Our Team

A group of adventure seekers, and of course wine lovers, each of whom plays an important role in creating unforgettable experiences for our members.

Our team

Michael Evans

In 2005, Michael went on what he thought would be a three-week vacation to Argentina. Falling in love with the Mendoza wine region, he co-founded (with Pablo Gimenez-Riili) The Vines of Mendoza. Their idea was to allow people who...

In 2005, Michael went on what he thought would be a three-week vacation to Argentina. Falling in love with the Mendoza wine region, he co-founded (with Pablo Gimenez-Riili) The Vines of Mendoza. Their idea was to allow people who are passionate about wine to own small vineyards and transform themselves into winemakers. They now have over 230 vineyard owners, more than 170 award-winning wines, and the celebrated Vines Resort & Spa (ranked as the best hotel in Argentina and #25 in the world by Travel & Leisure). The Vines of Mendoza has become a unique community of winemakers who share a sense of adventure and the belief that “nada es imposible”.

Now Michael, as CEO also of The Vines, is leading the expansion efforts, creating a global membership network of vineyards and wineries, which will enable wine lovers to become winemakers in 12 iconic wine regions throughout the world.

Michael’s personal wines are called Uco’s Playground, after his black Lab, Maria Uco, who has been his constant companion in this wine adventure at the foot of the Andes.


Duffy Crane

Duffy arrived in Mendoza in April 2006, after Michael convinced her to "temporarily" leave her 10-year commercial litigation law practice in Austin, Texas, to help him start a new company. Prior to joining The Vines of Mendoza,...

Duffy arrived in Mendoza in April 2006, after Michael convinced her to "temporarily" leave her 10-year commercial litigation law practice in Austin, Texas, to help him start a new company. Prior to joining The Vines of Mendoza, Duffy also served as a logistics specialist on political campaigns at the local, state and national levels, including two United States presidential campaigns.

As General Counsel for The Vines she is facing the legal and business challenges that are part of an international wine business with her signature creative, but no-nonsense, style.

Duffy lives full-time in Mendoza with her husband, daughters and dogs, where she makes her Estrella Sola (Lone Star) wines and enjoys the many vineyard asados with family and Vines friends.


Bryan Driscoll

Bryan went to Mendoza in 2006, supposedly for a one-year, pre-business school adventure. That one-year adventure turned into a career with The Vines of Mendoza, and now as a partner and head of overall sales for The Vines....

Bryan went to Mendoza in 2006, supposedly for a one-year, pre-business school adventure. That one-year adventure turned into a career with The Vines of Mendoza, and now as a partner and head of overall sales for The Vines. Splitting time between his hometown of Boston and Mendoza, Bryan has been overseeing and will continue to oversee the international sales and marketing efforts for The Vines of Mendoza. These efforts have resulted in over 230 vineyard owners from 18 countries owning 1,000 acres of vineyards at the base of the towering Andes mountains. And now Bryan will expand the offering and help turn wine lovers into winemakers across the globe as Head of Sales for the overall organization The Vines.

A Mendoza vineyard owner himself, Bryan makes Pasatiempo wines, dedicated to his grandfather’s belief that living in the moment and sharing with family and friends is what life’s all about. When not on a plane or sharing wines, you can find Bryan rooting for his favorite Boston sports teams.


Michael Polenske

Michael was born to a military family in Bermuda. After moving around the world, his family settled at Travis Air Force Base near Napa Valley. His first exposure to wine came with family trips to the wine country. He later had a...

Michael was born to a military family in Bermuda. After moving around the world, his family settled at Travis Air Force Base near Napa Valley. His first exposure to wine came with family trips to the wine country. He later had a career in financial services, including as president and CEO of Chase Manhattan and as one of the heads of the private banking group at JP Morgan.

In 2003 Michael turned to “the business of leisure” with the acquisition of Blackbird Vineyards and the creation of its ultra-premium wine label. He then founded The Bespoke Collection, comprising Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, ÆRENA Galleries and three highly regarded wine projects: Blackbird Vineyards, ÆRENA Wines and The Vines of Mendoza’s own Recuerdo Wines. Bespoke Collection also creates private label wines for industry partners and for several well-known musicians.

With The Vines Michael is responsible for all aspects of affiliate relationships. Calling upon his extensive network of wine relationships, he is also highly involved in The Vines site selection and new winemaker partner development, as well as acting as spokesperson at wine and luxury lifestyle events around the country.

When not traveling, Michael splits his time between San Francisco and his farmhouse on the Blackbird Vineyards in Napa Valley, where he walks the vineyard daily with friends and family.


John Voigtmann

13 years ago John Voigtmann did what so many have dreamed of: he left a high-flying New York job chasing rock stars around the world for Sony Music and moved to the Tuscan countryside. This “crazy” idea resulted in two of...

13 years ago John Voigtmann did what so many have dreamed of: he left a high-flying New York job chasing rock stars around the world for Sony Music and moved to the Tuscan countryside. This “crazy” idea resulted in two of Tuscany’s top luxury boutique hotels, La Bandita Townhouse (including its acclaimed restaurant La Bandita Townhouse Caffe) in the historic center of the beautiful village Pienza, and La Bandita Countryhouse. John has also acted as a hospitality consultant for various projects around the world, specializing in bold design, relaxed personalized service and lots of fine wine.

As Director of European Operations for The Vines, John manages all member hospitality and assists in seeking additional Vines winemaking partners around Europe.

John grew up in Asia, studied in both the UK and New York and has been just about everywhere. These days, you’re most likely to find him in the little village of Pienza, overlooking the Val D’Orcia, with a negroni in hand.


