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.
Director of Sales & Marketing- Level 1 Sommelier
An MBA and digital marketing expert by trade, Dave spent the first half of his career helping Fortune 500 companies build their businesses online before deciding he wanted to dedicate the rest of his career to his true passion: wine.
Dave’s unique perspective on the wine industry and the in-person winery customer experience is rooted in being a longtime wine connoisseur and collector, and a visitor to more than 200 wineries across the world. After founding a winery marketing and customer experience company, Dave joined Terravant Wine Company, Santa Barbara County’s largest winery, to build the DTC business. At Terravant, Dave brought to market a new brand (Bottlest), a first-of-its-kind online wine personalization app, and an award-winning winery tour experience.
In 2018 Dave achieved three significant wine industry milestones: Becoming a featured speaker at the DTC Wine Symposium; Winning a “Vinnie” Award for Excellence in Wine Marketing; and Passing the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1 Certification Exam.
As Director of DTC Sales, Dave is responsible for leading our Club Sunstone program, DTC Sales and our guest experience team.
Jon stumbled upon the wine industry by chance in 2014 as a tasting room associate. He then spent time familiarizing himself with the various growing regions in the area by interning for a vineyard management company and a harvest intern for Bien Nacido Winery in Santa Maria. As our Assistant Winemaker Jon oversees day-to-day operation of our 8,000 square foot production facility including all in-house lab work, estate and partner vineyard relations and wine-making practices. He has studied Viticulture and Enology at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria as well as winemaking through the University of California, Davis Extension Program. His passion for creating award-winning wine is evident by his work ethic and eagerness to never stop in the pursuit in learning about wine. During harvest he can be found roaming various partner vineyards before the crack of dawn or in the cellar working with the rest of the production staff.
Tasting Room Lead- Level 1 Sommelier
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!
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!
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 family and re-watching Harry Potter!