Wine

Hosts

HOST YEAR
2019|2020
Oct 31, 2019
Friends and Colleagues of the Late Christopher Silva
President & CEO, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Santa Rosa, CA

A fifth generation Sonoma County native, Christopher Silva worked in Los Angeles as an attorney before coming aboard St. Francis as the winery’s CEO. The winery is best known for its boldly flavored and fruit-forward varietal wines and was named after St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan order, credited with bringing European-style grape cultivation to the new world. “Our time at St. Francis will not be measured in years. It will be measured by the contributions each one of us makes—as individuals—to constantly improving the quality of our grapes and our wines. ‘Good enough’ is contrary to our mission.”
Rick Bonitati
CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Rick Bonitati joined the St. Francis team as Chief Executive Officer in early 2018. With over 30 years of experience in the fine wine business and a focus primarily on Sonoma County wines, Rick’s passion for premium Sonoma County wines is a perfect addition to St. Francis’ leadership team. Rick believes it is imperative to “work hard and have fun doing it.” His strategic approach to business is to empower collaborative leadership and establish clear objectives and tactical action plans for constant improvement and growth. His team approach along with his pursuit of consistent development is perfectly aligned with the driving force behind St. Francis’ dedication to excellence.
Lawrence Lohr
Friend & Colleague to Christopher Silva and co-owner of J Lohr Winery
Lawrence Lohr, friend, colleague and fellow wine educator and co-owner of J Lohr Vineyards & Wines has graciously agreed to serve as the Wine Host for this tribute cruise and other special guests may be forthcoming as well.
Oct 31, 2019
Arthur White
President and Winemaker of Arthur Earl Winery and Santa Ynez Wine Corp.
TBA
Nov 3, 2019
Rhonda Wood
Owner & Winemaker, Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore, CA
Wood Family Vineyards is a family run winery located in the eastern foothills of Livermore Valley specializing in limited production handcrafted wines. Rhonda started making wine in 1996 – after they purchased the Merlot vineyard where she and Michael built their home. Together, their passion for wine and belief that winemaking begins in the vineyard led them to Livermore Valley. They are tireless champions about the quality of Livermore Valley soils and their commitment to Valley grown grapes.
Nov 3, 2019
Richard Sanford
Founder of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Richard Sanford graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Geography in 1965 and served as a naval officer in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968. He dreamed of discovering a local climate zone similar to the Burgundy region of France, growing Pinot Noir in California, and producing wine that would rival the best in the world. Using his background in geography and studying the climates of California since 1900, Richard identified a remarkable geographic anomaly: the transverse mountain range of California where the valleys open to the west, allowing cool maritime air to moderate the growing climate. After locating acreage with well-drained soils in the chosen climate zone, Richard organized a partnership to purchase a ranch, and there he planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the region, establishing Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1971. In 1976 Richard met his future wife, Thekla Brumder, just in time for the first vintage at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. They were married in 1978, and in 1981 they founded Sanford Winery, which–for the next 25 years–produced award-winning wines that were sold throughout the world. In 1983 the Sanfords planted their first 100% organic vineyard, named El Jabali, on what is now the Alma Rosa Ranch. El Jabalí and La Encantada vineyards, both planted by Richard, were the first in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic.
Nov 3, 2019
Michael Lewellen
Managing Partner at Lucas & Lewellen Winery, Solvang, CA
Coming Soon!
Nov 3, 2019
Dave and Helen Dart
Owners of d'Art Winery in Lodi, California
“I believe my winemaking and my art are just different mediums with the same passion.” Explains owner/winemaker Dave Dart. Being involved in every aspect of winemaking, from the harvest to bottling, involves equal portions of creativity and knowledge. It is not surprising that Dave turns to his other art forms to rejuvenate and refresh his mind. Each d’Art label is a creation of Dave’s beautiful art prints can be seen in the tasting room.

With 13 years of love and hard work, Dave and Helen look forward to sharing our story and our wine with you on this Ama Waterways River Cruise. Through our discussions we will walk through the vineyards, crush and ferment the wine, barrel and blend, and finally bottle and deliver to our club members. We’ll also explore the different styles of wine from d’Arts Lodi wines to the wines of the Rhine River.

