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Meet our Judges - 2024 North Coast Wine Challenge

Bill Hayes

2024 North Coast Wine ChallengeDedicated to Bill Hayes

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Wine Buyer Bounty Hunter Wine Bar | Napa, CA. 

BILL Hayes

Bill Hayes is the Wine Buyer for the well known Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin' BBQ.  With over 33 years of career experience in the Wine  Retail industry, Bill has developed key relationships with winery Owners, Winemakers, Growers as well as other industry partners that have cultivated his vast knowledge of and passion for Wines around the world.  Bill’s career in the Wine business began as a Buyer with the Liquor Barn stores.  Bill was also a part of the Kendall-Jackson Family Wine organization where he managed the Distributor portfolio that included Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, Cambria and Stonestreet Wines.  In 1994 Bill joined BevMo! as one of its very first employees as the Corporate Wine Buyer.  He has played key roles in the development, launching and fostering of BevMo!’s iconic 5₵ Wine Sale that has grown from one Wine to now over two-hundred.  As part of the BevMo! Private Label/Exclusive Wine program, Bill has traveled throughout Europe and South America to work with Wineries and industry partners to blend and bottle Import Wines such as Zolo and Tapiz, and has blended and developed varietal extensions of the Unruly , Shiloh Road and Stateland Cellars brands.  Bill’s current focus with BevMo! is sourcing and developing the premium selection of wines from around the world  and promote the local brands for the next-generation BevMo! Consumer.  The Hayes family has had deep roots in the Russian River Valley and its Wine industry for over 50 years.  Bill continues that heritage and tradition through his love and passion of Wine, whether it be an approachable bottle or  a rare bottle for his cellar.  If you know Bill, you have been fortunate enough to share in a great bottle of Wine along with a story that truly captures the spirit of the Wine, its origins and the people who made it.





Owner/Winemaker, Groom Wines | Healdsburg, CA

Daryl Groom is the recipient of 8 Winemaker of the Year awards. He has judged in over 100 wine competitions across the USA. While he resides in Healdsburg California he is also the owner and winemaker for Groom Wines from Australia. This highly acclaimed Australian Winery focuses on three varietals: Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. In addition to Groom Wines, Daryl recently launched his most rewarding wine project ever, Colby Red Wine. This wine from California was initiated by his 13-year old son Colby who recently underwent back-to-back heart surgeries. Profits from Colby Red Wine go to heart related charities across the USA. Daryl's previous experience includes winemaking and operational management at Penfolds, Geyser Peak Winery, and Beam Wine Estates.


DEBRA Del Fiorentino

Director of Wine Competitions, Wine Competitions Management + Productions | Sonoma County, CA

International Wine Judge, Sommelier, Certified Wine Professional and Certified Specialist of Wine, Debra Del Fiorentino is a consummate wine professional who brings a dynamic energy and expertise to every endeavor she undertakes. Debra is a familiar face at numerous prestigious wine competitions. She currently holds the esteemed position of Director of Wine Competitions for Wine Competitions Management + Productions, a producer of wine competitions for eight unique craft beverage competitions. Born and raised in San Francisco, Debra is a second generation Italian from a large family that originally settled in the Napa Valley. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the University of California at Berkeley, Debra opened two gourmet food stores in Marin before venturing into the wine industry. Debra also serves as an independent wine educator and partner at Russian River Vineyards.

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HEIDI Barrett

Winemaker, Barrett & Barrett Wines | Napa Valley, CA

Heidi Peterson Barrett grew up in the Napa Valley in a winemaking family and was destined to become one of the world’s foremost winemakers.  It is said that winemaking is a combination of science and art.  With her father a scientist-winemaker and her mother an artist, it’s no surprise that Heidi’s natural born talents led her to the wine industry.  With great enthusiasm, a love for what she does, and an abundance of experience, Heidi’s instinctive gift of integrating the art and science of winemaking is unparalleled.

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President, Sales and Marketing / Luxury Wine Partners 

Jennifer Kelly is a wine and spirits executive, certified sommelier, entrepreneur, and wine judge with 15+ years of industry experience. As an experienced sales, marketing, and public relations professional she recently added assistant winemaking to her diverse repertoire.


