Spirits Competition Judges

 

Dana Chandler
Spirits Competition Honorary Chairman

Dana Chandler, a second generation Southern Californian and graduate of the University of Southern California, I have spent 30 years in the wine and spirits industry.  Beginning in the wine business with Gallo and Kendall Jackson I have held a succession of wholesaler and supplier positions managing all channels of business including on-premise, off-premise, chains and clubs.

In 1997 I went to work in my first entrepreneurial role for Millennium Import Company.  At Millennium I directly participated in the introduction the luxury vodka category in the US with the launch of Belvedere and Chopin vodkas.  While managing sales for half the US, I assisted in growing the portfolio to over 500,000 cases.

In 2006 I moved to startup company Russian Standard Vodka.  As Vice President of Sales I designed, hired and trained the entire sales organization.  In this capacity the startup brand grew from 6,000 to 180,000 nine liter cases in only four years

Reuniting with Chopin Vodka owner Tad Dorda in 2010, I helped establish Chopin Imports Ltd.  As COO/EVP/GM, I hired all finance, sales and marketing personnel, signed national agreements with major wholesale partners and increased sales 87% from 2010 - 2013. Overseeing all aspects of the business, I take a keen interest in directing and crafting brand and marketing strategies.

In my second year as Honorary Chairman of the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition, I am excited about bringing my expertise and passion for fine spirits to this great event. 

Married to Sally for 20 years, I have two children - Jay 19, a sophomore at San Diego State and Ellie 15, a sophomore at Upland High School.  In my spare time I enjoy playing guitar in my band and working on my vintage1971 VW bus.

 
     
   




 

Michael Nemcik
- red clay -

Michael Nemcik has worked in hospitality for over a decade in various restaurants and for top chefs throughout Los Angeles. In 2012 Michael founded red clay, an event service and beverage consulting company catering to the wedding and private event industries. Michael also serves as Director of Operations for The Grand Bevy, a California based high end artisan cocktail and bar service company that operates around the world. In addition Michael can currently be found working as a Sommelier at Terroni in Downtown Los Angeles and West Hollywood. 

     
   

 

Star Hodgson
Cocktail Concoctionist

Star Hodgson has been creating contemporary and sprucing up traditional cocktail recipes for over 16 years. She helped push the fresh cocktail movement into play at loa at International House, where she was General Manager from 2007-2011. In the same period, she also served as Beverage Director for all Lifestyle Revolution Group (LRG) venues located in New Orleans which include: Republic, LePhare, Capdeville, Sylvain and Ste. Marie. In 2010, she started her own consulting company, Star Cocktails, in which she reinvigorated her creative flair by diving into the science of Molecular Mixology. With Star Cocktails, she created specialty beverage programs for restaurants and bars and provided in-home cocktail catering with customized drink experiences for each client. In 2012, a dream position was created for her and Star joined Glazer’s Distributors as Louisiana’s State Mixologist. She has worked with bar legends such as Laura and Chris McMillian, Dale DeGroff, Bobby “G” Gleason and many of the finest spirits available, independent and corporate restaurants and bars, hotels and casinos, The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) and the bartending community at large.

Star serves her community as Vice President of New Orleans Chapter USBG and is a longtime member of MOTAC. She graduated Bar Smarts Advanced in 2009 and has participated in Tales of the Cocktail and Toddy annually since 2006. Star was awarded Best Bartender amongst New Orleans City Business’ Culinary Connoisseurs in 2010, which recognizes top professionals and establishments in the region’s culinary industry. She has also contributed to several online and print publications including penning columns in Where Y’at Magazine on cocktail culture in New Orleans and on fresh local ingredient cocktails in New Orleans Living Magazine. She has been a guest speaker at cocktail seminars for The Louisiana Restaurant Association, Houston Spirits Conference and MOTAC. She has served as a judge for several cocktail competitions including the 2013 Don Julio Regional Finals. Her cocktails were featured at Superbowl XLVII as well as at Essence Festival 5 years running.

Star moved to New Orleans from her hometown of San Francisco in 2004. A love for the culinary arts and entertaining friends culminated into a form of liquid concocting. Homemade infusions and variations on classics pique her gastronomic curiosity and her inspiration is typically found in her urban garden or at the farmers markets in the form of fresh seasonal produce. “Living in New Orleans, we have a unique growing season and are able to harvest herbs, fruits and vegetables locally throughout the entire year,” says Star. “It keeps creating new cocktails inventive and fun when you work in your backyard!”

