Meet Our Staff

Samantha Dugan, French Wine, Rose Wine, Champagne & Sparkling Wines

A southern California native, Samantha began her wine career at The Wine Country in 1996, where over the years she has served as buyer of gourmet foods and cheeses, the wines of the Southern Hemisphere, Champagne & Sparkling wines and the wines of France, the latter two she has continued to lead since 1999 and 2007 respectively.

 

Samantha’s first trip to France in 2003 was a complete immersion, 25 days from Champagne to Provence, it was then that she truly fell in love with the country, the amazing regional differences, the food, the pressing palms, walking the vineyards and sharing meals with the small family farmers that produced the wines she so adored. That first trip ignited her passion and eventually her philosophy about wine, the emotional and personal side of it. She now makes regular trips to France for both researching new and exciting producers, and to cement relationships with producers we continue to support year after year.

 

In addition to wine buying, Samantha supervises the store, conducts tastings, classes & seminars, and does extensive writing on wine in our store’s newsletter, blogs and posts. Her award-winning blog Samantha Sans Dosage has an international readership including top wine writers on three continents. She has also lent her expertise in Champagne as a consultant to two leading wine importers.

 

Samantha is married and her son Jeremy is also in the wine and spirits business.  When she isn’t working or writing, Samantha enjoys cooking and traveling.

 

Samantha can be reached at Samantha@thewinecountry.com

 

 

Kevin Lepisto, Wines of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Central Europe, Kosher Wine, Other Mediterranean Wines & Special Events Co-ordinator

Kevin, a native Californian, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Orange County. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Public Relations, and shortly thereafter began a career in Corporate Recruiting. Kevin was first introduced to wine from his parents, their love of California wine and trips to Napa and Sonoma. He, too, fell in love with wine and cooking and began exploring wine by joining wine clubs and introducing his friends to wine with dinner parties and wine tastings at home.

 

In 2010, Kevin decided to change his life and follow this passion.   He began his new career working in Italian restaurants in West Hollywood and quickly fell in love with Italian wines and food, learning the diversity of each by region. After joining The Wine Country team in early 2016, he has also developed into an enthusiastic advocate for the thrilling wines of Spain, Portugal, Eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Kevin looks forward to sharing his passion and excitement for these wines.

 

Kevin can be reached at Kevin@thewinecountry.com

 

 

Christopher Costales, Wines of California, Oregon, Washington & Other Wines of North America

A native of Lake Elsinore, California, Christopher spent ten years working at Thornton Winery in the Temecula wine region of California, where his duties spanned the tasting room, wine production and running the wine program at the winery restaurant.  During that time he honed his interest in the wines of the world, completing his certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and obtaining his level 2 in WSET.  He is also a Certified Specialist of Wine in the Society of Wine Educators, and achieved the title of French Wine Scholar with honors in the Wine Scholar Guild.

 

Chris's passion for wine, his thirst for wine knowledge and his desire to serve his customers are all qualities that have made him superbly able to lead our North American wine department in exciting new directions.

 

When he isn't discovering new wines, Chris loves to cook, play guitar and travel.

 

Chris can be reached at Chris@thewinecountry.com

 

Jessica Martinez, Wines of South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, New Zealand & Australia

Jessica came to The Wine Country after blogging about wine and food for several years.  Blessed with a gifted palate, she excels at customer service.  In her role as buyer for wines of the Southern Hemisphere, she seeks out excellent wines, often at great value.

Jessica can be reached at jessica@thewinecountry.com

 

Nic Bradley, Craft Beer & Liquor Buyer

 

A native of San Diego and Orange, California, Nic served in the United States Air Force for eight years and worked as a military contractor for an additional three years before pursuing his passion for craft beer.  Immersing himself headlong into his craft, Nic worked as a beertender in several leading craft beer bars before taking a position with Long Beach Beer Lab.

 

In December 2017 Nic was awarded a Cicerone level 1 certified beer server, which brought him to the attention of The Wine Country.

  

As for spirits, Nic endeavors to acquire the finest craft spirits on the market, with respect for tradition and innovation.

 

Aside from beer, Nic is an avid baseball fan and loves post pop punk, hardcore and heavy metal. He is married to Nonafaye Williams-Bradley, a project manager for Fearless Records.

 

Nic can be reached at Nic@thewinecountry.com

 

Laurie Tisdale-Lowe, Wine Specialist

Born and raised in Michigan, Laurie's family moved to Long Beach when she was 14 years old.  After attending high school and university locally, she worked in various businesses until she found her first calling in the office products industry.  Working her way through various operational and management positions and then making the leap to local sales and management positions, she spent her last ten years in that industry as a National Account Manager, building her sales portfolio to $42 million dollars before retiring after 23 years to pursue her love of wine.

