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 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, 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.

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.

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, where her love for catering and events began. She has grown her career in hotel catering through the years, bouncing around the East Coast and finally settling in the DC Area. Having spent a majority of her career in catering, she held positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts and 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!

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.

Courtney RossBorn into a Marine Corps family in Cherry Point, North Carolina, Rebecca ended up in West Virginia where she was raised with her older brother and sister. She fell into the restaurant world while working through college. This spurred her hospitality career and where she become a restaurant manager for five years prior to moving to the DC area to continue restaurant management. Wanting to seek an alternative to her career while still remaining in the hospitality realm, event planning caught her eye. She has been in the events world for over four years as a private events manager with Neighborhood Restaurant Group prior to becoming part of the family at District Winery. When she is not coordinating events, you will find her either drinking wine with her friends or snuggled up on the couch with her Pom-Spitz mix, Macy.

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.

Eric HernandezEric Hernandez was born in Southwest Texas. He grew up with Hispanic culture and cuisine. Eric discovered a love for food at an early age, helping make breads and tortillas for the the family. He moved to the coast of North Carolina at the age of 20 where he really broadened his knowledge of cooking and working with fresh fish and local foods. Eric then moved to MD in the early 2000's. He graduated from Le Academy de Cuisine in Gaithersburg MD in 2014. Eric worked under the tutelage of Chef Ben Lambert (District Winery's current Executive Chef) for several years before joining his team at District Winery. In his spare time, Eric loves to go hiking, play guitar, read, and experiment with and enjoy local cuisine.

Iulian FortuIulian grew up in Northern Virginia and took culinary classes as part of his high school curriculum. While working at local restaurant, Trummer’s on Main, on his days off, he realized that cooking was his passion. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Business Management. Iulian worked at the acclaimed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he acquired an in-depth knowledge of indigenous ingredients and unique methods of food preparation. He also spent time as an intern at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, learning in-depth sauce-making techniques as well as The Puglia Culinary Centre in southern Italy under the mentorship of renowned chef Odette Fada. During his time in Italy, he also undertook various educational trips throughout the Mediterranean to strengthen his culinary skills. In addition, he worked at Ristorante Peppe Zullo, a biodynamic farm and restaurant, in the mountains of Puglia. He now seeks to grow his culinary repertoire and showcase his skills at District Winery.

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.

Ryan MaloneyBefore joining the DW team, Ryan’s passion for social entrepreneurship took him to Ashoka U where he managed partnerships with a worldwide network of universities focusing on developing social entrepreneurship programming. Ryan is a graduate of Arizona State University where he studied Digital Culture, a blend of digital art, computer science, and entrepreneurship. Ryan started at District Winery as a restaurant host and quickly got involved in a variety of roles within the organization, becoming an Event Manager within the first year. When not at the winery, you can find him reading fiction, dancing poorly, or scootering around town. Hopefully not at the same time.

Geraldo ReisGeraldo moved to the United States from Brazil in 2000. He immediately started working in the hospitality industry where he worked his way up from a dishwasher to a line cook. He then made a transition to the world of upscale catering - working with Design Cuisine for over twelve years. Geraldo most enjoys the varied clients and types of events he gets to experience working in hospitality. He followed his passion for food, wine and events to District Winery where he now manages the banquet team and operations. When he’s not at District Winery, Geraldo is most likely getting stamps in his passport.

While she definitely considers herself a true Army brat, Missy happily claims Burke, Virginia as her hometown. From day one, Missy has been an avid lover of music, art and food. After high school, she pursued her love for clarinet by earning a Bachelor's degree at James Madison University in Music Performance and a Master's degree in Music Performance at Bowling Green State University. Missy started her first restaurant job during college, igniting her passion for the service industry. After college, Missy moved back to the DC area with the intent of auditioning for a military band. But once she found herself back in the restaurant world, she realized she'd discovered her new stage! After joining the team at Cheesetique, she rose through the ranks to attain the Store Director position and eventually Wine Director for the company. She earned her Level 3 WSET award during her tenure there. Most recently, she was Assistant General Manager at Isabella Eatery, serving as part of the opening management team. When she isn't at work, Missy is likely teaching clarinet lessons, playing in the Arlington Concert Band, trying a new wine, or planning her next big trip!

