Hands sorting grapes on picking table

Meet The Team

Pamela Hamel and George Hamel, Jr smiling at camera

Pamela Hamel and George Hamel, Jr

Vintners

Pam and George, Jr. met in high school in VA. Both had military fathers, who had retired after stints at the Pentagon. At the beginning of their junior year, Pam transferred to the school George was attending. They double-dated to their junior prom (each with different dates).

George’s initial wine memory with Pam occurred while courting her. Seeking to impress her, he took Pam to an Italian restaurant above his pay grade as a high school JV basketball coach. George looked around at the bottles of wine displayed that served as the wine list, and selected an Italian white, simply because it was in a bottle shaped like a fish. Pam eventually married him anyway.

Pam and George have lived in the Bay Area for 20+ years. In 2006 they bought a house in Kenwood in Sonoma Valley, primarily to escape summers in San Francisco. That house, where they now reside, came with an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon vines. That began their family wine odyssey.

Geoff Labitzke

Geoff Labitzke

General Manager

Geoff Labitzke is the General Manager overseeing sales, marketing, and business operations at Hamel Family Wines. Geoff came to the winery with over 40 years of experience in the wine industry including stints at retail, wholesale and winery operations.

Geoff began his career as a retailer in Southern California in 1978.  For five years Geoff managed Bradley’s Liquor in Tustin. In 1983, Geoff became Director of Marketing at Hi-Time Cellars.  He organized the Newport Harbor Art Museum’s wine auction and wrote a weekly wine column for the Orange County Daily Pilot. While at Hi Time, Geoff created a wine sales and presentation course for restaurant servers.

In 1986, Geoff went to work for Wine Warehouse, a Los Angeles based fine wine and beer wholesaler.  After developing a sales territory in Anaheim, Geoff became part of the management team and facilitated new product introductions. In 1989 Geoff attained the Certified Wine Educator credential from the Society of Wine Educators. Geoff would later serve on the Society’s board of Directors. In 1989, Geoff earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing at the California State University, Fullerton.

In 1991 Geoff relocated to Northern California and went to work for Vineyard Brands, a prestigious national wine importer. During that period, Geoff represented some of the greatest Burgundies in the world as well as prominent brands from Europe. In 1995, Geoff returned to Wine Warehouse to be Imports Manager for Northern California.  There he worked with top wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia, Italy and Champagne.

In 2000, Geoff became the Imports Manager for the Estates Group of Young’s Market Company.  There he oversaw imported wine sales for the state of California and directed wine and sales education for the entire company.  During his tenure, Geoff introduced a portfolio of direct imports which became a major profit generator. In 2006, Geoff was one of two Americans to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination.  Currently there are only 57 Masters of Wine in the United States.  In 2012 Geoff became Director of Sales for Kistler Vineyards.  Geoff directed national and international business for Kistler Vineyards and implemented strategic initiatives for future business development.At Kistler, Geoff mentored sommeliers nationally and assisted in their professional development.  Geoff has been a speaker at the Society of Wine Educators conference SommCon and TexSom. In 2016 Geoff attained his MBA from Sonoma State University.

John Hamel, II smiling at camera

John Hamel, II

Director of Winegrowing

John Hamel, II, is the Director of Winegrowing at Hamel Family Wines, overseeing all winegrowing and winemaking operations. While he holds the official title of winemaker, John views his role more as a winegrower, leading his team in crafting terroir-specific wines from estate vineyards, emphasizing biodynamic and organic farming practices and minimal-intervention winemaking techniques.

John’s path to wine was not a direct one. After receiving his B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with academic distinction and Phi Beta Kappa honors, John took a job at an organic farm in Napa Valley, driven by an intellectual curiosity in the Slow Food movement. The job sparked his interest in wine, leading him to a accept a position at a wine-centric public relations firm, further fueling his growing passion for wine. When John’s parents, George Hamel, Jr. and Pamela Hamel, bought a vacation home with a small vineyard in Sonoma Valley, John decided it was an opportunity to try his hand at winemaking, and went on to earn his Winemaking Certificate from the University of California-Davis.

