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Judges

 

2018 Wine Judges

Cathy Baltar     Cathy is a third-year judge student in the American Wine Society certification program.

Steve Bunner    Local food just tastes better.  That’s the driving motto for Executive Chef and Owner Steve Bunner of 1892 East restaurant.  He takes the source of his foods seriously and has cultivated a family of over a dozen local artisans, ranchers, and farmers to supply the true flavor of Huntsville.  Growing up in Huntsville, Chef Steve developed a love for the city’s food traditions but, “I knew there was more out there to be seen and tasted.”  This wish to know more led him to travel along the east coast and even to Alaska developing his skills and techniques at 4- and 5-star companies.  Not only should the food reflect the area, the drinks should as well.  1892 East carries only local and regional beer selections to choose from.  It is this driving focus that brings so much character and flavor to his menus.

Walt Collier     Walt is not only a winemaker, he grows his grapes on his property in Mooresville and along with his wife, Therise, own and run the beautiful Creekside Plantation.  Walt is also studying with the AWS wine judge program to be a certified wine judge.

 

Bob Garay    Bob is a third-year wine judge student in the American Wine Society certification program.  Though he recently moved out of state, he enjoys returning as often as possible to judge for the AWGGA and ACWC wine competitions.

 

Steve Johnson    Steve was born in North Carolina and moved to Huntsville when he was 8 years old.  Steve graduated from Huntsville High School, and from Auburn University. He is Co-anchor on our weekday Morning News but actually started at WHNT in May of 1977 as Sports Director.  That means Steve has been at the station for more than 40 years.  While he hasn't been a serious wine drinker that long, he has had a taste for it in all its wonderful varieties for several years now.

 

Stephanie Kennedy-Mell     Stephanie and her husband are co-owners of Church Street Wine Shoppe on Church Street in downtown Huntsville and Purveyor restaurant and Sonoma Shoppe at The Avenue in downtown.  Stephanie's food pairings for Church Street Wine Shoppe's Valley Wine Club have received numerous acclaims since the Club began in 2015.

 

William E. McCollum M.D., FAAP     Bill McCollum is a retired physician. He has a vineyard with both Muscadine grapes and French-American hybrid grapes.  As an amateur winemaker, Bill has entered his wines and won numerous medals in wine competitions around the U.S.  He is a member of the Alabama Wine and Grape Growers Association (AWGGA) and the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Association (TVOS).  He founded and directed the AWGGA Amateur Wine Competition and has coordinated the event in recent years.  Bill gives wine tastings for private groups and has lectured on winemaking, mead making, and the medical benefits of drinking wine. He has judged the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition and AWGGA Amateur Wine competition. 

Kevin Norris   Kevin is also a third-year wine judge student in the American Wine Society certification program.  He is also Chapter Chairof The Avenue's AWS Chapter and organizes wine tastings for the growing group.  

 

Ashley Ryals     Founder and creator of Homegrown Huntsville, LLC, this is the lady who brought Huntsville the Big Spring Crush festival.  Ashley also organizes the Dine & Dash, the downtown trolley tasting, the new Sip & Shop boutique and Champagne tour, plus several more popular events.  Ashley has worked very closely with the ACWC each year to help us highlight our outstanding Alabama wines.

 

Jaime E. Zapata, CWJ, CWAS, IWS     Jaime E. Zapata is a graduate of the American Wine Society Wine Judge Certification Program, a certified Italian Wine Specialist, and a certified California Wine Appellation Specialist.  Jaime has been a judge for the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition since its inception. Other wine judging experiences include the Alabama Wineries and Grape Growers Association's Amateur Wine Competition, the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society Amateur Competition, and the Kentucky Heartland Wine Competition.  Jaime is passionate about his wine tasting experiences and his interest in boutique wines has taken him through wineries in several regions of the U.S., Italy, Malta, and Spain.  Jaime is a native of Puerto Rico and has been a resident of Madison, Alabama since 1987.

2018 Label Judges

 

Crisy Meschieri    Crisy is a freelance graphic designer specializing in branding, advertising, and illustration. She has collaborated with clients including: The City of Huntsville, Huntsville/Madison County Visitors Bureau, Johns Hopkins Hospital, NPR, and Discovery Inc., parent company of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and other notable networks.  She was recognized as Best of Show at the 2018 American Advertising Awards by the American Advertising Federation of North Alabama and has an unhealthy obsession with Nutella.

 

Adrianne Van Kirk     A professional dreamer of dreams for others, as well as herself, Adriane Van Kirk has been designing for both print and web for over 16 years.  She is currently creative/brand developer for T-H Marine Supplies and is the owner and brand developer of Fave Creative, a boutique agency in Huntsville, Alabama.  She is an active board member of the American Advertising Federation, The Land Trust of North Alabama, and serves on the committee for Big Spring Crush Wine Festival.  

