CEO & Director of Winemaking
Bion Rice has accumulated more than 20-years of wine industry experience in a variety of roles including production, winemaking, brand management, sales and marketing, and general business management. Prior to assuming his role as CEO and Director of Winemaking for Sunstone, Bion operated the Artiste Winery & Tasting Studio, a successful Santa Barbara County wine brand founded by him in 2002. Best known for its distinctive Bordeaux style blends, Artiste melds great wine with exquisite art in a unique and innovative tasting room setting. The brand produces and distributes more than 3,000 cases via its tasting room and wine club membership annually. Prior to founding Artiste, Rice worked with his family at Sunstone from 1994 to 2002 in various capacities, starting in wholesale distribution, then tasting room management, and then as General Manager from 1999 to 2002. It was during this tenure and Bion’s work under the consulting winemaker, Daniel Gehrs that his passion for wine and winemaking was born. In his current role, Bion is responsible for the general oversight and management of the business including operations, wine production, sales and marketing. Additionally, Bion plans for and executes all of the company’s financial decisions, and makes all of its key strategic decisions.
A Southern California native, Bryan earned his Master’s degree in Business Administration from Capella University. He was named “Best Teen Chef” from The Art Institute and received a full scholarship. There he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management and his Associates Degree in Culinary Arts. Bryan is a well-respected hospitality professional with 12-years of experience in the guest service industry leading management teams, service specialists, and growing the business dynamics by taking a hands on approach and personally ensuring a great guest experience. Throughout his profession, Bryan has held several senior management positions including, Manager – Food & Beverage at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa where he was instrumental in maintaining a five diamond rating through service standards and creating new offerings for hotel guests. Most recently, Bryan was the Area Manager of a large complex inside Disneyland Park where he streamlined processes for his employees while tailoring the guest experience to their needs. There he earned the “Walt Disney Legacy Award” – the highest honor an employee may receive from the Walt Disney Company. As General Manager, Bryan leads and oversees all operations of Sunstone Winery and responsible for the day-to-day execution of events, tasting room, villa operations, and sales and wine club memberships.
Matt Smith is a Michigan native, born in Detroit and raised in Grosse Pointe Park. He attended the University of Michigan (BA 1990) where he received his degree in Political Science and French Language. During his time at U of M, Matt spent his junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris. Following graduation, he traveled extensively around the world visiting 28 countries from New Zealand and Australia to Southeast Asia, the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe. After living in France and Spain for two years, he returned to America and eventually found his way to Northern California, where he enrolled in the Masters of Viticulture & Enology program at the University of California at Davis.
Matt’s career includes stints at David Bruce Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery and international experience working at Maison Joseph Drouhin, one of Burgundy’s top wine companies, and in Australia for Mitchelton Wines. Smith then joined Kendall-Jackson’s winemaking team in 2004 becoming Winemaking Director for all North Coast wines in 2011.
Matt is now focusing his attention on several projects including consulting. He is exceptionally proud to be named as the consulting winemaker at Sunstone. Matt is excited to bring his talents to the wine process and considers Sunstone to be a perfect fit on many levels. He is particularly drawn to the Mediterranean lifestyle and believes that the best moments in life are spent sharing great wine and great food with family and friends.
DAVID BURROLA, CS
Director of Hospitality
David was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Growing up, his dreams were to become a professional musician just like his grandfather. After touring the country with a band, he applied for a “summer job” at Disneyland to help raise some extra cash. During the 6 years he worked there, he was able to move his way around the Resort from dishwasher, to chef, to manager at various locations. During the time spent there, he gained knowledge and education to become a Level II Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. After leaving Disney, he was able to land a job and open a fine dining restaurant at USC called Moreton Fig as the Assistant General Manager and Sommelier. During the 6 years working with the Company, he worked his way up to become a lead wine educator and resident Sommelier for the University, as well as a Multi-unit General Manager. David is absolutely excited to be a part of the Sunstone Family. As Director of Hospitality, his role will be to manage and lead all aspects of the Guest experience and lead, train, and support the staff to deliver an amazing guest experience that can only be found at a premier Winery such as Sunstone. He is currently studying to become a Certified Wine Educator, and will be going for his Advanced Level III Sommelier Certification in the near future.
