Results tagged “wine country personality” from Travel

Wine Country Personality: Bret LeRolland

The Wine Carriage - Wine Tasting via Horse & Carriage with Gourmet Lunch
Healdsburg, CA

wcPersonality_WineCarriage_Bret.jpgBret LeRolland is no ordinary tour operator. He's a different kind of guy with a different kind of business. The Wine Carriage is the quintessential off-the-beaten-track winery and tasting tour -- from the conveyance itself, a shade-top carriage drawn by two giant draft horses, to the personalized service, local knowledge and preferred treatment that a tour with Bret guarantees.

Riding with Bret and his matched Percherons, Duke and Pepper, is not only a thrill, it's a real backstage look into the world of California wine. He knows the history of the region and its characters, the lifecycle of the vines, climate, geology, and wine. In addition to a certificate in Biological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz, Bret has experience in farming and logging salvaged redwoods with draft horses, as well as crossing several states on horseback.  As he puts it, "I always knew I wanted to work with horses".  But he had to go pretty far out of his way to do it.

The son of a New York City cop, Bret grew up in the Big Apple, often visiting his grandmother in Harlem.  Growing up with such an urban bias, he decided to try something different.  Relocating to the left coast, Bret worked on ships in Alaska before moving to California to study at UCSC, and later attended the California School of Circus Arts to learn Chinese acrobatics and fire spinning.

Wine Country Personality: Pierre Ehret

flamingoResort_susan_n_pierre_ehret.jpgWhen asked where he calls home, Pierre Ehret proudly lists two - his main residence in  Tegernsee, Germany and the Sonoma and Napa Wine Country. His life to date has been spent  on both soils. In 1980, he moved from Berlin to Santa Rosa to attend the junior college. He graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Economics, and moved to Fontainebleau, France  to attend INSEAD to earn his MBA.

 After working in the" big apple "after his graduate studies he returned in 1989
to Santa Rosa to run the family owned Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa, a historical landmark building that combines a retro resort architectural style with all the most modern amenities expected at a top class resort.
"I am fortunate to be able to raise my family, work and spend time in two of the most beautiful places in the world, Bavaria Germany and the Northern California Wine Country," Ehret said. "It's also a privilege to bring the wonderful characteristics of both places to my wine and hospitality businesses. The traditional Old World charm, organization and value blended with California's casualness, glamour and diversity. Plus the quality and creativity both cultures share in their distinctive ways."

The Personalities of Napa, CA

napaPersonality_Mike.jpgMike Smith - Cottages of Napa Valley
My first job was building boats in Santa Cruz. Then, between construction jobs, I built sets for the Mountain Theatre on Mt. Tam. I loved being able to make large fantastic worlds quickly, and then tear them down even faster. I came to Napa Valley during my teenage years and . . .READ MORE

napaPersonality_Ralf.jpgRalf Holdenried - William Hill Estate
When winemaker Ralf Holdenried was invited to craft William Hill Estate's wines in the summer 2007, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. Ralf says, "The William Hill Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are classically styled Napa Valley wines."
READ MORE and Lorri Walsh - Hennessey House Bed & Breakfast
Kevin and Lorri Walsh were living high powered (and high stress) lives in Silicon Valley.   As an executive for a high tech company, Kevin was responsible for strategic planning for one of his companies' divisions and traveled constantly.  Lorri was racking up the miles as a . . .
READ MORE Personality

Gary and Jennifer Buffo of Pure Luxury Wine Tours

wcPersonalityPureLuxury.jpgGary Buffo founded Pure Luxury Transportation in 1991 with the idea that the customer always comes first and the company should be "Committed to Perfection." Gary realized, after renting a limousine for a night out, that not every company operates with the customer in mind. Everything about his rental experience was negative. The limousine showed up an hour in a half late, and it was filthy inside and out and stocked with nothing. At the end of the evening the driver had the audacity to put his hand out and request a tip. Several calls to the company after the incident resulted in a simple, "Oh well, what do you want us to do?" Gary's only thought at this point was "I could do this better," and Pure Luxury was formed.

Gary met his wife, Jennifer Buffo, in 1992. In the beginning of their relationship, Gary shared his business vision, goals, and passion for superior service with Jennifer. Since then, they have worked together to implement these business practices. Jennifer believes that Pure Luxury sets itself apart from other wine tour companies by focusing on what the client wants. Whether the tour is personalized or pre-set, private or with a group, visiting the larger wineries or the boutique wineries, there are many variables to consider. Pure Luxury takes the clients' interests into consideration and then provides them with an unforgettable day in wine country. All of their chauffeurs go through an extensive wine country training program: they truly know wine country inside and out. Pure Luxury chauffeurs are models of professionalism in the industry, and provide the clients with safe transportation, as well as act as a personal concierge during the trip.