Stephanie was born and raised in New York, where she spent her childhood riding her bike to the beach, galavanting around the city, and dancing every chance she had. She went on to earn her BFA in Jazz Dance/Theater at the University of the Arts in Philly.Her love affair with food and wine began during this time through her work at local restaurants. Life eventually brought her to the DC area, where she pursued her passion for movement and body work by becoming a massage therapist, health coach, and yoga instructor - remaining involved in wine by joining the team at Great Shoals Winery in Silver Spring, MD as Tasting Room & Events Manager. Wanting to expand and diversify her beverage knowledge, she also worked with Denizens Brewing Co, where she most recently held a position of General Manager of the taproom and beer garden. After an incredible three years with Denizens, Stephanie was eager to dive back into the wine world, and fortuitously became a part of the District Winery team. When she's not managing the bar, you can find Stephanie working on her yoga poses (dancer is a clear favorite), doing crosswords (in pen, no pencils allowed), snuggling with her cats, or enjoying a glass of wine, of course!

Erik SubriziErik was born in New York and grew up in California, Florida and Massachusetts. He lived in D.C. for years and now resides in Virginia. Erik graduated from American University with a film degree. Before his wine career, he worked in Post-Production at Discovery Communications. Erik has worked on both the production and sales side of the wine industry. His first hands on experience came from volunteering on organic vineyards in the Tuscany and Piemonte regions of Italy. He worked at Sunset Hills Vineyard in Virginia prior to joining District Winery for the first-ever harvest season. Erik is now looking forward to many harvests to come as Production Manager at District Winery. When not working, he likes to cook at home, practice photography and travel.

As a proud Jersey girl, Alison grew up right outside of Philadelphia in a small town in the best part of New Jersey, the Pine Barrens. After spending her younger years at the beach and in the woods, Alison decided it was time to head down south to the University of South Carolina. After college, Alison ventured out to California and started working in the hotel industry. Over the past six years, she has worked for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the Sydell Group in California and Washington, DC. When she's not at the winery, you can find Alison hanging out with her mini-goldendoodle puppy, enjoying some amazing food and wine at a local restaurant, or planning her next trip somewhere fabulous.

Jessica was born and raised in the hospitality state, Mississippi. She moved to Miami after getting her degree in Marketing at Mississippi State University but could not leave behind the pull of hospitality. So Jessica jumped into the hotel world where she quickly found her passion for events. After four years of ‘bringing the heat’ in South Beach, Jessica moved to the nation’s capital where she continued plan memorable events with flair. When not at the winery, you can find Jessica exploring the city or traveling to other countries and badly attempting to order wine in the local language!

Ashleigh DawsonAshleigh's passion for all things culinary began at a very young age. She spent summers in her Northern Virginia hometown, Lovettsville, planting gardens with her grandfather and canning, preserving, and cooking with her grandmother and aunt. Being the oldest of five girls, she has always enjoyed the opportunity to share her love of food. Ashleigh pursued her education at George Washington University and George Mason University, studying event management and global tourism management. Her professional experience includes culinary event management and marketing, boutique agency marketing, and tourism marketing in 'DC's Wine County' (aka Loudoun County). When she's not at District Winery, you can find Ashleigh running and biking on the W&OD Trail, enjoying wine and cheese night with friends, or at the beach.

Rita FrederickRita grew up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, where she learned the importance of purpose, service and community. Her parents worked together in a law practice and were often paid for services in bushels of vegetables or bartered services. No one in need was ever turned away. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Political Science, she traveled to the West Coast and continued her education at the University of California at Berkeley where she earned her J.D. Her career path has taken her from New York City where she was an appellate litigator, to the Washington DC area where she has managed businesses ranging from medical practices to commercial buildings to assisted living communities. Rita loves creating a positive community for co-workers and clients and believes solid relationships are the foundation for success. During her free time, Rita enjoys crossword puzzles, reading, kayaking, cooking, and watching the Yankees (apologies to the Mets, Red Sox and Nationals fans). Most of all, she loves spending time with her children, Kira and Ian.