Ray Coursen – Founding winemaker/owner
Ray grew up in a rural dairy farm community in northwest New Jersey. Growing up on a farm taught him about a variety of crops and about hard work. By the time he was 17 years old Ray figured he'd outgrown the need for milk and left the farm. In 1968 Ray was drafted into the Army and served two years in Vietnam. Upon returning, Ray attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Hotel Management for one year and then took off for Europe and Africa to follow a childhood dream of traveling around the world. When he returned Ray worked in the restaurant business and after attending Stockbridge Agricultural College at the University of Massachusetts he worked at a fine wine shop in Boston where he developed an interest in the wines of France.
Nancy Coursen – Owner
Nancy is a third generation Californian and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Following her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Occupational Therapy, she worked with special needs children in the educational systems of the Boston area. It was in Boston in 1982 that Nancy met Ray and shortly thereafter his interest in the wine business brought them to the Napa Valley. Nancy and Ray have two children, Elyse and Jake – the namesakes of the winery's two labels.
Mike Trotta – Winemaker
Mike grew up in Southern California and studied Microbiology at CSU Northridge. His fascination with fermentation was ignited there and continued at Fresno State. In 2000, Mike worked harvest at Bernardus Winery and made delicate wines using traditional Burgundian methods. From there he worked vintage at Yalumba Winery and was exposed to large scale production and progressive techniques. Starting as Assistant Winemaker for Elyse Winery in 2001, Mike's approach to winemaking is a balance of these sometimes opposing traditional and progressive styles. Mike lives in Napa with his wife Wendy and their two children.
Poncianno "Chano" Delgado – Cellar Master
Originally from Torreón, in Coahuila, Mexico, Chano has worked with Ray since 1985 at Whitehall Lane Winery. He began in the vineyard and was soon recruited by Ray to work in the cellar. Chano has been a part of every vintage of Elyse and Jacob Franklin wine and remains invaluable to the success of the winery.
Michele Duckett – National Sales & Marketing
Michele's passion for wine was sparked during her college years working several restaurant stints while gaining a BA in English at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Her plans for graduate school were halted when she landed the job of General Manager of one of the top restaurants in NC with one of the finest wine lists in the state. The wine bug had bitten. Deciding to further pursue a wine career, she took a job as Western Regional Manager of both North and South Carolina for a small boutique wine wholesaler and it was during this time that she met Ray and began selling Elyse wines. As is the natural progression of things in this business, a relationship had formed and she agreed to join the Elyse team as National Sales Manager in 2004. "Food and wine are my favorite sports and I feel fortunate to join a family that embraces these passions as much as I do." Michele continues to reside in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and extensively travels the country spreading the Elyse word.