Wine Country Personality: Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort

wilkenhsonsign-5504-8x6.jpgBorn and raised in Calistoga, where ancient volcanic activity left the region rich with hot mineral springs, volcanic ash, and mud resulting from the mixture of the two, Mark Wilkinson and Carolynne Wilkinson Clair co-own and operate Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort.

They inherited their love of the business from their father, the famed Dr. John Wilkinson, a founder, pioneer, and innovator who taught the world about the healing properties of Calistoga mineral water and mud.  Founded in 1952, Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort put Calistoga mud baths on the international map and remains an industry flagship to this day.

Cave Music's Improvisator


wcPersonality_DaveAuberach.jpgWhat do you call a master of cave acoustics who plays a hundred rare and beautiful instruments, who has performed nearly two hundred winery cave concerts, and who puts us in touch with our ancient roots in ways that are timelessly new, immensely enjoyable and totally creative?

The Improvisator, of course! Your guide to adventures in sound underground at .

This is the man who invented the wine country cave concert more than twenty years ago and has lovingly evolved the concept into a fully refined art form, with an array of entrancing shows that cover all the year's seasons with a cornucopeia of imaginative themes: "Cave Of The Drums", "Cave Of The Spirits", "Cave Of The Bells"... and the best known of all, "Carols In The Caves" (ask the locals - they'll tell you it's a real "only in the wine country" holiday tradition!).

He describes his Cave Music as "a sound spa for the mind", because it rejuvenates listeners by soothing away the stress of modern times. What's a Cave Music show like? It's neither a fast-paced show biz production nor a formal Carnegie-Hall-in-a-cave, but rather a relaxing, informal gathering where the beauty of the moment is how everything comes together to shape a magical mood.

Wine Country Personality: Lane Morales

wcPersonalityRoosterRun.jpgLane Morales booked Harry Connick, Jr., at her jazz supper club in Hartford, Connecticut before the Lincoln Center ever did. "That's my personal claim to fame...I got to heat up his prime rib that night," she says.

Now a veteran of the service industry, Morales is booking events for a different scene: the freshly remodeled Rooster Run Event Center in Petaluma. She oversees not only the event center, but anything having to do with food and beverage on the Rooster Run Golf Club property, including the pro shop café, beverage cart and tournament food events on the golf course.

The revamped event center is the culmination of a two-month, $500,000 remodeling project that converted part of the original pro shop into a full bar and café, and transformed the existing restaurant into additional banquet space.

"We've been thinking of doing something like this for two years and it finally came to fruition," Morales says. "We're quite pleased with it. Not only did we have a great designer involved who brought us up to date, but the remodeling increased our space, which enables us to host larger and more frequent events, because we can accommodate several functions at the same time."

Wine Country Personality: Patty Field

RaindanceSpa.PattyField.jpgRaindance Spa
at the Lodge at Sonoma

A long-time Sonoma Valley resident, Patty Field has been Spa Director at Raindance Spa at The Lodge at Sonoma for more than five years. Within this role, Field manages all day-to-day operations within its eleven treatment rooms, spa boutique, spa garden and soaking pools and oversees a staff of nearly 50 people. She has developed a concentrated menu of services meant to bring the mind, body and soul into balance and offers some of the most unique and innovative treatments and products from the Valley, including a series of energy-inspired mind and body therapies, eco-certified spa treatments as well as an exclusive line of skincare, Raindance Skincare.

Whether visiting from out of town or a resident of the Valley, Raindance Spa is a highly sought after retreat tucked away at The Lodge at Sonoma and is one of the most inspiring spa destinations in California Wine Country today.

Wine Country Personality: Erica Goodell

wcPersonality_ArcadyVineyards.jpgI run Arcady Vineyard B&B and Arcady Vineyard Wine Tours with my husband Chris out of the Monticello Appellation of Virginia. Based just 2.5 miles from Jefferson's home Monticello, we have a wealth of wineries from which to select for tour routes.

Born in San Francisco, my family was transferred to Bonn, Germany when I was six, and three years later to Bern, Switzerland where we lived until around 1976. Since it was legal in Europe, I spent many enjoyable hours as a teen in the cafés drinking local wine. (I could not afford American coca-cola which, as an import, was much more expensive!) It was a great way to learn to enjoy wine, devoid of the snobbery and attitude so prevalent today. This experience drives me to ensure my tour guests learn that wine is fun, to be enjoyed! No wine snobs need apply!

Wine Country Personality: Lynn Crescione

solarlynn.jpg"At Creekside Inn and Resort we are not recent to stewardship of the beautiful environment that surrounds us in the Russian River Valley, and we reward our guests with discounts for thinking green as well."