Previous Years' Judges

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2017 Wine Judges

 

Steve Bunner 

Local food just tastes better.  That’s the driving motto for Executive Chef and Owner Steve Bunner of 1892 East restaurant.  He takes the source of his foods seriously and has cultivated a family of over a dozen local artisans, ranchers, and farmers to supply the true flavor of Huntsville.  Growing up in Huntsville, Chef Steve developed a love for the city’s food traditions but, “I knew there was more out there to be seen and tasted.”  This wish to know more led him to travel along the east coast and even to Alaska developing his skills and techniques at 4- and 5-star companies.  Not only should the food reflect the area, the drinks should as well.  1892 East carries only local and regional beer selections to choose from.  It is this driving focus that brings so much character and flavor to his menus.

 

Marjorie Ducoté, CWAS, IWS

Marj is founder of and educator for the Artisan Wine Society AWS Chapter (now the Downtown-AWS Chapter), a charter member of the North Alabama Chapter of the American Wine Society (AWS), and has conducted numerous tastings for the membership.  In addition, she was the AWS Regional Vice President and served as the Chapter’s Education Chair on the Board for over ten years. Marj graduated from the AWS Wine Judge Training Program in 2008 and has been actively judging since then. She judged for the Lincoln County Fair, TN (6 years), the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (12 years), the AWS Amateur and Professional Competitions, and the AWGGA amateur competition (6 years).  Marj has recruited and mentored AWS wine judge certification candidates and conducted seminars on judging for WJCP candidates and for the TVOS annual conference.  Marj recently passed, with honors, the California Wine Appellation Specialist course and is a certified Italian Wine Specialist.

Kim Galbraith

Kim is a Regional Field Specialist for Whole Foods Market. Originally from California, she has worked in wine-related positions for the last 18 years.  She currently holds a Level II Wine and Spirits Educational Trust designation and studied under Master Sommelier Peter Neptune.  In addition to enjoying wine, she is a self-proclaimed “beer nerd” and is a Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) with the American Cheese Society. Married for 24 years, she enjoys travel, nights on the deck, and sharing a bottle (or two) with friends.  Currently she roams the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee working during the day and scouting out great food in the evening.

Steve Johnson

Steve was born in North Carolina, and moved to Huntsville when he was 8 years old.  Steve graduated from Huntsville High School, and from Auburn University. He is Co-anchor on our weekday Morning News but actually started at WHNT in May of 1977 as Sports Director.  That means Steve has been at the station for more than 40 years.  While he hasn't been a serious wine drinker that long, he has had a taste for it in all its wonderful varieties for several years now.

Stephanie Kennedy-Mell

Stephanie and her husband are co-owners of Church Street Wine Shoppe and the soon-to-be-opened Purveyor restaurant at The Avenue downtown.  Stephanie's food pairings for Church Street Wine Shoppe's Valley Wine Club have received numerous acclaims since the Club began in 2015.

William E. McCollum M.D.,FAAP

 Bill McCollum is a retired physician. He has a vineyard  with both Muscadine grapes and French-American hybrid grapes.

As an amateur winemaker, Bill has entered his wines and won medals in wine competitions around the U.S.

He is a member of the Alabama Wine and Grape Growers Association (AWGGA) and the Tennessee Viticultural

and Oenological Association (TVOS).  He founded and directed the AWGGA Amatuer Wine Competition and has coordinated

the event in recent years.  Bill gives wine tastings for private groups and has lectured on winemaking, mead making, and the

medical benefit of drinking wine. He has judged the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition and AWGGA Amatuer Wine competition. 

Scott Montgomery, CWJ, IWS

Scott Montgomery is a graduate of the American Wine Society’s Wine Judge Certification Program and an Italian Wine Specialist. He has judged at the American Wine Society Commercial and Amateur Wine Competitions, the Wines of the South Wine Competition, the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society amateur wine competition, the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition, and the Heartland Wine Competition. He is also the judging coordinator for the Alabama Winemakers and Grape Growers Association amateur wine competition. Scott has won numerous medals for his own homemade wines over the last thirty years. A third-generation Oregonian, Scott and his wife now reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

Denise Vickers

A dedicated wine enthusiast and aspiring winemaker, Denise proudly participates in the Church Street Wine Shoppe’s wine club (since its inception.)  She and her husband, Mark, planted their roots in northeast Madison County where they nurture a budding micro-vineyard and nascent orchard.  They consider themselves garagiste winemakers whose specialties include pear, plum, and Muscadine wines for personal consumption.  Extensive wine tasting while traveling has encouraged examination of the elements that define wine excellence.  She respects and patronizes Alabama wineries and most willingly does her part to support the industry.  Denise and her husband hope to open their own winery in Madison County one day. For now, she pours the bulk of her time into her current role as the VP of News for WHNT News 19.

 

Jaime E. Zapata, CWJ, CWAS, IWS

Jaime E. Zapata is a graduate of the American Wine Society Wine Judge Certification Program, a certified Italian Wine Specialist, and a certified California Wine Appellation Specialist.  Mr. Zapata is back judging at the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition for a third consecutive year.  Other wine judging experiences include the Alabama Wineries and Grape Growers Association's Amateur Wine Competition, the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society Amateur Competition, and the Kentucky Heartland Wine Competition.  This year he had the opportunity to judge at the Indianapolis International Commercial Wine Competition as a judge-in-training.  Mr. Zapata is passionate about his wine tasting experiences and his interest in boutique wines has taken him through wineries in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee,Virginia, Italy, Malta, and Spain.  Mr. Zapata is a native of Puerto Rico and has been a resident of Madison, Alabama since 1987.

