Women in Wine Members
Samantha Pagliarulo – Assistant Winemaker, Hawk Haven Vineyard – Cape May County, NJ A New Jersey native and Stockton University graduate, Samantha Pagliarulo has always had a passion for chemistry. After a suggestion from her father to explore the winemaking industry, she started working at the Hawk Haven Vineyard’s tasting room in May 2018. Her growing enthusiasm for wine and unmatchable work ethic soon gained her acceptance to the Hawk Haven winemaking team as a harvest intern. She quickly worked her way through the ranks and now holds the title of Assistant Winemaker. Friends and coworkers lovingly refer to Sam as “Science Sam” because of her never-ending knowledge of science. Samantha now lives in North Cape May with her boyfriend, Tim.
Steph Waters – By day Steph Waters is an Employee Benefits Consultant with over 20 years of experience and by night she is SOMM, a wine enthusiast, and a wine entrepreneur. Steph works as a wine bar tasting consultant at Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, New Jersey. She is also an active student at The Wine School of Philadelphia, attending wine-tasting classes and advanced courses. In addition, she is the founder and owner of The Wine Jawn, LLC – a company formed to expand the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion footprint within the wine industry for women and the Black Indigenous Person of Color (BIPOC) Community. The company offers wine-tasting experiences.
Sarah Tuch – Sarah Tuch began her career with Valenzano Winery back in 2018. Back then, she was a part-time hostess who mainly helped out during winery events, such as wine trail weekend. As time went on, Sarah learned that working at a winery cannot be compared to any other job and simply fell in love with the fascinating world of wine tasting and the unique experiences that this industry brings to the people of New Jersey. Before working for the Valenzano family, she had no experience with wine; observing the behind-the-scenes process of winemaking, sampling dozens of different wines, and the sharing of knowledge from my past and current team members made her the person she is today. Four years later, Sarah is now pursuing her career as a full-time manager and professional wine tender at Valenzano Winery and loving every minute! Working for a company you truly enjoy makes it the most rewarding job; for her, that is at Valenzano Winery.
Denise Gardner – wine consultant and founder of Denise Gardner Winemaking (DG Winemaking, https://dgwinemaking.com/), has been integrated into the grape and wine industries for over 20 years with a background in wine production improvement, sensory evaluation, and research. Denise holds an M.S. in Food Science and Technology from Virginia Tech University. In addition, she has completed two industry accreditations (the Certified Specialist of Wine, CSW, from the Society of Wine Educators and the Level 3 certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, WSET). Having worked in both industry and academia, Denise provides a unique perspective and experience that few hold in the wine industry.
Today, DG Winemaking delivers focused consulting and educational services that improve wine production efficiency, quality, and marketability for wineries of all sizes. Denise’s consulting services continue to address common winemaker needs and connect people to build community within a vast, growing industry. By assisting wineries with fermentation and production plans to optimize quality from grapes to package, providing effective wine processing decisions, assisting with compliance, and creating wines to enhance quality, Denise’s clients have improved recognition among peers, competitors, consumers, and wine reviewers.
Michelle Tantaros – Michelle never expected to be a winery owner. She grew up in the Delco area and even initially considered cosmetology as her career path. However, as a young woman, while working in a pizza shop, she met her husband, who had grown up on a vineyard in Greece. The two shared a love of agriculture and nature, and after they married, they opened a landscaping and snow removal business together. Michelle learned the basics of running a business on the fly as she balanced co-ownership with raising her four children. In 2012, after her father-in-law’s death, the couple was inspired to leave the landscaping business behind and create a winery and vineyard in his honor. They purchased the land where Blue Cork now stands and grew the business from the ground up, finally opening in May 2019. Her education on running and owning such a vast business has been an on-the-job experience. She has learned all she can from classes, workshops, and mentors, but has learned the most just from the everyday experiences and mistakes made along the way. She can be found in the tasting room daily, overseeing the winery’s day-to-day operations and handling all of the behind-the-scenes management.
