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Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma Elects New Board Directors

Posted on February 12, 2018

Napa/Sonoma Feb 12 2018: The Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma chapter welcomes six new board members to the President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Program Director positions. We are very appreciative of our current board members for their hard work and dedication over the past two years. Their support is greatly welcomed throughout the transition and they will continue to be leaders in the Women for WineSense organization at various levels of participation. The new board will be formerly announced at a Mix and Mingle event on February 21st from 6:00 – 8:00 at WorkMix located at 950 Randolph St, Napa, CA. Members and non-members are invited to join.

Sandra Hess, current President, shares her thoughts, "It has been my honor to serve Women for WineSense Napa Sonoma Chapter as board president the past two years. As I wrap up my term, I am excited to welcome a fine new group of board members. Maryam Ahmed, Director of Public Programs, The Culinary Institute of America will take my place as board president effective February 14th. We are also welcoming new board members to assume the positions of Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Programs Director. The newly formed board will continue the good work we have achieved these past two years. The existing roundtable groups will receive funding and new groups will be forming this year as well. The UC Davis Women for WineSense Scholarship Program will continue to benefit any active member enrolling in the extension classes. While I am ready to transition out of my board position, I not going to leave the organization entirely as I will support the new board in an advisory role and will also serve as co-chair of the Marketing and DTC Roundtable group."

Maryam has a lot of experience as a leader and is eager devote her energy and talents to Women for WineSense. Since joining The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 2016, Maryam has held a leadership role within the organization. Currently, she is responsible for developing classes, events, and experiences for the public to enjoy! With the expansion of the CIA to the Copia facility in downtown Napa—a building filled with opportunities for the public—Maryam has worked closely with CIA leadership and her team to launch the new venture, and she continues to offer innovative programs that excite the consumer, embrace thought-leaders, and showcase industry trends.

As an undergraduate at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Maryam concentrated on food and beverage management as well as supply chain management. Maryam worked for a family-owned winery in Ithaca; completed her Wine Professional Certificate from Apicius School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy; and was awarded the prestigious R.C. Kopf Scholarship that took her on an educational experience of a lifetime to wine regions in California, Italy, and France.

After graduating from Cornell, Maryam spent time working in beverage distribution and analysis, fine-dining restaurants, brand development, and event management. In 2013, she enrolled in the Enology & Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College with a goal to supplement her hospitality background with the science of winemaking. She has since completed multiple harvests and worked for wineries both small and large in scale.

Through her diverse experience, Maryam effectively works with chefs, enologists, viticulturists, and marketing and sales teams to create a collaborative, fun, and educational environment. Above all, she remains committed to excellent hospitality and the celebration of businesses and professionals that lend creativity, quality, and uniqueness to an ever-changing industry.

Working closely with Maryam, Kate Spadarotto, has been elected to the Vice President position. Kate grew up on a horse, cattle, and hay farm on the east coast which started her interest in wine. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Kate's success is built upon a diverse career that has seen her work in a plethora of fields from a financial analyst for NASA, to a corporate recruiter, to a licensed Realtor who specializes in the sale of vineyards, wineries and luxury estates in the Napa Valley region and simultaneously a winemaker and proprietor of Blue Oasis Wines. She lived on Long Island for three years and that's where her love for grapes really blossomed. From then on she has been studying wine and moved to the Napa Valley to pursue her dream. Blue Oasis label came to fruition Kate stating “the ocean has always been my place to go to relax and clear my mind. When I have a hard time sleeping I imagine the waves crashing and take a breath in when the wave is rising and then I take a deep breath out when I imagine it receding. I then try to clear my mind as the sand clears. It's also a way to learn to let go of things.”

Brandi Brown, stepping into the Secretary role, is a Partner at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP and head of the firm's wine industry group. Brandi is well versed in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, private securities offerings, leveraged buy-outs, and general corporate counseling of public and private companies. She represents a diverse group of clients, including private equity funds, privately held companies, individual investors, and international public companies, in a wide range of complex transactions. Brandi has particular expertise in guiding brands and advertising companies through the latest issues impacting the advertising industry, such as promotions and interactive advertising campaigns, sponsorship agreements, social media and mobile advertising challenges and privacy issues, as well as advertising in regulated industries. She serves as outside general corporate counsel to a diverse group of clients including Manual LLC (design) and The Hatch Agency (public relations). She also advises E. & J. Gallo Winery (alcohol beverage products) and Numi Organic Tea (beverage products).

Michell Ruggirello has already begun her transition into the Treasurer role. She is the owner of Trellis Accounting Services, Inc., which is a company providing finance and accounting consulting services to clients in the wine industry. Prior to creating her company in 2017, Michell was employed with Vintage Wine Estates, Inc. for the previous 17 years, most recently in a VP Finance role. Michell has experience in many aspects of operational accounting, M&A, financial reporting and budgeting. Michell is dedicated to managing results against the plan and maintaining financial discipline for Women for WineSense.

Teri Cirillo, joining the board as Program Director Co-Chair, has been leading Human Resources for organizations, including Fortune 100 and 500 companies, for over twenty years. She has been a leader in the Wine and Spirits industry for over 15 years and is currently living in Napa, California. She has vast experience coaching leaders and leading HR for start-up, high performance, and turnaround organizations. She was also the HR lead for many mergers, acquisitions, and business divestitures. She recently started her own independent HR Consulting company, Cirillo Development, and offers HR generalist support with a focus on leadership, team, and organizational development. She has a passion for helping leaders discover and leverage their gifts and talents to reach their full potential.

Antoine Casanave, also joining as Program Director Co-Chair, of French-Creole heritage that gave him a distinct appreciation for exquisite cuisine and lead him to the corporate retail real estate industry and was hired by Tesco to help launch the U.S. grocery concept Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market where he ascended through the ranks. With a deep desire to explore the world of wine, he transitioned into the wine industry by working directly with boutique wineries to help them grow market awareness. In his quest to learn more about the industry and develop relationships, Antoine attended dozens of wine events, seminars, and festivals. He saw tremendous opportunity to help wineries grow and began organizing DTC wine tasting events throughout the Bay Area. He also consults non-profits on how to market and benefit the wineries that agree to donate product for their galas, because it has to be a win-win for everyone involved. Antoine consistently utilizes his relationships and resources to help wineries with business development through partnering them with special events with the target audience they are looking to reach. His ability to create special experiences through his events have served to be positive influences where people are always excited and looking out for the next one.

We look forward to the upcoming years at Women for WineSense with their leadership.

ABOUT WOMEN FOR WINESENSE NAPA SONOMA: Women for WineSense is a not-for-profit organization 501(c)6 formed in 1990. The founders believe that wine enhances and enriches everyday life. Women for WineSense is the premier wine education and networking organization for wine aficionados and industry professionals, providing women and men with unbiased information about the cultural heritage, social and health effects of moderate wine consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle. The organization is committed to offering outstanding educational programs, mentoring and networking opportunities to wine enthusiasts and industry professionals. The Napa/Sonoma Chapter currently has more than 200 members of which 70% are wine industry professionals. The Napa/Sonoma chapter also offers eight roundtable groups for members to connect with like-minded members, share best practices and enjoy mentoring opportunities. Some roundtable groups have been meeting for over 20 years and are closed to new members while other groups have openings. To learn more about Women for WineSense, visit

Region: Napa & Sonoma
Job Function: Commumications

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