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.
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.
Director of Winemaking/General Manager, Francis Ford Coppola Winery | Sonoma County, CA
Director of Winemaking and General Manager Corey Beck has more than 20 years of experience in the wine industry. Corey began his career in viticulture quite by accident, tagging alongside his grandfather who was the vineyard manager for Napa Valley’s renowned Chateau Montelena. Born and raised in Calistoga, Corey spent summer vacations working in the vineyards. In 2006, the Coppola family appointed Corey as director of winemaking and general manager. When asked about his true winemaking passion, Corey’s answer is always Petite Sirah. It’s not just Corey’s favorite varietal, it was a passion of his grandfather’s and one of the primary reasons Corey chose winemaking as a career.
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 25-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.
VintageExperiences.com Writer and Wine Columnist | Santa Rosa, CA
Dan Berger began writing about wine in 1976 and has been nationally syndicated since 1979. He and his wife, Juliann Savage, also publish a private weekly wine newsletter, Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences, available by subscription. He contributes articles to Wines & Vines, Decanter Magazine, the privately published California Grapevine, Wine Press Northwest, trade journals Cheers and Beverage Dynamics, Sommelier Journal, and numerous others. He also runs the Dan Berger International Wine Competition (formerly Riverside International Wine Competition). Among his honors are the Wines & Vines Wine Writer of the Year award; the Father Junipero Serra Award of the California Wine Patrons of Los Angeles; the Wine Literary Award, presented by the Wine Appreciation Guild, and was the 2010 Wine Writers Hall of Fame honoree of the Wine Media Guild in New York. Three of his five books have been on wine.
Winemaker, Trione Vineyards and Winery | Geyserville, CA
In 2005, when the Trione family decided to build their legacy winery on their Home Ranch in Alexander Valley, they searched for a winemaker with design, construction and wine production experience – a tall order that Scot Covington filled. The family appointed him winemaker in 2005. “The Triones basically gave me a blank piece of paper and said ‘Design your winery’.” Scot envisioned a straightforward facility, customized to accommodate small lots and hands-on winemaking. Scot brought years of relevant experience to the project. After graduating from California State University, Fresno in 1990 with a B. S. degree in Agricultural Science, Enology, he enhanced his knowledge working on three continents — in North America here in Sonoma County, South Africa and Australia. Scot’s mentors are legendary; his winemaking is influenced by years of training under such icons as Bill Bonnetti and Merry Edwards. Living a winemaker’s dream, Scot has his choice of the finest grapes grown on the Trione family’s vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs. He selects the top three percent of grapes from more than 650 acres of vineyards. Scot’s goal: make wines that express the highest level of quality across all varieties produced from estate grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Master Sommelier and VP of Prestige Accounts, American Wine & Spirits | San Francisco, CA
Frederick L. Dame, Master Sommelier brings an impressive blend of experience, expertise and enthusiasm to the world of wine and cuisine. He is the first American to have served as President of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide and assists restaurateurs and hoteliers in developing their wine programs in his role as Vice-President of Prestige Accounts, American Wine & Spirits of California. He is currently the President of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. He holds Honorary Professorships at Purdue University and The University of South Carolina. Dame's ability to transmit his passionate interest in wine make him a natural teacher. One of just seventy-three Americans to have passed the Master Sommelier Examination, Dame was the first to successfully pass all three parts in a single year. This feat and his high score won him the coveted Krug Cup of the British Guild of Sommeliers in 1984. Dame founded the American Branch of The Court of Master Sommeliers in 1986 and has played an active role in the expansion of the Master Sommelier program throughout America since that time. Dame is also an active member of the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, serving as the current Vice Conseiller Culinaire of the Monterey Peninsula Bailliage. He has been awarded Officier Commandeur in recognitiion of his 30 year membership with La Chaîne and is the recipient of the Bronze Star of Excellence, awarded for outstanding service by a Bailli.