Jennifer has represented some of the world’s most prominent wine and spirits organizations and held a variety of leadership roles, including famed wine and spirits importer, Wilson Daniels, specializing in French and Italian wines, based in St. Helena, California and Sonoma County-based, Jackson Family Wines working with both domestic and international portfolios. As founder and President of Luxury Wine Partners, a sales, marketing, and public relations agency located in Sonoma County, she focuses on start-ups, wineries, distilleries, and celebrity brands.


Looking to the future, Jennifer is an aspiring Master of Wine who is currently enrolled in the WSET certification program to earn her diploma. Jennifer’s drive to continue her education originates from the view of staying ahead of the curve in the ever-changing and competitive landscape of the wine and spirits industry.


Jennifer enjoys living in Petaluma, California with her husband Sean. They have three children —Hana, Michael, and Morgan— all living nearby. This adventurous and spontaneous duo enjoy making wine, experiencing local (and not so local) winery destinations, the food scene (near and far), traveling (at a moment’s notice), glamping, volunteering, and supporting local business whenever possible.

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ZIGGY Eschliman

Wine & Spirits Broadcast Journalist, Educator, Consultant, Writer | Sonoma County, CA

Dame Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For 29 years, Ziggy, known worldwide as “The Wine Gal” has set and reported trends in wine, spirits and all things to imbibe. She was the first woman in the United States to have a radio show about wine and spirits. Ziggy’s award winning, wine, spirits and travel focused radio shows, have a long time loyal following and are broadcast on FM stations and stream worldwide. Her writings are featured in lifestyle and libation based publications. As a wine and spirits expert, Ziggy is a lead judge in both international spirits and wine competitions. Ziggy is a dynamic guest speaker, educator and presenter. Her wine country lifestyle brand, ZigStyle, embraces her art of life, entertaining, wine, cocktails and gardening. ZigStyle is embraced in all she does and is a welcome, catching, organic approach to our busy lives. 


LIZ Thach MW

Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Thach, MW, Professor of Wine,  Professor of Management, Author,

Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Thach, MW is the Distinguished Professor of Wine and a Professor of Management. Her areas of expertise include Wine Business Strategy, Human Resource Management, and Leadership Development. In May of 2011 she was awarded the title of Master of Wine from the Institute of Masters of Wine in London, making her the first female MW on the West Coast and the 7th woman in the US to achieve this honor. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 50 countries.. She is an award winning author who has published over 130 articles and 8 wine books, including Call of the Vine, Wine – A Global Business and Wine Marketing & Sales. She is an active member in community organizations, and has held positions with the Board of Directors for Women for Wine Sense, Petaluma Gap WineGrowers Alliance, PASCO and many others. She is on the Editorial boards for International Journal of Wine Business Research and Wine Economics & Policy. In addition, Liz serves as a professional wine judge at many prestigious wine judging competitions.


NICK Goldschmidt

Winemaker and Consultant, Goldschmidt Vineyards | Healdsburg, CA

Mr. Nick Goldschmidt co-founded Goldschmidt Vineyards in 1998. Originally from New Zealand and trained both there and in Australia. With Degrees in Science, Horticulture, Viticulture and a Post Grad in Enology. At 27 Nick became winemaker at Simi and soon after still wine blender for the LVMH portfolio covering 5 countries. From there Simi was purchased by Constellation in 1999 where he remained through 2023. He 2022 he was also group winemaker for Allied Domecq covering 6 countries until the company sold to Beam wine estates in 2006. After a further 2 years in the corporate world Nick went out on his own.

Today Nick lives in Healdsburg and is the owner winemaker for Goldschmidt vineyards including brands -  Forefathers Winery, Goldschmidt vineyards, Fidelity and Boulder Bank. Representing other small growers in Napa/Sonoma he also has Trig Point, The Consoler, Set in Stone, Elementary, Turning Point, The Conspirator, Herald, Embankment and others. He continues to consult in Chile, Argentina, Canada, New Zealand and USA. He is also owner of Alpine Engineering Solutions a innovation company dedicated to the wine industry. Nick has been published many times in the AJEV and continues giving technical talks around the world.


