2019 WineMaker Conference Speakers

PETER BREHM is the owner of Brehm Vineyards where he has been helping amateur winemakers make better wine for over 45 years. He founded the retail shop Wine and the People in Berkeley, California in 1970 and began introducing home winemakers to fresh premium and ultra-premium grapes from renowned regions such as Carneros, Dry Creek, Stags Leap, Rutherford Bench, the Columbia River Gorge and Willamette Valley. In 1991 Peter created White Salmon Vineyard and Winery and assisted in the birth of the Columbia Gorge AVA. Brehm Vineyards is a leading provider of fresh and frozen grapes. Peter will answer your home vineyard questions in “Grape Growing Q & A: Ask the Experts”.

CHIK BRENNEMAN is the Winery Manager and Winemaker for the University of California-Davis, as well as an enthusiastic home winemaker. He is responsible for supporting the teaching and research winemaking activities at the University. In any given harvest he will make wine from over 50 different varietals. Chik also writes the “Varietal Focus” column in every issue of WineMaker magazine. Prior to coming to UC–Davis he worked as the Production Lab Manager for Woodbridge Winery in Lodi. He has worked as Cellarmaster for both Amador Foothill Winery and Domaine de la Terre Rouge in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley after receiving his Master’s Degree in Enology in 1998. Chik will be part of the “Advanced troubleshooting Q & A” seminar on Friday and will also lead the “Keys to a Great Fermentation” seminar. On Saturday,  Chik will participate in the “General Troubleshooting: Ask the Experts” Q & A session answering your technical winemaking questions and will later that day will confuct the “Fining and Filtration seminar”. Chik  will lead the pre-conference “Home Wine Lab Tests Boot Camp” and post-conference “Wine Chem 101” on Sunday.

CHARLES (Charlie) EDSON is the owner of Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery.  He learned to make wine at MIchigan State, where he earned a Ph.D. in horticulture/viticulture. Charlie started Bel Lago with his wife, Amy Iezzoni, and her parents. They planted their first acre on the family farm on Leelanau Peninsula in 1987, and the winery was built in 1998. Charlie will be speaking on “Crafting Great Cool-Climate Pinot Noir” on Saturday.

PAUL HAMELIN grew up in the Lansing, Michigan area after graduating from Michigan State University in 1977 and earned a Pharmacy degree from Ferris State University in 1980. Paul’s professional career spanned 31 years in the Global Pharmaceutical and Bio Technology industry From 2001 until retirement in 2011. Paul was the CEO of two biotech companies, one located in San Diego and the other in East Brunswick, NJ.  He and his wife Marty, of 38 years, created Verterra Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan in 2006. They had vacationed on the peninsula for 30 years so this naturally was the place to live out their dream. Verterra wines are estate grown from 35 acres and are 100% pure Leelanau. Since the first vintage in 2010, the wines from Verterra have hundreds of medals in International Wine Competitions. Today Paul is an active member of several associations to promote Michigan wines and is the current President of the Traverse Wine Coast.  Join Paul on Saturday for lunch as our keynote speaker to learn more about what makes this region such a unique place to make wine.


WES HAGEN received his training from the University of California-Davis extension program. He is consulting winemaker and brand ambassador for J. Wilkes Wines. Michael Cervin of Decanter Magazine recently declared Wes one of the most influential winemakers in the United States. Wes has grown and made wines that have scored 92+ in every major wine publication in the US. He also covers the world of hobby vineyards for WineMaker magazine writing our “Backyard Vines” column in every issue for the last 15 years. Wes offers home vineyard consulting, as well. He will be leading winemakers with “Canopy Management” seminar on Friday as well as answering questions in “Grape Growing: Ask the Experts” Q & A. On Saturday, join Wes as he speaks on “Choose the Right Trellis for Your Vineyard” and later conducts the “WineMaker Workshop: 101 Reasons to Drink More Wine”.  Wes will be running the pre-conference “Backyard Grape Growing” Boot Camp on Thursday.

BRIAN HOSMER is the winemaker for Chateau Chantal and also for Hawthorne Vineyards. Brian is a graduate of Michigan State University in Resource Development and switched his area of study to winemaking and viticulture after several years at a teaching-assistant position in France, Spain, and The Netherlands—where he learned to appreciate wine. Hosmer did his post-graduate studies in the wine/viticulture program at MSU.  Join Brian on Friday as he discusses “Winemaking with Cherries” seminar and leads the “WineMaker Workshop: Bench Trials” later in the day.

