Team

Maureen Downey

DWS, CWE, FWS
Managing Member/Founder

Combatting wine fraud is part and parcel of Maureen’s appreciation of the hard work, skill and artistry that goes into creating great wine.

Struck by passionate collectors’ needs for qualified advisory services with their wine collections, Maureen founded Chai Consulting in 2005 to help them focus on their individual needs and passions.

For those whose inventories have gone from hobby to headache, the Chai Consulting team organizes wines, recommends storage methods, implements inventory management systems and frees resources in unwanted inventory into surpluses to purchase new treasures. The Chai Consulting team now manages some of the world’s largest and most impressive collections, while continuing to help those just starting out or growing collections, be that for personal pleasure or investment purposes.

With over 20 years of in depth wine industry experience, Maureen Downey stands out as an independent expert on fine and rare wine, and the foremost authority on counterfeit wine and has compiled the largest database on the subject in the world. Specializing in authentication and valuation, Maureen has inspected hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of wine in the course of advising the world’s top collectors, auction houses, wine merchants, restaurants and hotels. In 2014, Chai Consulting received US trademarks for The Chai Method, Wine Authentication and The Chai Method Wine Valuation.

Maureen has also advised the FBI and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in a number of high profile cases. She worked closely with the FBI on the Rudy Kurniawan case, advising them for many years in the initial investigation and in the subsequent lead up to trial. She also consulted for the DOJ prior to trial. Through her comprehensive pre-sentencing reports, which the defence counsel did not contest, she was instrumental in increasing both jail sentence Kurniawan received and the damages apportioned to his victims.

Maureen has assisted and testified for Bill Koch including in Koch v. Greenberg, and has advised him in cases settled out of court including settlements agreed with Acker Merrall & Condit and Royal Wine Merchants. She has also been the expert in numerous other cases in which her detailed and meticulous reports helped victims receive reparation and compensation, including high-profile cases such as that brought by the Proka brothers against Charlie Trotter.

Maureen’s interest in wine began officially while she was studying at Boston University. In her junior year, she and the BU Wine Team won Kevin Zraly’s International Wine Competition. Shortly after graduating she received her sommelier certification, and went on to manage some of New York’s top restaurants including Lespinasse, Felidia and Tavern on the Green.

Siobhan Turner

DWS
Managing Director Europe, Head of Authenticator Training
TCM Certified Authenticator

Since early 2013, Siobhan has been working closely with Maureen Downey, in particular on authentication. She spent many hours closeted in a windowless room at the Department of Justice reviewing the physical evidence from the Rudy Kurniawan wine fraud trial, and has worked closely with Maureen on major authentication clients over the past seven years. Siobhan created the TCM Certified Authenticator Program and has guided Trainees through the program teaching them about the complexities of wine authentication.

From 2004 to 2013, Siobhan served as Executive Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW). In this role, she turned the Institute’s finances and operations around, grew membership by 25% and more than doubled member engagement. She is particularly proud of the increase in the international reach of the Institute, a key focus of her tenure. During this time with the IMW, Siobhan had the privilege to experience some of the world’s finest wines and connect with some of the most talented winemakers.

Originally from Canada, and now living in London, England, Siobhan is fluent in French and also speaks some Spanish. Prior to the IMW, Siobhan qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, and then worked in investment banking and investor relations. Siobhan holds the WSET Diploma, and is currently a student on the Master of Wine program.

“Wine authentication is an art that can take many years to master. I am as impressed as I am humbled at the skill and insight Siobhan has shown after working with me to become an authentication expert in just two years. I buried her in information, and she quickly turned it into expertise at a level that I could never have expected. It is wonderful to have another wine authentication expert on our team. There is so much wine out there to remove from the market!”
-Maureen Downey, Owner/Founder Chai Consulting LLC

Chelsea Snare

Managing Director, WineFraud.com

Chelsea moved to the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after graduating from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. It is in the Bay Area that she discovered her love of wine through trips to Napa and Sonoma with her friends and family.

Chelsea comes to us with a background dedicated to customer service and project management. Following an intensive six-month post-graduate training program with AT&T, Chelsea rose quickly through the company ranks to become Sr Merchandising Manager, where she was managing a portfolio of 110 stores. Her experience will translate well in her WineFraud.com role, where she will be responsible for managing website content, contributors, and our social media marketing.

The combination of Chelsea’s keen eye for detail and design, proven abilities to be a responsive, efficient driver of projects through cross-functional teams and her mastery of website production brings a necessary, dynamic skill set to WineFraud.com. Chelsea is also an active mentor in the We Teach Science program, where she has been contributing her guidance since 2009, and was the Director of Mentoring Circles, Women of AT&T, while she was with the company.

In her free time, Chelsea enjoys running, knitting, and weekend wine tasting trips. “We are thrilled to have such a dynamic and multi-talented woman at the helm of the WineFraud.com website. Chelsea’s organization, eye for detail and drive to get things accomplished with an exceptionally high level of efficiency and accuracy is impressive. We are confident that her customer service experience will be a great benefit to members of WineFraud.com.”
– Maureen Downey

Hugo D’Houwt

CS
Cellar Management & Authentication
Certified TCM Authenticator

Hugo started waiting tables as a part time job while studying politics. He eventually turned it into a career and after a decade in fine dining and Michelin-starred restaurants, he decided to consolidate his passion for wine. Crossing the river and joining the Court of Master Sommeliers in London, he earned his Certified Sommelier title as well as a sommelier certification in Lycée Viticole de Beaune. Living close to the source in Burgundy – France, he has been training and working around the globe with Maureen since 2016. He worked closely on the development of Chai Vault, Maureen’s blockchain-based authenticity & provenance solution for wine and spirits and is now Vice-President Europe. Although away from the restaurant floor, he is constantly trying to learn more about wine and has jumped into the WSET programme. He manages a 12,000 members strong wine study group and is also a judge at the International Wine Challenge in London. In his free time, Hugo enjoys ultra-endurance running and cycling.

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