BARRY Herbst

Wine Director, Bottle Barn Liquors | Santa Rosa, CA

Barry has more than three decades of experience in the wine industry, ranging from sommelier and wine shop owner to high-level retail and private cellar acquisitions. He was raised in Southern California, where he earned his stripes in some of LA’s most celebrated restaurants, among them Chinois on Main and Osteria Angelini. Most recently, Barry was General Manager of the Rare Wine Company in Sonoma, as well as working with Soutirage and Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits in Napa Valley. Currently, he is the wine buyer for Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA, a 15,000 square foot superstore and arguably has the largest and finest selection of fine wines north of San Francisco. Barry blames a bottle of 1980 Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux for having sent him down the rabbit hole many years ago. Today, he lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife, two children and Australian Shepherd, Elvis, to whom he happily dedicates every spare moment outside of work.

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Winemaker, Aperture and Devil Proof Vineyards | Healdsburg, CA

Early adventures to legendary vineyards and wineries around the world with his family and father, photographer Andy Katz, gave Colorado-native Jesse Katz a profound respect for the creativity and art of winemaking. It was through his father’s work that Jesse recognized and fell in love with the importance of terroir, balance, and the beauty of a winemaker’s influence—landing him on a path he has followed ever since. Today, Jesse creates distinct and nuanced wines for his brands, Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards, while serving as a consulting winemaker for some of the world’s elite wine programs. In the time since he began as a first-generation talent out of college, he has become one of the most exciting—and accomplished—winemakers in the world.
Jesse’s diverse experience spanning 23 harvests at wineries (along with a passion for travel) fed his aspiration to learn from the best in the industry. After graduating from Fresno State’s Department of Viticulture and Enology, he spent time studying at Pétrus in Bordeaux, Screaming Eagle Winery and Robert Foley Winery in Napa Valley, and Viña Cobos and Bodega Noemia in Argentina. In 2010, Jesse was the youngest-hired head winemaker in the U.S. at Lancaster Estate. During his five-year tenure there, he orchestrated the building of the new Roth winery, production facility, and tasting room. Behind the scenes, he received 90+ scores on every wine scored by the Wine Advocate and secured Lancaster Estate’s inclusion on the list of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. In 2013, Wine Enthusiast named Jesse one of its 40 Under 40 Tastemakers; in 2013, he earned the distinction of becoming the first winemaker on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
As a consulting winemaker for some of the biggest names in entertainment—including Von Miller, Tony Hawk, and Justin Timberlake. In 2017, Jesse’s wine collaboration with Shep Gordon, under The Setting Wines label, earned the designation as the most expensive 750ml bottle of wine in the world ever sold. He then broke his own record in 2021, when a 6L of his Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $1M setting the world record of most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.
Jesse’s wines have garnered superlative recognition over the years from the top wine critics in the industry. The Aperture Estate Chenin Blanc has earned the highest Wine Enthusiast rating for the varietal in the history of California. With two recent perfect scores from Jeb Dunnuck, Jesse is able to lay claim to producing the only wine from the 2020 vintage to get 100 points and the first Cabernet Sauvignon in the history of the Alexander Valley region to get a perfect score.
In 2021, his work with Devil Proof’s Farrow Ranch vineyard led him to join the elite group of winemakers, receiving 100 points from both Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck. “I'd put this in the running for one of the greatest Malbec ever produced," noted Dunnuck, while Erin Brooks from Wine Advocate has noted his wines are “The best example of 100% Malbec I've ever tasted.”
Jesse enjoys putting his craft to work raising funds for good causes, non-profits, and charity events. Devil Proof, Aperture, and The Setting Wines actively donate and participate in a large variety of charitable auctions, with numerous cases of wine and custom winery experiences donated to causes the brands believe firmly in each year. Jesse has raised over $5.8MM for charities and foundations since starting his brand.

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LEE Morse

Assistant Winemaker, Flowers Winery | Healdsburg, CA

Lee grew up in East Tennessee and studied molecular biology at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Like any good molecular biologist, he took a job as a beer brewer out of college and learned about fermentation as a craft brewer. After a couple of years brewing, Lee enrolled into graduate school to study Food Microbiology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He fell in love with all things wine when he took a part-time job at a winery in Knoxville, TN and began making small batches. Around that same time, he started exploring wine tasting and judging as a graduate student volunteer at the annual Wines of the South competition hosted by the Food Science Department at UT. Upon completing his MS in 2011, he set off to travel and learn about winemaking around the world. After doing harvest in Oregon and New Zealand, he now calls Sonoma County home and is the Assistant Winemaker for Flowers Winery.