 

Laurie has loved wine since her 20s, eagerly traveling throughout California to taste, discuss, and learn about wines of all types.  After retiring, she took retail wine positions that had the bonus of structured training.  During that time she learned even more about domestic wines, international wines, beer and spirits.

 

After paying her dues in a national beverage chain store (which was more about hawking certain brands than serving customers' real needs), Laurie joined The Wine Country several years ago as a Domestic Wine buyer.  She now enjoys working part time in all departments in our store, providing various services to our customers and enjoying every day in this wonderful environment.

    

When not at The Wine Country, Laurie enjoys long, brisk walks to keep fit, and attending local car shows with her husband Doug and their classic, fantastic 1968 Ford Mustang.

 

Tiy Bowton, Wine Specialist

Tiy Bowton began her education at UC Davis majoring in Physiology – she transferred to UC San Francisco Medical Center and graduated with a BS degree in 1974. She worked various jobs in the health field until she took a trip to New York and everything changed. Upon her return to California she was hired by a Salinas television station and stayed at local TV stations until hired by Disney in the film marketing department. She then began her career in film distribution becoming a VP of Operations at a small studio (Savoy), helping Barry Diller make the transition when he bought it.

 

After Savoy, Tiy began her IT career, staying in film distribution helping to design specific software still in use by some of the major studios.  Sick of the business, she went to California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, doing her required internship with Gordon Ramsey in London, rotating between his various restaurants.  He persuaded her to study wine, given her palate and on returned achieved her Court of the Masters Certified Sommelier in 2007.   

 

To finance her education, Warner Bros hired her as a Business Analyst in the film distribution business.  While there, she received certifications from the Wine Scholar Guild – French Wine Scholar, Bordeaux Wine Scholar – and also California Wine Appellation Specialist from the SF Wine School.  She continued her wine studies and received her Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) IN 2016.  Most recently, she has received certification as an Italian Wine Professional and Certified Specialist of Wine.

 

Katy Wade, Art Director

A native Southern Californian, Katy worked in the telecom business for many years, yet her lifelong love of baking led her to culinary school where she achieved the distinction of certified pastry chef.  This led to work in catering.

 

Katy joined The Wine Country’s team in January 2017, and for over a year managed The Wine Country's Food and Barware & Gifts departments.  As the daughter of prominent Long Beach photographer Bill Wade, Katy inherited her father's talent for photography and composition, and she now supervises the photography and artwork in our website.

 

In her spare time, Katy is very involved with philanthropic organizations in the Long Beach area, and her love affair with food continues, still catering for special clients.

 

Katy can be reached at Katy@thewinecountry.com

 

 

Dale Kemner, Gift Basket Designer, Gourmet Food, Barware & Gift Buyer and Office Manager

Dale Kemner is The Wine Country’s gift basket designer, gourmet food buyer, barware and gift buyer and office manager.  Along with husband Randy, she co-owns our store.

 

Raised in Long Beach, California since the age of 6 months, Dale was educated at Jordan High School and Long Beach City College. After working in the dentistry field for 27 years, she permanently joined The Wine Country staff full time in the fall of 2007.

 

Dale loves cooking for friends and she brings great talent and creative energy to our custom gift basket program. She has traveled to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Madeira, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland, the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver Island. She confesses she has a mortal weakness for Champagne.

 

She currently resides with Randy in Long Beach, California.

 

Dale is available at Dale@thewinecountry.com

 

 

Randy Kemner, Founder, President & CEO

A Long Beach native, Randy Kemner began his love affair with wine over 47 years ago while working as a professional pianist in a fine dining restaurant. In 1982 he launched his wine career working in a retail wine store in Long Beach and began heading down the path that would lead him to being the owner of one of Southern California’s leading wine stores.

 

From 1985 to 1995, he co-founded and co-owned Pacific Coast Wine Marketing, a boutique wine distributor for California artisan wines, Symington Ports & Madeiras and Kermit Lynch French Imports. With the buyout from his partner, Randy opened The Wine Country on November 14, 1995—now in its 23rd year in business— which he co-owns with his wife Dale.

 

Randy is available at thewinecountry@msn.com.

The Wine Country

  • Southern California's Favorite Destination for Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, Craft Beer, Gourmet Foods, Wine Accessories & Gift Baskets
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