Henry & Vanessa Cornell
Having lived a significant portion of his life overseas, Henry Cornell learned early on that wine is an excellent way to connect with people of different cultures. “I always bring a bottle of wine to lunch or dinner; it’s an icebreaker.” And while a lifetime of tasting, reading, learning and collecting naturally led to an appreciation of European wines, when it came time to start his own wine venture – the “logical conclusion to this lifelong love of mine” – Henry settled on California. Time spent in the 1970’s as a young adult in San Francisco acquainted him with some of the “classic” California Cabernets – wines like BV, Montelena, Raymond, Heitz – and it was a wine profile Henry never forgot. When he first saw the property that would become Cornell Vineyards, he was smitten. “The sheer beauty and history of this property drew me in. I had to make a wine from this place.”
Vanessa Cornell lives in New York with her husband, Henry, and their five children. Like her family, she is moved by the property at Cornell Vineyards, which inspired her to launch an artist in residence program and develop a culinary garden, including a dedicated tea garden among the vineyards. She also leads the branding and marketing strategy for Cornell Vineyards.
She is the founder of NUSHU Society, a women’s membership community grounded in wellness and empowerment. In addition, She serves on the Leadership Council of the Mt. Sinai Children’s Health and Development Institute and is involved in women’s alumnae initiatives at her alma maters, St. Paul’s School and Harvard College. Passions include surfing, rock climbing, contemporary Japanese ceramics and wine.
Elizabeth Tangney brings 15 years of winemaking and viticulture experience to Cornell Vineyards. As the winemaker, she works side-by-side with the vineyard team to grow and care for the 20 acres of red Bordeaux varietals on the estate.
While studying French, she became inspired by the European lifestyle that is centered around the common convergence of food and wine and human interactions. Before joining the Cornell Vineyards team, Elizabeth worked with Aaron Pott at Saint Helena Winery as winemaker, vineyard and estate manager. During her tenure there, she produced highly-rated wines recognized by Robert Parker. She also worked in the cellar at Bryant Family Vineyards with Helen Keplinger, and as viticulturist for a 250-acre vineyard in Windsor, California. Beyond Napa and Sonoma, she worked in Bordeaux’s Saint-Émilion with Stephane Dubes, and held positions in Paso Robles with Booker Vineyards and L’Aventure Winery.
Elizabeth studied both viticulture and enology because she yearned to gain an all-encompassing perspective of what it takes to make wine. Curious about history and traditions, and fascinated by science and advancements, she continues to be an avid student of her profession and takes every opportunity she has to learn something new.
Francoise Peschon is the consulting winemaker for Cornell Vineyards. She has always had an affinity for estate properties – for those places that are “about the land and the wines, not necessarily the winemaker.” Since joining the Cornell Vineyards team in 2013, Francoise has been the fulcrum around which the ethos and team have been assembled.
In her thirty-year career, she’s worked at some of the best—including Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Araujo Estate Wines, Viader Vineyards and Vine Hill Ranch—quietly crafting some of Napa Valley’s most acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignons of the last three decades. She is quick to credit her mentors, wine industry luminaries like Michel Roland, Warren Winiarski and Tony Soter, whose sensitivity, intellect and sense of aesthetics have clearly inspired her.
Early in her winemaking career, Francoise spent a year in Bordeaux working at Chateau Haut Brion. It was there that she knew she wanted to work with Bordeaux varieties at an estate property. These two concepts have resonated with Francoise for more than 30 years. She holds a degree in Enology from the University of California—Davis, and participated in the DUAD program at the University of Bordeaux.
Francoise continues to work with Bart and Daphne Araujo on their new venture, Accendo, as well as Vine Hill Ranch and Kelly Fleming Wines. She is also invested in Drinkward Peschon, a small brand she shares with her good friend and neighbor, Lisa Drinkward, since 2000.
Drawing on nearly 30 years of experience in the wine business, Melinda Kearney is known throughout wine country for her ability to successfully launch a new wine brand with the owners’ vision and commitment at the forefront. She believes the key to success lies in the foundation of the estate vineyards and the team. At Cornell Vineyards, she has done just that since 2016. Her responsibilities include building and mentoring the sales and marketing team, hospitality, creating the brand messaging and expanding it to all viable channels of communications.