PEG Melnik

Wine Critic/Blogger and Writer, The Press Democrat | Sonoma County, CA

Peg Melnik is the wine critic, blogger and writer at The Press Democrat..Melnik is also the lead author of the Explorer’s Guide Napa & Sonoma published by W.W.Norton, now in its 10th edition. She has written for publications such as Sonoma magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Melnik has also traveled extensively through the wine regions of Europe.

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DEBBIE Zachareas

Wine Expert, International Judge, and Lecturer | Napa County, CA

Debbie  is a highly regarded wine expert, international judge, and lecturer. Her passion is on display at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and Napa’s Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant, where she is both owner and managing partner. Over her career, she has helped shape San Francisco’s wine culture through innovative wine programs, emphasizing small-production and sustainably farmed wines. She has developed wine programs at bacar, Ashbury Market, and EOS. Her expertise has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Food & Wine and Saveur. Debbie works closely with Family House and Make a Wish Foundation and consults with organizations to help fundraise for local and national institutions. 


LARRY Van Aalst

Radio Host of "The Sonoma Wine Report", CRN Digital Talk Radio | Santa Rosa, CA

As Sommelier, Larry selected wines for Equus for over a decade. Larry has been judging at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair/San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for over a decade likewise, an opportunity for Larry to keep abreast of fine wines from California.


DAN Berger

Wine Journalist

Dan Berger, former full-time wine columnist for The Los Angeles Times, earned a degree in Journalism in 1967 and spent ten years as a reporter/editor for The Associated Press. He began writing about wine in 1976 and has been nationally syndicated since 1979. His private weekly wine newsletter, Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences, began in 1996. He also teaches wine courses at Santa Rosa Junior College, hosts a radio show, California Wine Country, every Wednesday on KSRO, and is an international wine judge, having judged throughout North America, in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. His books include The Readers’ Digest’s “Wine Routes of North America”; “Beyond the Grapes: An Inside Look at Napa Valley” and “Beyond the Grapes: An Inside Look at Sonoma County.” In 2010, he was inducted into the Wine Media Guild’s Hall of Fame in New York and is vice president of the International Riesling Foundation.  



Wine Writer and “Sommelier to the Stars” | Sonoma, CA

Christopher Sawyer is an internationally-renowned sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic and public speaker: He travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a VIP judge in the world’s top wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Redbook, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, CNN and Esquire. Already legendary in the industry for his encyclopedic wine knowledge and rich wine industry relationships around the globe, Sawyer has been a personal sommelier for an array of luminaries and aficionados, from the Getty Family to the Gorbachevs, as well as for Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer of Pixar-Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter. Christopher has also become renowned for his unusual and entertaining ability to pair wines with just about any pop cultural experience. His wine pairings for movies are already celebrated, and have been featured in major national media. Sawyer is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. Most recently he was voted 2014 Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by readers in The Bohemian’s Best of the North Bay issue.

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KERRY Damskey

Wine consultant and winemaker - Geyserville, CA

Kerry Damskey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Fermentation Sciences, from the University of California, Davis. He also graduated from the Intensive Program for Small Business, at the Stanford University School of Business. And, he is a candidate with the Institute of the Masters of Wine.


Kerry's characterization·is that he is a trailblazing and renowned, international consulting winemaker.  Breaking boundaries in familiar and uncharted territories, besides being a stellar winemaker in California, Kerry is known for achieving that character in god-forsaken territories, with absolutely no pre-defined, distinct differentiation yet to have been established. This is why Kerry Darnskey has called a "Wandering Winemaker" and the "Indiana Jones of Winemaking."

Kerry's company TERROIRS, INC. is his ground-breaking brainchild and passion. With more than 30 years of wine and wine business experience, he is recognized internationally for his acuity and focus in creating brilliant wines.


His firm Ten-oirs Artisan Wines provides custom winegrowing and winemaking expertise plus vineyard and acquisition services. Terroirs Artisan Wines: Damskey and Company also advises on business practices, strategic management, and operational development. These skills coupled with winemaking expertise translate to a fully integrated dynamic.

