2018 Speakers

2018 Keynote Speakers

Steve Gross, Vice President, State Relations for Wine Institute

Steve Gross is Vice President, State Relations at Wine Institute, where he has been employed since 1986. Steve’s duties entail overseeing the activities of Wine Institute’s six State Relations Regional Counsels and Regional Managers as they address state legislation affecting the wine industry, as well as coordinating Wine Institute’s legislative and regulatory activities with staff, contract lobbyists and member wineries. Steve regularly participates in many national programs dealing with issues facing the wine industry, both on the legislative and regulatory levels. Steve serves on the Board of Directors of the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance (CCEEB). He also serves on the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute’s Executive Board. A native of Nebraska, Steve brought to Wine Institute knowledge garnered during his ten years of employment in the on-sale food and beverage industry, as well as extensive experience in political campaigns and legislative activism.


Philip van Allen, Educator at Art Center College of Design

Philip van Allen is an interaction designer, educator and creative technologist with more than 30 years experience in startups, corporations, research, and education. Phil is interested in media, networks, and the new ecologies these create. He designs interactions for a range of platforms including mobile, interactive spaces and the Internet of Things. As an Educator at Art Center College of Design, he is pursuing new educational models, technologies and tools for teaching and learning. Current research focuses on productive interactions, animism as an interaction design metaphor, and tools for designers.

Larry Cormier, General Manager, ShipCompliant by Sovos

Larry is General Manager of ShipCompliant by Sovos. Sovos’ ShipCompliant software platform enables and automates the distribution of alcoholic beverages, through Direct-to-Consumer and 3-Tier channels, by beverage alcohol producers and suppliers. With over 15 years of experience in the market, ShipCompliant is the go-to compliance solution for thousands of producers and suppliers. As General Manager, Larry sets the strategy for the product roadmap and directs the company’s customer-facing activities. With over 25 years of executive leadership in the software industry, Larry brings a strong customer-first focus to ShipCompliant. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Texas at Austin and his graduate degree is from Rutgers Business School. He and his family live in Boulder, CO which is also where ShipCompliant is located.



Scott Zeramby, CEO & Director, Mendocino Agricultural Products

Scott’s 35 year career as a horticulturist, business owner and cannabis industry consultant has been primarily focused on encouraging energy efficiency and resource conservation while maintaining profitability throughout the cannabis community.   He is a consultant to regulators, product manufacturers and works directly with medium to large-scale cannabis producers and processors on all aspects of their businesses.

In 2010-11, Scott’s work with Nobel Laureate Dr. Evan Mills resulted in the first peer-reviewed white paper that quantified the carbon emissions associated with indoor cannabis cultivation.

In 2015-2016, Scott worked closely with a team led by the former head of the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture helping them to win the permits necessary to design and build a state-of-the-art, 91,000 square foot cannabis production and processing facility.


Omar Figueroa, Attorney, Law Offices of Omar Figueroa

Omar is a pioneering cannabis lawyer with more than eighteen years of experience providing legal counsel and representation to members of California’s cannabis industry. He has taught several Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars to lawyers on cannabis-related topics, including legal ethics and the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).

Mr. Figueroa is a member of the California State Bar, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Sonoma County Bar Association, California NORML, Cannabis Action Network, Americans for Safe Access, Stanford Alumni Association, Association of Yale Alumni, a Founding Lifetime Member of the National Cannabis Bar Association, and a lifetime member of the NORML Legal Committee. He is also a member of the Board of the ACLU of Sonoma County. Omar was also recently selected to serve as a member of Sonoma County’s Cannabis Advisory Group.

In 2006, Omar graduated from Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, which is considered the most prestigious and selective trial advocacy college in America. He is also a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School. Omar recently published a book, the Cannabis Codes of California, the second edition of which is forthcoming soon.

Brian Baker, VP Sales and Marketing, Chateau Montelena

Brian Baker serves as the VP Sales and Marketing at Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, overseeing global sales and marketing activities. Baker joined the winery as the Director of DTC– overseeing the retail, hospitality, wine club and e-commerce efforts of the winery.

Baker’s background is grounded in traditional brand marketing with an emphasis in direct to consumer, technology and research.

Baker served as Vice President Consumer Relationship Management at Jackson Family Wines. During his tenure at JFW, Baker evolved enterprise wide consumer direct systems for the then 34 JFW wineries.

Prior to his wine career, Baker spent 18 years in the travel industry including posts as VP Sales and Marketing at the SFCVB, and Director global marketing for Dollar Rent-A-Car.

He is a past chair of the California Travel Association, and served as chairman of the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium from 2009-2012 He is a sommelier and holds the CSW credential.


2018 Moderators and Panelists


Tracy Genesen, Vice President and General Counsel of the Wine Institute

Tracy is a seasoned Beverage Alcohol attorney who specializes licensing, federal and state regulations, franchise laws and distribution agreements. In addition, she has advised beverage alcohol companies on sales, marketing and digital advertising platforms, including contests, promotions and sweepstakes.

Tracy has represented clients before Federal Agencies such as the Tax and Trade Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission and testified before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the wine industry.