Direct to Consumer Sales & Membership Manager
Channing grew up in Ojai, California, where she and her siblings frequently helped her grandfather on their family vineyard and winery. After high school, Channing discovered her love of traveling and decided to live abroad. After moving back to Southern California, she studied entrepreneurship at Santa Barbara City College. On a weekend away, her boyfriend (now husband), introduced her to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Sunstone happened to be one of the first wineries they discovered together and since then has become a favorite family destination. She joined Sunstone in March 2015 as our Wine Club and DTC Ambassador.
Assistant Tasting Room Manager
A Central Coast native, Kelsie is no stranger to the beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley, and the surrounding wine regions. She developed her palate while managing a local Starbucks, where she also became a certified Coffee Master. Kelsie was introduced to the wine industry in 2015 by happen chance, in the small town of Los Olivos. In 2016, just a year later, she successfully opened a small brewery in San Luis Obispo county. She attended Allan Hancock College where she received her degree in Behavioral and Social Sciences. Kelsie’s passion for business has let her to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a Focus in Communications. Kelsie joined our Sunstone family in May 2017 to be Assistant Tasting Room Manager.
Kelsie’s lively personality keeps the workplace in high spirits and with her great leadership skills, she keeps the workforce in shape. Kelsie’s 5-years of experience in customer service and hospitality makes her a delight with her employees and customers alike. When Kelsie isn’t working you can find her adventuring around the Central Coast with her dog Sawyer.
Accounting & Compliance Manager
Sandra grew up in Florida and attended the University of South Florida where she earned her bachelor’s and Master’s degree in accounting. She passed the CPA exam on her first attempt. While at USF, she met her husband, a then ROTC cadet. Her husband’s first flying assignment was at Vandenberg AFB where they fell in love with the Central Coast. Sandra’s first wine job was with the Fess Parker family. Military life took them all over the world, including England and Japan. After serving 20 years in the Air Force, they decided to come “home” to the Central Coast and Sandra is thrilled to be once again in the wine industry. She joined the Sunstone family in January 2014 as the Accounting and Compliance Manager.
Private Event Sales Manager
Annamarie combines her love of wine and private events at Sunstone. She manages sales for all private events at the Winery and Villa. Prior to the wine country lifestyle, she was a part of the senior management team at NBC Universal where she was charged with the creative direction and marketing of daytime programs on the network. She produced live fan events at Universal Orlando and City Walk, Nashville Music fair and cities across the US. One of her favorite promotional partnerships was with the Rolling Stones. Since joining Sunstone is 2012 she has had the honor of watching many beautiful couples get married at the Villa and Winery. She is always excited for guests to tour the estate and offer suggestions to personalize a wedding, private party or corporate event. She wants every guest to experience the stunning beauty and luxury of a perfect event at Sunstone.
Wine Production Manager
Jon joined Sunstone Winery in September of 2014 as a Tasting Room Associate and is now our Inventory Controller. He has spent time working in our vineyards during pruning season and in our winery as a lab assistant and will be a harvest intern for the 2016 harvest. Jon grew up in Newbury Park, CA and moved up to Santa Maria with his wife in 2014 to be closer to the wine industry and start pursuing a college degree in Wine and Viticulture. He currently attends Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and plans to transfer to a university in 2017 for a Bachelor’s degree program in Wine and Viticulture.
