Thomas Comme was born in the wine region of Bordeaux. He grew up on the little property that his parents - Jean Michel and Corinne Comme - took over when he was seven. He grew up listening to them talk about Biodynamic, as his mom and dad both farmed this way.
To broaden his skills, he decided to study business at Sup de Co Bordeaux, where he earned a masters degree in management.
Today he manages Pym-Rae, a new winery in Napa.
• Next Gen Winemakers
Mark Cuff founded The Living Vine, a wine import agency based in Toronto, Canada that represents only Biodynamic, organic and natural wines in 2006. That was "before cowhorns were cool and organics the new norm," he says.
The Living Vine’s mandate from the beginning was to introduce, educate and promote the sale of Biodynamic wines. Today it represents 100+ established Biodynamic estates.
Over the last 12 years, Mark has seen the Canadian market mature from niche to mainstream and is looking forward to contributing insights into merchandising biodynamic wines.
• The Biodynamic Marketplace: Trends and Opportunities
• Know Your Buyer (and Seller)
• A Place at the Table: Wine in the [Biodynamic] Marketplace
• Biodynamic Wines Abroad – International Perspectives
• Portlandia Goes BD: Natural Wines and Biodynamic Vines in Oregon
Alex Davis grew up on the Porter Creek estate, while his father George Davis was establishing the vineyards and winery.
The winery was bonded in 1982 and Alex was expected at age 12 to participate in all aspects of the faming and winemaking operations. Some of his early accomplishments include winning the statewide grapevine pruning championship (while in high school), getting an A.A. from Santa Rosa Junior College and then an Enology degree at Fresno State University - while working summers at Sonoma Cutrer (and of course weekends, holidays, etc. at Porter Creek).
After all of this, Alex was hungry for some experience that was a little less mainstream. So he secured a harvest job in Burgundy, and as luck would have it, it was with one the greatest winemakers in Burgundy - Christophe Roumier.
It was there that Alex had an epiphany moment: coming from California at a time where high tech winemaking was the dominate theme, he saw some of the greatest wines in the world being made in a similar fashion to 100 years ago, mostly using astute observation skills and minimal technology.
After this “taste” of Old World winemaking, Alex secured another harvest position in Mersault, Burgundy, followed by a year at the University of Burgundy where he studied both Viticulture and Enology with students from all over France. He followed up with one last internship with E. Guigal in the northern Rhone valley.
In 1997, Alex came back to Porter Creek full time as the winemaker, and in the first year, he converted all of the wine fermentations to natural yeast, and then began the conversion to organic and Biodynamic farming.
After 20 years at the helm, Alex’s winemaking style and vision have remained unwavering. Alex further refined his father's winemaking approach, maintaining lower alcohol levels and bringing out nuanced vineyard character.
To this day, Alex remains very active on the ground level both in the vineyards and winery- closely supervising his small vineyard crew, operating tractors on very steep slopes and even fabricating his own winemaking gadgets that he dreams up.
Alex’s favorite quote is from one of his mentors in France. “Great wine comes from two places, the soil and your heart!”
Jeff Dawson has been a Biodynamic farmer and consultant for over 24 years. beginning as Director of Gardens at the Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Garden Projectand then creating a Biodynamic garden for the Jackson Family. From there, he developed a private, Biodynamic fruit and vegetable garden for Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs.
Dawson was then offered a job at Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts in Napa Valley. As Curator of Gardens, he designed and developed the Center’s two-and-a-half acre Biodynamic demonstration garden.
Over a span of 13 years in Napa Valley he worked as a Biodynamic consultant with some of the Napa Valley’s premiere vineyards. He oversaw oversaw Araujo Estate, the first Demeter certified vineyard in Napa and developed Biodynamic programs for Quintessa Vineyards, Rudd Vineyards and the Napa Valley Reserve and worked with Frog’s Leap and Staglin Vineyards.
Today Dawson continues his Biodynamic consultation with Bart and Daphne Araujo’s Accendo Cellars and Jean Charles Boisset of the Biosset Collection.
• Moderator, The Extra Edge: Vineyard and Biodynamic Practices That Improve Wine Quality
Laura DePasquale MS began her hospitality career as a teenager, working for a fast food chain, but quickly moved into fine dining.
Her first serious introduction to wine was in New York City, where she worked as a bartender at Arizona 206, followed by a stint as beverage director at the Royalton Hotel.
In the early 1990s, she moved to Miami and worked as an award-winning sommelier at Norman’s restaurant until she was recruited by Palm Bay International in 2001 as Florida state fine wine specialist.
