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Women for WineSense Winemaking & Viticulture Roundtable Presents “Growing Brands, Teams and Impact” 8th Annual GM Leadership Panel, Wednesday, May 1, 2024 at Laird


NAPA / SONOMA, CALIFORNIA |April 24, 2024: On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Napa | Sonoma chapter of Women For WineSense’s (WWS) Winemakers’ & Viticultural Roundtable will hold its eighth annual GM Leadership Panel as part of their ongoing senior level career building series.  The theme is “Growing Brands, Teams and Impact.”  The focus will be leadership development to help attendees in their own career and personal development.  The interactive panel will discuss their unique experiences and success skills working from entry-level production and viticulture roles all the way to significant leadership roles, building highly noted brands and talented teams along the way.  Discussion topics will be tailored for general managers, senior level winemaking and viticulture careers, and rising stars will certainly benefit from the information as well.  It will be generously hosted onsite at Napa Valley’s acclaimed Laird Family Estate by long time WWS Roundtable member and past GM leadership panel alum, Janet Myers.  Laird is located at 5055 Solano Avenue, Napa, CA  94558.


At 3:00 p.m. early arrivals will enjoy networking while sampling an assortment of estate wines followed by a 3:30 p.m. behind-the-scenes production tour and interactive panel from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.  To encourage dynamic and candid conversations, this event will not be available on Zoom and will not be recorded.

The leaders moderating and speaking in the panel represent experiences in a widely diverse range of top winegrowing regions, brand portfolios, production and distribution models, each progressively practicing winemaking and viticulture from sustainable to organic and biodynamic.  Beyond skilled operations management, they are masters of multi-functional leadership, building brands, growing teams and strategic planning while giving back to the industry and community.

Panelists include Alison Crowe, Plata Wine Partners, VP Winemaking / Partner; Laura Diaz Munoz, Robert Mondavi Winemaker; Megan Schofield, Joel Gott Wines, Director of Winemaking; Natalie Winkler, Salvestrin Viticulturist & Winemaker.  The moderators will be noted prior years’ leadership panel alums, Mari Wells Coyle, Chateau St Jean & Sebastiani Vineyards, VP Winemaking and Jennifer Higgins, Lambert Bridge. VP Winemaking / GM.

This candid, interactive discussion will share each of their stories, how they rose to their level of expertise and their chosen journeys to become wine industry leaders.  Topics will include lessons learned, advice on success skills, technical, career and personal development insights and welcome questions from attendees.

Roundtable chair Julie Lumgair noted, “This is an exceptional opportunity for attendees to converse directly with talented industry leaders that have walked the walk in our functional boots and excelled to the highest levels in many different types of organizations.  Each will openly share leadership lessons, insights and answer questions in a very friendly, relaxed environment of peers.”


Please, no walk ins.  The free roundtable meeting is open to active professional WWS Winemaking & Viticulture Roundtable members.  Interested guest winemakers and viticulturists that have emailed and received confirmations through the Chair are warmly welcomed to attend one Roundtable for free before joining WWS if space is available.  Please pre-register no later than 8 pm., April 29, 2024 at this link.

All attendees are asked to bring a bottle or two of wine to share as a thank you to our host and speakers.  To RSVP, or for any questions on this event or future WWS events, please contact the Roundtable Chair, Julie[dot]Lumgair[at]gmail[dot]com.


The Roundtable meets approximately six times a year, taking a harvest break.  Current members of the WWS Napa / Sonoma W&V Roundtable work in the North Bay, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz, Central Coast and Washington, meeting both in person and though hybrid onsite / online formats.

Alicia Sylvester, long time WWS member of the Winemaking & Viticulture Planning Committee noted “Our past meeting topics have focused upon the C-suite professional skills and insights women winemakers and viticultural professionals need but aren’t always easy to get in their daily work environment.”