From 2011 to 2016, John immersed himself in the study and practice of winegrowing and winemaking with input from notable consultants, adding to his growing expertise and knowledge. After spending several years honing his techniques and absorbing everything he could about the specific terroir of his family’s estate vineyards, John officially took over Hamel Family Wines winegrowing and winemaking in 2017.

His continued evolution as a winemaker is progressively evident in each vintage of Hamel Family Wines, which John attributes to his increasing familiarity with the vineyards and the best techniques to cultivate and produce the highest quality of wines for each vintage. John is committed to biodynamic and organic farming practices and is working to implement dry farming across all of his family’s vineyards. “Our goal is to produce wines that connect people with the terroir of each unique vineyard site,” John says. “Practices like biodynamics and dry-farming allow the vines to have a deep and natural connection to where they are growing, and ultimately we strive to have this connection expressed in the wine.”

When he is not at the winery or in the vineyards, John spends as much time as he can with his wife, their twin girls and son. He also enjoys cooking, running, music, and spending time with their chocolate lab.

Mike Bellaran smiling at camera

Mike Bellaran

Director of Finance 

Mike grew up in New Jersey and lived in Boston for 10 years after graduating from Boston College in 1998. On a trip to Napa and Sonoma in the spring of 2008, Mike was inspired to merge his career in finance with his personal passion for food and fine wine, relocating to California in the fall of that same year. He worked for Winery Exchange and Gary Farrell Winery before arriving at Hamel Family Wines in July of 2022. Mike lives in Novato, CA with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, a fish, two shrimp, and a snail. 

Elke Humphreys smiling at camera

Elke Humphreys

Director of Business Operations

Elke Humphreys is the Director of Business Operations at Hamel Family Wines, overseeing human resources, accounting and inventory management.

Elke holds an Associate Degree in Small Business Management from Santa Rosa Junior College. Before joining HFW, Elke worked at PCAS-Nanosyn (formerly Seres Laboratories, Inc.) – a small contract research organization in the pharmaceutical industry – for eighteen years. Her business experience, strong organizational skills, attention to detail and multi-tasking capabilities make Elke an invaluable part of the HFW team.

When not keeping everyone in line at HFW, Elke enjoys spending time with her husband, gardening and learning to knit.

Petra smiling at camera, set in vines, holding wine glass

Petra Polakovicova

Hospitality Manager

Petra is an accomplished sommelier and beverage director with a career spanning 20 years in top California hotel restaurants and wineries such as Palace Hotel, W San Francisco, Darioush Winery, Ritz-Carlton, and Montage Healdsburg. Petra passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Exam and holds her Level 3 certification from Wine and Spirits Education Trust. She was named in FSR Magazine’s 40 under 40 Rising Stars in 2018 and the same year was awarded Best Sommelier by the Slovakian publication, Gurman Magazine.  Petra’s mission is to create unforgettable memories and inspire lasting passions for food and wine for guests, from the first-time wine drinker to the seasoned aficionado.

Maura Kinsella smiling at camera

Maura Kinsella

Associate Winemaker

Maura Kinsella is the Associate Winemaker at Hamel Family Wines and is responsible for managing HFW’s winemaking operations that aim to capture the essence of our terroir through a meticulous method of vinification of lots by soil type and a utilization of traditional, low-intervention winemaking techniques.

Maura’s journey to winemaking began after a detour from professional cycling. Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Maura set her sights on California for college, where she obtained a B.S. in Biology from Santa Clara University. During this time and for several years thereafter, she raced road bikes professionally and was a member of the USA National Team. After the 2015 World Championships, Maura went to Waipara, New Zealand for her first harvest experience at the Boneline Winery. In the fall of 2016, she began her master’s degree in winemaking and viticulture at the University of Bordeaux. Beyond her studies, Maura worked at Chateau Palmer in Margaux, the Ets. J.P. Moueix Chateaux in Pomerol and St. Emilion, Emiliana Organic Vineyards in Chile, and Eisele Vineyard in Napa.

When not working, Maura likes to run, travel, make cheese boards and, of course, ride a bike from time to time.

Austin Merrick smiling at camera

Austin Merrick

National Sales Manager

Austin Merrick is the National Sales Manager at Hamel Family Wines and is responsible for bringing HFW’s portfolio of wines to key markets and developing distributor relationships.

