The Team

Ron and Susan Krausz

Raised in Northern California and Minnesota, respectively, both Ron and Susan Krausz had their feet firmly planted in California soil in 1988 when they purchased the Howell Mountain property that was to become Arkenstone.

After living and working in Berkeley and the Northern California peninsula, Ron and Susan felt drawn to St. Helena, with its tightly knit community and agricultural roots. Visits to the area and the fortuitous availability of the Howell Mountain property led them to the purchase that would change their lives. With a young family in tow, they moved to the Valley and carried on with their careers, as ideas for the potential of the property began to build in their minds.

Following the urging of a good friend steeped in the wine business, Ron and Susan had the property evaluated in the early 1990s by an internationally respected vineyard consultant from New Zealand. When the consultant raved about the potential for growing very high-quality grapes, and strongly suggested planting vineyard, Ron and Susan, with the knowledge that this would require a long-term commitment and a radical change in their lives, had to take a step back and reevaluate. Further exploration of other Howell Mountain wineries (and having heartily enjoyed their Howell Mountain neighbors stunning wines over the years) assured them that the investment, while by necessity needing to unfold slowly, would be well worthwhile. Aside from some minor (well maybe sometimes major) stresses throughout the project, they have never regretted that decision.

With guidance from friends and experts, including early vineyard consultation, Ron and Susan, along with an incredibly dedicated team, spent the next 20 plus years, with great thought and care, planning what is now Arkenstone Estate Winery. With the completion of the vineyards, the impressive underground winery caves and the tasting room looking out over the vineyards, the Krausz family as well as the entire Arkenstone team is daily seeing the fruits of their labor in bloom. The culmination of their work reflects the love of family and friends, deep respect for the land and a lifelong enjoyment of wine.

Sam Kaplan

After 20+ vintages in the Napa Valley, Sam often reflects on what first got him interested in and then passionate about winemaking and the culture of wine as a way of life. He goes back to one day in college when he walked into a friend’s winery in Oregon and was overcome with the aromas of fermentation. It was a pivotal moment. “It smelled like home, and reminded me of my early childhood”, he says. Sam remembers his physician dad and friends making wine in their garage. Although he jokingly calls his dad “an early garagiste,” he remembers how wine, the intensity of aromas with fermentation – pulled family and friends together.

A stint living with a wine-loving family in Spain, while studying abroad as an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark, also paved the way for a deeper appreciation of how wine weaves its way into the everyday celebration of life, family, and friends. Sam fell in love with Spain’s wine and food culture, and it left an indelible mark.

Sam joined Arkenstone as winemaker in 2006 and helped to Sheppard through what would be the very first vintage to be released that year. Since coming on board, Sam has and continues to oversee all Arkenstone day to day farming and winemaking at our Howell Mountain Estate brining his commitment to quality and attention to detail in everything he does.

Roberto Alfaro

Roberto grew up in Michoacan, Mexico, and at the age of 17 moved to the Napa Valley. His first experience in the wine business began as he worked in the vineyards for Vineyard Manager David Abreu planting and tending to some of the finest vineyards in the valley. But it was winemaking that captured his interest. After 3 harvests and a cellar job at The Hess Collection, Roberto landed a position as Cellar Lead at Caldwell Vineyard in 2005. While there Roberto had the opportunity to work hands on with many high-end wines in small lots, and loved it. It was during this time that Roberto first met Sam Kaplan.

After working closely with Sam at Caldwell (former crush facility where Arkenstone was made in 2006/2007), Roberto came on board to Arkenstone in 2008 as assistant winemaker and has been a key part of our winemaking team ever since.

Jake Krausz

Jake’s first role at Arkenstone was as a teenager, pulling rocks and planting vines in the steep vineyards on his family’s Howell Mountain Estate.  Exposed to viticulture and viniculture from that young age, he has since honed his palate and knowledge of wine from around the world.  Today Jake’s role includes being the national brand ambassador for Arkenstone, and enjoys traveling the country to share his family’s wines.

Before re-joining Arkenstone’s team in an official capacity, Jake’s first career was in the music industry, where he spent several years performing, producing and recording.  Inspired by his love of wine, he decided to return to Napa Valley and join the family business in 2010.  After passing the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Certified Sommelier exam, he spent a year as part of the vinification team, participating in every aspect of wine production from grape to bottle.  He worked his first full harvest with winemaker Sam Kaplan in the fall of 2010.  In the years since, he has taken on all brand ambassador responsibilities for the winery and transitioned into his current role as Estate Director.

As a small, family-owned winery, everyone at Arkenstone wears many hats, and you are just as likely to find Jake in the vineyard tasting grapes, hosting guests at the Estate, or on a visit across the country sharing Arkenstone’s unique wines.