In 2004, DePasquale achieved the Master Sommelier Diploma and has been an active educator, examiner and speaker for CMS-Americas (Court of Master Sommeliers).
After a series of promotions within Palm Bay over the course of 10 years, DePasquale left Palm Bay with the role of vice president of fine wine development under her belt. In 2011, she was recruited by The Country Vintner specifically to lead the turn-around of Stacole, the company’s fine wine distribution division in Florida which she developed into a leading fine wine distributor over 3 years.
Currently she is the Director of Fine Wine Development & Education at Southern Wine & Spirits Florida and is leading the creation of a new Fine Wine Distribution Concept for SWS called Artisanal Fine Wine & Spirits that launched in 2016. She is also a judge for Decanter.
Paul Dolan believes that business leaders can help make a better world, and during his 27 years at Fetzer Vineyards (include 12 as president), he led a transformation that put the company at the forefront of organic viticulture and sustainable business.
His family’s involvement in the wine industry extends back four generations through the Rossi and Concannon families. Today, Paul continues this tradition as a principle with Truett Hurst Wine Company and with his son Heath at the family’s Dark Horse Ranch, located in Ukiah, California.
His goal is to create a model for the wine business and winegrowing, and, in turn, he is determined to develop the wine industry as a model for all agriculture worldwide.
Author of “True to Our Roots, Fermenting a Business Revolution,” Paul knows that sustainability is an economic asset and a competitive advantage, as well as an imperative for healthy life on this planet.
In it he states, “A sustainable business should be a whole business, like a whole person. It must have integrity. It must have a moral center. It must be connected to its values and the greater world. It must aspire to do what is right, not just for the bottom line, not just from a legal standpoint, but from a moral and ethical standpoint. It’s not only accountable, it’s responsible.”
Paul resides in Healdsburg, California with his wife Diana and daughter Sassicaia. He enjoys spending his leisure time in his Mendocino County vineyards and on horseback at Dark Horse Ranch.
• Opening Remarks
• Compost, Compost Teas, and Carbon Farming
Over the past 15 years, Victor Gallegos has played a key role in establishing the Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard (in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation) as a grand cru-caliber winegrowing site, and one of the world’s great Pinot Noir vineyards.
A champion of a vineyard driven approach to winemaking, Victor guides one of the most thoughtful and acclaimed viticultural programs in California. In practical terms, this means that every single vine receives individual care and handling from Sea Smoke’s talented vineyard team at least eight times a year.
As a part of this holistic, detail oriented approach to vineyard health and wine quality, Victor guided Sea Smoke’s adoption of Biodynamic farming, which began with 12 acres in 2005.
Today all 172 acres of the Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard are Demeter certified Biodynamic.
In addition to working with Director of Vineyard Operations Julian Malone to guide the farming at Sea Smoke, Victor is the director of winemaking and is also responsible for overseeing Sea Smoke’s marketing, sales and finances.
Prior to joining Sea Smoke in early 2002, Victor garnered winemaking experience in Bordeaux, Spain, New York and California.
He earned a degree in viticulture from the University of California, Davis and holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.
• The Great Estates
• Biodynamic Pinot Noir
Rick and Aurora Grimm met in 1984 in London when he was working there as a product trader in the petroleum industry.
The couple began a new venture together, focusing on using biofuels to blend and create environmentally friendly road fuels. These groundbreaking products helped the U.K. make great strides in emissions control and gave the Grimms an opportunity to grow a successful family run business in London.
After 15 years, they sold what they had built and began a new journey, moving to Santa Barbara with their children.
In 2010, they purchased 135 acres on the southwestern edge of the Happy Canyon AVA to have a place for their family to enjoy the outdoors and create memories together. Shortly after they were able to purchase an adjacent parcel of 108 acres.
Wine was an old family tradition in Aurora Grimm's family. She was raised in Islington, London by Italian emigré parents who left their home country in the late 1940’s. Food, farming and family winemaking were an important part of their lives. Every harvest her father would have bins of Montepulciano grapes trucked to their London home where his seven daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren would make wine together in a former bomb shelter.
After moving to Santa Barbara County, the Grimm family decided to plant a small vineyard and five acre olive orchard on their ranch to produce the highest quality fruit for their friends, family, and others to enjoy.
They hired Biodynamic wine and vineyard expert Philippe Coderey to plan and plant the vineyard with the help of Coastal Vineyard Care.
