There is no shortage of talent, knowledge or passion at Whitehall Lane. We are fortunate to work with a team of experts who love what they do and Jason Bitman, Ambassador and Experience Director, is no exception. Join us as we go beyond the vine with Jason to learn more about his role at our winery and hear his favorite Whitehall Lane memory.
Hello, Jason! What is your role at Whitehall Lane?
I am the Ambassador and Experience Director – In other words, I do the following things:
Share a little bit about your background. How did you get started in the industry?
I ran my own IT consulting business for the past 20 years, while also working for Carnegie Hall in New York City, and New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida as an IT Engineer and Web Developer, respectively.
While developing a career in IT and web development were fantastic to my bank account, I found that I always gravitated toward the entertainment portion of my job, and showing people a good time was the thing I most prized in my career. Throughout the years, I have worked as a pizza maker, server, bartender, and eventually a full-time sommelier and restaurant manager at Meat Market Miami Beach. This will lead into the next question, but that is where I met my friend and boss, Katie Leonardini.
Out of all the jobs in the world, what drew you to this one at Whitehall Lane?
I met Katie at Meat Market Miami Beach and tried to sell her a bottle of Dave Phinney’s wine; she informed me that he is her brother-in-law. Ha! So she and her friends all said that I needed to come out to Napa Valley and see what it had to offer. At that point, I had never tasted wine from Whitehall Lane. I went out that weekend, picked up any and all Whitehall Lane that I could find, and it blew me away. Bang-for-the-buck, it is some of the best in Napa Valley.
My wife and I accepted Katie’s invitation to visit Napa and Whitehall Lane, and we fell in love. Later in the year, we got engaged, got married and took a night here in Napa for the honeymoon where Katie convinced my wife that Napa Valley would be an awesome place for us to live and raise a family. The rest is history.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love hearing the stories from the people who visit. I love making the stories for the people that visit. I love the wine asking about the wines that people drink. Most importantly, I love the artistry that goes into everything at the winery.
What is one aspect of your job that might surprise people?
Most people would be surprised to discover the amount of research I do on a daily basis. At least 50% of my job is research into winemaking styles, member profiles and stories, buying patterns in the United States and what the occupancy of the Valley is at any given time of the year. It also helps that I have been doing graphic design over the past 15 years.
What do you wish people knew about Whitehall Lane?
It is truly family-run. The loyalty of the family to its employees and friends is remarkable, and it is something that I am overjoyed to be a part of every day.
Answer this classic question: Red or white wine?
Both. If it is an interesting wine, well balanced and fills my palate with excitement, there is no stopping me.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in learning more about the world of wine?
Don’t hold back and don’t be overwhelmed. We all have to start somewhere. Tasting as many different wines from as many places as possible is really important. A couple of books that are great to work with are, Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly, and Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Pukette. They are great in helping people with regions, history and wine pairing, and they provide an elaborate overview of the wine world.
If you could have another job in the world (besides this one, of course!) what would you be doing?
I would probably be the Managing Partner of a restaurant. I would want to be the person that restaurant-goers would associate with when they walk in the door. When you go out to a restaurant, knowing that someone is there to make sure you will always have the best experience is an amazing feeling, and I want to provide that feeling.
Well, we’re glad you are here. Share one of your favorite memories of your time at Whitehall Lane with us.
I have a ton of them! My favorite so far came two weeks into my tenure. My wife and I were invited to the Napa Valley Vintners Harvest Dinner at a private estate in Rutherford, and we sat at a table with Katie, Jason (our winemaker) and a few other winemakers from around Napa Valley. Aside from getting to taste all of the participating wineries’ magnificent wines, we had conversations with great winemakers and their families. The highlight of my evening was when one of the winemakers pulled my wife aside and said, “I don’t know if you know this, but your husband is working for a family that makes fantastic wines and they are an even better family.” It was a great way to start my career at Whitehall Lane.