder (Ravenswood Winery), Christine Coletta, Co-owner, Free Form (Okanagan Crush Pad) and Maria Sosa, Brand Ambassador (Bodega Garzón). Each one is a pleasure to speak with and I look forward to meeting them again at the Festival.  Maybe I will ask them how the latest harvest went for them?  Anything new or exciting that they are trying at the winery?  Or to tell me something about one of the wines they are pouring for me at their table.

There are also many winery principals that I would like to meet, as I’ve tasted their wines in the past, such as Jean-Charles Boisset, Proprietor, (Boisset Collection), Genevieve Janssons, Chief Winemaker, (Robert Mondavi Winery), Brooke Shenk, Winemaker, (St. Supery Estate Vineyards and Winery), Bob Blue, Winemaker, (Bonterra Organic Vineyards), Loren Gil, Family Member / Export Director, (Gil Family Wines), and Sergio Zingarelli, Owner / Proprietor, (Rocca delle Macìe).

Please take some time when you attend the Festival Tasting Room, or one of the dinners or seminars, to have a brief chat with a Vine Star and get some insight into their wines and winery.  It will change the way you see their wines.  Below is a list of Vine Stars compiled by VanWineFest for you.  Have a read through and make a note to visit a few during the Festival.  Enjoy!


All 53 participating wineries from California will have a principal in attendance in the featured region section of the Tasting Room, at the Principals Welcome Lunch on Thursday, February 28, and at a spectacular lunch on Saturday, March 2, Festive CaliforniaCalifornia wine ambassadors Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset lead the list of California vine stars at the festival:

Jean-Charles Boisset, Proprietor, Boisset Collection      

  • Jean-Charles Boisset was born into the world of wine in Vougeot, Burgundy, France. Under his leadership, the Boisset Collection operates 24 wineries in California, France, and Canada. Decanter magazine has included him on its “Power List” of the 50 most important people in the wine world each year of its publication since 2007. His many honours include Meininger’s International Wine Entrepreneur of the Year, “Innovator of the Year” from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and the first-ever French-American Partnership Award from the French America Foundation. Meet Jean-Charles at: Napa Valley Cab 2005-2014Growing Forward in CaliforniaPinot’s Siren Call of SeductionFestival Toast16th Annual Awards Lunch.

Gina Gallo, Vice President, Winemaking – Estate Wines. E. & J. Gallo

  • Gina Gallo developed a deep respect for the land early on. After studying winemaking at the University of California at Davis, Gallo became an apprentice winemaker at E. & J. Gallo Winery, under the careful guidance of her grandfather Julio. Today, as the winemaker behind the Gallo Signature Series, she carves out specific blocks on Gallo’s most sought-after vineyards to hand-craft limited batches of wine. Meet Gina at: Explore California!; Growing Forward in CaliforniaPinot’s Siren Call of SeductionFestival ToastWhat’s Cool in Sonoma?16th Annual Awards LunchNext Gen California.

Gillian Ballance MS, Treasury Wine Estates Portfolio Ambassador

  • Gillian Ballance MS, DWS began her wine career at The Rainbow Room in New York City, followed by stints at Cello in NYC, Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, Plumpjack Group, Bottega Restaurant in Napa Valley, and Cavallo Point. In 2012, Ballance became a Master Sommelier, one of only 30 women worldwide to earn the distinction. She received her Higher Certificate of Distinction and Diploma in Wines & Spirits from WSET. Meet Gillian at: California CrushNapa Valley Cab 2005-2014The Icons of Napa Valley.