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TIM Bell

Winemaker, Dry Creek Vineyard | Healdsburg, CA

Tim Bell, Winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard, has worked with a wide range of grape varieties and wine styles over his near 30-year career in Napa Valley, Sonoma, and the Central Coast; still wine, sparkling, dessert, even Kosher. Tim graduated with honors in winemaking at University of California, Davis, learning the intricacies of wine chemistry and microbiology that would inform his stylistic choices in creating complex and nuanced blends. Hands-on cellar work at premium California wineries led Bell to the historic Freemark Abbey Winery for 10 years, and later to Kunde Family Estate. He joined Dry Creek Vineyard in 2011 and has elevated the winery’s robust program of award-winning Dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage blends, as well as a portfolio of single vineyard selections.


MICK Schroeter

Director of Winemaking, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards | Windsor, CA

Mick’s wine background made him superbly qualified to serve as only the third head winemaker in the history of Sonoma-Cutrer. Starting out on his own as an oenologist at Kaiser Stuhl winery in Australia, Mick wanted to blaze his own trail and had no intentions of following in his father and uncle’s footsteps at the Penfold Winery. Then in 1982, Penfold bought Kaiser Stuhl and reunited Mick with his family in the business. Although Mick was already well-versed in winemaking, Penfold allowed him to continue his pursuit of total enlightenment, sponsoring his winemaking education at the famed Roseworthy College and providing him a scholarship to visit and study Chilean wine country. This was followed with a 6-month tour around the world with his wife and a stop in California to work the wine harvest. Mick rose rapidly through the Penfold system and had the privilege to be part of their red winemaking team, eventually working on Penfold’s legendary Grange Hermitage, the benchmark of Aussie Shiraz. From there, Mick accepted an invitation from Geyser Peak Winery in California to take over as Vice President of Winemaking and for 17 years was in charge of vineyard assessment, harvest scheduling, winemaking direction, budgeting and brand ambassadorship. It is his long track record of success and illustrious career in Australia and California, along with twice being named “Winemaker of the Year” at the London International Wine & Spirit Competition, that gave Mick the encompassing experience to take the reins at Sonoma-Cutrer. He considers it one of the industry’s true dream jobs. He is honored to carry on the brand’s storied legacy but also eager to take it to new heights.

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MIRO Tcholovak

Winemaker, proprietor, salesman, cellar rat -  Miro Cellars & Trentadue Winery  - Geyserville - Sonoma County, CA

Miro Tcholakov Is owner of Miro Cellars, and Vice President and Director of Winemaking Operations for Trentadue Winery LLC in Geyserville, Sonoma County, overseeing all aspects of winemaking;


Born and raised in northern Bulgaria, a region with many millennia of winemaking history, Miro (Miroslav) Tcholakov was exposed to wine and winemaking at a very early age.

After completing his mandatory military service, he attended the Higher Institute of Agriculture in Plovdiv where he studied viticulture and enology. Soon after graduation, he was chosen from hundreds of candidates to participate in an international exchange program in agriculture set up by The Future Farmers of America. After a few months in Napa, he was taken on as harvest intern at Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Vineyard. What was supposed to be a temporary harvest job turned into a nine-year position moving through the ranks from Cellar Master to Assistant Winemaker in 1997.  “It was during this time that I fell in love with two distinctively California varietals; Zinfandel and especially Petite Sirah.”

“My passionate love affair with Zin and Petite Sirah lead to my election to the Board of Directors of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and also to the Board of Directors of PS, (Petite Sirah),  I Love you, -a nonprofit organization I helped establish over 20 years ago.”

Amanda Johnson

AMANDA Johnson

Food and Beverage Manager at the Fountaingrove Club - Santa Rosa

Meet Amanda, a passionate connoisseur of fine wines whose journey into oenology soared with her WSET Level 2 Sommelier certification last year. Driven by an unwavering love for wine, she relocated to wine country, fully immersed in its vineyards and culture.

With a background in hospitality, Amanda recently transitioned to the role of Food and Beverage Manager at the Fountaingrove Club of Santa Rosa. Here, amidst picturesque landscapes, she crafts unforgettable experiences for patrons, fueled by her dedication to the craft.

