Great wine always tells a story of experience. The nuances and subtle notes that mark a great wine are rarely accidental: they are there because the winemaker understands the subtleties of process. Our team brings decades of diverse experience in all facets of wine making and hospitality and we think it makes all the difference, both in the quality of our wines and the experience of visiting our tasting lounges. We’re unique people making unique wines. That’s not accidental. To find out more about our initimble team, keep reading.
Founders & Proprietors
Dr. Michael & Beni Dragutsky
Like a lot of great things, Cornerstone Cellars started with a conversation between friends sharing a really great bottle of wine. That’s where Michael Dragutsky hatched the idea to start a winery. That led to the purchase of 5 tons of grapes. If you have 5 tons of grapes, you’re going to be making wine whether you want to or not.
1991 saw the first production from Cornerstone Cellars, 300 cases of Howell Mountain Cabernet. By 1994, Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet started garnering accolades from the trade. Now Cornerstone produces several varietals, around 10,000 cases worth. Today, Cornerstone is not too big, not too small. We think it’s just the right size. Dr. Dragutsky think that when it comes to wineries, size is important: Cornerstone is still able to pay attention to everything that goes into every bottle. That’s what has allowed us to make great wine, year in, year out, for three decades.
At Cornerstone Cellars, we make wines to please people, not focus groups. Thinking about how real people experience and enjoy our wines is the job (and passion) of our winemaker, Kari Auringer. Over the years, Kari has built a reputation in and around California’s wine districts as a truly accomplished winemaker. Her creativity and craftsmanship are what make our wines unique.
Kari didn’t start out as a winemaker. Her interest in wine was borne out of her love of entertaining. She made it a point to always have interesting wine on hand to share with friends, and that sparked the intense curiosity that ultimately set her off down the winemaker’s path. Before Kari became Cornerstone Cellars’ winemaker and general manager, she was already lending a hand in shaping Cornerstone’s distinctive approach. For many of the vintages of the 2000’s, Kari was assistant winemaker to a renowned consulting winemaker who made the wines of Cornerstone Cellars from the early 2000’s through 2009.
Director of Operations
After moving to Northern California in 1994, Lynne visited Napa with some friends and family and fell in love with the romance of the valley. After raising her family, she gained administrative experience in various industries including sales, marketing and hospitality.
Those experiences landed her at Cornerstone Cellars in 2014 and she has been a core team member of our winery ever since, shaping our strategy while keeping us grounded through the entire crazy process of making great wine. Lynne describes the spirit of Cornerstone as entrepreneurial, passionate, with a strong ethic of hospitality and approachability.
Lynne and her husband love to travel and go to Giant’s games. They share their home with two very pampered pups.
Matt is a Bay Area native, a swimmer, a dad, and a former brass-tacks business guy who fell in love with wine. So much so, in fact, that he ended up striking out north to Napa, where he has since started a family and become a local. He has been at the forefront of sales and customer experience, building successful hospitality teams and managing Direct-to-Consumer sales for a variety of boutique, luxury wineries.
Matt doesn’t just really like wine; he committed to it. He’s a voracious learner, as well as a passionate and lucid storyteller, and he’s always eager to share his deep knowledge of the wine marketplace with anyone who asks.
Matt lives with his wife and two children in Napa and is a WSET Diploma candidate.
As our hospitality manager, Sean’s attention to detail is exceptional. That comes from a unique career path that gave him insight into how to make every person feel welcome. He learned his trade working as a hospitality specialist at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco for more than a decade, and he has also worked in private service as a butler (not the starched kind you see on public television; more of an approachable but no-less thoughtfully attentive Northern California butler). He’s also worked in some of Napa’s cozier tasting rooms.
Sean firmly believes that wine is for everyone, and he thinks that an essential aspect of any hospitable tasting room is education. He’s here to answer, so be sure to ask. Sean’s broad knowledge and welcoming smile make tastings at Cornerstone Cellars memorable.
Sales & Hospitality Associate
Nicholas Barbin was first drawn to the Napa Valley in 2018, while his mother was attending the Culinary Institute of America. From an early age he was exposed to a wide variety of cuisines that helped expand his palate.
Raised on an island off the Atlantic coast, Nicholas comes from a large loving family with deep roots in the hospitality & culinary industries.
Opportunities to work on the production side of harvest ignited his passion for grapes. His goal is to learn everything he can about wine and pass on that knowledge to others.
Head Vineyard Pooch