Jamie Benziger, Winemaker, Imagery Estate Winery

  • Born and raised in Sonoma County’s wine business, Jamie Benziger studied marketing at Loyola Marymount University and Sonoma State University. She interned at Gundlach Bundschu, studied the chemistry of wine at St. Francis and Bogle wineries, travelled to New Zealand to drag hoses in the cellar at Villa Maria, and got her hands dirty in the field at Enterprise Vineyards. Now she is back home, working alongside her number one mentor, her dad, Joe Benziger. Meet Jamie at: Unexpected CaliforniaNext Gen California.
Mark de Vere from Robert Mondavi Winery
Mark de Vere from Robert Mondavi Winery

Mark de Vere MW, Master of Wine, Robert Mondavi Winery

  • As Master of Wine for Constellation Brands, de Vere presents fine wine educational programs to consumers and wine trade audiences around the world. He is North American Education Director for the Institute of Masters of Wine and participates as a judge at wine competitions internationally. He is one of only 38 Masters of Wine residing in the US. Meet Mark at: Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + AuctionDiscover Robert MondaviRMW: A Visionary JourneyThe Icons of Napa Valley.

Bob Blue, Winemaker, Bonterra Organic Vineyards

  • Bob Blue is a pioneer in the organic wine arena and the founding winemaker for Bonterra Organic Vineyards. After graduating from UC Davis, Blue joined Mendocino County’s McDowell Valley Vineyards and progressed through the lab and cellar. He moved on to become winemaker at the custom crush San Martin Winery, and in 1988 he joined Fetzer Vineyards, where he was mentored by legendary California winemakers Paul Dolan and Dennis Martin. He was named winemaker for Bonterra’s first vintage in 1990. Meet Bob at: California CrushJust ChillGrowing Forward in California.

Harvest Duhig, Winemaker, Caymus Vineyards, Wagner Family of Wine

  • Harvest graduated from the Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California in Davis. In 2002, after a few years working with some fantastic California wineries, she met Chuck Wagner, who offered her a job working for Caymus Vineyards at a small production facility high on Atlas Peak Road. In addition to her winemaking duties, Duhig is a key player in vineyard development and grower relations for the winery. Meet Harvest at: California CrushUnexpected CaliforniaHy’s Caymus Wine DinnerThe Icons of Napa ValleyNext Gen California.

Austin Hope, Winemaker / President, Hope Family Wines

  • After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in fruit science, Hope worked with Caymus founder Chuck Wagner in Napa, learning the nuts and bolts of the wine business. After beginning as the assistant winemaker at his family’s winery, Treana, Hope became winemaker for the Hope portfolio in 1998. In 2009, Austin Hope was named “Winemaker of the Year” at the California Mid-State Fair. Meet Austin at: California CrushJust ChillGrowing Forward in CaliforniaRhône Around the WorldNext Gen California.

Genevieve Janssons, Chief Winemaker, Robert Mondavi Winery

  • After receiving her National Diploma of Enology, Janssons managed her family’s vineyards in Corsica and France, but moved to the Napa Valley in 1978 to join Robert Mondavi Winery as a lab enologist and assistant enologist. In 1989, she became director of production at Opus One Winery. She then rejoined Mondavi as the director of winemaking, where she is now chief winemaker. In 2009, the French government honoured Janssons as an “Officier” of the Ordre National du Mérite Agricole. Meet Genevieve at: Discovery Robert Mondavi WineryRMW: A Visionary Journey.

Randy Lange, Co-Founder, LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards

  • Randy Lange is a fourth-generation winegrower. As an industry leader, Randy has served as chairman of the California Winegrape Growers Association, an advocate to create the Lodi Winegrape Commission, a founding member of the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing campaign and an early chairman of Wine Institute’s California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. He has also served as a member and chair of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Meet Randy at: Unexpected CaliforniaZinfandel on the World StageNext Gen California.
Karl with Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery
Karl MyWinePal with Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery

Joel Peterson, Founder, Ravenswood Winery

  • From two single vineyard Zinfandels in 1976, Joel Peterson has shepherded Ravenswood from a small one-man winery, to a respected producer of approximately one million cases of red wine A current member and former president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (SVVGA), Peterson is on the board of directors for the Sonoma County Vintners. In 2011, he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Meet Joel at: Growing Forward in CaliforniaZinfandel on the World StageRavenswood’s Godfather of Zin.