Educator, Sommelier, Wine & Beverage Judge - Public Wine and Beverage Studies, CIA | Napa County, CA
Traci Dutton is a sommelier, a wine judge, and the manager of public wine and beverage studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. She joined the CIA in 1998 as beverage manager and sommelier for the college’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Over the course of more than 30 years in the wine world, Ms. Dutton has worked in high-end establishments such as Montrachet, The Striped Bass, and 231 Ellsworth, and has served luminaries as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Bacon, and Chef Paul Bocuse. She has studied and tasted great wines at vineyards around the world, from Portugal and Austria to Argentina and the United States. Her writing on wines and beverages has appeared in Kitchen & Cook, the St. Helena Star, iSanté.com, and many other publications. In 2011, she was named one of the top wine country sommeliers by Tasting Panel magazine.
Radio and TV Personality, Wine Blogger ZiggyTheWineGal.com | Sonoma County, CA
Ziggy Eschliman, known to most simply as The Wine Gal or The Contessa of Cocktails, is among America's most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For over 20 years, Ziggy has set and reported trends in all things to imbibe. Her radio shows are broadcast throughout wine country and are available on the internet. As a leading American speaker, consultant, and wine writer, with personal experience extending from the hills of Tuscany to the streets of New Orleans, Ziggy is a driving force behind a national movement toward making wine hip, fun and accessible. As Ziggy plainly puts it, "...wine has been around for centuries; the mystery is so over. It's time to get past the stuffiness and clichés. They're simply a turn off to many would-be wine drinkers."
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.
Winemaker and Consultant, Goldschmidt Vineyards | Healdsburg, CA
Mr. Nick Goldschmidt co-founded Goldschmidt Vineyards in 1998. Mr. Goldschmidt served as an Executive Winemaker of Beam Wine Estates, Inc. Mr. Goldschmidt began his career in 1982 winemaking journey in New Zealand Lincoln University before setting off on an 18-month journey to explore winegrowing throughout the world's best viticultural areas. In 1990, he settled down in Healdsburg, California, as Simi's Associate Winemaker. He was promoted to Chief Winemaker 1991 and became Vice President and Chief Winemaker in 1996. He settled in Northern California as Simi's Associate Winemaker. During a number of acquisitions Nick became Vice President and Executive Domestic Winemaker for Beam Estates wine portfolio. He soon became Winemaker, and eventually, Vice President, Winemaker. During this period, he also started several brands of his own - including Forefathers Winery, Goldschmidt vineyards and Boulder Bank. In 2003, he became Executive Vice President, Winemaker at Allied Domecq Wines USA - overseeing the California portfolio of wines. He serves as a Member of Board of Advisors at Zero Link Markets, Inc. Mr. Goldschmidt originally studied civil engineering before his enduring love affair with viticulture and winemaking began in the vineyards of the South Island. After graduating with distinction in horticulture, Mr. Goldschmidt continued his studies in viticultural studies in Wagga Wagga, Australia at Charles Stuart University, and completed his postgraduate studies in enology at Roseworth Agricultural College in Australia. He graduated with Distinction in Horticulture from New Zealand Lincoln University.
Wine Category Manager, BevMo! | US West Coast
Bill Hayes is the Wine Category Manager for the growing BevMo! Retail chain of 163 Stores throughout California, Arizona and Washington. 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.
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.
Winemaker, Aperture and Devil Proof Vineyards | Healdsburg, CA
Jesse Katz's winemaking experience ranges from working at legionary wineries like Screaming Eagle in Napa Valley and Petrus in Bordeaux. He spent the last five years of his career as the head winemaker for Lancaster Estate where the wines received the highest ratings in their histroy and he grew the Roth brand over 800% in that time. Jesse now focuses on his flagship brand, Devil Proof, a single vineyard, dry farmed Malbec from Alexander Valley which was recently described by Robert Parker as ''the finest Malbec ever made in California'' and was named Cult Wine of the Year by The Tasting Panel. Jesse also crafts the wines for his brand Aperture, a collaborative project with his father and famous photographer Andy Katz that concentrates on high quality, small production wines from meticulously curated vineyards in Alexander Valley. Jesse consults on a few select brands locally and internationally as well.