Every day, Amanda finds joy in sharing her passion for wine, whether guiding tastings or perfecting pairings. Now, she sets her sights on achieving the WSET Level 3 certification, eager to deepen her expertise and enrich her contribution to the industry.

In Amanda's world, the pursuit of excellence in wine is more than a career—it's a lifelong journey of refinement and appreciation. Her story embodies the transformative power of a life dedicated to the vine.

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Founder & CEO Own Rooted Hospitality, Healdsburg California

Own Rooted Hospitality provides consulting services using case by case solutions for Private Clients, Beverage Brands and Restaurants.


With over fifteen years of extensive experience in the restaurant and wine industry, Alex possesses a profound dedication to delivering exceptional guest experiences, coupled with a strong focus on business success and ownership mentality. Her passion for her craft is evident, as she takes immense pride and joy in her work, eagerly sharing her wealth of knowledge and expertise with others. Holding the prestigious title of Advanced Sommelier through CMS, Alex is adept at assisting clients seeking wine services to enhance their business operations, offering invaluable insights with her expert-level proficiency.

Alex embodies a holistic approach to hospitality, whether discussing a modest $10 bottle or a luxurious $2,000 vintage, always striving to ensure maximum enjoyment for her patrons. Beyond her professional endeavors, Alex finds solace in outdoor activities such as hiking, running, and biking, as well as indulging in the pleasures of a good novel. A devoted pet parent to her long-haired grey cat, Echezeaux, Alex also shares a passion for adventure and travel with her fiancée, Kate.

In her previous role as the Executive Wine Director at Little Saint, Alex established an inclusive wine program, fostering a welcoming environment that supported community engagement while amplifying underrepresented voices within the wine industry. Under her leadership, the wine program at Little Saint flourished, expanding from 250 bottles to an impressive 1000, culminating in the prestigious Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. Prior to her tenure at Little Saint, Alex honed her skills as a sommelier at renowned establishments such as the three-Michelin-starred SingleThread and the internationally acclaimed Attica in Melbourne, Australia.

Outside of her professional duties, Alex remains committed to mentoring aspiring women in the wine industry through her involvement in the Bâtonnage Mentorship Program since 2022. Her outstanding contributions to the field have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by her recognition as VinePair’s New Wave Sommelier of the Year in 2023. Alex's expertise has been featured in esteemed publications including Condé Nast TravelerSonoma MagazineWine SpectatorSan Francisco ChronicleWall Street JournalSevenFifty Daily, and SOMM TV.

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Director of Winemaking, Foley Family Wines

Foley Johnson Director of Winemaking, Michael Beaulac, a Vermont native, joined the Foley Family Wines team in2021, bringing over 30 years of experience working with premier luxury wineries.Michael began his winemaking career when a chance opportunity presented itself while he was running a Portland,Maine jazz dinner club. There, Beaulac’s career pivoted when Tim Murphy of Murphy-Goode offered him a job onenight, partly in jest. The opportunity was one that Beaulac was looking for, and he accepted his offer and moved toSonoma County, California to work as a Murphy-Goode Winery harvest intern in 1989.Beaulac spent an interim period at Laurier Winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region working as a cellar master withMerry Edwards from 1989 through 1991. This opportunity gave way to becoming assistant winemaker back atMurphy-Goode, where he spent four years developing new varietal programs for Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. In 1997,Michael Beaulac spent four years as winemaker for Markham Vineyards in St. Helena. Beaulac took his expertise tothe next level, becoming Vice President of St. Supéry Vineyards in Rutherford in 2001, working closely with MichelRoland and Denis Dubourdieu. With years of experience and a deep understanding of the Napa Valley, Beaulacbecame General Manager and winemaker at Napa’s Pine Ridge Vineyards in 2009 where he oversaw the estate’s 160 acres. Beaulac credits his development as a winemaker to working with Michel Roland and Pine Ridge’s highstandard for producing quality wines.Michael’s winemaking philosophy starts in the vineyard. Truly knowing the land, soil, and climate allows him toshowcase the exceptionally pure qualities of the diverse vineyard sites and AVAs throughout the Napa Valley. Hesays of his philosophy for winemaking, “Be proactive in the vineyards. Let the fruit find its balance. Do not force thewine to be anything it’s not. Let it express its typicity. Once in the winery the wine should be touched as little aspossible, in a perfect vintage, we really shouldn’t have to do anything.”Beaulac currently resides outside of Santa Rosa. When he is not in the vineyards, he enjoys hikes with his wife Cathyand their German Shepherd. He also loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen with different recipes