When she is not in her bar lab crafting potions, Star is probably chasing her vivacious sons, Cypress and Drake, while attempting to hold a conversation with her lifelong best friend/husband of eleven years, David. She enjoys big cabernets, reading mystery fiction, singing karaoke, road trips and sleeping (not necessarily in that order).


 
     
   

 

Kevin J. Johnson
Vice President of the Golden State Chain Division at Southern Wine & Spirits

Kevin J. Johnson, Vice President of the Golden State Chain Division at Southern Wine & Spirits, is a 33 year veteran of the Wine & Spirits industry.

Kevin’s career in the wine business began while attending college in Modesto and working for the family business, Johnson Bakery Distributing Co.  Having a keen interest in wine and sales, Kevin relocated to Napa, working for Vineyard Wine Co., representing small wineries in Napa and Sonoma. 

In 1983, he went to work for Young’s Marketing Co., holding positions at Sales Rep, Wine Supervisor and Chain Account Executive.  In 1989 Kevin was recruited by Southern Wine & Spirits, where he is currently employed.  Kevin is married to Tamar Johnson and has two daughters, Alexandria and Kassidi. 

Kevin’s hobbies are his beloved 49ers, golf, fishing, and back packing.

 
     
   

 

Alfredo S. Gama
Spirits Manager, Wine Warehouse

Mr. Gama brings to the trade, thirty years of food, spirits and beer product development experience, organizing and directing distribution and sales efforts through all industry trade channels.  Following his graduation from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration, Alfredo began achieving his career goals at Kraft Foods as a Key Account Manager, Miller Brewing Corporate as an Account Executive, Young’s Market Company as the First Hispanic V.P. Division Manager, and Pernod Ricard as the First Multicultural Manager in charge of Hispanic, Asian and African American business. Alfredo joined Wine Warehouse in Southern California six year ago as their Spirits Manager to help develop the WW spirits portfolio. 

     
   

 

Brian Bowden
VP Spirits, Beer, Beverages & Tobacco, BevMo!

Over 32 Years of experience in the alcoholic Beverage Industry in all departments, wine, beer, and spirits.  Worked in the retail side of the industry as well as sales. 

  • Passed the Certified Spirits Specialist exam from the Society of Wine Educators in 2010.
  • Currently studying for the Beer Cicerone exam.


VP Spirits, Beer, Beverages & Tobacco, GMM New Markets
, BevMo!
1994 – Present (19 years) Concord California
BevMo! was founded in 1994 and opened six stores in the San Francisco Bay Area during that year. Since then, BevMo! has become one of the leading alcoholic beverage-lifestyle neighborhood specialty retailers in the United States with 130 stores in California, Arizona, and Washington State.

West Coast Sales Representative, Harvest Wines
1991 – 1994 (3 years) Sonoma California
 
Corporate sales calls for chains.
Regional on and off premise sales.
Customer training.
Inventory management for all accounts.

1981-1991 Liquor Barn (10 years) California
Retail management

 
     
   

 

Mark Nureddine
Owner of Bull BBQ’s

For most people, tinkering with and testing an open flame grill in your garage is not a good idea. But Mark Nureddine is not most people. And his efforts with a grill in a closed environment were the genesis to a company that would become one of the leading manufacturers of grill islands in the world. Under Nureddine’s direction and leadership, Bull Outdoor Products now provides grills, islands and grilling components to over 900 dealers and distributors within North America, reaching 15 countries and growing.

Nureddine attributes the gourmet cooking of his mother, and her Italian heritage, with helping develop his palate for great tasting food at an early age. In recent years, Nureddine has further embraced food and wine culture, including growing his own vineyard in Lodi, Calif., and as a hobbyist winemaker.  Additionally, much of his personal time is spent exploring both local and international culinary endeavors, visiting well-known culinary schools and enjoying area vineyards.

To complement his appreciation for great tasting food, Nureddine has maintained several positions as a judge in the food sport arena. Nureddine is a Certified Barbeque Judge for the Kansas City Barbeque Society and has served as a judge for Bull Outdoor Product’s own Bull Burger Battle series of nationwide burger cook-offs. The inaugural Bull Burger Battle series, with events held at Bull Outdoor distributors throughout the country, served to qualify six competitors into the World Food Championships, the world’s highest stakes food competition, of which Bull Outdoor is an integrated partner.

Nureddine’s passion for food and his dedication to building a better cooking medium remains just as strong today as it did when he first began 20 years ago. Bull Outdoor Products continues to focus on expanding consumers’ love of outdoor cooking and entertainment by teaching them more about their grills and how to best use them. Nureddine maintains a commitment to integrating the finest grill material available with innovative cooking techniques, as shared by the Bull Outdoor corporate chef and complemented by Bull Outdoor’s repertoire of recipes and cookbooks.