Sheryl Began – Pretty much since she could start legally drinking it, Sheryl has been fascinated with wine. After visiting a local winery and hearing an owner talk about the flavors and aromas found in wine, she became determined to learn more about wine tasting and winemaking. Since then, Sheryl has passed her Intro Sommelier exam but ultimately decided on the WSET track, having most recently earned her WSET Level 3 Award in Wines. To further her love of wine and interest in winemaking, she started working at Blue Cork winery about three months after they opened and found a soul-sister in owner Michelle. Sheryl has been lucky enough to be taken under the owners’ wings, learning firsthand about the winemaking process and the hard work of crafting local wines. Over the years, she has taken on multiple roles for Blue Cork, such as assisting with the tasting room, trials and blending, hosting events, and most importantly, anything concerning her real love – wine education.
Julianne Marth Donnini – Co-owner and Winemaker at Auburn Road Vineyards. Julianne Donnini is a co-owner and winemaker at Auburn Road Vineyards, founded in 2004. Her winemaking career began like many – a crooked path that started with a degree in literature from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and a law degree from Villanova Law School in Pennsylvania. She practiced law for ten years in Philadelphia, specializing in commercial litigation – living and working in the city.
The segue to winemaking came as Julianne started her family and questioned a future in the legal and corporate world. So she started researching wineries in the south Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania area. A desire to get out of office culture, build something tangible and be closer to her young, growing family helped her leap into buying a farm in Salem County.
A long way from life in the city, she is now the mother of sons in college, an entrepreneur, and a self-taught winemaker with a passion for creating the high-quality wine which is the centerpiece of the agri-tourism experience at Auburn Road. She also manages 23 acres of grapes over two distinct lots, within 10 miles of the Delaware River to the west and 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The two bodies of water help maintain a temperate, consistent environment for grape growing. She creates what she would describe as an old-world winemaking style – small batch fermentation, gentle use of oak, and a keen sense of balance as a frame to present the beauty of the fruit.
Amy Rose – Tasting Room Manager – Beneduce. Since taking over as manager of the front-of-house operations, Amy Rose has created a company culture that continues to draw in talented, curious people from all different backgrounds to join the Beneduce team. She has an effortlessly warm style of hospitality that makes guests feel immediately at ease, a talent for streamlining operational procedures, and a rare skill for managing people that makes them feel valuable, internally motivated, and excited to be here. In addition, she can multitask at a level only a mother of two could manage!
Nora Muehlbauer – Assistant Winemaker + Wine Club Manager – Beneduce. In the nine years she has been on the Beneduce team, Nora has worked through nearly every position in the vineyard and tasting room before finding the perfect fit in her role as Assistant Winemaker. She has an incredibly sharp palate, an excellent eye for design, and an intuitive understanding of all things farming and fermentation. Catch her on weekends slinging wood-fired pizzas cooked in an earth oven that she built herself with clay from her own farm!
Kara North –Event Coordinator + Social Media Manager – Beneduce. Kara’s role has grown continuously since she joined the Beneduce team as a part-time wine server. She now manages private events with keen attention to detail and showcases her creativity and graphic design skills through her role as a social media manager. As a member of gen Z, she is also the default tech consultant whenever there is a printer malfunction or she needs a farmer-friendly explanation of the need for a TikTok account.
Genevieve Hobson – Farmhand – Beneduce. Gen has been a vital member of the vineyard team for almost five years now. She sets the pace for the nearly all-male crew while completing tasks like leaf pulling and shoot thinning, and she brings a calming energy to the farm and breakroom even during the heat of harvest season. In addition, she has recently started helping out on the winemaking side, scrubbing tanks and bins all while maintaining her contagious smile.
Monica – Wineopardy. Monica formally began in the hospitality industry in 2012 as a bartender but was a skilled home mixologist long before. Monica then began working for a national wine-tasting company where she samples customers on various wines. Monica also works at Fox Hollow Vineyards, mainly in the tasting room. The formal study began when she passed her Court of Master Sommeliers Intro exam. This was shortly followed by WSET 2 and 3, both with Distinction and French Wine Scholar, Certified Specialist of Wine, and Certified Sherry Wine Specialist. Currently, Monica is studying for her Certified Wine Educator credential.
Monica enjoys providing wine education and laughs through her Instagram account, @WineShenanigans, and Wineopardy, a wine-themed game show where she acts as a hostess. This game show is a chance for lovers of wine nerdiness to come together, laugh, and learn. Monica loves learning through the glass, sharing what she learns with others, and looking forward to what future education is to come!
