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 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 a buyer at The Wine Country.  When she isn’t working or writing, Samantha enjoys cooking and traveling.

 

Samantha can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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 knowledge and enthusiasm for these wines.

 

Kevin can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Jessica Martinez, Wines of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa

 

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.  In October 2019, Jessica was appointed wine buyer of North American wines.  Her special emphasis is to search out outstanding wines from smaller, family-owned wineries, wines that possess character, balance, finesse and which respect tradition.

 

Jessica can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Diana Rosas, Craft Beer, Cider, Mead, Sake, Hard Kombucha & Hard Seltzer

 

A native of Long Beach, California, Diana comes to us from the Long Beach Beer Lab after a five year career in the hospitality business.  Her expertise and enthusiasm for craft beer is infectious, and her desire to share her newest and latest discoveries in boundless.

  

In her spare time, Diana loves to cook and she belongs to a soccer league.  She also volunteers at the Long Beach animal shelter.

 

Diana can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Jeremy Dugan, Liquor & Natural Wine

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Jeremy Dugan grew up in The Wine Country.  Jeremy was helping out our store in various capacities from the age of 13 until he departed for the University of Louisville for four years.  Upon graduation, he returned to Signal Hill to run our German and Austrian wine, craft beer and liquor departments. 

 

Given his broad retail experience, Jeremy was heavily recruited by a number of beverage suppliers, one of which was a leading wine and spirits California wholesaler. Trying his hand at the wholesale end of our business for several years, he excelled with his company, earning the admiration of executives in his own company, trusted by his customers and respected by his competitors.

 

Jeremy's heart never fully left our family store, though, especially his great affection for our store's loyal customers.  So in January 2021, Jeremy returned to The Wine Country, coming full circle with the business he has grown to love.  And we are lucky to have him.

 

Jeremy can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Andrea Thompson, Food Buyer, Gifts & Gift Basket Design

Andrea, born and raised in Southern California's South Bay, was an interior designer for the Sherman Design Group before striking out on her own.  Her love of entertaining brought her to The Wine Country, and when we learned of Andrea's immense talent, we jumped at the chance to welcome her to our store.  Andrea holds several positions with us, and as director of our gourmet food department, she oversees product selection and creative merchandising.  She is also in charge of our accessories departments, providing our store with the latest in stemware, cork pullers, gifts and other wine and spirits accessories.

 

It isn't often that one gets to turn a hobby into a profession. Over the years Andrea has been crafting creative gift baskets in her spare time for friends and family.  In her role as gift basket designer for The Wine Country, Andrea continues our store's commitment to quality, excellence and artistry, crafting imaginative creations using our finest wines, spirits and gourmet foods.  Her handmade gift baskets bring joy to all who are lucky enough to receive one. 

 

In addition to Andrea's portfolio of baskets in this website, she can work with our clients to create custom baskets for corporate and personal gifts.

 

Andrea can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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.

 

Laurie can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Patti O'Halloran, Marketing & Media

Born in Oakland, Patti spent her early years in Southern California, Virginia and Tehran, where her family escaped within days of the country declaring martial law.  She was educated at Boston University where she earned a BS in Communications, with a minor in Television and Production.

 

Patti's earlier career was devoted to video production, where she was responsible for all facets of creative content, working with clients such as Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru, Mattel, and Amazon. 

 

Along the way, Patti's love of wine led her to change careers, earning her WSET Level 1 and 2 certificates and apprenticing with a national retail chain before coming to the attention of The Wine Country.  Patti's gifts at communications and wine knowledge make her a valuable member of our team.

 

Patti can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Dale Kemner, Office Manager, Owner

Along with husband Randy, Dale Kemner co-owns The Wine Country.  As one might expect, Dale wears numerous hats in her contribution to the success of our store.  Any given day you might find Dale helping out at the counter, lending a hand with our merchandising, managing the back office, and more recently, sewing colorful cloth masks for our customers (over 1,500 at latest count).  

 

Raised in Long Beach, California, Dale was educated at Jordan High School and Long Beach City College. After working in the dentistry field for over 30 years, she joined The Wine Country staff full time in the fall of 2007.

 

Dale loves cooking for friends and gardening, when she can find the time. She has traveled to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Madeira, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland, Quebec, the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver Island. She confesses she has a mortal weakness for Champagne.

 

She currently resides with husband Randy in Long Beach, California.

 

Dale is reached at [email protected]

 

 

Randy Kemner, Founder & Owner

A Long Beach native, Randy Kemner began his love affair with wine over 50 years ago while working as a professional pianist in the lounge of a local 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 create and develop 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 Imports. After selling his interest in the distributorship, Randy opened The Wine Country on November 14, 1995—now in its 26th year in business— which he co-owns with his wife Dale.

 

Randy is available at [email protected]

The Wine Country

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