Nov 5, 2019
Janie Brooks Heuck
Managing Director, Brooks Winery, Amity, OR

Portland, Oregon native Janie Brooks had no intentions of being in the wine industry – other than being a proud and supportive sister to the founder of Brooks Wines, her brother, Jimi Brooks. Upon Jimi’s unexpected passing in 2004, Janie quickly found herself responsible for the business operations of the winery. Since his passing, Janie has increased the production from 3,500 cases to 8,000 cases and has been able to maintain the same vineyard sources and winemaking style, while growing the business to meet the consumer and market demands. Janie enjoys golfing, exercising and being involved in the community where she resides and actively volunteering with her children’s school. She spends her summers in Oregon at the farmhouse on the property with her family. She has also become an active member of the Oregon wine community.
Nov 7, 2019
Mick Schroeter
Winemaking Director, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Windsor, CA

Winemaking is often a trade passed down from generation to generation, and Mick Schroeter is no exception. Following in his father and uncle’s footsteps, Mick joined the family business at the Penfold Winery in 1982. With his love and passion for winemaking, he rose rapidly within the Penfold Winery, and later accepted a position as Vice President of Winemaking at Geyser Peak Winery in California where he remained for 17 years. His long track record of success and illustrious career in Australia and California, along with twice being named “Winemaker of the Year” at the London International Wine & Spirit Competition, have given Mick the knowledge and experience to take the reins as Winemaking Director at Sonoma-Cutrer.
Nov 7, 2019
Preston Mohr
Wine Expert, IWS, WSET

Preston Mohr, is a wine expert and wine educator, based in Paris, France, where he has made his home for over 10 years. Preston founded Paris By The Glass in 2011 and offers wine tastings, gourmet walking tours and vineyard day trips in France and beyond. Preston has worked with AmaWaterways since 2012 and has cruised on the Rhine, Rhone and the Seine. Preston received the prestigious Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and is an active associate member of the Institute of Wines and Spirits (IWS). Preston also holds bachelor’s degrees in Art History and French Studies from the University of Minnesota.
Nov 7, 2019
Peter Marks
Master of Wine, Constellation Brands

Peter Marks is one of only 24 Masters of Wine residing in the U.S. and was the first American to win the Madame Bollinger Foundation Award for having the highest tasting score on the rigorous MW exam. He has served as Director of Wine at the upscale Draeger’s Supermarkets in the San Francisco area, Chief Wine Merchant for online wine retailer Wine.com, and Senior Vice President of Wine at COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. Peter is also a member of the Society of Wine Educators, sits on the Board of Directors of the Napa Valley Wine Library and judges many international wine competitions.
Nov 7, 2019
Michael and Jennifer Keenan
President and Owner of Keenan Winery, St. Helena, CA
Michael Keenan is known for leading the team that produces the mouth-watering merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel, cabernet franc and chardonnays for which Keenan Winery is known. But he is also deeply appreciated for his dynamic personality, tongue in cheek humor, and accessible. You may have the opportunity to meet with him in your town by attending one of the many winemaker dinners, which he hosts with the chefs, sommeliers, wine critics, wine bloggers and fine restauranteurs around the United States and world. In these events, which are often times kept quite small and intimate so that invitees may get to know him, the hosts, the wines, delicious food pairings and each other. Typically, he’ll captivate his guests with stories from the vineyards, the cellar, and the winery, while keeping everyone laughing with his great humor. Everyone walks away relaxed, smiling and fully sated from the great conversation, scrumptious wines and mouth-watering food. The next time you attend one of his wine maker dinners, make sure you tell him about the first time you tasted his wines and what you like to pair together. Because one thing Michael will say again and again, the real point of wine is to better enjoy the accompanying food!
Nov 8, 2019
Holly Howell
Journalist & Wine Expert, Finger Lakes, NY

