who we are
Karen’s first introduction to the world of wine began while she was visiting her parents in Missouri one summer while finishing up college at the University of Georgia. They took a day trip to a quaint winery in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, and were offered tastes of different wines to be enjoyed with an assortment of artisan cheese and fresh bread while overlooking a pastoral view from tiered decks off the tasting room. This indelible image and unique experience instilled the vision of one day owning a similar place of her own. After years of extensively reading wine books and taking wine classes while living in Breckenridge, Colorado, she realized these educational acts simply weren’t enough to take her closer to her dream of being surrounded by vines, wines and other wine enthusiasts like herself. She dropped everything and moved to St. Helena in the heart of the Napa Valley and took a position as a cellar rat with a boutique winery. For two years she completely immersed herself in the production side of wine. But, with a whole world of wine out there, she began looking into other aspects of the wine industry that best suited her growing interests. As fate would have it, a new wine bar opened and Karen was instrumental in transforming it into a thriving place for locals and tourists alike promoting flights of wine to excite and challenge the palates of even the biggest wine aficionados. Spearheading a wine bar at this local hot spot and developing a program that launched new wines from the Napa Valley became the most satisfying portion of her career path. Next step? To open a truly inimitable wine shop. Enter ACME Fine Wines, a gallery-style wine showroom, off the beaten path and down a country lane in St. Helena. The business plan? To specialize in discovering and launching the finest of the inaugural release, Napa Valley brands while keeping a secondary focus on the lauded wines of the world. And, to best showcase the principles of excellent customer service, clients and wine club members receive access to these micro-production wines, often on an exclusive basis, in the very first vintage and then on an allocation level for each vintage thereafter; it is like being on multiple preferred mailing lists, managed entirely by ACME. Next time you are in St. Helena, stop in, say hello, and discover the hidden gems for yourself.
lauren van nessGeneral Manager
Lauren Van Ness, a Colorado native, first discovered her undeniable love of food and wine while competing as a member of the United States Alpine National Ski Team, traveling to Chile, New Zealand, Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria for competitions. It was here, in each of these remarkable settings while immersed in the various cultures and communities that she became charmed by restaurants, the dedicated individuals that operated them and the lasting memories she took along with her following the loveliest meals.
In 2004, Lauren retired from ski racing and moved home to Colorado to study Communications at The University of Colorado in Boulder. In a town that was once considered the “Foodiest Town in North America” by Bon Appétit, Lauren knew this would be the perfect place to tap into the industry while putting herself through college. She began working for Centro Latin Kitchen, and it was here that she felt inspired by her work and began to understand how food and beverage worked in harmony, complementing the Chef’s vision.
In 2009, a once in a lifetime opportunity was presented to her, and Lauren relocated to Napa Valley to accept a position at the world famous restaurant, The French Laundry. During her eight year tenure there, she trained in seven different positions until stepping into the role as Maître ’D and Director of Private Dining. Lauren learned that the true meaning of hospitality is “how you make someone feel.” She recognized that every guest and their needs were different, therefore she and her team worked dynamically in order to deliver the highest level of hospitality and service. To complement the daily changing menu, the service team would customize wine accompaniments to suit each guest, which is what led Lauren to discover a desire to dive into the world of wine. While pursuing this dream and inviting new challenges to her career, she joined the ACME team in March of 2018.
There is a quote from Maya Angelou that will forever stick with Lauren: “I've learned in life that people will forget what you said and they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Lauren holds a BA in Communications from the University of Colorado, and a Second Level certification from the WSET.firstname.lastname@example.org
angela stemDirector of Sales & Private Clients
Angela Stem began her love for food & wine in the small resort town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas at the age of seventeen. Working under the tutelage of Chef Linda Hagar at her restaurant, The Cottage Inn, she was able to learn and appreciate the art of food and wine and from there stemmed a desire to travel the world further exploring her passion and love for the culinary arts and increasing her knowledge of the vast and mysterious world of wine. Almost twenty years ago, she traveled to Napa Valley for the first time and immediately found a connection to the people, the land, and the way of life that is California wine country.
In addition to working as the General Manager of Bordino’s restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas and General Manager of Ghidotti’s and Wahso, part of the award winning Bill White Restaurant Group in Park City, Utah, she also worked as a wine consultant and manager for the Springdale Liquor Association, a conglomerate of liquor and wine stores in northwest Arkansas including the largest wine store in the state. While there, she also wrote monthly wine articles for two different magazines, Celebrate and Citiscapes, and achieved her Certified Specialist of Wine certification from the Society of Wine Educators.
Now, twenty years after coming to California wine country for the first time, Angela is fulfilling her dream of living and working in the Napa Valley, one of the happiest places on the planet. After spending three years working as a sommelier for PRESS Restaurant in St. Helena, which is known for having the world’s largest Napa Valley wine list dating back to the 1950’s, she brought her knowledge of Napa Valley wines and beyond to ACME in 2015. She completed her Wine & Spirit Education Trust Advanced Level 3 Course with Distinction and is currently working through the WSET Diploma Program. She looks forward to sharing her passion for wine, both near and far, through ACME Fine Wines. When not trotting through the valley trying to find her next, new favorite Napa wine or having her head down in her studies, you can find Angela cooking and entertaining for friends or playing in her garden.
michele bergeronWine Club Coordinator
Michele, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, has extensive experience working in a variety of fields, from floral design, to financial advising, to insurance, to marketing, to medical office management, but can confidently state that no other field has the perks and positivity that the wine industry can offer.
