Elizabeth grew up near Philadelphia in a modern house set in a colonial neighborhood. Her father owned an executive recruitment business, and her mother was a gifted gardener, cook and entertainer. “There was an independent and entrepreneurial spirit in our home,” she recalls. “I grew up with the tastes and smells of fresh tomatoes and raspberries.” An uncle introduced her to the joys of Italian wines.
Elizabeth worked in a restaurant as a waiter, hostess and sommelier, earning tuition for Post College on Long Island, where she majored in English and minored in art history. Back in Philadelphia, she first sold ad space, then worked in public relations, promoting first-run foreign cinema, regional art theater, dance, major department store special events and even launching a cosmetics company. Her father’s daughter, she soon hung out her own shingle.
She devoted free time to reading about wine, pairing wines with meals cooked for her friends and taking wine appreciation classes. In 1978, she drove cross country to the Napa Valley to work as a tour guide at Joseph Phelps Winery.
Soon she was managing hospitality and working beside Joe in the kitchen along with culinary luminaries like Madeline Kammen and Alice Waters, and meeting others like the “astounding” Elizabeth David. She also assisted Bruce Neyers with marketing, writing collateral materials, meeting with journalists and distributors, selling on the road.
Next she served as director of marketing for four years at Chalk Hill Winery, repackaging and repositioning the brand. Four more years as Hess Collection’s first director of marketing and public relations were spent setting up distribution and developing the new facility to showcase wine, food and art. Elizabeth relished designing the visual aspects and scripting a film exploration of the vineyards for the winery’s theater. “I was thrilled to work from scratch on an energetic, creative team with the resources for a high-end project.”
In 1991, once again she put out her shingle, offering marketing for the wine industry and specializing in launching new luxury brands. Napa Valley had become her home and her business grew by word of mouth. Elizabeth had lived on the celebrated Eisele Vineyard for nearly 15 years, getting to know the original owners and hiking every inch of the land. “I came back there to work with the Araujos when they bought it. I respect them as good stewards. They kept what was good and improved where they could.”
She realized her craft was to identify and express what is unique and authentic about her clients. “The best positioning comes out of being true to yourself,” she says. “I’ve had the great fortune to work with wineries that have gone on to become renowned. Their reputations are deserved because of the thoughtfulness and honesty with which they’ve put together their brands.”
Through working with Araujo, Dalla Valle, Etude, Franciscan, Harlan, Kamen, Seavey, Soter, Spottswoode, Viader and others, Elizabeth arrived at an almost inevitable point in her career. “Partnering with Spencer to make our own wines seemed such a natural evolution after selling and marketing so many others.”
First food, then wine careers put her and her husband on parallel paths, Elizabeth explains, and they entered the wine business precisely as California blossomed and gained acceptance. “We both grew along with the industry,” she says. “We did not make our fortune in another walk of life and come here to fulfill our dream. This always was our life, and we’ve been blessed to live our dream.”