The team meticulously studied the land at Grimm’s Bluff for a year, analyzing the site and soils and assessing the right clones and the appropriate locations. They planted 17 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in 2012. Many of the plantings are dry farmed and head trained.
Today their Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are sold locally to other vintners and also go into their own Grimm's Bluff wines.
• Biodynamic Cabernet
From an early age, Barbara Gross walked the rows of Pinot Noir and was never far from the bustle of harvest.
After receiving a bachelors of science degree from the University of Oregon, she found her calling working at her family’s winery.
Cooper Mountain Vineyards got its start in 1978 when Dr. Robert Gross and his wife, Corrine, planted their first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines. At first, the fruit was sold to other wineries and crafted into wine by some of Oregon’s finest winemakers.
In 1987, the winery opened to offer its first vintage to the public.
In 1999, Cooper Mountain Vineyards became the first certified Biodynamic winery in Oregon and one of the first in the U.S.
In 2013, the winery was voted "Top Value Brand of the Year” by Wine & Spirits magazine.
The current team now farms more than 100 acres, grow five varietals and is committed to sustainability: dry farming the estate's organic and Biodynamic vines and making only Demeter certified wines.
Gross is active in the community and has been a past board member of the Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers Association, North Willamette Vintners and a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington County Visitors Association.
Currently she is a board member of Oregon Pinot Camp and the Willamette Valley Winery Association, actively participating in developing the next generation of Willamette Valley growers and vintners.
• Biodynamic Wines By the Glass
• Next Gen Biodynamic Winemakers
Jason Haas, the son of Tablas Creek Vineyard founder and renowned importer Robert Haas, learned the wine business at an early age, accompanying his family on yearly European wine-buying trips and spending two summers working at Château de Beaucastel.
After obtaining a Master's Degree in Archaeology from Cornell and spending a four-year stint managing a tech company in Washington, DC, Jason moved to California to join Tablas Creek in April of 2002.
At Tablas Creek, he oversees the business, winemaking, and sales and marketing operations.
In addition to his work at Tablas Creek, Jason is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, a past president of the Rhone Rangers, and a former board member of the Family Winemakers of California.
His writing has been published in Wine Business Monthly, Wines & Vines, Decanter, Wine Industry Network and Zester Daily, and he is the principal author of the Tablas Creek blog, which has been a finalist at the Wine Blog Awards for Best Winery Blog eight times since 2008, winning in 2008 and 2011.
As General Manager of Tablas Creek since 2006, Jason has consistently spoken in favor of organic viticulture, wines of place, the potential of Paso Robles, and the quality of Rhone grape varieties.
He has spoken on wine and winemaking topics to audiences around the country, including the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium, Central Coast Insights, the American Wine Society, California Wine Summit, Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, Hospice du Rhône, Central Coast Wine Classic and many others.
In recognition of his contributions to the Paso Robles wine community, he was voted by his peers 2015 Paso Robles Wine Country Wine Industry Person of the Year and 2017 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Person of the Year.
He manages the day to day operations at Tablas Creek, which converted to Biodynamic certification in 2016.
Christophe has grown up amongst the vines throughout his entire life. Whether he was with his French family in Champagne, or building vineyards on Red Mountain and riding bulls in professional rodeo,
Christophe has maintained his love of rural life and wine to an obsession. Buying his own plot of land on Red Mountain in 2001, he set forth his dream of building his own vineyard and estate after he met his wife Maggie. She now runs their own wine business, Domaine Magdalena.
Now in his 40’s, Christophe has moved up the ranks from field hand, to GM, assuming every role possible at the winery.
Working alongside his sister, Sarah Goedhart, now the current winemaker, keeping things in the family does not look to end any time soon.
• Biodynamic Cabernets
Rob Izzo began his career in the classroom teaching information technology classes in
Atlanta, Georgia. An interest in organizational development led him to enroll in at the University of Virginia to pursue a Ph.D. in Education Leadership.
During his time in graduate school, he explored domestic and international wine growing regions extensively, developing a deep passion for wine.
Upon graduating with his doctorate, Rob moved to Sonoma, California to begin a
career in the wine industry working for Wilson Artisan Wineries in 2012. He became Director of Sales and Marketing for nine pf the company's wineries in 2014.
In 2017 Rob was named General Manager of Eco Terreno Wines and Vineyards.
In addition to his efforts at Eco Terreno, he serves as a lecturer in Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute and College of Business and Economics teaching marketing, technology, and leadership classes.
• Scaling Up