Thomas Price MS, National Wine Educator, Jackson Family Wines

  • With more than three decades in the restaurant industry, Thomas Price obtained his Master Sommelier certification in 2012 and joined Jackson Family Wines in February 2014. As National Wine Educator, he dedicates himself to sharing his passion for wine with his guests and friends, one bottle at a time. Meet Thomas at: Napa Valley Cab 2005-2014Pinot’s Siren Call of SeductionTruth in TerroirThe Icons of Napa Valley.

Brooke Shenk, Winemaker, St. Supery Estate Vineyards and Winery

  • Brooke Shenk’s winemaking expertise derives from almost two decades of experience in Napa, Sonoma and New Zealand. Her career began in the fall of 1999 at Sonoma State University. After earning her B.A in Biology, she worked as a harvest intern in Sonoma and then New Zealand, where she was soon managing a prestigious enology laboratory. Shenk joined St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery in 2006 and in 2017, she was promoted to winemaker. Meet Brooke at: The Icons of Napa Valley.

Emma Swain, CEO, St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery

  • Emma Swain has more than 20 years of experience in the wine industry. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Managerial Economics from the University of California at Davis. Before joining St. Supéry, she worked at Niebaum-Coppola Winery and Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery. Swain currently serves as the Board Chair for Wine Market Council and as a board member for the Napa Valley Vintners. Meet Emma at: Unexpected CaliforniaCioppino’s Masters Cali.

Randy Ullom, Winemaster, Kendall-Jackson

  • A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Randy Ullom studied crop production with a specialty in Viticulture and Enology at Ohio State University. Hired by Jess Jackson in 1992 as winemaker for some of Jackson Family Wines smaller and international vineyards, Ullom was the appointed wine-master for Kendall-Jackson in 1997. Meet Randy at: Next World ChardonnayGrowing Forward in CaliforniaWhat’s Cool in Sonoma?

Paul Wagner, Wine educator and writer

  • Paul Wagner has been an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department for the past 23 years. In addition, he teaches at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, is a guest lecturer at many universities and has spoken at more than 80 conferences throughout the world on wine, wine education, wine tourism, public affairs, and wine marketing. With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, he hosts “Bottle Talk,” a weekly conversation about wine. Meet Paul at: Pinot’s Siren Call of Seduction;Gusto Latinoamericana.

Karl Wente, Family Member / Winemaker, Wente Vineyards

  • Fifth generation winemaker and winegrower Karl Wente grew up working at Wente Vineyards and expanded his experience at the Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma and Brown Brothers winery in Australia. His education includes a degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University and two Master’s degrees in horticulture (viticulture) and food science (enology), from the University of California at Davis. In 2013, Karl was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40.” Meet Karl at: California CrushUnexpected CaliforniaGrowing Forward in California16th Annual Awards Lunch;The Shape of Wine; Vintners Brunch.


Wineries from 15 countries are represented at VanWineFest, and the stars are shining just as brightly over the rest of the wine world. The Tasting Room is the place to meet all 160 vine stars, but you’ll also find these great personalities at special events during the week. As well, all principals will be present at the Principals Welcome Lunch on Thursday, February 28.

Labid Al Ameri, Proprietor, Domaine Bousquet

  • Labid Al Ameri holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Saint Cloud University, MN, USA and an MBA from Northeastern University, MA, USA. After school, he worked as a Sales Trader in the International Equity desk at Fidelity Capital Markets. In 2005 he created the commercial structure for Domaine Bousquet resulting in a brand presence in more than 30 countries. Meet Labid at: Gustolatinoamericano.
Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie from Okanagan Crush Pad (Image courtesy Okanagan Crush Pad)
Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie from Okanagan Crush Pad (Image courtesy Okanagan Crush Pad)

Christine Coletta, Co-owner, Free Form by Okanagan Crush Pad

  • Christine Coletta and her husband Steve Lornie own Okanagan Crush Pad, a family-run winery located in Summerland, BC, that is home to their Haywire, Narrative and Free Form wine labels. Christine spent nine years as the founding executive director of the BC Wine Institute and Wines of Canada, where she was instrumental in establishing the region’s appellation system and growing market share, and 14 years consulting in the field of marketing, branding and communications. Meet Christine at: Pinot’s Siren Call of Seduction; Truth in Terroir.

