Meet the District Winery Team

Brian LeventhalBrian is one of Brooklyn Winery's founding fathers and has done everything from raising capital to selling weddings to installing a sheet rock ceiling (2 layers thick!)—in the Parlor room, if you want to check out his handiwork! Before embarking in the winery world, Brian spent countless hours making Excel models and PowerPoint presentations at McKinsey and Co. before joining ExpoTV.com and helping a cool tech startup. He also started an awesome water business at his alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, which still exists today! In his spare time, of which there isn't much, Brian enjoys drinking wine (obviously), running, tennis, golf and skiing.

John StiresJohn hails from world-renowned Glendale, California. After his college days at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he made NYC his home for more than 15 years before moving to DC to open District Winery. When he first settled in NYC, he interned for a landscape architect, worked at a fish store (aquariums...not seafood), waited tables, and worked his way up the creative services ladder at Marvel with guys like Spider-Man and The Hulk. Needing a change, John then found himself in online product management at ExpoTV.com, where he and some co-workers did some extracurricular winemaking. Always an idea guy, he wanted to be his own boss—so he's now co-owner of Brooklyn Winery, BKW, and District Winery. In his spare time, John likes to play piano, maintain his amazing 55-gallon coral aquarium, explore his new city with his wife Sarah, and pet his furry friend Walter, probably the best cat in the world.

John StiresConor McCormack, raised in Northern California, got his start in the wine industry in 2003 working for a Vineyard Negociant who focused on sourcing premium grapes from some of the best vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. After refining his craft in renowned cellars of the region, Conor relocated to the East Coast to build and launch the winemaking program at Brooklyn Winery, and has since been been focused on producing fine wines from multiple and distinct growing regions in a wide range of styles, with the linking factor for all, first and foremost, being the quality of the vineyard. “I strive to make elegant yet intense wines that showcase a particular site from a particular year. I want to highlight each region for what it can do best, while also pushing the boundaries of what is often expected.” Conor brings a strong combination of technical training and hands-on experience to Brooklyn Winery, BKW, and District Winery, specializing in boutique premium wines.

Eric was raised in Northeastern Ohio. He graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a political science degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. For seven years, Eric traveled the world as an Intelligence Officer and enjoyed sampling food and wine across the globe. Eric decided to turn his passion for food and wine into a career and began his adventure in winemaking, first as a cellar worker at Bernardus Winery in Carmel Valley, California. After two harvests and a switch to the military reserves, Eric moved overseas to the United Kingdom. Upon returning to the United States, Eric enrolled in the Crop Science program at the University of Arizona. After graduation in 2013, Eric moved to Northern Virginia and became the Assistant Winemaker at Paradise Springs Winery. He now joins the District Winery Team as the Assistant Winemaker. Outside of making wine, Eric loves to hike, travel and spend time with his daughter who loves to sample grapes during harvest!

Michael Gordon Born and raised in the New York burbs, Mike found his Zen majoring in Chinese philosophy and poetry at Wesleyan University with a minor in roast pork lo mein. His passion for food and wine, which started at his family’s knee, led him, post college, to the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America) where he collected intelligence (but nothing covert) and honed the Zen, establishing his philosophy of freshness of ingredients and purity in flavor and finesse. Post culinary school, he landed in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights, cycling down to Duane Street in lower Manhattan to work at renowned restaurant Bouley. Then he pedaled over the Brooklyn Bridge where, once again, he put his yin and yang on food as fine dining and banquet chef at NYC's Mandarin Oriental. Now that he has relocated to DC he should be biking more to compensate for his after-hours love of take-out, the bike is rarely leaving the rack. He resolves to get pedaling again in short order. Mike’s passion for reading everything from Sci Fi to his worldwide menu collection inspires his precise, meticulous, and uncompromising attention to prepare and present food that heightens every taster’s experience.