Years back, Michele traded in grits and biscuits to spread her wings and explore New England with her beau, later husband. Together, they shared a special relationship with her husband’s boss/cousin, a noted wine collector, who generously shared his treasures with Michele and Nate. A bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild on a Tuesday with burgers was always most welcome… and an amazing learning opportunity!
Their honeymoon in Saint Helena led to an introduction to ACME’s owner, Karen. Who wouldn’t fall in love with landscape, food, people – and of course….wine? Their first meeting, enjoying the view and vino on the balcony of Auberge du Soleil was the start of a beautiful friendship.
When the opportunity arose for Michele’s husband to work at a Saint Helena winery, that once in a lifetime offer was too good to pass up. They welcomed the change from a Massachusetts winter filled with snow and a toddler climbing the walls to California sunshine, amazing wine and a new adventure! As fate would have it, ACME’s GM was about to have a baby, and Michele’s considerable administrative skills and customer service acumen was just what our team needed in a temporary office manager.
Only thing was, her warm, welcoming and gracious touch was just too good! Michele proved to be the perfect addition to ACME Fine Wines. We were so grateful to have her join the team full time in the fall of 2015.
Her pride and joy is her sweet daughter Lily, born in 2011. Outside of the office you can find Michele giggling with her family, taking a yoga class or enjoying a beverage in the backyard.
paul terradistaFulfillment Supervisor
Paul first became aware of the Napa Valley and wine in the late 1980’s when he would join his parents on weekend get-aways to their cousin’s house just off the main drag in St. Helena. Although far too young to taste, he did learn a love of the lifestyle and Valley that he does not take for granted.
“I try to remain grateful to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world. The weather, the wine, and the food. I don’t think it gets much better.”
After Graduating with a degree in Archeology in 2002. Paul moved to Texas to take part in an underwater excavation of a Civil War era wreck, as a research diver. There he learned two things; he loves to dive and hates mud. From there, he landed a position as a divemaster, living and diving in Puerto Morelos, Mexico for over a year.
After returning from Mexico he was lucky enough to convince his long-time girlfriend to marry him and together move to Napa. He took a job with Grgich Hills Estate that enabled him to take on many roles. Over seven years there, he worked in the tasting room, cellar, vineyard, lab, harvest, and shipping departments. Great experience though it was, he now feels like he has gained entry into a special place in the wine business. Paul joined the ACME team in 2014 as the Fulfillment and Logistics manager.
“ACME is perfectly situated to reap the benefit of this whole valley’s potential. If a winery is a spoke on the wheel, then ACME is the hub.”
He now lives in the Coombsville area of Napa with his lovely wife Ashley and their two young children.
niccole trzaska-gouldHospitality & Client Relations
Trzaska-Gould is an expert in all things potable who works with ACME’s guests
to help them best experience Napa Valley’s delicious wines and world famous
hospitality. Niccole’s signature skill is making every guest feel like a VIP, a
quality she perfected in her years as a top New York City “Nightlife & Bar
Expert”, where she curated the beverage programs at some of the world’s most
iconic cocktail and nightlife hotspots.
A native New Yorker, in 2016, Niccole journeyed from the Big Apple to Saint Helena, as she and her husband both pursued new adventures here in the wine industry. In no time at all, Niccole quickly became a true local, visiting wineries and learning the insider secrets and essential back stories that make the Napa Valley so special.
Parallel to her passion for wine, Niccole maintains her local and national presence as a spirits expert and master mixologist, most recently helping to launch celebrated vintner Dave Phinney’s new California distillery, Savage & Cooke.
ACME’s guests and clients get to enjoy Niccole’s warm and engaging hospitality here at our private tasting table, where her creativity, spirit and passion for the Napa Valley shines email@example.com
danny felixFulfillment & Logistics
Danny has been in the Napa Valley his entire life. This would normally seem like a long time but in his early adulthood you could make the argument that it isn’t. Growing up in Saint Helena he has always been surrounded by the vines. Whether it was walking to school, running to the soccer field on his summer days, or just taking a walk, the beauty of the Napa Valley had always surrounded him. Although to be honest he didn’t know much about the wine.
Fresh off of graduating from High School, Danny was already working at a local Italian coffee shop. Later on he went on to work at an Agriculture shop in the little town of Calistoga. He then somehow made his way to The Culinary Institute of America. Heard of it? Yeah, us neither. (Insert laugh here) Although all great places to work at, none of them seemed to fit. Until one finally did.
Danny began working at ACME Fine Wines in May of 2014. He started out as just a part time employee but four years have now passed and he is now here full time. Our youngest and yet our senior employee. He loves working at ACME and he couldn’t be happier!
"ACME is where it’s at. If you aren’t shopping here, then you sure need to. The team is amazing, the wines are even better, and it just all combines perfectly for the experience of the Napa Valley.”
He currently lives in Saint Helena. When he isn’t at ACME, he’s either preaching about the Bible, playing soccer, hanging out with his friends, or just eating tasty food. Life is good.