Austin joined HFW with twelve years of experience in the fine wine industry, working on both the distributor and supplier sides of the business. A California native, Austin developed a passion for wine while attending Sonoma State University where he received a B.S. in Biology. He began his career at Regal Wine Company, where he served as District Manager and eventually, Region Manager of Northern California. In 2013, he was recruited by Foley Family Wines to serve as their Regional Sales Manager and support the acquisition of Epic Wines & Spirits. Most recently, Austin served as General Sales Manager at Napa-based Huneeus Vintners covering the twelve most western states.

When Austin is not on the road, he spends much of his time with his wife as they wrangle their two young sons between soccer matches and basketball drills.

Meet the Consultants

Alberto Antonini smiling at camera

Alberto Antonini

Winemaking

Alberto Antonini is an influential leader in the winemaking consulting business. An Italian oenologist and grower-producer, he has found his niche focusing on combining modern and traditional techniques to create authentic, pure, terroir-driven wines. “The Drink Business” magazine and “Decanter” magazine ranked him among the Top 5 Wine Consultants in the world in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

Alberto has received an Oenology degree from both the Université de Bordeaux and the University of California, Davis and he earned a Doctorate in Agricultural Studies from the University of Florence. His client list spans the continent, working with wineries in Italy, the U.S., Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, Armenia and Australia.

He lives with his family on his estate “Poggiotondo” in Cerreto Guidi (near Florence in Tuscany).

Pedro Parra smiling at camera

Pedro Parra

Terroir & Soil

Terroir expert Pedro Parra’s invaluable knowledge runs deep—literally—into an understanding of every detail of terroir and the relationship between wine and terroir. He has spent his career immersing himself in soils, geology, geomorphology, climate, viticulture and oenology.

Pedro studied forestry at the Alliance Française, then went on to complete a PhD and Master’s degree in Precision Agriculture from the Institut Agronomique National in Paris where he studied agronomy and soil types. Pedro is also a wine producer, co-producing the Chilean cult brands ARISTOS and Clos des Fous, and working alongside Vosne-Romanee producer Louis Michel Liger-Belair. He is also partner with Alberto Antonini in Altos las Hormigas in Mendoza and started his family’s own project, Pedro Parra y Familia, in 2013.

Pedro also consults for some of the world’s greatest vignerons in Chile, Argentina, Italy, United States, Canada, Armenia, Uruguay and Burgundy.

Corinne Comme smiling at camera

Corinne Comme

Biodynamics

In 1997, Corinne Comme and her husband Jean-Michel Comme took over Jean-Michel’s grandfather’s family vineyards in Bordeaux, in the outlying Sainte-Foy, transforming it into one of the region’s first organic properties. After two decades, Corinne is now a renowned Biodynamic Consultant, expanding her influence to U.S. vineyards in Virginia and California.

Corinne studied as an engineer in food science and technique in Bordeaux and worked in the agro-food industry for several years before immersing herself in biodynamic practices at Château du Champ des Treilles.

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Corinne’s son Thomas is converting Robin Williams’ former estate, Pym-Rae, to biodynamic, dry-farmed wines.

Garrett Buckland smiling at camera

Garrett Buckland

Technical Viticulture

Garrett Buckland is a visionary viticulturist known for elevating the quality of vineyard sites while cultivating some of the finest grapes in the world. Garrett has been involved in all aspects of farming, from developing and managing some of Napa’s most renowned vineyards to rootstock trials and even winemaking.

Garrett received his B.S. in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. He perfected his skills working at his father’s Buckland Vineyard Management before starting Premiere Viticulture, a vineyard consulting company based in Napa, with Steve Matthiasson, and VineInfo, a vineyard software company and viticultural database for ultra-premium winegrowers. In addition to HFW, Garrett’s client list includes Acumen, Araujo, Arcadia Vineyards, Baldacci, Blue Rock, Bettinelli Vineyards, Hall Wines, Knights Bridge and Long Meadow Ranch among others.

Garrett is the Past President of the Napa Valley Grape Growers and the Napa Viticultural Technical Group, and past Conference Chair of the Association of Applied IPM ecologists.