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PAUL Coker

Director of Beverage at the Montage Resort in Healdsburg

Paul Coker has been in the wine industry for over fifteen years as a Wine Director and Sommelier.He began his career in retail as a buyer for Amazing Grapes Wine Store before moving to therestaurant side holding leadership roles at The Cellar, Studio at Montage, Michael Mina’s StonehillTavern, St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach Resort, SRC Restaurant Group and Canlis. Paul has been apart of seven Wine Spectator Grand Awards and three James Beard Awards. Additionally, he holds aDiploma from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is an Advanced Sommelier through the Courtof Master Sommeliers. He was a finalist in the Best USA Sommelier competition in 2019 and wonthe Guild of Sommeliers Online Wine Knowledge Competition in 2020. Currently Paul, his wifeEmily, and their dog Freddy live in Sonoma County wine country where he is the Director ofBeverage at the Montage Resort in Healdsburg.

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KRIS Anderson

Wine Buyer, Willibees Wines & Spirits

After many years in food and wine, I have been the wine buyer here at Wilibees Wines & Spirits for over 5 years. As a buyer for two very busy wine shops I taste 30-50 wines per week. I have been certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

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Contributor, Connect The Dots Collective | Napa, CA

Elsie Wolfe is a Contributor at Connect The Dots Collective. We are a brand innovation and strategic advisory company led by dynamic, experienced female leaders with expertise in brand development, retail, digital and customer experiences.

Elsie is a top strategic retail leader in alcohol beverage and grocery. Her longstanding career within the Retail Industry includes roles at Target Corporation, Albertson’s Companies and Safeway where she headed Alcohol Beverage and Grocery nationally and regionally. Under her leadership, Safeway was recognized as Wine Enthusiast 2017 Retailer of the Year and Albertsons Companies was named Wine Enthusiast 2020 Retailer of the Year. Elsie is passionate about leveraging supplier and wholesaler partnerships to bring wine, spirits, and beer history to life at retail. She drives business results and creates transformation with new category and brand launches, cross-functional collaboration, financial analysis, assortment and merchandising planning, negotiations, and project management. In short, her leadership has generated award-winning, best-in-category success in financial and business planning at retail. Noted twice as a Top Women in Grocery by Progressive Grocer, Elsie holds WSET certifications in Wine and Spirits, Cicerone Level 1 in Beer, and is an active judge in national wine, spirits, and beer competitions. Outside of work, Elsie enjoys time with family, traveling, sports, outdoor adventures and is an avid foodie always looking for new places to try new foods & drinks!

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DREW Damskey 

Co-owner Palmerir | Napa, CA. / Wine Consultant

Drew grew up in the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. His grandfather started the family legacy as a grower in Napa Valley. Drew’s father, Kerry Damskey earned a reputation as an exceptional winemaker globally. Drew has continued in the family tradition of crafting singular wines from exceptional sites.


Along with his family, Drew owns and operates Palmeri, a boutique brand focused on showing off the beauty of mountain grown fruit. He is a partner in Suara Wine Company and is a consultant winemaker for a handful of highly sought after brands in Sonoma County. Drew made four of the Press Democrat’s 100 Most Amazing Wines of 2022 and VinePair named Palmeri’s Monte Rosso Semillon the #1 wine in the world for 2022. 


Linda Murphy recently wrote, ‘Drew Damskey is beyond the point of being considered a rising star winemaker. He’s well-established, with his family’s Palmeri brand and as a consulting winemaker for a handful of wineries.’ In 2017 Drew was named a Winemaker to Watch by the San Francisco Chronicle and won the Pig's and Pinot Cup in 2017. In 2023 Drew was also named to VinePair’s 50 List, a list that acknowledges the professionals changing the drinks space.

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SARAH Doyle 

Wine reporter at The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA. 

Sarah Doyle is a wine reporter at The Press Democrat, where also covers beer, spirits, and other beverages.