As the owner and innkeeper of Creekside Inn and Resort, Lynn Crescione has been responsible for infusing the popular resort with her personal style for more than 25 years. That means, never settling for the status quo, never doing less than her personal best for her guests and always taking into consideration sustaining and promoting the beautiful Russian River that has been her home since coming to the area.

"We are not recent to stewardship of the beautiful environment that surrounds us in California's Russian River Valley, for us it is a way of life. When we first came to the inn, surrounded by towering redwoods on the banks of Pocket Canyon Creek and within sight and sound of the Russian River, we were instantly committed to leaving as little of a footprint on the native beauty of the land as possible," Crescione said. 

Wine Country Personality: Mike Kijak

"I love what I do and to share it with people is a wonderful thing. Not many people get to do that, and to be able to take people for a flight, probably once in the lifetime, is a very special feeling."

In 1987, Mike Kijak was working for Hewlett-Packard in Colorado when suddenly the company decided to move the shop he worked for. Although this news was unexpected, this event proved to be an act of fate. Instead of moving with Hewlett-Packard, Mike wisely took his wife's suggestion to go back to school and at 35 years old, they moved to Fresno where Mike pursued and achieved his B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Studies in 1991. Once graduated, they next needed to find that perfect place to "recreate".  They chose a place where they had friends - Sonoma County  - and "Up and Away Ballooning" was born....well almost!

Mike Smith of Cottages of Napa Valley

My first job was building boats in Santa Cruz. Then, between construction jobs, I built sets for the Mountain Theatre on Mt. Tam. I loved being able to make large fantastic worlds quickly, and then tear them down even faster. I came to Napa Valley during my teenage years and did a project on cupolas on the historic barns here. How fun to come back later in life and add cupolas onto the cottages of napa valley.

Wine Country Personalities: Penny & Doug McKesson

dougMckessonPersonality.jpgMoving from Southern California to Sonoma in the mid 70's, Penny & Doug McKesson never looked back.  Switching gears from running restaurants to owning a small town bike shop, Penny & Doug went to work immediately becoming an integral part of the community.  This culminated in Doug winning a seat on the Sonoma City Council in 2002 and becoming Mayor in 2006.  Over the past 34 years they have developed close friends and relationships which give them access to places in Sonoma that many locals are not even aware of.

Wine Country Personality - Barbara & Walt Gruber

hcg_1.jpgLiving the Dream
Healdsburg Country Gardens

In l993, we sold a large home nearby and moved to our 25-acre fixer-upper farm property. We named it Healdsburg Country Gardens which was a stretch of the imagination since it had mostly junk piles and weeds. It had a compound of four homes and two barns and 20 acres of unplanted farmland. When our grown children saw the property, they thought we lost our minds! Later, we learned that "the kids" held discussions wondering what we were thinking buying this place. (Note: Now...they "get it".)

We refurbished all three vacation rental houses. We added landscaping while preserving existing majestic oaks and redwoods. Luckily, long ago someone planted a cork oak tree in a perfect spot. Over a few years, we planted our vineyards. We did lots of work ourselves with family and friends pitching in. The huge redwood barn was built in l902--lucky us having this gorgeous barn. We made it the focal point of our garden--it is perfect for gatherings with family and friends.
Now, our family and friends say we "had the vision" ...
we say "our wine country dreams came true."

Kevin and Lorri Walsh


Hennessey House Bed and Breakfast

Creating and Sharing a Balanced Lifestyle

Four years ago, Kevin and Lorri Walsh were living high powered (and high stress) lives in Silicon Valley.   As an executive for a high tech company, Kevin was responsible for strategic planning for one of his companies' divisions and traveled constantly.  Lorri was racking up the miles as a salesperson for a local chemical company.  "We lived the silicon valley lifestyle", says Kevin.  "Long hours at the office with barely time to drop off and pick up our kids at daycare.  We really wanted something more balanced, where we could have our own business and have time to actually raise our family."  

They made the leap to Napa in the summer of 2004 and purchased Hennessey House.  "At the time, we knew nothing about running a hospitality business, but we fell in love with the place and the idea of being innkeepers in Napa."  Lorri smiles "we haven't looked back."

Wine Country Personality: Connie Gore


The Magician at Milliken Creek Inn

Wine Country Personality

Check into the most luxurious, romantic spot along the Napa River and you are bound to have nearly every aspect of your unforgettable stay overseen by one woman, Connie Gore. As General Manager of Milliken Creek Inn & Spa (, her everyday duties include upholding the inn's philosophy: to marry the quality, service and amenities of a five star resort with the intimacy, sophistication and exclusivity of a grand estate.