Holly Howell writes a wine column for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester and is a well-respected New York-based authority on the wines of the Finger Lakes region, particularly Rieslings. She spent a year in France studying French food and wine, teaches wine and food pairing classes, and has served as a judge for the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and also writes a popular blog. Holly is currently pursuing her Wine Spirit Education & Trust diploma.
Nov 10, 2019
Ana Keller
Estate Director, Keller Estate Winery, Petaluma, CA
Arturo Keller and his wife Deborah first fell in love with the site while driving a vintage car through the meandering Sonoma roads, and selected the property for its potential as a site for a world-class vineyard. Clearly, the property’s beauty, setting, and history in the Petaluma Gap area influenced their decision to make it their home. Ana Keller, Arturo’s daughter and a biochemist by training, has been at the helm of Keller Estate Winery since the family-run business turned from vineyard to winery in 2000. Ana joined the winery eager to create the most exquisite wines from the Estate’s vineyards. Ana’s passion has established Keller Estate as a benchmark for producing some of the best wines in the Sonoma Coast, and her dedication has been instrumental in helping to establish the Petaluma Gap as the country’s newest AVA and in promoting the wines of this region worldwide.
Nov 10, 2019
Leslie Sbrocco
Wine Expert
An award-winning author, speaker, consultant, and television host, Leslie Sbrocco, is known for her entertaining approach to wine and food. Voted as one of the Top 20 most influential people in the American wine business by intowine.com, Sbrocco’s engaging personality, humor, and ability to connect with the audience are her trademarks. Sbrocco’s has written two award-winning wine books and is the host of the PBS television series Check Please! Bay Area, which has won a James Beard award and three Emmy awards in the span of 13 seasons. Leslie was a featured judge on the PBS national series, The Winemakers, and created wine content for the hit TBS show, Cougartown. She appears frequently on national radio and television outlets and is a regular guest on NBC’s Today Show. Leslie is currently at work on the new national PBS television series entitled, 100 Days…100 Drinks, Dishes & Destinations. As one of the country’s most sought-after wine speakers, Leslie has showcased her energetic style at hundreds of events including O magazine’s Hi Gorgeous tour with Oprah Winfrey. She has been the keynote speaker at high-profile events including Food & Wine Magazine’s Aspen Classic, the Boston Wine Expo, Pinot Noir New Zealand, Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival and the Boardwalk Wine Promenade.
Nov 10, 2019
Dr. Richard & Bunny Becker
Owners of Becker Vineyards
Becker Vineyards was founded by Dr. Richard Becker, a physician in San Antonio, and his wife Bunny. Established in 1992, Becker is one of the original four wineries in Fredericksburg and today they are among the best known and highly respected brands in the state of Texas. Becker Vineyards’ wine has been served in the stateliest of settings, including seven times in the White House, the James Beard Foundation in New York, the Texas Governor’s Mansion and many other famous restaurants in Texas and the United States.
Nov 11, 2019
Frederick Frank
President, Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, Finger Lakes Region, NY