During the past 20+ years, her writing has appeared in over 50 publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Whisky Advocate, Forbes and Robb Report, among others.


Sarah joined the wine industry in 2006 when a “temporary” tasting room gig at Tablas Creek winery changed the trajectory of her career. From there, she went on to work for numerous wineries on the Central Coast and in Sonoma County in roles that spanned communications, PR/marketing, DTC sales, hospitality and wine production.


Sarah has worked three harvests and advanced courses in enology, viticulture, wine chemistry and sustainable/organic winegrowing. She also holds the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 Award in Wine.


In 2022, Sarah joined the Press Democrat as a wine reporter—a job that finally feels like home.

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HARRY Bryan 

General Manager at Valette restaurant | Healdsburg, CA. 

Certified sommelier & wine program director. A Colombian native, who grew up enjoying great South American cuisine and Argentinian wine before coming to the US and expanding my wine knowledge.

I am currently the General Manager at Valette restaurant and work alongside the owners Aaron Garzini and Dustin Valette. With over 20 years of professional experience in the hospitality industry. Prior to Valette I was the Food & Beverage Director at award winning Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. My management & carrier experience also includes positions as Bar Manager and Floor Captain of the Versace House in Miami Beach, General Manager of Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg, and Bartender at the Capital Grille in New York City.

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LAURA Sanfilippo 

Certified Sommelier, Wine Buyer and Owner of Lo & Behold Bar + Kitchen in Healdsburg, CA

Laura developed her passion for wine working for many years in fine dining restaurants in San Francisco before moving to Sonoma County in 2009 to pursue her degree in Wine Studies at Santa Rosa Junior College. There she studied viticulture, enology, world wine styles, and business while also working for Windsor Oaks winery gaining experience in the vineyards on a 700-acre property growing 17 different grape varieties in the Chalk Hill and Russian River appellations. Through the wine studies program she also earned internships at the San Francisco Chronicle and Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competitions and became a Certified Sommelier in 2012. After working for a winery, she returned to the restaurant world to be on the opening team of Spoonbar in Healdsburg in 2010 and continued her work in the restaurant business running bars and beverage programs as well as consulting for restaurants in Napa and San Francisco. In 2022 she opened Lo & Behold Bar + Kitchen in Healdsburg with her partners Tara Heffernon and Chef Sean Kelley. Her wine list at Lo focuses on food friendly wines from small local independent producers. She is also a regular judge for the Sunset International Spirits Competition.

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ELLIOT Herrod 

Maitre'D and sommelier at Troubadour’s prix fixe meal, Le Dîner.

“America is built on a tilt and everything loose slides to California.”  - Mark Twain   


Born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, the wine industry was a foreign concept for Elliot Herrod. At his first restaurant job in Lawrence, Elliot became curious about the world of wine under the mentorship of general manager Sarah Soderling. Under Soderling, Elliot learned about viticulture, enology, and the training involved to become a sommelier.  Early in the pandemic Elliot moved to Healdsburg, his father’s hometown of three generations, where he trained and worked as floor manager at Campo Fina. At Campo Fina’s close, Elliot joined a team of inspired restaurateurs to assist in the opening of Troubadour Bread & Bistro. Elliot played an integral part in developing a brand-new restaurant from outset to open doors. Since Troubadour’s launch in October 2022, Elliot has honed his skills as a wine professional under the mentorship of Master Sommelier Morgan Gray of Reeve Wines. Elliot is now Maitre'D and sommelier at Troubadour’s prix fixe meal, Le Dîner.

Daryl Groom
Debra Del Fiorentino
Heidi Barrett
Jennifer "JB" Kelly
Ziggy Eschliman
Liz Thach
Nick Goldschmidt
Barry Herbst
Jesse Katz
Lee Morse
Peg Melnik
Debbie Zachareas
Larry Van Aalst
Dan Berger
Christopher Sawyer
Kerry Damskey
Tim Bell
Mick Schroeter
Miro Tcholovak
Amanda Johnson
Alexandria Sarovich
Michael Beaulac
Paul Coker
Kris Anderson
Elsie Wolfe
Drew Damskey
Sarah Doyle
Harry Bryan
Laura San Filippo
Elliot Herrod
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