She further explained that, “Held for over 30 years at some of Napa and Sonoma’s finest host wineries, and since 2020, expanded to both online and in person formats, our Roundtable programs have been a fantastic opportunity for over 100 member women winemakers and viticulturists to connect directly in a friendly professional forum, with experts that they otherwise wouldn’t get to meet for personal advice and questions.  Some of our recent speakers have included top wine publication critics and senior editors, iconic winemakers, leading academics, global sensory consultants, sommeliers, media trainers, professional coaching experts, CFO’s and GM’s in panel discussions and key recruiters.”

To join or learn more, please visit www.womenforwinesense.org.


WWS is a national not-for-profit organization 501(c)6. The Napa|Sonoma Chapter founded in 1990 is the founding chapter of this national organization which provides outstanding educational and networking opportunities to both wine industry professionals and wine enthusiasts by presenting educational, insightful and stimulating events in a welcoming, fun environment. Women and men 21 years old or more are welcome to join. Information on the national chapter and 12 regional chapters is at www.womenforwinesense.org.


Alison Crowe, Plata Wine Partners, VP Winemaking / Partner:

Alison Crowe is Vice President Winemaking and Founding Partner at Napa-based Plata Wine Partners. Plata Wine Partners, started in 2005, is a leading wine and case goods supplier to “Top 100” wine brands and US and international retailers and restaurants. With grape sourcing from its own certified sustainable vineyards, Plata Wine Partners grows and makes coastal California wines from Santa Barbara County in the south to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys in the north.

Alison is on the Board of the Carneros Wine Alliance and new for 2024 is co-teaching the UC Davis Extension Wine Marketing Program July 22-26. She writes the popular column “The Wine Wizard” for WineMaker Magazine, is author of The Winemaker’s Answer Book and the award-winning wine blog, GirlandtheGrape.com. She is a frequent industry speaker, having lectured at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and UC Davis Graduate School of Management. She holds three degrees from UC Davis: Fermentation Science, Spanish (1998) and an MBA (2010).

Laura Diaz Munoz, Robert Mondavi Winemaker:

Laura completed her graduate degree in enology at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, then mastered the essential disciplines of her field at Finca Otero before seeking new inspiration and lessons in other parts of the world. Her work in New Zealand and Chile taught her much about the influence of terroir on varietal characteristics, and how culture and past experience influence a person’s enjoyment of different wine styles.

Her next job brought her to Napa Valley to work with renowned Winemaker Chris Carpenter on the wines of Cardinale and Lokoya. Under Chris’s guidance, she learned to stay true to her vision, to be patient and to channel her tremendous passion for the work into the stamina and determination necessary for her ambitious standards.  Laura’s confidence and poise illuminated the elegant wines of Galerie, her first solo winemaking project. As the name suggests, this collection was an expressive exhibition of her artistry.

Continuing to make an impact in many Napa Valley leading AVA’s, Laura served over five years as winemaker and General Manager of Ehlers Estate and was then selected in harvest 2023 as winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville.  She is additionally furthering her wine expertise as a Master of Wine student.

Megan Schofield, Joel Gott Wines, Director of Winemaking:

Megan Schofield joined the team at Joel Gott Wines as Director of Winemaking, from Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville.

Megan has had an impressive winemaking career with stints at Buena Vista, Simi Winery, Charles Smith and Hogue in Washington, and two stints at Robert Mondavi Oakville, initially as the White & Pinot Noir Winemaker and most recently as the Director of Winemaking.  Her extensive experience in both luxury and production winemaking uniquely qualifies her to lead the Joel Gott winemaking portfolio efforts to deliver the exceptional quality and value for which Joel Gott Wines are known.

Natalie Winkler, Salvestrin Viticulturist & Winemaker:

Natalie’s enthusiasm for viticulture and winemaking began in an inconspicuous way. She landed a gig at a local wine bar while attending the University of Oregon. Immediately she was smitten by the variety of wines grown all over the globe. A friend and mentor suggested working a harvest abroad. Recently graduated and fluent in Spanish, Natalie jumped on a plane to Spain in 2009 for vintage at Bodega Elias Mora in Toro. Once she had dirty vineyard boots and purple hands, suddenly her future became very clear.