Marie Cecilie von Ahm

A luxury sales and marketing expert with experience in startups, international distribution and media, Marie consults for several top wineries in Europe, advising them on developing their global export markets. She is also an...

A luxury sales and marketing expert with experience in startups, international distribution and media, Marie consults for several top wineries in Europe, advising them on developing their global export markets. She is also an Ambassador for micro-luxury brands, and develops promotional and educational content for wineries, importers and other wine professionals.

Marie is also a wine journalist and critic, having worked alongside James Suckling for www.jamessuckling.com. She was the youngest member to be named to the Grand Jury Européen and continues this work across the globe.

As Director of Site Selection & Wine Educator, Marie selects The Vines’ international winemaking partners, facilitating member visits to these sites. She also coordinates the curated member trips to the world’s great wine regions, and co-develops creative ways to educate members on all things wine-related.

Marie has been passionate about wine from a young age thanks to her Danish family’s globetrotting, and speaks several languages. After a stint in Miami Beach while pursuing her kickboxing career and honing her Champagne sabering skills, since 2006 she has been based just south of Barcelona in Sitges. From this idyllic base she continues her Viking ways, traveling the world singing the praises of Champagne and generally crusading for a better world of wine.


Frances Lalas

Fran was previously a Vice President at The Vines of Mendoza, where she managed the development of the Vines Resort & Spa and directed the company's Corporate Social Responsibility programs. She then moved to Miami Beach, where...

Fran was previously a Vice President at The Vines of Mendoza, where she managed the development of the Vines Resort & Spa and directed the company's Corporate Social Responsibility programs. She then moved to Miami Beach, where as Executive Director at Faena Hotels & Residences, she oversaw all programming and operations for The Residences and Faena Rose, an arts and culture based private members club. Most recently Fran served as Vice President of Membership and Operations at Virgin Management in New York, where she developed a plan for a new residential business and membership community. Fran has also consulted for US and international philanthropic and non-profit organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies.

Now back with The Vines as Director of Membership, Fran will be calling on her extensive background in project management and strategic communications in a variety of industries to ensure that our members’ experiences are of the absolute highest caliber.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Fran currently lives on the beaches of Miami with her Mendocino rescue puppy Jack. She is passionate about giving and volunteers for or sits on the boards of several health and children's advocacy organizations. She is also an arts junkie, and loves soaking up the culture, whether in her own backyard or while world traveling.


Mariana Onofri

One of the first certified sommeliers in Argentina, Mariana began her influential wine career as Sommelier at the famed La Bourgogne restaurant in Mendoza and Uruguay. She also did winemaking internships in Napa and France,...

One of the first certified sommeliers in Argentina, Mariana began her influential wine career as Sommelier at the famed La Bourgogne restaurant in Mendoza and Uruguay. She also did winemaking internships in Napa and France, including at Château La Violette in Pomerol, Bordeaux.

Mariana started with The Vines of Mendoza in 2007 as Tasting Room Manager and soon became Wine Director. She guides private vineyard owners through their winemaking adventure, including customizing style and varietals, blending sessions and wine education. She is also responsible for wine selection and wine experience planning for the resort’s Siete Fuegos restaurant and The Vines Tasting Room.

Now as Wine Director of The Vines, she works closely with winery partners around the world to ensure that The Vines members’ winemaking experience, from harvest to to blending to labeling, is as enjoyable as possible. Mariana is also co-responsible for The Vines education program, always seeking fresh ways to teach about wine.


Mariana has launched her own wine brand, Onofri Wines, and in just a few years most of her wines have already obtained awards from wine journalists, and can be found in many of the best Latin American restaurants. Mariana lives with her husband in her hometown of Mendoza and is always available to share a glass of wine with Vines members!

Heather Willens

Heather’s wine career began in 1999 after a short stint as a New York corporate lawyer. She began in wine retail, while getting her American Sommelier Association degree. She then worked in New York and national sales for...

Heather’s wine career began in 1999 after a short stint as a New York corporate lawyer. She began in wine retail, while getting her American Sommelier Association degree. She then worked in New York and national sales for renowned Burgundy importer Daniel Johnnes. In 2004 Heather moved to Buenos Aires and started her own small consulting business helping a group of family-owned wineries sell all over the US. She also created her own wine brand Dos Minas with an Argentine winery partner.

Heather moved to Los Angeles and acted as the sole Southern California sales representative for a few well-regarded wine and spirits importers. In 2016 she moved to Lisbon, Portugal and since that time has focused on the writing and marketing side of the wine business.

As the Copywriting piece of The Vines team, she uses her extensive wine knowledge, curiosity and writing skills to create detailed Member Guides and educational wine materials for each new site chosen by The Vines, as well as materials for the various trips, events, wine education and other benefits The Vines offers its members throughout the year.

Heather lives in Lisbon with her family, and is just as happy drinking refreshing Vinho Verde on the beaches of Portugal as drinking fine Burgundy or Barolo on the many European travel adventures she embarks upon.


Caroline Scannell

Caroline began her hospitality career overseeing membership-related activities at the Faena Hotel in Miami. When she moved home to New York City she worked in private events for the acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant. Caroline...

Caroline began her hospitality career overseeing membership-related activities at the Faena Hotel in Miami. When she moved home to New York City she worked in private events for the acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant. Caroline always enjoyed sipping Malbec at asados and horseback riding in the Andes mountains during her visits with her family to The Vines, and is now excited to bring The Vines experience to a global audience as the Membership and Operations Manager. Born and raised in New York City, Caroline currently resides in Tribeca with her sweet cat, Scout, but is always looking for her next adventure. As a culture enthusiast, she enjoys devouring movies and television, trying new cuisines, and practicing Japanese. She is a skilled oyster shucker and loves to paddleboard in her free time.