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

 

Andy Acosta, Wines of South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, New Zealand & Australia

After a long career in the aerospace industry, Andy’s passion for fine wine and living the good life led him to The Wine Country, first as an avid customer, and later heading up our beer and Southern Hemisphere departments. Focusing now exclusively on south-of-the-equator wines, Andy continues his fine work offering quality wines from Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay.

 

Andy’s hobbies are eating, drinking and traveling the world.

 

Andy can be reached at Andy@thewinecountry.com

 

Nick Larson, Craft Beer & Liquor Buyer

 

I’m the craft beer and liquor specialist here at The Wine Country. My interest in beer began in college. I studied Kinesiology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and during my sophomore year was introduced to the basics of craft beer. Soon after I got a fake ID so I could buy my own craft beer and visit the local breweries. The week after I turned 21 I got a job at Firestone-Walker Brewing in Paso Robles, and worked there for nearly 3 years while I finished up school. I worked in their tasting room gave brewery tours, and eventually did a little brewing and worked some events for them. In addition, I wrote an award-winning beer column for the Cal Poly student-run newspaper.

 

Post-college, I moved to the Bay Area and helped start up Armstrong Brewing in San Francisco as a consultant, and also was a manager/beer buyer at San Jose craft beer hub Original Gravity. Being originally from Long Beach, I eventually moved back down here and found a home here at The Wine Country.

 

As for spirits, my world revolves around tequila, then spins outward.

 

Nick can be reached at Nick@thewinecountry.com

 

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, 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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