Laura Larson, Founder, Virtual Vines DTC Sales & Marketing Services Consulting

Virtual Vines specializes in DTC sales and marketing project based services and staff development, coaching and training. The consulting services portfolio is based on relationship selling methodologies designed to help businesses build closer connections with customers and strategic business partners. Since launching Virtual Vines, Laura has developed an extensive client list and is an active member of the DTC Winery Community.  She is a regular contributor to WIN Advisor through The V FILES ™ reports, which leverage Mystery Shoppers to review and score wineries on their adoption of DTC best practices. Laura serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Napa Valley Hospitality Forum is a contributing member of the 2017 DTCWS Steering Committee.


Vanessa Sternick, Director of Client Services, VingDirect

Vanessa Sternick joined the VingDirect team in 2014 after a decade in restaurant management. She brought with her a background in developing excellent consumer experiences and building and strengthening teams. As Director of Client Services, Vanessa runs the VingDirect mystery tasting program, provides management consulting, and conducts DTC Assessments, branding workshops, and recruitment. VingDirect uses online tasting room tracking and consulting services to help family wineries grow their direct to consumer sales.




Alice Hunter, DTC Manager, Marimar Estate

Alice began her career in the wine industry over 20 years ago, with the last 10 years at Marimar Estate Vineyards and Winery. Her role at Marimar Estate as Direct to Consumer Manager has her overseeing the growth of all Direct to Consumer channels with a special focus on the development of the tasting room. Alice has successfully led the tasting room through several transitions as well as a recent shift to appointment only and has leveraged innovative strategies like Mystery Shopping to optimize sales performance and operations. She continues to implement changes to heighten the tasting room experience not only to meet the winery’s goals but also attain the highest form of customer satisfaction.




Sandra Hess, Founder, DTC Wine Workshops Consulting Agency

DTC Wine Workshops Consulting and Training Firm supports wineries throughout the nation in the areas of DTC Sales Strategy, Wine E-Commerce, CRM and Training Services to grow direct-to-consumer wine sales and retain loyal customers. Sandra founded DTC Wine Workshops in July 2013 to serve winery stakeholders and management teams ready to leverage ideal blends of technology with best practices to capitalize on what is now over a $2.3 billion industry in wines shipped in the US. Sandra launched the DTC Consultant Network in August 2014 to offer a full-service solution to wineries of all sizes by matching direct wine specialists with winery teams on a project or retainer basis. DTC Wine Workshops is a recognized leader in winery staff training services and strategic solutions.




John Curnutt, Revenue & Systems Specialist, Chateau Montelena

Returning to his Napa Valley roots in the late 90’s after a career in software and professional publishing John Curnutt met up with Jeremy Benson and helped establish Benson Marketing Group’s e-marketing arm, kick starting many Napa Valley wineries’ Direct to Consumer programs. As favorable changes in direct shipping laws led more wineries to sell direct, John continued his technical marketing work under his own name curnutt.org now Invisible Hand Wines, LLC.

John is now with Chateau Montelena Winery as a Technical Business Analyst working with a close network winery technology partners and Application Service Providers.




Matt Wood, General Manager, Elizabeth Spencer Winery

Matt Wood is one of the leading wine industry DTC strategists, with a long history of driving profitable growth in all DTC channels. Matt spent eleven years with Constellation running their DTC business, and shorter stints with the wine business of 1-800 Flowers.com, and Foley Family Wines. Matt recently finished a rewarding spell as Estate Director of Domaine Chandon and is currently the General Manager at Elizabeth Spencer Winery in Rutherford, CA.





David Crum, Director of Customer Service & Membership, Duckhorn Wine Company

As director of customer service & membership, David Crum is responsible for the success of the company’s loyalty programs, customer service, and fulfillment operations in the direct-to-consumer (DtC) channel.

Over the last ten years, David has played a pivotal role in the strategic growth of the company’s DtC business. A data-driven leader, and an expert in relationship-focused customer service, David has guided the company’s wine clubs since their successful launch in 2009, managed e-mail and web marketing initiatives, and has overseen countless short- and long-term marketing campaigns across Duckhorn Wine Company’s portfolio of brands.



Kamyn Asher, Account Executive, Benson Marketing Group

Kamyn Asher joined Benson Marketing Group in 2016, and ensures clients succeed within the digital media space. In her role, she creates and executes digital campaigns; develops influencer partnerships; advises on social media strategy; and leads content and digital ad development. She draws from experience in many facets of the wine industry, having first-hand experience in wine production and hospitality.





Jennifer Warrington, “The Glue,” WISE Academy  

Jennifer is a marketing professional with 20 years of experience in the wine industry, including 8 years with WISE. She began her career in the wine industry working for Lesley Berglund at Ambrosia Wine Catalogue/The Winetasting Network shortly after completing her BA in English Literature. Over the course of her career, she has developed expertise in project management, market research, copy writing, and editing. Today in her role as The Glue, at WISE Academy, Jennifer oversees WISE Operations which includes spearheading the WISE Mystery Shopping Program; account management of WISE wineries; conducts market research; implements marketing programs; coordinates, schedules, and communicates with instructors, attendees and winery partners for a robust class schedule of 20+ courses and onsite training programs throughout California, Oregon, Washington, New York and more.