Jason is the Viticulturist for Figgins Family Wine Estates in Walla Walla, Washington. Jason learned his love of farming while helping on the family farm growing row crops and working in a winery during the winter months. He began his career working in Vineyards after graduating from Washington State University with a degree in Horticulture. While working in the viticulture department at Chateau Ste. Michelle he was offered a position managing vineyards for the Figgins Family where he has been for 22 years. FFWE has vineyards in both the Walla Walla Valley as well as the Willamette Valley.
2023 Symposium Presentations
All presentations are PowerPoint unless noted otherwise. Photos have been removed due to copyright protection.
Leveraging Technology to Increase Sustainability
Bob Coleman, Treasury Wine Estates, California
Bob Coleman has 25+ years of experience in the wine industry, that time spent primarily as a winemaker at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma County. He more recently finished a PhD in 2019 on the kinetics of wine oxidation. Currently, he is working at Beringer Winery leading commercial winery innovation and precision winemaking, including efforts towards energy and water efficiency practices and improved fermentation performance.
Growing Our Future Leaders
Miguel Luna, Silverado Farming Company, California
Ray Johnson is the Executive Director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State, the first university in the United States to offer a BS in Wine Business in 1998, the first to offer a Wine MBA in 2008 and the first in the world to offer an Executive Wine MBA in 2012.
Johnson joined the wine business in 1986 at the Christian Brothers’ Greystone Cellars in Saint Helena, California. He went on to sell wine, first on the supplier side, and later in retail, working directly with consumers. He earned his Master’s in Wine Business from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and taught for fourteen years.
Johnson’s work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, the International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vineyard & Winery Management, and in reviews for consumers and the primer The Good Life Guide to Enjoying Wine.
Miguel Luna is a Partner and Viticulturist at Silverado Farming Co. in Napa Valley. He moved from his native country of Mexico to California at age thirteen and began working in the vineyards a year later. He then interned at Pahlmeyer, Dana Estates, Atelier Melka, and Bordeaux’s Chateau de Fieuzal. After earning a degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis in 2014, Miguel joined the widely respected Silverado Farming Company, becoming a partner in 2017. For his achievements in grape growing and for being a tireless mentor for young growers, Wine Enthusiast named him Viticulturist of the Year in 2020. The UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology appointed him to their Viticulture and Enology Executive Leadership Board in 2021.
Keynote Speaker Luncheon – Workshop in Spanish
Arnulfo Solorio, Silverado Farming Company, California
Arnulfo Solorio is Partner and Operations Manager at Silverado Farming Company.
Born in Mexico, Arnulfo came to the United States at the age of 14, as a field worker and mechanic’s assistant while following crops through Arizona, California and Washington State.
After settling in Napa Valley, he spent 24 years in vineyard management positions at Mondavi Vineyards, Tonella Vineyards, Franciscan Estates and Domaine Chandon, before joining Silverado Farming in 2002.
Beyond managing operations and personnel at SFC, he is also part of the team that develops training, education, personal growth, and reward programs for employees. He believes strongly in supporting farm labor through education.
In 2010, alongside Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Arnulfo shared his idea and dream of forming a foundation to provide comprehensive education to Napa County farmworkers. This led to the creation of the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, where Arnulfo is a Director on the Board, and Chair of the Farmworker Education Committee.
Preventing and Mitigating Low Temp Injury (or Cold Damage) in Grapevines
Ken Kupperman, Jackson Family Wines, California
David is lead viticulturalist for his 4-generation farm, Wilson Farms, growing wine grapes in Clarksburg. In 2015 He also started a winery, Ogilvie Merwin Vintners, with his brother and friend that focuses on making premium wines from Clarksburg.
As farm manager, David has championed sustainability and efficiency using the latest Ag Tech. He leads the farming team managing vineyards as well as managing winemaking for his wine brands. In this way, David is able to follow the grape from its original planting all the way to bottling.
David graduated from University of California, Davis in 2002 with a degree in Viticulture & Enology and travelled to 3 continents making wine. He eventually found himself back at UC Davis obtaining a Master Brewers Certificate through the UC Extension Program in 2008. Upon completion, David then worked for Anheuser-Busch eventually running the brewhouse in Williamsburg VA before coming back to his home vineyards in 2014.
As vice president of Oregon vineyard operations, Ken Kupperman oversees all aspects of vineyard and land management for Jackson Family Wines’ properties in Willamette Valley.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies he worked in Israel studying drip irrigation and gaining experience in the production of apples, pears and kiwifruit. Following this he received a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of Arkansas.