In addition to Cornell Vineyards, Melinda has successfully launched a handful of luxury estate wines under her own consulting business including Brand Napa Valley, Wolf Family Vineyards and Evening Land Vineyards. In the last ten years she has also built her own brand—Lorenza Rosé—from the ground up with the help of her daughter Michele Ouellet.
Prior to founding her own consulting business and wine label, Melinda co-owned restaurants in Boulder, Colorado during the 1980s with extensive by-the-glass programs. Her appreciation for food and wine led her to Napa Valley in 1990. She garnered invaluable experience working for a small pinot noir producer in the cellar, vineyard, sales and operations before moving on to Frog’s Leap Winery where she spent ten years as the Vice President of Sales expanding the brand in the U.S. and internationally.
Melinda earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of Colorado—Boulder.
With more than a decade of experience in hospitality, Julia Moretti has served in various leadership roles for some of the most respected organizations in Napa Valley. At Cornell Vineyards, she is responsible for all aspects of hospitality and guest relations, community outreach, sales, events, social media and brand development.
Inspired by restaurateur and hospitality icon Danny Meyer, Julia was working as a sommelier in Las Vegas when she recognized the wine profession was the path for her. While she loved interacting with guests, each new wine she discovered left her yearning to learn more about the story behind the brand and the winemaking and vineyard practices.
Prior to joining Cornell Vineyards, Julia served as the hospitality director for two renowned Napa wineries: Vineyard 7 & 8 and Harlan Estate. When she first moved to Napa, she joined the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group as the wine director and assistant general manager for Ad Hoc in Yountville. Before she moved to wine country, Julia was working as a sommelier in her hometown of Las Vegas at MGM Grand and Restaurant Guy Savoy.
Julia has achieved the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Advanced Level 3 certification in wine, and is also recognized as a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Management from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
In her spare time, Julia volunteers as the social media coordinator for Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch.
Texas native Austin Pitzer has nearly 10 years of experience in hospitality and tasting room management. As director for Cornell Vineyards, he is a brand ambassador responsible for national sales, brand development, budgeting and hospitality, as well as tastings on property and guest relations. His ability to see the big picture and create systems and management tools have set the brand up for sustainable growth.
He decided to pursue a career in the wine industry during a college project, which led him to a position at Texas winery. It was there that he got a taste for the daily operations including winemaking and vineyard management.
From there, Austin moved to Sonoma, where he gained broad experience working harvest and hospitality. He has held sales and hospitality positions at Robert Biale Vineyards and Hartwell Vineyards, and most recently served as general manager of Sarocka Vineyards before joining Cornell Vineyards in early 2018.
Austin and his family own a wine label, Avril Taylor, which focuses on small-production Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Rosé from Napa Valley.
Austin is a certified wine professional from the Culinary Institute of America and is recognized by the Court of Master Sommeliers as a Level 1 sommelier. He is a graduate of Baylor University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, Armando Hernandez has nearly three decades of experience with vineyard management for several highly-regarded wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma Valleys. He has been with Cornell Vineyards for more than three years and oversees a full-time team of five gentlemen who tend to the entire 240-acre property daily.
Viticulture has always been fascinating to Armando, but for him, it’s the reward of a beautiful wine at the end of each harvest that makes the year-long journey worth the work.
Previously, Armando worked with Terra Valentine, Rudd Winery and Piña Vineyard Management. His roles and responsibilities included various management positions, safety training for large machinery and crewmember leadership.
Armando has been a member of the Future Farmers of America for the past seven years.
Since 2015, Armando and his family have lived at Cornell Vineyards, furthering the team’s level of commitment to the land.
In 2015, Cornell Vineyards welcomed a full-time vineyard crew to the family to farm the vines and care for the entire property. Roberto Jacobo is the estate equipment operator, Balthazar Aguilar is the irrigation lead, Javier Hernandez is the tractor driver, and Armando R Hernandez and Rene Molina are vineyard workers. Each of these gentlemen have helped Cornell Vineyards further its promise to organically and sustainably farm the land and maintain an intimate relationship with each vine as the seasons change.
The vineyard team and their families have lived on the property since 2015 along with a small herd of Alpine, Mancha and Nubian goats, Jersey cows, horses and chickens. The property came alive when the team made Cornell Vineyards their home, yielding a mutual commitment and deep connection to the mountain estate which is at once nature, farm and home.
When they aren’t in the vineyards, the team is actively continuing their education and enjoying a lifestyle with less commuting and more time spent with their families.