Our Family

Ancient Peaks Winery is a partnership between three local winegrowing families who are inspired to craft remarkable wines from their jointly owned Margarita Vineyard. Following are the owners and individuals behind the daily operations in the vineyard and in the cellar.

Karl Wittstrom

Karl Wittstrom oversees the daily management and operations of Ancient Peaks Winery. Karl is an entrepreneur, winegrower, rancher and longtime Paso Robles area resident who was raised amid his family’s ranching and farming business. Karl is a director of the California Mid State Fair in Paso Robles, and he is a member of the California Cattlemen’s Association, California Farm Bureau and a past director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. He oversees his own family vineyard and co-owns Margarita Vineyard and Ancient Peaks Winery. 

Doug Filipponi

Doug Filipponi is a longtime local winegrower and Paso Robles native who oversees all vineyard operations for Ancient Peaks Winery. Doug was named “Wine Industry Person of The Year” by his wine industry peers at the 2006 California Mid State Fair in Paso Robles. He is also the president of Filipponi & Thompson Drilling, a past president of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, and a past chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Festival. Doug is co-owner of Margarita Vineyard and Ancient Peaks Winery. 

Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi oversees strategic planning and development for Ancient Peaks Winery. Rob is a local entrepreneur and businessman with varied interests throughout the Central Coast. Rob is a newcomer to the wine industry, having introduced Robert Mondavi to Santa Margarita Ranch in 1999. Rob’s interests emphasize historic renovations and reuse projects, which have included the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo and Granada Theater in Santa Barbara. He co-owns Margarita Vineyard and Ancient Peaks Winery. 

Mike Sinor
Director of Winemaking

Mike Sinor is recognized as one of the Central Coast’s highest-rated winemakers (96 points - Wine Spectator; 95 points – Connoisseur’s Guide; 92 points – Wine Advocate; 92 points – Wine Enthusiast; 92 points – Wine & Spirits). His winemaking career on the Central Coast spans more than 20 years. At Ancient Peaks Winery, Mike directs the quality and style of the wines, and he also oversees viticultural practices at the winery’s estate Margarita Vineyard. His first complete vintage with Ancient Peaks was 2006. “The opportunity to work with Margarita Vineyard is what really drew me to Ancient Peaks,” Mike says. “It stands apart as the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region. The growing conditions here are remarkable—and that’s something I’m driven to reflect in the wines of Ancient Peaks.”

Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins
VP of Operations

As the Vice President of Operations for Ancient Peaks Winery, Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins oversees sales and marketing, companywide budgeting, long-range planning, human resources and special projects.  She grew up in a ranching and farming family in Paso Robles.  Amanda attended Cal Poly University working in vineyards and tasting rooms while in school.  After graduating college she soon realized that her passion and love was selling and marketing local agriculture.  Amanda joined the Ancient Peaks team in 2006 when the company began, and has worked her way up to VP of Operations.  Amanda is a past director for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, San Luis Obispo Wine Country and SLO CAL.

Stewart Cameron

Stewart Cameron oversees our daily winery operations and is involved in all facets of winemaking at Ancient Peaks along with Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor. After studying cellular and molecular biology in college, Stewart moved to San Luis Obispo. Here, he was struck by the beauty of the surrounding wine country, and he soon found himself drawn to the wine industry. He caught the winemaking bug while working in a winery lab in Paso Robles, and he later joined Ancient Peaks in 2006. He worked his way up to the position of assistant winemaker and was promoted to winemaker in 2013, demonstrating an innate talent for winemaking along the way.

Rachel Collier
VP of National Accounts

As VP of National Accounts, Rachel is charged with growing our national accounts and corporate retail business. Prior to joining Ancient Peaks, Rachel spent 20 years at The Henry Wine Group, most recently as the VP of corporate sales. The Henry Wine Group is Ancient Peaks Winery’s California distributor, and our relationship with Rachel runs deep. Her skill set is ideal for expertly managing and maximizing our opportunities across the United States. "I am thrilled to be working with such a high-quality team and excited to further develop our rapidly growing brand,” Rachel says.  

