top of page

2016 Speakers

Analisa Torres.jpg

Hon. Analisa Torres, United States District Judge

Keynote Address

Analisa Torres serves as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She joined the court in 2013 after being nominated by President Barack Obama. At the time of nomination, Torres was a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, having been elected in 2011, for a 14-year term. Prior to that, she served on the Criminal Court and the Civil Court.

Anna Beninger Headshot.jpg

Anna Beninger, Catalyst, Director, Research


Anna Beninger is a co-author of Catalyst’s global longitudinal study of high-potential employees and speaks extensively on research in both virtual and in-person events. She is taking a lead role in developing new research on the challenges and opportunities for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries. She is also an advocate for the millennial generation of women and men, separating myth from fact for these future leaders in the workforce.

Elaine Brown.jpg

Elaine Chukan Brown, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews and


Based in Sonoma, California, Elaine Chukan Brown serves as the American Specialist for, is a contributing writer to Wine & Spirits and a columnist for Wine Business Monthly. Her work has also been featured in The World of Fine Wine,, San Francisco Magazine, and appears on her own website, Chukan Brown is known for her wine illustration work, which has been described by @KermitLynchWine as “a new standard in wine reviews.”

Molly Shepard.jpg

Molly Shepard, The Leader’s Edge, President and CEO


Molly Shepard is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design, a company dedicated to the advancement of executive and high-potential leaders. She has more than 30 years of experience in career counseling, leadership development, executive coaching and executive search.

Carrie Lyn Strong.jpg

Carrie Strong, Aureole, Wine Director


Strong has put together wine lists at many top NYC restaurants, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Vong, Jimmy Bradley’s The Harrison and Michael White’s Ai Fiori. In 2013, Strong became the Wine Director at Chef Charlie Palmer’s flagship restaurant, Aureole, where she manages a vast collection of award-winning wines with more than 2,000 selections. She has upheld the restaurant’s Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence each year and continues to enhance and evolve the Michelin-starred wine and beverage programs.

Gretchen Thomas.png

Gretchen Thomas, Barteca Restaurant Group, Wine and Spirits Director


Gretchen Thomas serves as Wine and Spirits Director for Barteca Restaurant Group, overseeing all wine, spirits and beer selections for both Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant and Bartaco concepts, as well as seasonal cocktail creations, wine and mixology training and development, and beverage-themed events including wine dinners, wine classes and cocktail classes. At Barcelona, Thomas supervises one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the United States, managing 350 labels from 11 countries, with more than half of the menu devoted to wines from Spain and the rest from South America.

Veronica Cousino.jpg

Verónica Cousiño, Cousiño-Macul, Export and Marketing Director

Guided Wine Tasting

Verónica Cousiño earned a degree in Business Administration from the Universidad Católica of Chile. In 2008, she joined the family business as a sales assistant. Her dedication and aptitude led her to become head of the winery’s marketing department in 2012. She is now the Export and Marketing Director of Cousiño-Macul, a position she’s held since January 2016.


Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge Winery, Co-owner and Winemaker

Guided Wine Tasting

Nancy Irelan is the co-owner and winemaker for Red Tail Ridge Winery (RTR). RTR is an 8,500- case boutique winery in the Finger Lakes of New York, specializing in production of cool-climate red, white and sparkling wines. Irelan was previously employed by E&J Gallo Winery as their VP of Viticulture & Enology Research and Development. She received her PhD in grape genetics while working in the Viticulture and Enology Department at UC Davis.

Janice McDonald.jpg

Janice MacDonald, Burch Family Wines, Winemaker

Guided Wine Tasting

Since completing the Bachelor of Wine Science from Charles Sturt University in 1986, Janice McDonald has spent considerable time making wine and brewing beer. She is the Chief Winemaker at Burch Family Wines, the largest family-owned winery in Western Australia with vineyard holdings and wineries in the Great Southern and Margaret River, crushing 4,000 tons of premium to super-premium grapes for the brands of Howard Park, Marchand & Burch, and Mad Fish.

Meri Tessari.jpg

Meri Tessari, Suavia, Owner

Guided Wine Tasting

Meri Tessari grew up in the small town of Fittà, in the hills of the Soave Classico area and surrounded by the best vineyards in the designation. In 1982, Suavia was created from an idea her parents had for some time. Tessari was only seven years old at the time, but she immediately felt part of this family adventure and started to form a stronger link with the winery and the area—a link she shared with her sisters. They lived through the first joys, disappointments and surprises together and soon Suavia became their “fifth sister.”

bottom of page