Carneros Wine Alliance


Dan Zepponi, CEO  at Cuvasian Estate Wines
Dan is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Engineering program with graduate business coursework from Regis University and has been a senior executive in the wine industry for many years, most recently running Vintage Strategies, Inc. a Napa-based consultancy firm.

He has served as President of West Coast Wine Partners in Sonoma and President of Mission Hill Winery/Artisan Wine Company in British Columbia. Prior to those roles he was Senior Vice President, Production & Supply Chain of the Americas for Beringer/Fosters Wine Estates and has served on several industry boards in Napa, Sonoma and British Columbia, Canada.

Dan is also a commercially rated pilot, musician, home chef and an outdoor sports enthusiast.

Axel Schug: Managing Partner at Schug Carneros Estate
To Axel Schug, growing up the son of a winemaker in Napa Valley never seemed any more special than, say, growing up the son of a logger in the redwoods. “My classmates included kids from Duckhorn, Grace Family, Stag’s Leap, Spottswoode... as far as we knew, we were a dime a dozen,” remembers Axel. “But today, when I see my own son wrap his small hands around a bottle his grandfather made for his birth year, I realize being a part of a winemaking family offers a degree of perspective I can’t imagine experiencing any other way.” 

With a wife, two children and the family’s hilltop winery overlooking their Carneros vineyards, Axel is finding it more difficult to leave on his frequent trips to the numerous markets he has worked to build over the years. Since Axel joined the winery full time in 1990, Schug Carneros Estate has seen its production and sales increase ten-fold.

Axel’s German heritage led to a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of California, Davis. Following an internship with a customs brokerage firm specializing in the importation of winemaking equipment, Axel worked for Hyatt Hotels where he managed
restaurants in Lake Tahoe and Long Beach. Then in 1989 his parents purchased 50 acres of land in Carneros to plant their new estate vineyard and build a winery. With the family business about to get a lot bigger, Axel returned to Sonoma and began pitching in everywhere.
“At the time, our winery was relatively small – only 4,000 cases,” recalls Axel. “We didn’t even have a Northern California Distributor. That meant I worked the crush and in the cellar, bottled wines, and made deliveries. It was a great way to jump into the business.” 

In 1991, when a new California Distributor was engaged, Axel began working in the market overseeing sales for the brand. Over the next ten years, he would play a key role in expanding the winery’s domestic and export sales. In particular, he focused on smaller markets that responded well to his personal attention. These efforts have paid unexpected dividends, with sales in the Carolinas alone exceeding California in recent years. Today, sales and production are steady at 40,000 cases annually.  

“Originally our goal was to reach 10,000 cases,” says Axel. “But we had the demand, and thankfully the production opportunities as well, so we shot right past that goal.” 

With growth no longer Axel’s primary concern, he focuses a great deal of his energies refining the winery’s relationships with its customers in markets across the country. Though travels still keep him busy, more often these days Axel stays close to his home with his wife
Kristine, son Stephen and daughter Elisabeth. When he does travel, he’s almost certain to have his fly rod along. Is it any wonder then, that the Southeast and Southwest are two of Schug’s strongest markets? 

Crista Johnson, Chair of Carneros Wine Alliance
Crista Johnson is the chair of marketing and communications for Schug Carneros Estate. Crista obtained her first wine industry job at Negociants USA in Napa. She built up her experience and knowledge while handling sales and marketing for imported Australian and New Zealand wines. In 2011, Crista accepted a position managing the marketing department at Schug Carneros Estate Winery. Working closely with the owner at a small family-owned winery, Crista has first-hand knowledge of the wine business. She continues to explore her passion for wine and learning through wine and spirits education and she is currently pursuing her WSET Level 3 certificate.

About Carneros Wine Alliance
The Carneros Wine Alliance is a non-profit association of wineries and grape-growers in the Carneros American Viticultural Area
(AVA). Carneros is located at the crossroads of two major wine regions, the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. A cool-climate appellation
influenced by the waters of the San Francisco Bay, Carneros has long been known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine
production. The Carneros Wine Alliance is committed to promoting the distinction, diversity and above all, quality, of grapes and wines from Carneros.