The youngest of 5 and eager to join her siblings out in the big world, Sam graduated from high school a year early. Her goal was to go to flight school and become a pilot. But…given she had a year to burn she did what any snow hungry 17 year old would do and took a year off before college and moved to Aspen, Colorado. After a year of mountain bliss, she enrolled in a commercial pilot program at Colorado Northwestern.
After graduating from flight school, she moved out to Newport Beach, CA, and started to work as a professional pilot. After a few years of flight instructing, flying cargo, and right seat on various corporate jets, Sam transferred to Berkeley to finish a degree in Earth Science. She continued flying as an instructor for the CAL Flight Club at Oakland Airport. After graduation, Sam took a position at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab doing research in the spatial analysis of energy efficiency. Succumbing to the allure of academia, she entered a graduate program at Berkeley in Remote Sensing, which utilizes satellite and aerial imagery in earth science research. After finishing her M.S. in the program, she continued on in the PhD program while simultaneously taking on a role in the Four Vines winery for the first time, and also continuing to fly corporate jets and for a small airline on the side. In 2002, it was crunch time for the growing Four Vines winery and running the company from Berkeley was becoming unfeasible. So, Sam made the difficult decision to leave the PhD program, and flying and devote herself full time to being the official number cruncher and truck driver for Four Vines.