Wine

Hosts

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

In loving memory of Christopher Silva, Former President and CEO of St. Francis Winery

1964-2017

Join St. Francis Winery & Vineyards and J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines for a special Wine Cruise celebrating the life of Christopher Silva, one of AmaWaterway’s dearest friends and treasured Wine Hosts.

If you had the honor of taking a Wine Cruise hosted by Christopher Silva, then you experienced passion at its finest. The late President and CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards was an ambitious and beloved vintner, described by all who knew him as “larger than life”. When Christopher passed over a year ago, he left priceless memories in the hearts of our AmaWaterways family. Although his wit, charm and unforgettable wine-themed sailings cannot be replaced, Christopher’s spirit lives on through his many friends and colleagues, both at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards and throughout the California wine industry.

Rick Bonitati of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards along with Lawrence Lohr, fellow wine educator of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, will be on hand as your co-hosts to share stories and knowledge of the wines and the Sonoma County wine region Christopher loved so well, while guiding you through some of the exclusive wine regions of France.

As a lasting tribute, a donation to the Christopher Silva endowment at the Santa Rosa Junior College will be made by AmaWaterways and the Karst Family for each guest in this select group.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating and toasting a life well lived. Cheers to our friend Christopher!

Rick Bonitati
President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Rick Bonitati joined the St. Francis team as President and CEO 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 Winery and Vineyards. Rick believes it is imperative to “work hard and have fun doing it.” His knowledge and experience in winemaking, viticulture, and winery management, along with his collaborative approach to the pursuit of consistent development is perfectly aligned with the driving force behind St. Francis’ dedication to excellence.
Lawrence Lohr
Co-Owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and other Special Guests
Lawrence Lohr works day-to-day with his father Jerry in all aspects of the company’s estate vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey County and St. Helena while also helping to provide strategic direction as a member of the winery’s executive team. Drawing upon J. Lohr’s extensive history in its chosen appellations and a deep appreciation for family and place, Lawrence holds strong relationships with industry partners, regional trade associations, and subject-matter experts and works regionally and nationally in support of the winery’s sales and marketing programs. Lawrence serves on the board of directors for Wine Institute and the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association.
Rhine & Moselle SplendorsOct 31, 2019
Arthur White
President and Winemaker of Arthur Earl Winery and Santa Ynez Wine Corp.
Art is the President and co-owner of Santa Ynez Wine Corp., which is the parent of Arthur Earl and Alexander and Wayne wineries. He is also the winemaker for both. In 1992, he partnered with long time friend Earl Brockelsby to purchase a small Santa Barbara county winery. Having spent the first few years focusing mostly on the day-to-day business and marketing aspects of the winery, in 1995 he assumed full responsibility for the winemaking function. All in all, Art feels that winemaking is a complex combination of art and science. While it takes good chemistry to make good wine, successful winemakers are able to combine that science with the individual artistry of their craft to make great wines.

Alexander and Wayne, the original winery, has always focused on the traditional California varieties native to the French regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux. These wines include Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for whites, and Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other Bordeaux varieties and blends for reds.

Arthur Earl was started in 1997 to focus on varieties from the Rhone region of France as well as select varieties from northern Italy. These wines include Viognier and Pinot Grigio for whites, and Syrah, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and other Rhone and Italian reds and whites.

Art is also a WSET Level 3 Certified Specialist in Wine and a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs.

Melodies of the DanubeNov 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.
Gems of Southeast EuropeNov 3, 2019
Richard Sanford
Founder of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Richard Sanford is a true pioneer of quality winegrowing in California. Drafted into the Vietnam War, Richard chose agriculture as a way to be in nature upon his return. Winegrowing became an antidote to the war and tumultuous homecoming. With a degree in Geography from U.C. Berkeley, he was inspired to research the west coast for the perfect place to plant Pinot Noir grapevines. Recognizing the east-west Transverse Mountain Range of California, and cool maritime coastal climate of Santa Barbara County, with thermometer in hand he selected a site in the Santa Ynez Valley just a dozen miles from the Pacific Ocean. He is the first winemaker to prove the potential for Pinot Noir in the cool Santa Rita Hills, founding Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1971. He and his wife Thekla founded the Sanford Winery in 1981 and spent the next 25 years making some of the best-regarded Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from the region. The first certified organic winegrowers of the County, the Sanford’s left their namesake winery in 2005 and established Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards to continue their commitment to agriculture in harmony with nature. Richard was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2012. He is fully engaged with Alma Rosa Winery and is enjoying his 47th consecutive year as a winegrower.
Romantic DanubeNov 3, 2019
Michael Lewellen
Managing Partner at Lucas & Lewellen Winery, Solvang, CA
Founded by retired Judge Royce Lewellen, and long-time grape grower Louis Lucas in 1996, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards has been producing fine grapes and wine for many years. Royce’s son Mike Lewellen became a minority owner of the company in 1999 and joined the company full-time in 2009 to help manage the operation as it grows into the future. As Managing Partner, Mike carries out business planning and analysis and works with all departments at the winery; Marketing & Sales, Finance, the Tasting Rooms, and of course the Winery. Prior to Lucas and Lewellen, Mike worked for over 16 years in the multi-channel retail business. Working at different times as Marketing Director, Circulation Manager and Inventory Planner, he gained valuable experience that he has applied toward the wine business. Mike was raised in Solvang, California near the vineyards, has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado, a Professional Designation in Business Management from UCLA, and has furthered his wine education through programs at U.C. Davis.
Enchanting RhineNov 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.