Later Ken worked in the Washington apple industry before moving to the wine industry in 1998 when he joined Wente Family Estates. There as director of viticulture he oversaw 3,000 acres of vineyards in the Livermore Valley, Napa, Arroyo Seco and Monterey appellations.
In 2007 he accepted a position with Premier Pacific Vineyards managing their Willamette Valley properties, including Gran Moraine and Zena Crown Vineyard, which Jackson Family Wines would later purchase.
In 2013 Ken joined Jackson Family Wines as director of vineyard operations and was promoted to vice president of vineyard operations in 2018. He feels fortunate to work with some of the best vineyard sites in Willamette Valley and finds great satisfaction in delivering fantastic fruit, and in building a team that does so year in and year out.
State of the Industry
Liz Thach, Sonoma State University, California
Danny Brager has a wealth of experience in the U.S. Beverage Alcohol industry, analyzing trends over many years. He formerly headed Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area in the U.S, leading teams that supported relationships with Nielsen’s clients as well as key industry groups and the media.
In his current consulting role, Danny provides data-driven analysis and insights to Beverage Alcohol companies seeking to translate information into authoritative, fact-based insights in support of their corporate and brand goals. Each year, he presents at a large number of notable industry and company events and is a frequent thought leader contributor to the media/press. His informed opinions are highly respected by the beverage alcohol producers, importers, distributors, retailers and financiers.
Danny currently partners with 3 Tier Beverages – a company that facilitates the provision of data, and provides outsourced analytics, is a Special Advisor to the Wine Market Council, and is Managing Director of Category & Consumer Insights at Azur Associates. Azur was founded to bring comprehensive advisory & consulting services – including strategic advisory, mergers & acquisitions and route to market solutions – to wine and spirits companies.
Danny was born in Calgary, Alberta and moved to Toronto where he graduated from the Schulich School of Business at York University. He relocated to Mission Viejo, California in 1993 where he now resides.
Jeff Bitter is a life-long resident of California. Born into a family vineyard operation, Jeff has always had a passion for agriculture and specifically grape growing. Jeff is the President of Allied Grape Growers (AGG), a 500-member statewide grape growers cooperative marketing association. AGG markets approximately $100,000,000 worth of grapes annually to wineries, shippers, packers and dehydrators. In addition to managing AGG, Jeff is a fourth-generation California grape grower, actively farming winegrapes in Madera County, where he resides.
Jeff earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from California State University, Fresno and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the same. Jeff is also a graduate of Class XXXII of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, a prestigious two-year fellowship program emphasizing leadership training and development for those involved in California agriculture.
Jeff participates on numerous industry boards, committees and task forces and spends his free time farming, traveling and enjoying time with family and friends. Jeff has two minor and two adult children, one of which is married.
Dr. Liz Thach, MW is a Professor, Wine Writer and Consultant based in Napa and Sonoma, California. She is an award-winning author and educator, specializing in wine business strategy, marketing, leadership/executive development, and wine lifestyle.
Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 65 countries. She has published over 200 articles and 9 books, including Call of the Vine, Best Practices in Global Wine Tourism and Wine Marketing & Sales. She frequently publishes in Forbes, Wine Business Monthly, Wine Spectator, and The Somm Journal, amongst others.
A fifth generation Californian, Liz finished her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and now lives on Sonoma Mountain. In addition, she teaches wine classes at Stanford Continuing Education and Sonoma State University, as well as working as a consultant and wine judge. Liz obtained the distinction of Master of Wine (MW) in May of 2011, becoming the first female MW from California.
Sustainability 360 – Today’s Toolkit for Tomorrow’s Success
Nate Weis, Silver Oak Cellars, California
A Napa Valley native whose father is also a winemaker, Nate grew up with wine on the table and a drawer full of t‐shirts emblazoned with winery logos. His first job after graduating with honors from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Biopsychology was as a “cellar rat” at Groth Vineyards & Winery. “I loved that first harvest, so I packed my bags, dropped my application for UC Davis in the mail and went off to Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand to work another.” After earning an MS in Viticulture and Enology from UCD, he was hired as cellar master at Etude, and then spent two years as assistant winemaker for Patz & Hall Wine Company. In 2008 Nate was hired by Marchese Piero Antinori to be winemaker for Antica Napa Valley. He earned an Executive MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University in 2014.
Nate joined Silver Oak & Twomey as Silver Oak Winemaker in 2014, was promoted to Director of Winemaking in 2017, and then Vice President of Winegrowing in 2019. His responsibilities center around leading the team that handles all aspects of farming, grower relations, and winemaking for Silver Oak, Twomey, OVID, and Timeless Napa Valley.