LEE LUTES was hired as winemaker at Black Star Farms in 1998 and was an integral part of the development and construction of the winery. Currently Lee oversees the winemaking operations for two processing facilities on the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. These facilities were developed separately, and in 2007 expanded to specialize in separate red and white wine production. He is also the director of a distillation program that produces European style fruit brandies and dessert wines. Lee is a proud, self-taught winemaker with over 25 years of experience making wine and studying in various regions around the world. He served as an assistant winemaker at Abbazia di Valle Chiara in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy prior to moving back to his native Northern Michigan in 1993. Lee is a huge supporter of all things Michigan, and is most passionate about Riesling and Pinot Noir.  On Saturday, Lee will be part of the “Crafting Great Cool-Climate Pinot Noir” seminar and later this day will lead the “Advanced Cool-Climate Techniques” seminar.

SEAN O’KEEFE, winemaker at Old Mission’s Mari Vineyards, was born into the Chateau Grand Traverse wine dynasty. Sean O’Keefe studied winemaking in Germany and returned home to launch an innovative small batch series at his family’s winery and make himself an international emissary for Northwest Michigan’s wine community. Listen as he speaks on “Keys to Crafting Great Rieslings” and join him again later when he leads “Maximizing red Wines From Cool-Climate Grapes” seminar.

BOB PEAK Before joining The Beverage People in 2003, Bob was General Manager at Vinquiry, a wine testing laboratory in Windsor, California. Bob holds a degree in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College and has pursued additional studies in wine at Santa Rosa Junior College and the University of California-Davis extension. Bob has a 1/3 acre hobby vineyard where he grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and writes the “Techniques” column for the magazine. Bob will lead the pre-conference “Winemaking From Grapes Boot Camp” and post-conference “Judging & Scoring Wines Boot Camp.” He will also be part of the “General Troubleshooting: Ask the Experts” panel.  Bob will guide the conference seminars “Managing Tannins” and “Using Oak Alternatives”, both on Friday. 

JASON PHELPS is the owner of Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, an artisanal producer of meads, ciders and wines in Manchester, NH. He started home brewing and winemaking nearly 15 years ago, and like many hobbies it has been a life changing experience. After first learning to make beer Jason then branched out in to cider, wine and ultimately mead. Along the journey Jason has been honored with over 120 competition medals for a broad range of fermentations. As a BJCP certified beer and mead judge he has had the opportunity to judge in competitions all over the United States, giving back to the community he is so passionate and excited about. As a past speaker at the WineMaker Magazine Annual Conference as well as an author of articles in both WineMaker and BYO magazines it is clear Jason loves to share his experiences and knowledge with other makers. In addition to Saturday’s seminar “Adding Fruits to Meads” seminar on Saturday, he will be leading the pre-conference “Cidermaking Boot Camp” and the post-conference ” Meadmaking Boot Camp”.

ALEX RUSSAN is the owner and winemaker of Metrick wines working with grapes from around California that he feels are particularly suited to their site and to produce elegant wines. Fascinated by uncommon grapes, unheard of regions, and diverse winemaking techniques, he also scours the Iberian peninsula for for unique wines for his Spanish wine import company and label of barrel selected sherries, Alexander Jules.  A former member of the Cellermasters of Los Angeles Home Winemaking Club, Russan made his first vintages dragging hundreds of pounds of grapes up a flight of stairs, destined to be made into wine in his apartment closet. In a previous life he was a coffee importer, coffee tasting instructor, and judge at many international coffee competitions. He lives in Santa Monica, California, where he collects rare tropical plants, fruits and grapevines. “Advanced Winemaking From Grapes Boot Camp” pre-conference will be lead by Alex and on Friday he will discuss “Preventing Oxidation”.  He will also be part of the “Advanced Troubleshooting Q & A”.  Join him on Saturday as he heads the “Advanced Malotactic Tips” seminar and post-conference “Advanced Winemaking From Grapes Boot Camp” on Sunday.

PAMELA ZORN discovered cheese making just over 10 years ago when her mother needed a sheet of mozzarella and fell in love with the art. She has been teaching classes at her shop,Wine & Whey, in Denver for over 3 years now. Pamela believes everyone should learn to make cheese and has made it her goal to get the word out! Pamela is almost completely self taught but studies continuously to improve her skills and pass them on to her students. Join Pamela pre-conference with “Home Cheesemaking Boot Camp”.  Pamela will lead the “Wine Kit Tweaks Outside the Box” seminar on Friday followed by the post-conference “Advanced Home Cheesemaking Boot Camp” on Sunday.