2022 ASSOCIATE Judges
The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge strives to be an educational platform for young wine industry professionals growing in their careers. Associate Judges are nominated by their peers and attend the judging process, each assigned a panel with our highly experienced wine judges. They get to learn and network with winemakers, sommeliers, media people and other seasoned wine industry professionals.
Student Winemaking Certificate Program at UC Davis. | Alexander Valley, CA
"As part of a generational farming family, Rachel grew up enjoying her family’s Alexander Valley ranch and vineyard but never considered a career there. It wasn’t until she completed her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology at University of San Francisco that she realized city life wasn’t for her and she decided to work harvest at her family’s winery while looking for a job. After one vintage, she was hooked on the hard yet rewarding work that goes into grape growing and winemaking. Rachel has now completed 5 harvests and is currently working in the cellar at Robert Young Winery while she works towards completing the Winemaking Certificate Program at UC Davis."
Tasting Room Manager - LIOCO | Healdsburg, CA
Maegan Lavelle was born and raised in Towson Town, Maryland until moving to California with her family in 2012. She began working in restaurants at age 15 and immediately fell in love with the industry. During her early 20’s, Maegan worked as a server at Sushi Roku Santa Monica and then as Assistant Manager at Jonathan's Beach Club--LA's prestigious and historical private social club. Maegan relocated to Healdsburg at age 23 to continue pursuing her career in hospitality, where she was hired by Hotel Healdsburg and worked as the interim Front Desk Manager until accepting a position at the LIOCO Tasting Room in June of 2020. Maegan has a naturally sophisticated palate and has been very quick to learn the ropes of the wine industry. She became the LIOCO Tasting Room Manager in November of 2021. Living and working in Healdsburg continues to allow her the opportunity to further both her education and experience in the world of wine and food, including being enrolled in the Level 2 WSET program at Bacchus Landing.
Lead Cellarman - Trione | Geyserville, CA
Alec moved out west from Washington D.C. where he was born and raised. He came to Sonoma County in the early 2000’s and fell in love with wine (like many do!). In 2011 he worked in Sonoma Valley at various wineries where he learned the ropes in the tasting room and tried his hands at cellar work. Over the course of his time in the industry, Alec has worked a total of seven harvests, four of them being at Trione Winery.
In 2015 Alec was originally hired at Trione to work in hospitality hosting guests at the winery and in the tasting room. After a few years of that side of the business, he realized his passion was more on the production and wine-making side of things. Scot eagerly agreed to hire him to help with harvest. He no sooner had wine stains on his shirt and he was hooked and back in the cellar full-time.
His favorite part of harvest is split between drinking unfermented grape juice and making the yeast starter and watching them go to work (bubbling as the yeast convert sugar into alcohol while creating Co2 and generating heat).
In his spare time Alec plays mandolin for an Americana, folky-style rock band locally. Hear them play currently at the Rio Nido Roadhouse in West County on the weekends. Alec loves animals, going on hikes; enjoying mother nature, learning new things, and being goofy with friends.
“I love working for the Trione’s because they are honest, caring, hard-working people. I feel appreciated by them and they are clearly very passionate about their love of wine and their employees.”
Jennifer (Jenn) Barak
Winemaker, E & J Gallo Winery | Healdsburg, CA
Jennifer (Jenn) Barak found a passion for winemaking and the beautiful Sonoma County early, despite growing up in Los Angeles. Jenn holds a BS in Enology and MS in Viticulture and Enology, focusing on tannin chemistry, from Fresno State. Early in her career she strove to garner the best understanding possible of world winemaking and wine culture by working and studying locally in California and abroad in Italy, Switzerland, and London amongst others. After completing school and internships she landed at E & J Gallo Winery; where she has had the opportunity to rotate through Winemaking, Vineyard Management, and Food Safety and Lab Management, returning to Winemaking as the Winemaker focusing on Bordeaux varietals at Gallo’s Sonoma Winery for the last five harvests.”
Grower Relations Representative for E&J Gallo | Fresno, CA
Christian Clements is a Grower Relations Representative for E&J Gallo in the Fresno area. Christian graduated from CSU Fresno with a B.S. in Agricultural Business. After college, he followed in the footsteps of his father by going on to work in the Wine Industry. Having grown up in Sonoma County, Christian was always surrounded by vineyards. At a young age his dad would take him along for various business trips, meetings, and vineyard visits. This sparked Christian's passion for wine and grapes which has persisted to this day.