Lead Tasting Room Sales Associate
Bill is the wine educator at Sunstone and he has been associated with the wine industry since 1988. Having started in the sales and marketing side of the retail wine business he soon discovered his love of wine and sharing experience with his customers. The early years in wine tasting did not have the luxury of wine tasting, so customers had to rely on the sales person to guide them to wines that would meet their tastes. His first visit to the Paso Robles AVA enlightened Bill to the Zinfandel varietal and it was love at first taste and he later discovered the Zin Masters wine club that lead to sharing notes and information about different regions that grew Zinfandels in the Central Coast and beyond. He also discovered a local wine club that would get together and pair wines with food , often including guest winemakers, this club was referred to as WINO (Wine investigations for Novices and Oenphiles ). Having expanded his knowledge of wines, regions and micro climates it became an ongoing passion of learning and sharing with customers, friends and family to this day. Bill lives in Ventura near the Ocean and stays locally in Santa Ynez area while working. Both communities offer sights and locations that prove how wonderful life is here in California.
Lead Tasting Room Sales Associate
Thom hails from Philadelphia, and has taken a rather circuitous path to Santa Ynez. His lifelong love of music somehow led to a twenty year career in law – a veritable roller coaster ride with stops in such exotic locales as Nairobi, Munich, Rome and . . . Minneapolis? Better late than never, he found his amazing wife Lisa and the similarly awesome Central Coast . . . as well as a home and family shared with some of the best people on earth, at a magical place called Sunstone. The camaraderie and extraordinary experiences created there each day are remarkable and rare indeed!
Lead Tasting Room Sales Associate
Jessica joined the Sunstone family in May 2014. Originally from Santa Barbara, Jessica studied psychology while attending Santa Barbara Community College before deciding to move to the Santa Ynez Valley where she fell in love with wine. Having over ten year’s experience in the hospitality industry, Jessica’s passion for guest service and love for Sunstone is apparent when she greets you like family in our tasting rooms- with a glass of bubbles, of course! She is currently studying to gain her sommelier certification and plans to travel the world and taste new wines!
Direct to Consumer Sales Associate
Joining the Sunstone family in March 2016 as a Tasting Room associate, Elva brings over six years of experience in the hospitality and wine industry. Born and raised right here in the Santa Ynez Valley, Elva is pursuing her degree in Wine and Viticulture at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA and has a great passion for learning everything she can about wine. When she is not at the winery, she enjoys spending time with her older sisters, watching the NBA (Go Thunder!), and looking for new and exciting adventures- like zip-lining over the hills of Santa Margarita!
Tasting Room Sales Associate & Inventory Controller
Ian started out in the military, serving in the US Navy for 9 years, followed by 6 years as a satellite communications contractor in Afghanistan and Paso Robles, where he was introduced to fine wine. While studying for his AS in Enology at Allan Hancock College, Ian is learning all aspects of the business and very much enjoying his time in our tasting room, where the Villa Sole is well known to be his favorite blend. He also serves as our assistant inventory manager, also known as carrying many heavy wine cases wherever they’re needed.
John Krska – Estate Manager
It is with great pleasure to announce that on August 28th, 2017, John Krska has joined the Sunstone family as our new Estate Manager! John has been taking care of many vineyards in the valley, including Sunstone’s and has been our “go to” guy for the entire estate for many years. John has decided now is the time for him to downsize and focus on one property, and he has chosen Sunstone to call home.
Jordan Drasin – VIP Ambassador
Jordan joins our team with hospitality experience from the Fess Parker Doubletree and Santa Barbara Wine Collective. Jordan joins our team as the VIP Ambassador and will help develop and lead our VIP experience programs in addition to acting Concierge for the estate. Jordan will also be a brand ambassador helping build our unique relationships with select restaurants and hotels in Santa Barbara County and Los Angeles.
Dee James – Event Coordinator
Dee joins our Events department in the role of Events Coordinator. A certified wedding and event planner, Dee has planned and executed many large fundraisers, weddings and events. Dee desired to focus on one specific venue and fell in love with Sunstone! Dee assists with the coordination, planning and execution of the private and member events that occur at the estate.