Our Team


Julie Rothberg, Founder

I’m a New York native who discovered my passion for wine while living in London in the early 2000s then returned to earn my Masters in Business Administration from Columbia University. In 2013, I completed the Diploma certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

My wine career includes stints at Sherry Lehmann, a boutique importer/distributor, and Portfolio Director for Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits where I oversaw 20 domestic and imported brands.

Today, I’m President of Medlock Ames, a 100% estate and certified regenerative organically farmed vineyard and winery in Alexander Valley.  I launched Odyssey Wine Academy in 2021 to bring in-person wine education and WSET certifications to Sonoma County.

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Tracy Byrnes, Level 1-2 Educator

Tracy has spent over 5 years in the wine industry on the true Sonoma Coast at Hirsch and Flowers.  She is currently the Hospitality Lead at Flowers Winery in Healdsburg.  Prior to her move into the wine world, she was in the athletic apparel industry in product innovation.

Tracy has travelled extensively throughout the world and loves to explore wine regions.

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Michelle Kofman, Level 1-2 Educator

While taking a class called “The Idea of Wine” her senior year at the University of Puget Sound, Michelle discovered her love for wine as a lens to study the world. Being hired at Jordan Vineyard and Winery as a Guest Services Associate prior to her college graduation, Michelle jumped into wine country and her career with full force.
Michelle then pursued her WSET 2 & 3 certifications with Odyssey Wine Academy.  It is her privilege to be able to teach at the school she went to and share her love and passion for wine with other students.
She now works for Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy as the Sr. Specialist of Experiential Development for Northern California where she brings Moet Hennessy's world-renowned brands to life.
The French proverb that embodies Michelle's passion for wine is, "when one looks into water they see their own reflection, but when one looks into wine, they behold the heart of another."
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Gence Alton, Level 1-3 Educator

Gence (pronounced Ghen-jay) was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, where wine too was likely born! It’s clearly in his ancestral DNA, since the obsession defines his life. Most of his career was focused on retail buying, with adventures in fine & rare auctions, journalism, judging, fundraising, and consulting, for collectors and hospitality businesses.

His favorite passion though, has been educating, which he attributes to an English teacher grandmother and a professor of the piano mother. He's held a WSET Diploma since 2006, a Bachelor’s in International Relations, and a Master’s in Food & Beverage Management.

He’s the Chief Curator at Wine Spies, a local pioneer in e-commerce, hunting down outstanding wines at terrific prices every single day.

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KJ Rizzo, Level 1-3 Educator

KJ is a wine & sake sommelier in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has 15 years of experience in the beverage industry, most recently as Wine Director and GM of the wine bar & art gallery Hôtel Biron. In addition to wine, her specialty is Japanese sake and she provides virtual & in-person educational events for clients in Northern California and beyond. She pays homage to True Sake, the first sake store in America where she worked for 4 years. She is also a certified sake educator for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and writes a monthly column called Sake vs. Wine! for Sake Times International.

In her spare time, KJ is a busy Masters of Wine student and judges for competitions such as the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, England.

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Brian Ball, Level 2-3 Educator

Brian’s passion for wine began during college, working in fine dining restaurants.  After a brief stint on Wall Street, Brian pursued his dream of working in the wine industry.


Brian’s experience in the wine industry began in 2010, and for two years he travelled the world working with winemakers in Napa, Sonoma, Australia, and New Zealand to learn the craft of winemaking.  To further his education, Brian studied at UC Davis, where he earned a second degree in Viticulture and Enology and attended the Wine Executive Program.  After UC Davis, Brian ran the wine program at Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, where he first discovered Skipstone and was struck by the extraordinary character of the wines, vineyard, and brand. 


Today, Brian is the General Manager for Skipstone, overseeing the new winery construction. 


Ames Morison, Level 1 Educator, en Espanol

Ames farmed the vineyards and made the wines for Medlock Ames (which he also co-founded) for over 20 years. Curious to learn more about the wider wine world, he explored wine growing regions in Europe, South America, and New Zealand, which only increased his thirst for wine! Eager to broaden his wine knowledge he pursued WSET Level 2 and 3 certification through Odyssey Wine Academy. Ames is now eager to share his love and understanding of wine.


Ames is fluent in Spanish and is particularly passionate about teaching native Spanish speakers, especially vineyard workers in Sonoma County.