As a child in northeast Ohio, Benjamin Lambert spent his free time hunting, fishing, and foraging with his family. Attending The Culinary Institute of America was a natural progression to a life that already revolved around food. After graduating, Lambert worked at Le Cirque 2000, Union Pacific and 71 Clinton Fresh Foods in New York. It was during these early years in his career that Ben developed his professional interest in farm-to-table cuisine and was inspired by the focus on a balance between sweet, sour, salty, and bitter in each dish. In Washington, D.C., Ben has worked as Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in America, at Goodstone Inn in Middleburg, Virginia, Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons Baltimore, and was most recently the Executive Chef for 701 in Penn Quarter. In 2010, Lambert earned a StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award for his fresh, seasonal cooking. Today he brings his wealth of culinary experience to the menus at the District Winery.
Eric was born in Morelos, Mexico and was raised by his grandmother. Growing up he experienced many different moles, adobos, breads, fruits in syrup, carnitas and stews. His favorite meals were those shared during Mexican holidays and birthday celebrations. Eric moved to Astoria, Queens at 17 where his first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant in the West Village. That’s where Eric’s passion for food began. While in New York, he also worked for Sequoia NY as a sous chef. After several years, he was offered a job in DC at Thunder Grill. Eric has also worked at Sequoia DC, in Annandale, Virginia and then as a Sous Chef at 701 where he met Chef Ben Lambert. Working for Chef Ben Lambert proved to be a pivotal time in Eric’s career and gave him the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques for nearly three years. Now he is proud to join the District Winery team and continue the road to mastering a trade and refining his skills.
Sean grew up playing baseball in the D.C. suburbs. Originally a mason by trade, he found a job in the kitchen several years ago and has never looked back. Most recently the sous chef at Pennsylvania 6, he brings his dedication and passion for food to the District Winery team. In his free time he explores the D.C. neighborhoods, plays golf and watches his hometown Capitals.

Sean AlvesSean grew up in New York, surrounded by a plethora of diverse cuisine and top-notch restaurants he would eventually learn from and contribute to. At Le Cordon Bleu, he earned a degree in Restaurant and Hotel Management that laid the groundwork for his devoted restaurant career. In the past eighteen years, Sean has had the fortune of working for some of the most successful restaurants and groups in the business, including Komi, Eleven Madison Park, and most recently with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. His experience has given him a sharp edge and a keen eye for the delicate balance between the best interests of the business and the guest. When Sean isn’t in the dining room, he can be found chasing around his two crazy kids, hiking, playing golf, or cheering for his beloved Mets.

Courtney RossCynthia grew up in a military town in Southern Maryland known for crabbing and the US National Oyster Shucking Festival. After studying theatre and communications at Stevenson University, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work in theatre. She discovered her passion for hospitality while working as a hostess at Tenpenh. Cynthia was a member of the opening team of W Washington DC Hotel where she managed J&G Steakhouse, Pinea and served as a Service Culture and Wine Service trainer. She has also served in a managerial capacity at Marcus by Marcus Samuelson at MGM National Harbor, Corduroy and the Washington Court Hotel. Cynthia holds an intermediate certification from Wine and Spirit Education and Trust and is preparing for her advanced exam through her studies at Capitol Wine School. Cynthia now joins the District Winery team as the Restaurant Manager. True to her roots, she occasionally makes appearances as a vocalist in the D.C. piano bar and caberet scene and can be found "researching" the best seafood wines.

Renae OulletteRenae was born and raised in the great state of Maine. She attended the University of New Hampshire with a major in Hospitality Management. She has grown her career in Hotel Catering through the years, bouncing around the East Coast and finally settling in the DC Area 5 years ago. Having spent a majority of her career in catering, she held positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and most recently with Kimpton Restaurants & Hotels. She has also dabbled in off premise catering with one of the best in DC, Design Cuisine, doing events in locations all over the DMV! When she isn’t busy entertaining or throwing a fabulous event, she enjoys drinking wine, going to Orange Theory, getting together with friends, and traveling back home to Maine to eat lobster!

Courtney RossBorn into a military family, Courtney spent her childhood emerged in many unique places and cultures. Because of this, she developed a passion for all things unique and unfamiliar - foods, languages, people - you name it! While living in D.C. as a college intern, she fell in love with the city and its thriving multiculturalism. After graduating from Wittenberg University in Ohio, she moved to the District to pursue a career in international NGO work and instead found herself working with one of the area’s premier caterers and event teams, Design Cuisine. It didn’t take long for Courtney to become enamored with the dynamic world of weddings and events and she is so excited to be a part of the District Winery family! When she’s not at the winery, she can often be found with her nose in a book or her hands on a pottery wheel.