Frederick Frank is president of Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, a position he has held since 1993. After graduating from Cornell University, Fred worked for Banfi Vintners in sales from 1979 to 1982, before attending Geisenheim Reserch Institute for Viticulture and Enology in West Germany in 1982-1983. He was managing director of Old Brookville Vineyard at Banfi from 1984 to 1993. Under Fred’s leadership both the winery’s production and number of honors received has increased greatly, with Dr. Frank’s Riesling poured on numerous occasions in the White House. Wines from Dr. Frank’s winery are now available in over 30 states, making them among the most visible and well-known produced in New York State. Fred, the winery, and its wines have been featured in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Wine & Spirits Magazine, New York Times, The Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast and more. Please join Fred Frank on this voyage down the Blue Danube visiting Prague, Vilshofen, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and some of the most beautiful villages in Austria.
Nov 12, 2019
Susanne Sapier
Owner of Vineyard Grant James
Susanne Sapier has always had a passion for good wine and great fun. In 2008 Susanne purchased a property in the inland San Diego County town of Ramona, CA to start a vineyard. Just three weeks later the first vines were planted. By 2011 sufficient quantities of her estate-grown grapes were ready to make the first year’s production of Vineyard Grant James wines. Named after her son Grant and father James, this family owned winery is rapidly growing by reputation and word-of-mouth. In 2017 Travel + Leisure magazine named Vineyard Grant James the #2 winery in the USA by visitor popularity; high praise indeed!
Nov 14, 2019
Erich and Joanne Russell
owners of Rabbit Ridge Winery
California winemaker Erich Russell founded Rabbit Ridge Winery and Vineyards in 1981 in Healdsburg CA, building a substantial operation. In 1996 he married the lovely Joanne James-Russell, a native of St. Petersburg FL. In 2001 they relocated Rabbit Ridge to the fast growing central California area of Paso Robles. That area’s calcareous soil conditions are very similar to France’s Rhone Valley, a part of Europe that Erich Russell knows intimately. He has visited and studied Rhone winemaking for decades. Implementing design ideas from Tuscany and France, Erich and Joanne have built a stunning winery that is both regal in look and Old World in feeling. Rabbit Ridge Vineyards today farms over 200 acres of premium grapes, producing 10,000 cases of delicious Rhone-style wines sold nationwide. The next generation is prepping to take the reins. Daughter Sarah and husband Brice Garrett manage the Rabbit Ridge tasting room and produce their own wine label called Serrano. Join the Russell family on a remarkable voyage and wine extravaganza down the beautiful Rhone River, France’s nautical highway since the time of Julius Caesar.
Nov 14, 2019
Wente Vineyards
Coming Soon!
Nov 14, 2019
Liz Barrett
CSW, Certified Specialist of Wine for AmaWaterways
Join Liz Barrett, AmaWaterways’ own Certified Specialist of Wine, as she takes you on a journey through some of Europe’s most iconic wine regions along the Moselle, Main and Rhine rivers. Steeped in rich history and beauty, these regions will unfold even more as you enjoy the culinary, wine and even local smoked beer while enjoying your luxurious floating boutique hotel, your AmaWaterways ship and crew. A combination of wine tastings and interaction on board with the added flare of regional personalities makes this a wine cruise to remember.
Nov 15, 2019
Nov 15, 2019
Scott & Jana Harvey
Owner & Winemaker Scott Harvey Wines
Scott developed a keen interest in winemaking as a high school exchange student in the Rhineland Pfalz region of Germany. Scott attended California State University at Sacramento before beginning practical Enology training at Montevina Winery in Amador County. Back to Germany in 1975, he apprenticed at K. Fitz-Ritter Winery while attending the Weinbau Schule in Neustadt. In 1978, at the age of 23, Scott took over as Head Winemaker for Story Winery, also in Amador County. In 1996, Scott was recruited as Partner, Winemaker & President for newly purchased, Folie a Deux Winery in Napa Valley. Scott pursued his commitment to award-winning Cabernets made from the Estate Vineyards in Napa Valley while continuing his passion for Amador County Zinfandel. In addition, Scott’s creation, the “Menage a Trois” line of wines, was an instant commercial success. In 2004, Folie a Deux, now a respected brand, was sold to Sutter Home/Trinchero Winery. Scott was finally positioned and ready to start his own venture, and he had the ideal partner, his wife Jana, a wine industry veteran.
Nov 17, 2019
Steve & Lori Johnson
Owners
Considered by many winemakers and enthusiasts to be one of the great vineyards in the region, Deer Park Ranch started with the dream of the late Dan Lester, a real estate developer born and raised in Watsonville, to have a ranch. In 1988, he and his wife Patricia found this 200-acre parcel on Pleasant Valley Road in Corralitos and named it Deer Park Ranch. In 1998 Dan implement his vision of having a vineyard. He put in the 14-acre Lester Family Vineyard in two blocks which flank the entrance to the ranch. The lower block, a dying orchard, was planted in 1998 and the upper block planted in 2001, was an abandoned Christmas tree farm. The varietals currently grown are Chardonnay, Syrah and 7 clones of Pinot noir. Over time, the clonal mix has changed, and will continue to evolve as the site matures. Since 2001, the Lester’s have been selling the premium fruit to local wineries and accomplished winemakers who over the years have won various awards and accolades with the Lester fruit. After Dan’s death in 2014, Patty, along with the help of her daughter Lori and Lori’s husband Steve Johnson, decided the time had come to make their own estate wine from the vineyard to showcase the unique character of the vineyards, thus Lester Estate Wines was formed. They carefully selected winemakers to hand-craft wines that express the distinct qualities of terroir and vines found growing in Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park Ranch. They now have a stable of wine made by these winemakers to share with you.
Nov 18, 2019
Nello & Danica Olivo
Owners of Nello Olivo Winery, Placerville, CA
In 2001 the Olivos purchased 21 acres in El Dorado County, California, with the intention of growing grapes for Nello’s winemaking hobby. With the help of UCDavis, Nello established a showcase vineyard and sold the surplus to local winemakers. When they began winning gold medals with his grapes Nello decided he would “go commercial” and began winning gold medals of his own. Danica’s background is in the movie industry but her grandmother was from a German wine-merchant family. Danica sits on the Board of the El Dorado Winemakers Association. Like most El Dorado AVA wineries they are small and family owned but have won such awards as Best Sangiovese in California and Best of Class at the prestigious Orange County Fair. Specializing in Italian varietals, Nello and Danica look forward to sharing their award-winning wines on this wonderful cruise and exploring the contrast with the celebrated wines of the region.
Experience More Connections
Turn your holiday meal into an extraordinary experience with some sensational wine choices.
Read more
As the clock rolls over, what are different countries doing to celebrate?
Read more
Celebrate life’s sweetest moments with an intoxicating pairing of ultra-rich, honeyed Sauternes wine from Bordeaux.
Read more