Claudio Ponte

Claudio’s only real qualification as a wine “expert” is that he knows what he likes. Claudio started drinking water-diluted red wine as a child, enjoyed an occasional glass at important celebrations while growing up (where wine was always on the table), graduated to Mateus rose as a freshman in college, moved to woody California Chardonnays, then to big reds… and ultimately ended up managing a winery, the ultimate wine lover’s job.

He has been exposed to every type of snobbery and fraudulent misrepresentation related to wine. He has wrinkled his nose at some of the best Bordeaux has to offer, has marveled at the smells of 100 year old Madeira, has taken 5 aspirins (it did not help) after participating in a monster vertical tasting with friendly grape growers, and has now settled in his middle years to enjoy what most would call “drinkable” wines.

Other than having a fairly adventurous bent when it comes to wine varieties, his taste is fairly unsophisticated, and he’s quick to admit he could never make a living with his palate. Claudio dislikes overpaying for wine, especially at restaurants, and his legendary stinginess gets him the wine list every time, no matter who’s treating. Looking for value he’ll always pick the odd red, or the weird white or (blushing…) a dry rose. Other than Ponte wines, he drinks Malbecs, Tempranillos and Torrontes and is patiently waiting for the Ponte Arneis vines to “grow up” to add to his list.

He’s slowly “working” though other wine regions worldwide looking for new wines to like and for new food experiences. He believes that wine and food are best enjoyed where they are produced.

Erica Martinez

Erica Martinez is a Southern California native who now resides near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She formally worked for Ponte for 4 years before moving on the east coast where she was the online copywriter for GNC for 3 years. Now a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her new son, Henry, Erica still feels at home writing for Ponte. She is a lover of wine, food and shopping (in farmer’s markets) and enjoys sharing her cooking experiences in her new city, which even after almost 5 years, sometimes still feels unfamiliar (she is still adjusting to the fact that farmer’s markets close in winter). Erica truly believes that food and wine go beyond creating a meal, and can, rather, create an entire experience. She is thrilled to share these experiences on the Ponte Blog.

Lauren Minogue

Lauren Minogue is a natural when it comes to connecting with our Wine Club Members. Not only does she work in the Wine Club and Online Store, she also shares recipes and sometimes humorous real-life tales in the Ponte Blog. An Orange County ex-pat, Lauren moved to Temecula with her husband after graduating college, where Lauren’s passion for wine and people came together when she began working for Ponte. At home, both her and her husband maintain a seasonal garden which acts as an inspiration to the recipes she shares. Her approach to cooking can be summed up in four adjectives: quick, easy, healthy and delicious. Her kitchen adventures are funny and scrumptious additions to the Ponte Blog.

Mark Schabel, Winemaker

When it comes to all things wine, Mark is the man we turn to. Ponte’s winemaker takes the snobbery out of wine and breaks down everything from cork to tannins into fun topics everyone can enjoy and understand. He has honed his winemaking skills all over the world, but when all is said and done, at the end of the day, Mark likes to relax with a good meal, good wine, and maybe a little yoga. A self-described “want-to-be-foodie” and “lazy cook,” Mark is like so many of us who love good food, but don’t take it too seriously. He can suggest wine pairings for pan-seared pomegranate duck one minute and for grilled cheese sandwiches the next, and they will both be fantastic.

Elyse Barton

When it comes to cooking, Elyse has her own rules. One: recipes are meant to be tweaked. And two: healthy is important. Always loving a challenge, Elyse believes that being a good cook is about experimenting with classics to create one’s own recipes. As a health conscious individual, she finds it tricky to pair wines with healthy meals, but always finds a way to do it, and is always eager to share with all of our Blog readers. In addition to Elyse’s recipes, you might also find her blogging about her passion for running and training for Ponte’s annual Half Marathon. Outside of Ponte, Elyse adores theater and has interned with the Laguna Beach Playhouse, ArtsPR and Broadway San Diego.

Jayna Viereck

You may have seen Jayna Viereck in Ponte’s tasting room if you have ever visited the winery; she has been part of the Ponte team for 7 years. What began as a merchandising assistant job has blossomed into a career as Assistant Tasting Room Manager. Part of her job takes Jayna to gift and food shows to stay in the loop of what is happening in the merchandising world. It also makes her an expert blogger, as she shares the latest trends and tips with our readers. Even before Ponte, Jayna was no stranger to customer service and merchandising. She previously worked at Macy’s in the home store where she specialized in china and crystal ordering and helped brides create their dream registry from scratch. All of this, plus her interest in anything artistic – oil painting, learning piano—gives Jayna a superior eye on décor and taste.