Ellen is a published Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, Wine Educator and Professional Wine Judge. She is the author of the blog EllenOnWine.com and writes for the AWS Wine Journal (AmericanWineSociety.org) among other publications. Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintner’s Holidays annual event at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For the past sixteen plus years, she and husband Ken co-owned award winning Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn where Ellen served as Wine Director and Sommelier. They recently sold their Inn to devote more time to the world of wine. Ellen was also a Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton for several years. Ellen has traveled many wine regions throughout North America including California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, New Mexico, Arizona, New York and Canada, and several international wine regions including Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone, Tuscany, and wine regions throughout Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In addition to an MBA, Ellen’s wine education includes UC Davis viticulture course work, CSW certification from the Society of Wine Educators program, and holds the credential of Certified Sommelier (CS) from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Ellen serves as a judge at numerous national and international wine competitions including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Mid-American Wine Competition, California State Fair Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Amador County Fair Wine Competition, Sonoma Harvest Fair Wine Competition, West Coast Wine Competition, Grand Harvest International Wine Competition, Grand Cru International Wine Competition, Riverside International Wine Competition, Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, Mendocino County Wine Competition, Monterey Wine Competition, Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging, and the Central Coast Wine Competition.
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.
Director of Beverage | P.F. Chang's
As Director of Beverage for P.F. Chang’s, Mary Melton brings more than 25 years of industry experience to her role. She is responsible for the overall strategy of the beverage program across 218 restaurants and manages the creation of beverage menus, the wine program, drink innovation and development, wine education and bartender training. Prior to joining P.F. Chang’s in 2005, Mary worked with the Henry Wine Group as a fine wine specialist and gained experience in wine sales with the Regal Wine Company. Mary’s first foray into the industry included restaurant and nightclub management in San Diego. Mary and P.F. Chang’s were awarded top National honors for Best Chain Restaurant Wine Program at the VIBE VISTA awards in 2018 and 2010, Best Chain Wine Program in 2011 and Best Overall Beverage Program in 2012 both at the Cheers Beverage Conferences. Mary has been a Guest Speaker and Panelists at many national events including Women and Wine NYC 2013, Wine and the Vine 2014, VIBE 2012 – 2018.
Director of Winemaking, E&J Gallo Winery | Sonoma County, CA
As Director of Winemaking for Gallo’s Premium Business Unit, Chris oversees the Winery’s Premium Wine programs across a range of California appellations. He has been instrumental in creating new wines for Gallo, leveraging the Winery’s premier vineyard properties in the Sonoma County and the Central Coast. After honing his craft at some of the industry’s top wineries, including Geyser Peak and Domaine Chandon, Chris Munsell arrived at Gallo with more than 19 vintages behind him. “My job is to help our winemakers achieve their ultimate vision for each wine,” says Chris. “I really enjoy the depth of talent we have at Gallo. It allows us to marry traditional approaches with cutting edge winemaking.”
Contributing Writer, Sonoma Magazine | Healdsburg, CA
Linda Murphy is a former San Diego sportswriter who upgraded her drinking habits by moving to Sonoma County in 1990 and insinuating herself into the wine business. After eight years learning the industry as a cellar worker, vineyard sampler and communications director, she shifted her knowledge back to the journalism side, first as managing editor of the New York Times' wine website, WineToday.com, and then to the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was its first wine section editor and won two James Beard Awards. Linda now writes for numerous publications and websites, including JancisRobison.com, Decanter magazine, WineReviewOnline and Sonoma magazine. In March 2013, she and Jancis Robinson published the book " American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wine and Wineries of the United States" (University of California Press) - a celebration of the winemaking efforts in all 50 states.
