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Monday, October 20, 2014

10/20/2014 - Partners in Wine

Few industries see as many husband and wife teams, or family members, working side by side or in unison, as the wine industry.  Our guests this evening, are one such example. Both consultants, one as a winemaker, the other an educator and writer, are wine zealots and share a common passion for the juice of the grape.

Hear their story of finding their soul mates, and their own personal expressions of the beverage we love to love.

Kari Auringer

After a successful career as a graphic designer and entrepreneur, Kari’s desire to begin a career as a winemaker lured her from Chicago to the Bay area and eventually to Napa Valley. She was determined to make the transition from designing wine labels and drinking great wine to her ultimate goal of making wine.

With the purchase of half a ton of grapes and a book on winemaking, she embarked on a whole new adventure.  While experimenting with winemaking at home, she began working with some of California’s great winemakers and also managed to put herself through enology school. She spent six years working with vintner-consultant, Celia Welch, who is responsible for some of Napa Valley’s most impressive wines: Scarecrow, Lindstrom, Hollywood & Vine, Keever, Kelly Fleming, Jim Barbour and Celia’s brand, Corra. 

Kari describes herself as a hands-on winemaker and has expertise in all aspects of the process from vineyard to bottle. Her style is all about rolling up her sleeves and staying intimately involved with every step of the intricate process, from vineyard sourcing and hands-on berry sorting to the myriad details of winemaking, sensory analysis and the infinitely nuanced art and science of blending. If you don’t find her tasting barrel samples in the winery, she is probably out kicking the dirt in a vineyard.

As a consulting winemaker for boutique estate programs, she has spent the last decade crafting ultra-premium wines from some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma. Along with Pedras Wines, Kari also is the consulting winemaker for Napa-based Silver Trident Winery, Bryter Estates, Madrone Estates Pinot Noir program in Sonoma, and Plume Napa Valley.

Kari is a rising star and believes her success is a combination of dedication, hard work, talent and working with great people. Kari puts it best when she says, “As I look back on a career that has included several highly regarded cult wines, making really good wine is definitely a team sport, and I’ve been on some fantastic teams.”  


Jeff Prather
"Certified Master of the Obvious"
Wine Consultant and Educator

With decades of experience in the food and wine business, Jeff Prather shares his wealth of knowledge through engaging, and often amusing, wine content for the website and wine shop. Having been an actor in his earlier years, Jeff is a natural as one of our entertaining tasting class instructors.
After opening the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley in 1995 as the Restaurant Director and Cellar Master, Jeff served as Director of Wine Education at Shafer Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, as well as the historic Beaulieu Vineyard. After serving as Senior Wine Merchant for the original with Peter Granoff and Bo Thompson, Jeff was the managing Director of Azalea Springs Winery.

Jeff became known for his decade of work as Wine Director for Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle which merited him several awards, including four James Beard Award nominations, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine’s Best American Wine List, Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence, and Restaurant Wine Magazine’s Wine Marketer of the Year nominee.
Jeff judges at wine competitions and is a frequent speaker and guest sommelier at national wine events. As a writer, he has been published in several magazines, was a correspondent for the Microsoft Online Network (MSN), a contributor to Oz Clark’s Microsoft Wine Guide CD-ROM and is co-author of the book “Northwest Wines.”



Monday, October 6, 2014

10/06/2014 - A Focus on Brain Health

Brandon Staglin
Staglin Family Vineyard
One Mind

Brandon Staglin is Director of Marketing Communications for both Staglin Family Vineyard and the InternationalMental Health Research Organization (IMHRO). Having overcome many challenges in his life, including the diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1990, Brandon's strength, intelligence and passion add a tremendous value to both organizations. Graduating from Dartmouth College in 1993 with degrees in Engineering Sciences and Anthropology, he began to pursue his childhood dream in aerospace engineering. Later, he made a career change and began working in website development.

Today, Brandon oversees the web design, content and development for both websites. A highlight of his work is his video feature and open Q&A session to connect the public with mental health scientists, posted monthly on the IMHRO website. Several years ago Brandon married Nancy Abreu and the two live happily in Napa with their dog Cooper.

Jennifer Brusstar,
President and CEO,
Tug McGraw Foundation (TMF)

Jennifer Brusstar co-founded TMF with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets relief pitcher, Tug McGraw, before his death in 2004. In her role, Jennifer has defined the foundation’s mission of raising funds to enhance the quality of life of children and adults with brain tumors and their families.

In 2009, Jennifer expanded the foundation’s programs to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), and Trauma Brain Injury, (TBI). This unique collaboration encourages the best minds in military and civilian medicine to accelerate new treatments and cures to improve quality of life in areas of physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual impact of those debilitating conditions. Her goal is to help educate policy makers and the American public about the pace at which scientific advancements-especially in the neurosciences-and improvements in quality of life for all would accelerate through increased civilian/military partnerships.

She is a board member of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, and a Special Advisor to Soldiers to the Summit. In 2012, Jennifer and her team TMF team received the Statesmanship Award from the United States Former Members of Congress for the foundations work on it’s efforts to improve quality of life for those affected by brain-related trauma and tumors. In 2013 Jennifer Brusstar was the recipient of the Invisible Disabilities Association's Invisible Hero Honors Award. In 2014, Jennifer was a panelist at the Milken Global Conference for the series, Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain.

In 2001, her youngest son Jack was diagnosed with Autism and today Jennifer volunteer’s time in helping support families who have children with special needs. Jennifer began her career as a flight attendant for American Airlines and has also worked as a translator for several major corporations.



Vikaas Sohal, M.D., Ph.D.,
IMHRO Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF,
Dr Sohal has found that stimulating healthy patterns of electrical activity in the brains of mouse models of schizophrenia can normalize their cognitive behavior. Now, he will use this knowledge in a new government-funded project to research patterns of electrical stimulation which might someday be used to retrain the brain toward health.