Laura Booras, a longtime wine industry executive on the Central Coast, has relocated to North Carolina to join her family’s business, Freedom Beverage, as vice president of sales.

Founded in 2002 by her father, Tim Booras, Greensboro-based Freedom Beverage is a specialty wine and beer distributor that serves the entire state.

Its book of supplier clients includes Champagne Billecart-Salmon, for which Freedom Beverage is the state’s exclusive distributor. Freedom Beverage also represents Scarpetta, DuMol, Niepoort and Martine’s Wines, among others.

“I am looking forward to working alongside my daughter,” said Tim Booras, company founder and president. “We have long shared a mutual love of wine and North Carolina, so to have her home and working at Freedom Beverage is an exciting prospect. She will undoubtedly bring a fresh perspective to our family business.”

In her new role, Laura Booras will oversee a 20-person sales team located throughout the state and direct the company’s wine and beer education program.

Laura Booras, longtime CEO of Riverbench Vineyards & Winery, has returned to her North Carolina roots.

Laura Booras, longtime CEO of Riverbench Vineyards & Winery, has returned to her North Carolina roots. (Courtesy photo)

At Riverbench Vineyards & Winery in the Santa Maria Valley, Booras rose from brand manager to general manager to CEO and chair of the board during her 15-year tenure. She had full operational control, including oversight of all financials, facilities, vineyard management, production and sales channels.

It was Booras who steered the Riverbench team and ownership toward the production of ultra-premium, vineyard-designate sparkling wines. Additionally, among her many achievements while there, Booras was central to the development of the company’s successful tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, as well as the introduction of Sparkling Pinot Meunier to the winery’s lineup of products; this particular grape is still considered a rare offering domestically.

Simultaneously, Booras was recruiting Santa Barbara-based supplier talent for the Freedom Beverage book, introducing the Brewer-Clifton, Liquid Farm, Margerum, Laetitia and Lucas & Lewellen wine labels to North Carolinians.

Throughout her tenure in Santa Barbara County, Booras traveled frequently abroad, representing Freedom Beverage as the winery liaison in Chile (Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley), Argentina (Mendoza), France (Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis, Beaujolais, Loire), Italy (Piemonte) and Australia (Barossa, Clare Valley, Coonawarra). During one of her trips to France, Booras enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where she received her Basic Cuisine Diploma (Mention Bien). 

Booras has been an avid supporter of California’s Central Coast and its wine industry in general, having served as regional director for the Wine Institute, president of the World of Pinot Noir, board member of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association (twice) and president of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association.

Alma Rosa Winery Launches Hiking Tours

Debra Eagle, general manager of Alma Rosa Winery in the Sta. Rita Hills, has introduced two new appointment-only hiking tour and tasting experiences for visitors to its vineyard on Santa Rosa Road west of Buellton.

“Our estate spans 628 acres in beautiful northern Santa Barbara County, with only 38 acres planted to vine,” Eagle said. “From rugged mountain terrain, to winding paths that lead to glorious, unparalleled views of the Sta. Rita Hills, an invigorating and strenuous jaunt through our vineyards is a perfect complement to a private tasting at our Ranch House. Owners Bob and Barb Zorich and I are health enthusiasts, and we love sharing the ranch with guests who share our passion for physical activity and, of course, great wine.”

In addition to regular Ranch House private experiences, the new tastings each showcase a different side of the property and vary in duration and intensity.

The “Caracol Hike” is an approximately 1-mile round trip and features a steep climb up to the winery’s iconic Caracol vineyard block, which was planted by winery founder Richard Sanford. Often referred to as the “Godfather of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir” for being the first to plant pinot noir grapes in the Sta. Rita Hills in 1971, Sanford planted this unique, spiral-shaped block to a selection of different clones and rootstocks in a radiating pattern, with each row having a different orientation to the sun.

Guests will be greeted with a splash of wine and will continue their tasting experience while enjoying a stunning view of the valley at the top of the Caracol. The tasting concludes at the historic Ranch House, where a cheese plate will be offered along with the wines. Total time: two hours, offered at 10 a.m. Cost: $75 per person.

The “Attente Hike” begins at Alma Rosa’s historic Ranch House and takes visitors through pinot noir vineyards, open grasslands and oak woods up to the highest elevation vineyard, which is planted to grenache and syrah. The hike tops 2 miles and starts with a taste of wine at the Ranch House, another in the Attente block, and finishes back at the Ranch House with a cheese plate and three additional wine offerings. Total time: three hours, offered at 9:30 a.m. Cost: $95 per person.

Both experiences require sturdy walking shoes, and sunglasses, hats and dressing in layers are strongly recommended. A 48-hour notice is required for the two hiking experiences. To make a reservation, email Channing Jones at

— Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.