After Spain, she moved to Healdsburg, California to pursue a winegrowing career.  She’s worked at a variety of wineries in both viticulture and winemaking: Windsor Oaks, Mill Creek Winery, Delatite Winery (Australia), Westwood, Chateau Fontenil (Bordeaux) and Salvestrin. At small wineries in Sonoma and Napa, Natalie has worked with vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley and St. Helena.

Since 2010, Natalie has focused on transitioning vineyards to organic, regenerative and biodynamic farming. For over 10 years, she has apprenticed with Philippe Coderey, international vineyard consultant. Together they operate roots vineyard consulting and work with clients throughout California and France.

Currently Natalie also works as viticulturist and winemaker at Salvestrin Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley where she spearheaded the transition of the Dr. Crane Vineyard to organic and regenerative farming. She continues experimenting with biodynamics. Natalie is very keen on farming as the key to premium wine quality.

She holds a PCA license, BA in Spanish and Political Science (University of Oregon) and a Master’s in Viticulture and Enology from the University of Valladolid in Ribera del Duero, Spain.


Mari Wells Coyle, Chateau St Jean & Sebastiani Vineyards, VP Winemaking:

Raised in Bellingham, Washington, Mari’s passion for the outdoors started at a young age. She joined Chateau St. Jean Winery as head winemaker and has developed a true passion for crafting Cabernet and Bordeaux wines and describes her main role as a winemaker “to bring the best fruit to the bottle. Every decision I make is a part of bringing the vineyards to the table in a meaningful way.”

A seasoned veteran with over 20 years of industry experience, Mari first earned her degree in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis, and accepted her first winemaking position at the age of 24.  Since then, she has led several start-up wineries and helped iconic wineries meet modern industry standards which all have led her to Sonoma County and the iconic CSJ winery.  Some notable wineries she worked at include David Girard Vineyards, Sterling Vineyards, and most recently One Hope Wine as the Executive Winemaker.

Jennifer Higgins, Lambert Bridge. VP Winemaking / GM:

Born and raised in Sonoma County, Jennifer immersed herself in winemaking while working with the legendary Zelma Long of Simi Winery. After earning a degree from UC Davis in Biochemistry, Jennifer worked in Italy for two years before returning home to take a tasting room job as she studied for her medical school entrance exam. Before long, Jennifer abandoned her aspirations for medicine and dove into the cellar, learning the artistic complexities of the winemaking process from Zelma and her team.  She took on her first official production role working with Jill Davis at William Hill Winery in Napa Valley.  During this time, she worked tirelessly, learning the ropes at a large Napa Valley winery prior to her eleven-year tenure at Lancaster Estate where she collaborated often with the iconic winemaking consultant David Ramey.

In early 2010, Jennifer joined Lambert Bridge and the rest is history.  During the past decade, she has crafted the “LB style” –  wines that are distinctive, elegant and built for long term cellar aging.  Jennifer’s fervor and passion is infectious – her commitment to excellence unwavering; her life’s passion is demonstrated in every bottle of Lambert Bridge.


Laird Family Estate is a farming family with over 50 years of experience growing grapes in Napa Valley. With more than 2,000 acres of planted vineyards, 97% of their fruit is sold to other premium wineries and just 3% is reserved for their own brand, which was established in 1999.   Their vineyards are meticulously farmed, and fruit is carefully selected to produce world class wines that are meant to be savored with every sip.

Janet Myers is the event host is Laird Family Estate Production Manager & Winemaker.  She developed a love of horticulture early, growing up around her family’s commercial apple and peach orchards in Southern Illinois.  After graduating with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Illinois, she headed for adventure, working several years in the London restaurant trade.  It was during this time that she discovered her passion for wine, while traveling through the vineyards of Italy.

Returning to complete an M.S. in Enology and Fermentation Science from the University of California, Davis, she worked her first harvest at Robert Mondavi Winery, then broadened her experience with harvests in Italy and Western Australia.  Back in the Napa Valley, Janet worked at vintners Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Louis Martini Winery before joining Franciscan Estate and Mount Veeder Winery, first as Associate Winemaker and then as General Manager and Director of Winemaking.  At Laird, she oversees custom crush wine production at five facilities.