To learn more about Bull Outdoor Products, visit www.bullbbq.com

 
     
   

 

Toshio Ueno

Toshio Ueno is a Master Sake Sommelier & Shochu Sommeiler, Jizake Educator. Born in Japan where his family has grown wine grapes for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a young age. Following his education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, he joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. In 2002 he joined Mutual Trading Company where he was Manager of the Business Development Department in marketing Japanese foods, Jizake and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise he aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new international audiences.

Other Credentials:
WSET Advance Certificate
WSET Spirits Level 2
Certified Wine Sommelier, Court of Master
French Wine Scholor, French Wine Society
Certified Wine Specialist, Society of Wine Educators
Certified Italian Wine Specialsit
Certified Beer Adviser, FBO Japan

 
     
   

 

Tadeusz Jerzy Dorda
Owner, Chopin Vodka

Tadeusz (Tad) J. Dorda is chairman, chief executive officer and majority shareholder of Podlaska Wytwórnia Wódek “Polmos” S.A., the historic distillery in eastern Poland that owns and produces Chopin Vodka. A champion of authentic Polish vodka, Dorda is working steadfastly to change Western perceptions of a spirit that is far more complex, with many more subtleties in taste and quality, than is widely recognized.

In September 2010, Dorda re-purchased the worldwide distribution rights to Chopin Vodka, returning the brand to its independent roots after four years under Moët Hennessy ownership. Chopin was one of two Polish vodkas (the other, Belvedere) that Dorda introduced to the American market in 1997, in a joint project with Millennium Import LLC. The effort revolutionized the vodka industry, launching the global luxury vodka trend and advancing both brands to the top of the Polish spirits market.

Dorda’s acquisition of Chopin Vodka marked his return to his native Poland following a long career with H.B. Maynard & Co that took him from the American-based firm’s Eastern Europe Division to its Los Angeles office. There, he served as a financial analyst and marketing and management advisor to large international corporations, establishing valuable contacts throughout North America, Europe and the Far East.

Dorda began his career in the International Marketing Division of EMI in Windsor, England, after graduating from the London Business School with a master’s degree in business administration. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Warsaw University of Technology.

In December 2002, Dorda was honored for his contributions to the development of Polish entrepreneurship and export with the prestigious Golden Cross of Merit, awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland. He is the vice president of the Confederation of Polish Employers, which is responsible for international affairs. He also serves as a member of the board of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD-Poland, employer delegate to the European Economic and Social Committee, and a member of the Economic Advisory Group (IOE).

Dorda is committed to charitable activities and to the advancement of Polish culture. He has financed concerts, art exhibitions and Polish films. He awards scholarships for the best students of the Faculty of Marketing at Warsaw University of Technology, the Management Centre of the University of Warsaw, and the Warsaw Arts Academy. Dorda financed and coordinated the renovation of the Jewish cemetery in his hometown, Cieszyn, in southern Poland, and has been a director of the Orphan Mary Foundation providing aid to Poland’s homeless children.

In the U.S., Dorda has helped to raise the profile of the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California through a major sponsorship by Chopin Vodka since 2008. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire.

 
     
   

 

Tricia Carr
The Concoctologist
Director of Mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits, Southern California
United States Bartenders Guild Los Angeles Chapter President

Tricia Carr has been specializing in the beverage business for over fifteen years. She has learned the craft of culinary cocktails from amazing chefs and bar business geniuses in dynamic venues around Southern California including Providence LA and Black Market Liquor Bar. All of the experience came to culmination as Tricia landed her “dream job” as the Southern California Director of Mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits in November 2011. In this position, she is honored to work with the diverse community of professionals that the So Cal market offers. Recent bar programs include Susan Feniger’s STREET, The Villian’s Tavern, Shutters on the Beach and Red O by Rick Bayless. One of Tricia’s favorite professional activities is sitting as judge for cocktail and spirit competitions, such as: Campari 2012 - 2013, Espolón 2013, Las Vegas Night Club Bar Show 2012-2013, Don Julio 2013, Broker’s Gin 2013, Bärenjäger National Final 2013 and LA International Spirits Competition 2013. Tricia is proud to serve the bar community as President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Tricia continues her education through travels to distilleries in Puerto Rico, Sweden, France, San Francisco, Kentucky, New York and Oaxaca. In 2013, Tricia became a Bar Ready Graduate of the esteemed Beverage Alcohol Resource!