Robin Halpern – Engine One Vineyards, LLC. Engine One Vineyards has grown grapes for New Jersey wineries for over twenty years. It started as a family project for her husband, herself, and their three school-age sons, a nice diversion from their professional careers. Robin learned on the job and continues to learn. She focuses on canopy management – pruning, training, etc., or as she likes to refer to it: plant design, an art, and a science. In their “retirement,” Robin and her husband have a vineyard in Cumberland County and one in Cape May County and are working towards opening a winery. More to learn!
Danna Shapiro – The Winemakers Co-Op. Danna started her career at Kobrand Wine & Spirits; a luxury importer, marketer and distributor in NYC; after a very short-lived stint in the fashion industry. She was the sales assistant right out of school for three fantastic, veteran fashion industry saleswomen; the company was going out of business. They sat her down and firmly suggested she pursue another industry. They had been treated poorly at more companies than they could count and wanted her to set her sights on a better industry. Danna chose the wine position over an offer at an advertising agency and has yet to look back. She fell in love with the wine business and the people in it. Danna holds an Advanced Certificate and a Diploma level certification from the WSET.
Eileen McHugh – Eileen is a consulting winemaker based in NJ. Her wine journey started somewhat randomly within the Rutgers Food Science program. While studying at Rutgers, she spent a summer on work-study in France, where her work/lodging happened to be a small winery/vineyard. Shortly after graduating, she landed a sensory science position at Treasury Wine Estates in Napa, California, and quickly found herself driven toward production within the company. Upon experiencing the adrenaline rush of harvest and recognizing the added perk of extended travel to build a career, she started harvest hopping (aka flipping between hemispheres to follow the grape season!). After nearly a decade in the industry, she has been fortunate to dye her hands purple with the likes of Beringer, Sterling Vineyards, Mollydooker, Matua, and Wölffer Estate Vineyard, finding some great friends and mentors in the process.
Recently, she has shifted to consulting to share her knowledge and global experience with the NJ wine community. Whether you are building a winery, streamlining existing operations, needing help with any winemaking questions, or want to say hello, Eileen is open to consultation!
Katie Tarpine – Cedar Rose. Katie Tarpine, from Cedar Rose Vineyards, currently manages all private and public events, the entire online presence. She also assists her husband, Dustin (co-owner and winemaker), manage the Tasting Room. She came to the wine industry through her husband when he and his childhood friends, now business partners, started Cedar Rose in 2012. She left her stressful retail management job to help run the tasting room side of the business when the doors opened to the public in November 2018. Other than event management and website/social media design, she loves learning more about what makes each type of wine different and wine and food pairings. Blind tastings are one of her favorite things to do and something she challenges the staff regularly to keep everyone up to date and knowledgeable on the wines the vineyard produces and serves. In her spare time (what there is of it!), she enjoys spending time with her two-year-old son and many pets and visiting beautiful local places such as Longwood Gardens.
Devon Perry – Executive Director of Garden State Wine Growers Association. Representing the Garden State Wine Growers Association is a dream job as a lover of the State of New Jersey and the wine industry. The background that led Devon to become Executive Director of the Garden State Wine Growers Association began from her experience of being Chief Executive Officer of WineLovers LLC. She managed staff and projects to maintain an online restaurant database serving ten metro centers through this role. She continuously managed restaurant relations to update 53,000 restaurants and maintained relationships and data exchange with OpenTable, Yelp, and AllMenus. In addition, her interest in wine took off at a young age from personal experience. Her grandfather would visit local restaurants every Sunday night, rating wine options with a homemade excel spreadsheet. Over time, her grandfather would rate wine pairings from his experience and blossomed this pastime into GoBYO.com, an online restaurant database focusing on wine-friendly ratings. Beyond this experience within WineLovers LLC, Devon has maintained leadership roles and positions within the New Jersey tourism industry, like being the Executive Director of Visit South Jersey, a board member of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association, and served on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Destination Marketing Organization Association. Moreover, working with exceptionally supportive and talented people behind the vines and in the classrooms continues to grow her love for keeping the “garden” in the Garden State. Cheers to New Jersey wine!