General Manager, Clos du Bois Winery | Geyserville, CA
Erik joined Constellation in 2007 during the acquisition of Beam Wine Estates where he served as Vice President of Winemaking for Clos du Bois for seven years. Previously Erik spent 10 years at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State as Head Winemaker, and was an enologist for Simi Winery. He received his B.S. in fermentation science from UC Davis and an M.S. in food science specializing in enology from Cornell and holds an MBA from the University of Washington. In his career, Erik has produced over 30 wines rated 90+ and is a published author and speaker at consumer and industry events.
Winemaker, Truett Hurst & VML Winery | Sonoma County, CA
Ross Reedy absolutely loves what he does. “I get to work with inspiring people, my job is dynamic and challenging, and I really love the wines we make,” says Reedy. He became fascinated with the craft as a teenager, while making wine at home with his father from their vineyard in Alexander Valley. By the time he was 18, he had made up his mind to pursue his passion full time. Reedy studied Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, while simultaneously gaining real-world experience at a boutique winery in Paso Robles. After graduation, he traveled the world- chasing the perfect grape harvest. Stints in cellars, vineyards, and winemaking labs across Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Napa Valley eventually led him back to Sonoma County, where he accepted a permanent position with Truett Hurst and VML. When he’s not immersed in the creative exploration and the technical challenges of making ultra-premium pinot noir, chardonnay and zinfandel, Reedy can be found spending time with his family and puppy, playing guitar, and fishing.
Director of Wine Education, Sales & Marketing, Sigel’s Fine Wines and Great Spirits | Dallas, TX
In a wine career that has spanned over 30 years, Jasper Russo has worked in every tier of the wine trade throughout Texas and Louisiana, ranging from Sommelier (Atlantic Café, San Simeon), Retail (Marty’s Food & Wine, Sigel’s) Wholesale (Tarrant Distributors, Sigel’s) and Importing (Wilson Daniels). Jasper has over 20 years’ experience judging wine events, including The Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and TexSom International Wine Awards. Follow Jasper on Twitter and Facebook as sigelswinebuyer.
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.
Wine Writer and “Sommelier to the Stars” | Sonoma, CA
Author, Consultant, TV Host, and Wine Lover | Sonoma County, CA
Award-winning author, television host and speaker, Leslie Sbrocco's approach to wine, libations, food and travel is both entertaining and educational. Known for her humorous musings and energetic style, Sbrocco makes enjoying wine fun. Her PBS television show Check Please, has garnered three Emmy awards and a James Beard Award and her first book, Wine for Women, won the Georges DuBoeuf Best Wine Book of the year. Leslie is a regular guest on NBC's Today show and many other national programs and has been named as one of America’s top 100 most influential people in wine. Sbrocco has consulted for companies such as Kimpton Hotels, Harry & David, Virgin America Airlines and is a judge at numerous national and international wine competitions. As founder of the multimedia company, ThirstyGirl.com, Leslie reaches thousands and spreads her message, Life...Drink it Up!
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.
Director, Beer & Wine Department at HEB, San Antonio, Texas
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.
Wine & Spirits Director, Wildfire & Big Bowl
Brad Wermager has worked for Lettuce Entertain You restaurants for 23 years. He started his wine career as the Sommelier and wine buyer for Vong (a Jean- Georges Vongerichten French-Thai upscale restaurant) in Chicago in 1999. In January of 2000, he was hired to be the Wildfire Wine & Spirits Director and in August of 2015 added another “Lettuce” restaurant concept, Big Bowl Wine & Spirits Director to his title/resume. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is based in Chicago, IL. where Brad has been a resident since Oct. 1995. He is responsible for 14 restaurant’s wine, beer and spirit programs and is in charge of hosting and coordinating close to 100 wine, beer and spirit dinners every year. Brad started the Wildfire Wine Ambassador program in 2008 with the intention of boosting the wait and bar staff’s wine knowledge and the overall Wildfire wine sales. The program consists of 1-2 Wildfire Wine Ambassadors per each Wildfire location that are in charge of training the wait and bar staff on the featured wines of the month along with all of the wines on the Wildfire wine list.
