2013 Auction

Honorary Wine Ambassadors


We are pleased to announce our four Honorary Wine Ambassadors for 2013:

Leonetti Cellar and FIGGINS- Chris Figgins- Walla Walla, Washington


Chris Figgins is the President and Winemaking Director for Figgins Family Wine Estates and is one of a small handful of second generation winegrowers in Washington State.  Chris succeeds his parents, Gary and Nancy Figgins, who founded Leonetti Cellar in 1977 in the Walla Walla Valley- its oldest winery.  After growing up in the wine business, he officially joined Leonetti in 1996 post-graduation from Washington State University with a degree in Horticulture and became head winemaker in 2001.  In addition to running the day to day business and winemaking, Chris presides over all viticulture operations for Figgins Family Wine Estates (FFWE) which includes five distinct vineyard sites in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. 

Chris recently launched FIGGINS, an estate grown, single vineyard wine, and Lostine Cattle Company, all natural grass-fed beef, to extend the Figgins Family Wine Estates experience further into wine and food.  Chris was instrumental in transforming Leonetti into an estate grown winery and is known industry-wide for consistently pushing the envelope viticulturally.  A frequent public speaker, Chris loves to share his intense passion for sustainable farming and biological soil health whenever possible.  In addition to his work at FFWE Chris has been the consulting winemaker for Doubleback since its inception in 2007.  Chris and his wife Heidi and their four children all live in Walla Walla.


Stag's Leap Wine Cellars- Nicki Pruss - Napa Valley, California



Nicki Pruss was on a very different career path when she was sidetracked by a fascination with wine. After becoming a licensed podiatrist, Nicki took a 5-month bicycle tour through France, Belgium and Germany in 1995 that changed everything. Nicki began studying viticulture and winery technology at Napa Valley College and fermenting any grapes she could get her hands on.

Professionally, she began as an intern at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 1998 and moved up the winemaking ranks from Lab Technician, to Enologist, to Assistant Winemaker and Associate Winemaker and was officially named Winemaker in 2005. Much of Nicki’s practical winemaking and grape-growing education has occurred on the job, working with and learning from the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Renzo Cotarella, Danny Schuster, Jim Lincoln, Michael Silacci and other noted industry professionals. In addition to crafting the winery’s three Estate Cabernet Sauvignons (FAY, S.L.V., CASK 23) each year, Nicki creates estate red wines that highlight select parcels that are bottled exclusively for the Wine Club.

She holds a Certificate in Viticulture and Winery Technology from Napa Valley College, a B.A. in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara and a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine – Cum Laude from the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Chicago, IL. She is a member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture, the California Enological Research Association and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group.  She is a past Board member of the NVWTG.

Badia a Coltibuono - Roberto Stucchi- Tuscany, Italy



Roberto Stucchi Prinetti   Born in Milano in 1958, Roberto studied agriculture first in Milano and then in Florence. In 1978, he learned the basics of Biodynamic agriculture which deeply influenced his views about farming. He began his work at Badia a Coltibuono in 1980, touching all aspects of production as apprentice to Maurizio Castelli, then responsible for the farming and winemaking.

In 1982, Roberto moved to California where he studied Oenology and Viticulture at the University of California, Davis. While at Davis he came in contact with the emerging organic farming movement. After graduating from Davis, Roberto worked for a year in the cellar at Chappellet Vineyards in the Napa Valley. In 1985, he returned to Coltibuono and gradually took over management of the estate.

In the following years, he started many conversations about organic farming and by 2000 all the vineyards were certified organic. In replanting the vineyards he maintained the heirloom Sangiovese and its rich genetic diversity. The 150 acres of vineyards of the estate are all planted with the traditional “massal” selection. Roberto's approach to winemaking always favors the indigenous yeasts that help express the subtle nuances that make the wines of Badia a Coltibuono so unique. The passion for the land, its rich heritage, and an empirical approach learned in his scientific training have always guided his work. Roberto’s goal has always been the healthy growth of the estate, in line with its history and heritage.

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars - Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash - Newberg, Oregon


Lynn and Ron first met in 1987 when a mutual friend brought them together in California for a weekend of wine, cycling, and hiking. Just seventeen days after that first meeting, they set their wedding date. Twenty-five years later, they are still very much in love, parents of two beautiful children and business partners in Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.

As the Penner-Ash winemaker, Lynn allows her creative, intuitive and emotional instincts to complement her more rational, thoughtful side. Lynn studied botany at the UC Davis, but changed her major from Viticulture to Enology after working the graveyard shift during crush at Domaine Chandon. After graduation, Lynn worked as an Enologist at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for four years and joined the Oregon wine industry in 1988 at Rex Hill Vineyards. Consistently producing award-winning wines, she became Rex Hill’s President and Chief Operating Officer in 1993. Lynn has served on the board of the International Pinot Noir Celebration, and acted as President in 1998. She was actively involved in the Salud Barrel Auction as a member of the steering committee and has served on the Oregon Pinot Camp Board. Lynn’s expertise and highly-acclaimed wines have positioned her as a leading consultant in the industry.

Ron has a particularly close relationship with the hills and furrows of the Willamette Valley. For many years, he flew hot air balloons there as a commercial hot-air balloon pilot. Ron always has been fascinated with technology and innovation. In 20 years as a public school teacher in California and Oregon, his interest in technology and its potential impact in the classroom led to a collaborative grant with Oregon Public Broadcasting from 1998-2001. He received numerous awards for innovation and in 1998 was nominated for Oregon Teacher of the Year. “The wine industry’s annual cycle parallels that of teaching,” Ron says. “I’ve learned that Mother Nature can be more demanding than a pre-adolescent drama queen.”

Lynn and Ron started Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in 1998, carefully crafting small amounts of Pinot Noir and Syrah, while Lynn was still at Rex Hill. Their early success with the label caused them to dream of what they could create, and in 2001 they began building the Penner-Ash brand full time.

Lynn and Ron’s exceptional partnership, talent and enthusiasm has helped Penner-Ash Wine Cellars achieve impressive growth, going from 150 cases of pinot noir in 1998 to 12,000 cases in 2012. Robert Parker recognizes Penner-Ash as one of the top producers of American Pinot noir in his most recent edition of the Wine Buyer’s Guide.