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2016 Wine Judges

Steve Bunner 

Local food just tastes better.  That’s the driving motto for Executive Chef and Owner Steve Bunner of 1892 East restaurant.  He takes the source of his foods seriously and has cultivated a family of over a dozen local artisans, ranchers, and farmers to supply the true flavor of Huntsville.  Growing up in Huntsville, Chef Steve developed a love for the city’s food traditions but, “I knew there was more out there to be seen and tasted.”  This wish to know more led him to travel along the east coast and even to Alaska developing his skills and techniques at 4- and 5-star companies.  Not only should the food reflect the area, the drinks should as well.  1892 East carries only local and regional beer selections to choose from.  It is this driving focus that brings so much character and flavor to his menus.

 

Elina Coneva, Ph.D.

Dr. Coneva is an Extension Specialist and Associate Professor of horticulture for Auburn University.  She earned her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the Agricultural University in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, with Post Doc work completed at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.  She has been with Auburn University since 2006, doing research “exploring the potential of alternative fruit crops in Alabama.”  Under her guidance, three Pierce’s disease resistant Vitis vinifera grape varieties are in field development and showing great potential for the production of Vitis vinifera wines in the southeastern United States.

 

Marjorie Ducoté

Marj is founder of and educator for the Artisan Wine Society AWS Chapter, a charter member of the North Alabama Chapter of the American Wine Society (AWS) and has conducted numerous tastings for the membership.  In addition, she was the AWS Regional Vice President and served as the Chapter’s Education Chair on the Board for over ten years. Marj graduated from the AWS Wine Judge Training Program in 2008 and has been actively judging since then. She judged for the Lincoln County Fair, TN (6 years), the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (12 years), the AWS Amateur and Professional Competitions, and the AWGGA amateur competition (6 years). Marj has recruited and mentored AWS wine judge certification candidates and conducted seminars on judging for WJCP candidates and for the TVOS annual conference.  Marj recently passed, with honors, the California Wine Appellation Specialist course.

 

Matthew Mell

Matt has over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, having managed restaurants, bars, and comedy clubs in Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York City before opening Church Street Wine Shoppe and Bar in downtown Huntsville with his wife, Stephanie, in late 2014.  A trip to Hunter Valley in Australia at age 18 sparked a lifelong love of wine, and Matt has traveled extensively to wine regions around the world since then.  He and Stephanie are planning a trip to France in the near future.  Matt spent most of his childhood in Scottsboro, has lived on both the East and West Coasts, but is happy to be back home in Alabama with Stephanie.

 

Scott Montgomery, CWJ

Scott Montgomery is a graduate of the American Wine Society’s Wine Judge Certification Program. He has judged at the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society amateur wine competition, the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition and the Heartland Wine Competition. He is also the judging coordinator for the Alabama Wineries and Grape Growers Association amateur wine competition. Scott has won numerous medals for his own homemade wines over the last thirty years. A third-generation Oregonian, Scott and his wife now reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

  

Denise Vickers

A dedicated wine enthusiast and aspiring winemaker, Denise proudly participates in the Church Street Wine Shoppe’s wine club (since its inception.)  She and her husband, Mark, planted their roots in northeast Madison County where they nurture a budding micro-vineyard and nascent orchard.  They consider themselves garagiste winemakers whose specialties include pear, plum and Muscadine wines for personal consumption.  Extensive wine tasting while traveling has encouraged examination of the elements that define wine excellence.  She respects and patronizes Alabama wineries and most willingly does her part to support the industry.  Denise and her husband hope to open their own winery in Madison County one day. For now, she pours the bulk of her time into her current role as the VP of News for WHNT News 19.

 

Jaime E. Zapata

Jaime E. Zapata is a third year student of the American Wine Society’s Wine Judge Certification Program and has a certification as a California Wine Appellation Specialist.  Since early 2000, Jaime’s joy and interest for good wine in particular boutique wines has taken him through wineries in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, Spain, Malta, and Italy.  Jaime has judged at the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition, Alabama Wineries and Grape Growers Association's Amateur Wine Competition, Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society Amateur Competition and the Kentucky Heartland Wine Competition.  He is passionate about his wine tasting experiences and finds a lot of joy judging wines.  Jaime is native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and has been a resident of Madison, Alabama since 1987.

 

2016 Label Judges

Adriane Van Kirk

A professional dreamer of dreams for others, as well as herself, Adriane Van Kirk has been designing for both print and web for over 16 years.  She is the Owner and Brand Developer of Fave Creative, a boutique agency in Huntsville, Alabama.  She is an active board member of the American Advertising Federation, The Land Trust of North Alabama, and serves on the committee for Big Spring Crush Wine Festival.  

Katiya McKinney

Katiya McKinney is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Progress Bank with over 14 years of marketing management experience within shopping centers and financial institutions. She is an active board member of the American Advertising Federation and American Heart Association.  Katiya holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications/Public Relations and a MBA in Marketing.