Kristin Muhly
National Brand Manager

Kristin Muhly coordinates the sales and marketing of Ancient Peaks wines. She was born and raised in San Luis Obispo. She earned her Ag Business and Wine & Viticulture degree at Cal Poly, and has worked in the wine industry ever since. Her experience includes stints at Justin Winery, Vines of Mendoza, Domaine Alfred and the Crimson Wine Group. At Ancient Peaks Winery, Kristin has a guiding hand in all of our sales and marketing efforts, including social media, online marketing and distributor relations. She has been known to pitch in during harvest, too.

Erin du Fresne
Wine Club Manager

Erin manages all facets of our Wine Club, leading our quest to offer one of the most exciting and rewarding wine clubs in the industry. Erin earned her agricultural business degree at Cal Poly with a minor in viticulture, and has been immersed in the wine and food industry ever since. After college, she worked the harvest in New Zealand. She then spent five years as a hospitality and event manager at another local winery before becoming the food coordinator at the World of Pinot Noir. At Ancient Peaks, Erin oversees wine club events, member outreach, shipment coordination and more, with an emphasis on developing creative and educational member experiences.

Laura Taffe Balderelli
East Coast Sales Manager

Laura is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience in the wine distribution business on the East Coast. As such, she brings a wealth of relationships and regional market knowledge to our sales program. Laura is responsible for managing and growing our East Coast distribution network, as well as interfacing with accounts and sales representatives on a continual basis. Laura holds a degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) by the Society of Wine Educators. "I am very excited to be a part of Ancient Peaks," she says. "The passion and enthusiasm from everyone who works here is inspiring."

Alyssa Larson
Hospitality Manager  

Alyssa manages all touch points of our hospitality experience, including the tasting room and café. She works with the hospitality team to take our consumer interaction to the next level, and to cultivate enhanced brand loyalty along the way. She began working in the local wine industry in 2009 while attending Cal Poly, where she earned a degree in agricultural business with a concentration in wine marketing. She also recently completed the WSET Level 2. "I really enjoy working for a family-run winery that promotes continued learning and personal growth," Alyssa says. 

Stephanie Metzler
Western Sales Manager
As our Western Sales Manager, Stephanie spearheads the distribution of Ancient Peaks wines in six states across the Western U.S. She came come to Ancient Peaks from the San Francisco Wine Exchange, where she worked as the west coast sales manager, serving as the primary interface with distributor partners. “Ancient Peaks is an innovative brand and my job is to match that innovation in our market approach,” she says. “My goal is to inspire and create momentum through every level of distribution, right down to the consumer. It all begins with great wines and strong relationships.”

Kendra Scharnell
Wine Club Coordinator

As our wine club coordinator, Kendra is responsible for facilitating the needs of the Ancient Peaks Wine Club. Kendra grew up in Danville in the Bay Area, and moved down to San Luis Obispo County for college. Eight years later, she says, “I haven’t found a reason to leave”—and largely because the wine industry has given her plenty of reasons to stay. Her first taste of the industry was at Alban Vineyards in nearby Edna Valley. She joined Ancient Peaks as a tasting room attendant in 2013, and was promoted to wine club coordinator in 2015. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors with her dog, June.
Melodee Crank
Event Manager at Oyster Ridge

Melodee brings multifaceted experience as an event coordinator, photographer and graphic designer. She holds an associate of arts degree from the Art Instutite of Dallas. She worked locally as an event and sales coordinator for Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and as a graphic designer for The Parable Group, before joining the renowned A. Blake Photography as an associate photographer. At our Oyster Ridge weddings and events venue, Melodee oversees all facets of site management, event execution and client relations. 
Jaime Muniz
Vineyard Manager

Jaime Muniz has been working on the Santa Margarita Ranch since the first grapes were planted in 1999. Jaime is a longtime Central Coast resident and a graduate from  Paso Robles High School. When Ancient Peaks co-owner and viticulturist Doug Filipponi took over vineyard operations in 2005, Jaime’s hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed. A year later, Jaime was promoted to assistant vineyard manager and then to vineyard manager in 2009. “I’m always pushing hard, and I never stop learning,” he says. “I love working for a family-owned operation that is dedicated to quality.”
Official Winery Dog

Duke is the winery’s resident beagle and office watchdog for Winemaker Stewart Cameron. Duke was born during the 2008 harvest, and is now known for his dashing personality and mischievous exploits. His hobbies include eating, playing catch and chasing any cellar work who dares to taunt him. Duke can be a howler, and he greets newcomers with a bark—but his tail starts wagging once he gets to know you. Click here to check out Duke's own video!