T’aint Just Smoke Taint
Scott Frost, Tufts University, Massachusetts
Scott Frost is a sensory scientist and flavor chemist with Tufts University. His research explores how food preference and choice is influenced by production practices. After receiving his Master of Science from UC Davis, Scott ran a winery lab in California. This experience sparked his desire to understand how wine production can influence flavor chemistry. Since completing his Ph.D., he has worked on various food and beverages including wine, coffee, cheese, and beer.
Viticulture for Current and Future Consumers, from the Grape to the Glass
Alfredo Koch, Allan Hancock College, California
Descended from generations of wine merchants, I was raised in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia (Spain). Following my family’s tradition, I tasted a drop of Cava within hours of my birth, setting me on my path.
After earning my MBA at ESADE, I moved to Sonoma, California, in 1987 as part of the original team that launched Gloria Ferrer Winery from a trailer in a Los Carneros cow pasture. For over 30 years, I was part of the management team of both Gloria Ferrer Winery and the Ferrer family import company, Freixenet USA, where I launched and grew brands both boutique and high-volume brands from over 25 of the best-known appellations in eight countries, spanning Old and New World.
In 2019, I founded a business consulting company that assists domestic and import wineries and trade associations with strategic planning, business development, and sales plans.
I am a pentaglot (English, Catalan, Spanish, French, and Italian), and my travels have taken me to visit over 50 appellations around the world. There is so much more to discover!
Cristina Pino Villar
Enóloga de Bodegas de Santo Tomás. Nacida en España, es Licenciada en Enología por la Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Extremadura e Ingeniero Agrónomo por la Universidad de Ávila. Además, tiene un Doctorado (PhD) en Enología por la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, con la calificación Cum Laude y una maestría en Viticultura por la Universidad de Extremadura.
Su amplia preparación académica la ha puesto al servicio de la industria vinícola, encabezando proyectos fundamentales en la investigación y el desarrollo del sector, en las principales zonas productoras de vinos en España, México y USA.
Sus conocimientos han sido vertidos en su experiencia como docente, tanto en su país (España), como en México.
Cristina ha publicado artículos en volúmenes colectivos y prestigiadas revistas científicas. Así mismo, ha sido ponente en importantes congresos internacionales. Desde el 2011 Cristina trabaja en la industria vitivinícola mexicana y desde el año 2015 es parte del consejo asesor de expertos a nivel técnico en el Consejo Mexicano del Vino (CMV). Además, en el 2017 se acreditó como miembro de la delegación de expertos de México ante la Comisión II (Enología) de la Organización Internacional de la Viña y el Vino (OIV) y en el 2018 la nombraron vicepresidenta de la comisión de Microbiología de la OIV. Cargo que sigue ejerciendo hasta la fecha. Además, es cofundadora y enóloga en dos proyectos de vino espumoso en el Valle de Guadalupe: 3para1 (desde 20016) y Micha Micha (2022).
Cristina is a Winemaker at Bodegas de Santo Tomás. Born in Spain, she has a degree in Oenology from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Extremadura and an Agronomist Ingeniere from the University of Ávila. Cristina has a Doctorate (PhD) in Oenology from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, with the qualification Cum Laude and a master’s degree in Viticulture from the University of Extremadura.
Her extensive academic preparation has placed her at the service of the wine industry, leading fundamental projects in the research and development of the sector, in the main wine-producing areas in Spain, Mexico and the US. Her knowledge has been poured into her experience as a teacher, both in his country (Spain) and in Mexico.
Cristina has published articles in collective volumes and prestigious scientific journals. Likewise, she has been a speaker at important international conferences. Since 2011 Cristina has worked in the Mexican wine industry and since 2015, she is part of the advisory council of experts at a technical level in the Consejo Mexicano del Vino (CMV). In addition, in 2017 she was accredited as a member of the delegation of experts from Mexico of Commission II (Oenology) of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) and in 2018 she was appointed Vice-president of the Microbiology commission of the OIV. A position that continues to date. Cristina is a co-founder and winemaker in two sparkling wine projects in Valle de Guadalupe: 3para1 (since 2016) and Micha Micha (2022).
Gustavo Sotelo is the Director of Winemaking for Scribe Winery in Sonoma, California. During his 8-year tenure at Scribe, Sotelo has worked on expanding the winemaking program, improving quality, brand development, and developing innovative wine styles and bottling formats for all brands under his purview.
Sotelo joined the wine industry in 2010 after an initial career in New York with a focus in Finance and Business Development. Originally from Mexico City, Sotelo has worked at Treasury Wine Estates – USA, Mumm Napa, and White Rock Vineyards.