Flavors of Portugal & SpainNov 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.
Colors of ProvenceNov 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.
Paris & NormandyNov 7, 2019
Preston Mohr
Wine Expert, DipWSET

Preston Mohr, is a wine educator based in Paris, where he has lived for over 15 years. Preston works as Wine Advisor in charge of sales to the United States for Château de Pommard in Burgundy. Founded in 1726, Château de Pommard makes over thirty red and white wines from some of the most historic and reputed vineyards in Burgundy. In 2011, Preston founded Paris By The Glass, offering wine tastings, gourmet walking tours and vineyard day trips throughout France. Since 2012, Preston has acted several times as Wine Host for AmaWaterways, having cruised the Seine, the Rhine and the Rhone. He received the prestigious Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in 2013, holds a Masters in Global Hospitality Management from Georgia State University and Bachelor of Arts in Art History and French from the University of Minnesota.
Taste of BordeauxNov 7, 2019
Peter Marks
Master of Wine

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.
Medieval TreasuresNov 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!
Romantic DanubeNov 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.
Romantic DanubeNov 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.
Melodies of the DanubeNov 10, 2019
Leslie Sbrocco
Wine Expert, Television Host and Award-winning author
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.
Captivating RhineNov 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.
Captivating RhineNov 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 along the Rhine & Moselle rivers exploring this iconic wine region.
Enticing DouroNov 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!
Colors of ProvenceNov 14, 2019
Erich and Joanne Russell
owners of Rabbit Ridge Winery, Paso Robles, CA
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.
Taste of BordeauxNov 14, 2019
Wente Vineyards
WENTE VINEYARDS is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in 1883. Today, the winery maintains its leadership role in California winegrowing under ownership and management by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. Blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices, the winery draws from nearly 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed estate vineyards to create an outstanding portfolio of fine wines. Located just East of San Francisco in the historic Livermore Valley, Wente Vineyards is recognized as one of California’s premier wine country destinations, featuring wine tasting, dining, concert performances and championship golf.
Europe's Rivers & CastlesNov 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.
Romantic DanubeNov 15, 2019
Matthew Meyer
Vice President and Winemaker, The Williamsburg Winery – Williamsburg, VA

Born in Great Britain, Matthew learned to appreciate wine from his Father. Together they collected and enjoyed wines from around the world. It was this early passion for wine that took Matthew to the University of California at Davis and after earning his degree in Oenology and Viticulture, Matthew worked for Grgich Hills Wine Cellars in Napa Valley California. In 1998 Matthew was hired by Heitz Wine Cellars, and later as Cellar Master/Assistant Winemaker he took over the Cellar Select Chardonnay program. In 2002 Matthew moved to Williamsburg Virginia where he took the position of winemaker, and soon became Executive Vice President. In addition to making wine for The Williamsburg Winery Matthew also makes wine in Mendoza, Argentina every year and along with his wife Elena have their own wine brand called “M”. Join them as they share the wines and wonders of the Danube.
Melodies of the DanubeNov 15, 2019
Scott & Jana Harvey
Owner & Winemaker Scott Harvey Wines
Scott being both born in Germany and having gone to Winemaking School there has developed a keen interest and expertise in European wines. He has brought this European style of wine making to California’s Napa Valley and Amador County having now produced world class wines for over 45 years. He created the California wine Ménage a Trois based on his knowledge of west bank Rhine wines from both Alsace and the Palatinate of Germany. This is Winemaker Scott Harvey’s third cruise with AMA Waterways. As you travel along the beautiful Danube, Scott and Jana will be giving lectures and doing wine tastings to teach you about the Wine Regions, Vineyards and Wines of Hungary, Austria and Germany. Throughout the trip and excursions, Scott will be available to answer questions and translate if need be.
Enchanting RhineNov 17, 2019
Steve & Lori Johnson
Owners of Lester Estate Wines
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.
Enchanting RhineNov 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.
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