Moreno Coronica, Winemaker / Owner, Coronica

  • The tradition of wine production for the Coronica family began four generations ago. The Coronica winery is located near the tourist town of Umag, on the northwestern coast of Istria in Croatia. The youngest member of the Coronica family, Moreno, with his father Ottavian, continue to follow the family tradition of producing some of the best Teran and Malvazija wines in Croatia. Meet Moreno at: Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + AuctionA Taste of CroatiaGrapes Unknown.

Randy Fabian, Sales Manager, USA & Canada, Yealands Family Wines

  • Randy’s interest in the alcohol beverage industry began at an early age while lending a hand in his family’s neighbourbood liquor shop near Philadelphia. In 2009, Randy began working as senior buyer for the largest liquor retail group in NZ, Super Liquor. After working closely with the NZ wine community, Randy returned to the United States to begin collaborating with Yealands Family Wines as the USA and Canada sales manager. Meet Randy at: Just ChillPinot’s Siren Call of Seduction.

Loren Gil, Family Member / Export Director, Gil Family Wines

  • Loren Gil is a fourth-generation winemaker carrying on a tradition his great-grandfather started over 100 years ago. Loren attended the University of Murcia and studied chemistry, later specializing in Viticulture and Oenology. His first foray into the wine business was with Juan Gil’s technical department, creating the first vintages of Clio and El Nido in 2002. Today Loren represents Gil Family Estates wines around the world as both the brand ambassador and export director. Meet Loren at: Just ChillRhône Around the World; PICA Kitchen PartyVintners Brunch.

Miron Radic, General Manager, Liliac – The Wine of Transylvania

  • Miron was born in the former Yugoslavia and grew up in Austria, where he studied business administration and international wine marketing. He wrote his diploma thesis on Romanian wine, which brought him to Liliac. Miron started in Marketing, developing the marketing strategy for the winery, and was appointed managing director in 2015. Since 2018 he has been the general manager for the Beck Family, the owners of Liliac. Meet Miron at: Grapes Unknown.
Karl MyWinePal with Maria Sosa from Bodega Garzón
Karl MyWinePal with Maria Sosa from Bodega Garzón

Maria Sosa, Brand Ambassador, Bodega Garzón

  • Maria “Mele” Sosa is a Uruguayan winemaker. Mele graduated from Chile’s Catholic University with a degree in Viticulture and Oenology. She worked for several years at the University of California at Davis’ Viticulture and Oenology Department and Food Science, and then St Helena’s Spring Mountain Winery as assistant winemaker, before returning to Chile to work for Carolina Wine Brands. She now travels the world as Bodega Garzon Brand Ambassador. Meet Maria at: Grapes UnknownTruth in Terroir.

Sam Temme, General Manager of Sales, Wirra Wirra

  • After graduating with a wine marketing degree, Sam joined Samuel Smith & Son and Negociants Australia. Sam’s knowledge of the Australian wine industry led to his appointment as general manager of Lloyd Brothers Wine and Olive Company. His success in management roles with the Galvanized Wine Group and Charles Melton Wines led Wirra Wirra to invite him to become part of the tribe. Meet Sam at: Just ChillThe Shape of WineVintners Brunch.

Sergio Zingarelli, Owner / Proprietor, Rocca delle Macìe

  • After earning a degree in economics and commerce from Rome’s La Sapienza University, Sergio joined his father at the helm of the family winery, concentrating first on the Italian market and, subsequently, on the development of the winery’s international distribution network. He became managing director of Rocca delle Macìe in 1989 and was named president in 2000. Since 1995, Sergio has been a member of the executive board of the Chianti Classico Consortium and was named president in 2012. Meet Sergio at: Icons of ItalyDine Italia.
Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.