Sotelo obtained a degree from the University of California, Davis Viticulture & Enology program. Upon graduating Sotelo followed his interest in Iberian wine and travelled to Spain to work at the prestigious Bodegas Mauro in the Ribera del Duero. Upon his return to California, Sotelo joined the Scribe. production team as their first Assistant Winemaker. Within a few short years, Sotelo took over the helm of the wine program and transformed it into one of the most innovative one’s in California.
In 2019, Sotelo and his wife founded their own project Orixe Sotelo, focused on Spanish grape varieties grown in California. Sotelo’s goal is to provide more diversity to California wines and import Spanish varieties non-existent in California.
After completing her BS in Biology at UC Davis, Alaina moved to the Napa Valley to begin her career in the wine industry. In her 13 years working with wine, Alaina has focused on winemaking from the laboratory perspective, exploring various areas of interest from yeast to cork and much in between. She began her career at Silver Oak and currently works at Opus One Winery as Research Manager where she spearheads their native yeast program along with various other experimental projects.
Alfredo hails from Mendoza, Argentina, has a MS from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a PhD from University of California, Davis.
Alfredo has been teaching for over 20 years viticulture and enology courses in the US and France. He is the coordinator at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, which offers several programs with a vineyard and bonded winery on campus.
Winemaking and Vineyards Manager Teams
Chris Louton, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, California
Chris Louton joined St. Francis in 2013 after nearly seven years as part of the winemaking team at Napa’s Beringer Vineyards, where he focused on the luxury tier of wines and helped craft award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons and other Bordeaux varietals.
As Associate Winemaker at Beringer, Chris became a devoted fan of unique terroirs such as Howell Mountain, Knights Valley and Alexander Valley, which gave him a special appreciation for Sonoma County’s diverse appellations.
At St. Francis, Chris oversees production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. His goal is to create wines that are approachable, yet compelling, and always a true expression of Sonoma County. Making world-class wines wasn’t the career Chris originally planned for himself. He was studying biology at UC Davis with every intention of becoming a veterinarian when he took a winemaking class his senior year. That class hooked him, and instead of applying to vet school after graduation, he went back to UC Davis to study viticulture and enology.
Vine Characteristics for Resiliency
Megan Bartlett, University of California, Davis
Dr. Megan Bartlett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis. Her research is focused on grapevine heat and drought tolerance. Her lab uses experimental and modeling approaches to identify traits and viticultural practices to mitigate the impacts of heat and water stress on grapevine performance. Her lab also develops rapid screening methods to make it feasible to target stress tolerance traits in breeding. Megan earned her PhD on plant drought tolerance mechanisms from UCLA in 2016 and completed her postdoctoral research at Princeton University in 2019.
Preventing and Mitigating Low Temp Injury or Cold Damage in Grapevines
Markus Keller, Washington State University, Prosser
An Industry Update on Vineyard Automation. Where Are we Now?
Philip Martin, University of California, Davis
Philip Martin is Professor emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California-Davis, editor of Rural Migration News (http://migration.ucdavis.edu), and the author of numerous research publications on migration and farm labor. Martin was the only researcher appointed to the federal Commission on Agricultural Workers (1989-93) that evaluated the impacts of immigration reforms on US farm workers.
Doing Even More, with Even Less
Mark Battany, University of California Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo County
Mark grew up in Colorado and graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Agronomy and a minor in Spanish. He continued with graduate work at UC Davis with an M.S. in Hydrologic Sciences. He was an exchange scholar at a Spanish government research center in Cordoba, Spain studying runoff and erosion in hillside olive groves. He began working for UC Cooperative Extension in 2001, initially as a Viticulture Farm Advisor for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties; in 2018 his title changed to Water Management and Biometeorology Advisor.
Growing Our Future Leaders
Justin Leigon, Piña Vineyard Management, California
Justin Leigon became a partner at Piña Vineyard Management in 2022 after several years acting as Head Viticulturist. A proud husband and father of three, the family-founded company has been a perfect fit for his skills and aspirations.
Currently, he is responsible for overseeing all aspects of high-end winegrape farming and is involved in vineyard development with Pina. After beginning his career in wine production, Leigon attended the University of California, Davis where he received his B.S. in Viticulture and Enology.
In 2006, Leigon spent time abroad in Australia learning about global wine styles. Upon returning, he honed his skills in cellars around the Napa Valley. He is passionate about working with both winemaking and vineyard teams to produce ultra-premium quality wines by using minimal inputs and targeting key aspects of winegrape development. Leigon is involved in community outreach and is an advocate for ag education.