Sales Manager, Alcohol, Safeway | Pleasanton, CA
Elsie Wolfe has 27 years’ experience within the Supermarket Industry. She currently manages the strategy and sales for total alcohol—wine, spirits and beer for Safeway Northern California Division, the largest division of Albertson’s Companies. As a California native, Elsie is passionate about leveraging local partnerships and inspired to bring wine history to life in her stores. She has participated in the New York Wine Spectator Experience for the past several years as well as the Women of the Vine Symposium. Prior to her current role, Elsie was the Vice President of Meals & Ingredients for the entire enterprise of Safeway consisting of 8 divisions before the merger with Albertson’s Companies. Elsie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Santa Clara University and an MBA from St. Mary’s College of California. She was recognized in 2014 by Progressive Grocer as one of the Top Women in Grocery.
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.
Winemaker | Calistoga, CA
Chelsea Barrett grew up in Calistoga in a winemaking family and began working in wineries at a young age. After graduating from UC Davis and working harvests at Weingut Mayer am Pfarplaz, Two Hands, and Opus One, she started as enologist at Joel Gott wines in 2012. She was promoted to assistant winemaker a year later, and further promoted to winemaker in 2017. Chelsea enjoys the challenge of working with a broad variety of regions and varietals with Joel Gott, and particularly loves making Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2017, she also joined her mother, winemaker Heidi Barrett, as co-winemaker for Amuse Bouche and Au Sommet. At the same time, she, Heidi, and Remi Barrett (Chelsea's sister) launched the collaborative brand Aviatrix.
Wine Ambassador | MacRostie Winery, Healdsburg, CA
My name is Jack Bucher. I am 22 years old and I live in the Russian River Valley. I first became interested in wine through my father, John. He is a vineyard owner, dairy farmer, and most recently, the owner of a winery. In addition to my father, I have learned through interning with Redwood Empire Vineyard Management and the Harvest Crew at William Selyem, all before I was 20 years old. Now, I enjoy my time working at MacRostie Winery as a Wine Ambassador. I love my job because it allows me to keep exploring wines across the entire Sonoma Coast and I get to meet the fascinating people working in every facet of the industry.
Wine Consultant, TV & Radio Personality | Sonoma County, CA
Teale grew up immersed in the wine industry in Sonoma County. She has experienced all facets of the wine industry, from tasting room sales at boutique wineries to large-scale wine event management, tv and radio wine pairing segments, and wine production. Most recently, she has spent the last few years focusing on winemaking and travel. From working harvest in the Russian River Valley to Marlborough, New Zealand, Teale continues to expand her winemaking knowledge on a global level. She currently holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Mathematics from the University of Vermont and continues to broaden her educational horizons through winemaking courses at UC Davis.
Student, Cal Poly | San Luis Obispo, CA
Celine Gallo is a 4th year Wine & Viticulture Major with a concentration in enology. She is studying at California Polytechnic State University and plans to graduate this Spring 2019. Her interest in winemaking started after working at her family’s winery in 2015, since she has worked three harvests in different regions of California, including the Central Coast and North Coast. After graduation she plans to travel and possibly work several harvests in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the world. Celine says she is “gaining as much experience as possible in the world of wine so that I may continue to pursue winemaking as a career.”
Winemaker, Electric Sky Wine
Growing up immersed in the wine industry of Sonoma County has instilled Kara with a deep appreciation for wine. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Kara was encouraged (or as she says tricked!) by her winemaker father, Daryl Groom, to travel to Australia to work a wine harvest. Kara never intended to follow a career in the wine industry but after one harvest she was hooked! Gaining knowledge through experience, Kara has now completed six harvests at wineries both at home and abroad. Through this she has emerged as an intuitive winemaker and experienced wine educator. While making wine alongside her father, she has also recently accepted the role of winemaker for Electric Sky Wine, a millennial canned wine brand breaking the mold of the wine industry.
CHELSEA S. Hoff
WINEMAKER, Fearless Wines
Chelsea Hoff is a second generation winemaker with experience that spans the globe. From the age of 13 getting up before school to do pump overs with her father at Fantesca Estate & Winery, to graduating from UC Davis’ Viticulture & Enology program, Chelsea has worked toward her dream. Scoring highest in her class during blending trials, coupled with her relentless quest to learn from the best worldwide, wine is the passion she loves to share with others. Fearless in her pursuit, she worked in Bordeaux, France at Château Smith Haut Lafitte; in Australia's Barossa Valley at Charles Melton Wines; and even Northern Italy to discover her favorite winemaking techniques, varietals, and styles. Upon returning home to the Napa Valley she worked harvests with several winemakers such as Thomas Brown, Heidi Barrett, and Jesse Katz. Inspired and ready - Chelsea, at age 23, started Fearless Wines in 2016, the first wine project under her full creative control. The inaugural vintage of Fearless Rosé sold out upon release. Her quest to learn and grow is fueled by opportunities like serving on this panel.
Assistant Winemaker, Clos du Bois | Geyserville, 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 straight out of college and learned about fermentation as a craft brewer. After doing this for a couple of years, 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 new winery in Knoxville, TN and began making small batch wines. 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. Lee started with Constellation Brands as an intern at Kim Crawford Winery in Marlborough in 2013 and 2014. After the 2014 harvest in New Zealand, Lee moved to Healdsburg to work as a winemaking intern at Clos du Bois in Geyserville and was hired permanently in 2016 as an Assistant Winemaker.
Student of Enology, Fresno State University | Fresno CA
Ever since I was a kid I have loved where I grew up. The rolling hills and vibrant colors of Sonoma County had always held a special place in my heart. One night during a harvest when I was around 10 years old, my Dad, whom is a winemaker himself, took me with him so that I could see just a small part of the intricate process of winemaking. Little did he know that he had just combined my two favorite things in the world, an upscaled version of my John Deere tractor toys, and the home country I had grown to hold so dear to my heart. Right then and there I knew that winemaking was something I could thoroughly enjoy becoming a part of and have since made it my goal to turn my passions into a career. My name is Nicholas Munsell and I am a 21-year-old Fresno State undergraduate studying enology and aspiring to become a winemaker here in my hometown of Healdsburg, California. Becoming a winemaker will be a huge step forward in my life, however I would have never made it here without the smaller steps leading up to this point to help guide me. From graduating Cardinal Newman High in 2015, to receiving the rank of Eagle Scout in 2016, all the way to starting my final semester at the only school in the nation with its own sellable brand of wine, Fresno State Winery. All these steps have shown me that the more meaningful the task at hand is, the more effort is required to rise to the occasion and excel at whatever it is you are doing. For me, that occasion is the opportunity to work with some of the greatest winemakers in the world, and my goals for the future are to learn from them and rise to their level, all while making some delicious wines and enjoying every second of it along the way.
Brewer and Enology Student | Seattle, WA
Matilda grew up in the winery, with fond memories of raking grapes out of trucks on the crush pad, tasting fermenting juice, and checking tanks and barrels with her dad, Mick. She comes from a two-generation winemaking family, all veterans of Penfolds Winery. Matilda first fell in love with fermentation during college. She went to Seattle University for an Environmental Studies degree and developed a passion for fermentation projects ranging from kombucha, cider, beer, wine and pickles, most of which were found bubbling away in her dorm room closet. After graduation, she worked wine harvests at Holdredge Winery in Healdsburg and Yalumba in the Barossa Valley, Australia. Matilda currently works full time as a brewer at Hale’s Ales Brewery in Seattle while earning her AAS in Enology at Seattle’s NW Wine Academy. She hopes to become the third generation of winemakers in her family and carry on their successful legacy.
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