 
     
   

 

Ryan Steely
Owner SOA32 Creative

Ryan Steely is a Creative Director and designer from Southern California, where his family has been planted for over 5 generations. Ryan owns SOA32 Creative and is no stranger to working with leading brands in the alcohol industry. Creating more than just marketing campaigns, he has found himself heavily involved in building new brands and developing many exciting new products.

Ryan’s taste for spirits has landed him a dual-role as he heads up the packaging design competition and has a seat on the tasting panel for the second year.

 
     
   

 

Wilfred Wong
Cellar Master for BevMo

Wilfred Wong, Cellar Master for BevMo, the largest specialty beverage retailer in the United States is a 40+ year veteran of the industry. BevMo! has 150 stores in California (130), Arizona (10) and Washington State (10). Wong tastes approximately 6,000 to 8,000 wines, spirits and beers annually. He participates in as many as a dozen+ competitions annually. Some of recent appearances include the San Francisco International Wine, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles International Wine, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the Syndey International, and A Taste of Tequila.

He writes for the Tasting Panel Magazine as well as Wine Review on Line and Jo Diaz’s Blog. Active in the social networks, he has over 5,300 facebook fans and 2,700 Twitter followers @willieboysf.

An avid photographer, his work shows up on Pinterest, Flickr and Intstagram and often covers food, wine and travel.

Wilfred is a native of San Francisco, California where he lives with his wife, Alice and dog Cody. He studied psychology at the University of California at Berkeley.

 
     
   




 

Jessica Gelt

Jessica Gelt is a food and nightlife writer for the Los Angeles Times. She has reported extensively on cocktails and cocktail culture. Her cocktail recipe column, “Destination: Cocktail,” runs twice a month in the Saturday section of the paper.

     
   

 

Jon McPherson

Jon McPherson is currently the Master Winemaker at South Coast Winery in Temecula, California.  He is a graduate of Texas Tech University, with a degree in Food Science and a second degree in Chemistry. McPherson is also a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as a Certified Specialist of Wine.  He has over thirty years of winemaking experience, starting with his tenure at Llano Estacado Winery in the seventies through Culbertson Winery in the eighties and Thornton Winery in the nineties.  Joining the start-up South Coast Winery in 2003, McPherson has become a three time winner of the Golden State Winery of the Year, leading South Coast to the top of the Temecula Valley with over 2,000 awards in its short ten year history. Known for making a vast number of wines which run the gamut of styles from rosé to white, red, sparkling and fortified, McPherson is never content to rest on his laurels. “Don’t look for Temecula on any map, you just have to see it to believe it.”

 
     
   

 

Chris Snyder
President
TAPS Fish House & Brewery & The Catch Restaurant

Chris Snyder was born in the city of Berkeley in Alameda County.  As a child his family relocated to Santa Rosa then to Mount Shasta, where he spent his formative years in a small town environment.  After graduating from high school, Snyder moved to Oakland and at the age of 21 came to Southern California to finish college at Cal State Fullerton and to spend time with his maternal grandparents who were longtime residents of Anaheim.

Snyder began his career in the hospitality industry as a teen working his way from the back of the house and gravitated to where his strengths were best suited and began bartending while attending college. He learned from the best in the business and worked for major players in the Orange County dining scene, Mr. Stox and the Catch in Anaheim, respectively. He knows the guest and what it takes to keep them coming back. He knew how to create and how to keep clientele and it would prove tenfold as his career progressed.

An original employee, Snyder’s TAPS career began as beverage manager; his responsibilities quickly grew after his proven track record and leadership in that role. Opportunity arose in 2002 when Chris was approached to become General Manager of TAPS Fish House & Brewery. The decision proved to be a very wise one as Snyder became an incredible key player in the success of TAPS. Under his inspiring leadership; the restaurant’s revenues grew from $5 million to nearly $10 million dollars in annual sales.

In anticipation of repeating the same success as TAPS Brea, Snyder had a tall order to fill in the Inland Empire. He opened TAPS second location in 2007 and under his leadership and direction TAPS Corona has become an instant success and a local favorite well on its way to tracking the same sales growth pattern as TAPS Brea.

With the much publicized closing of The Catch Restaurant in 2008, a unique opportunity presented itself for the relocation of this 32 year old legacy and landmark. The new location was re-opened in 2010 in Anaheim and is on the corner of Katella Avenue and Stadium Crossing Drive within 500 feet from Angel stadium directly across from The City National Grove theatre.


Chris, his wife Rebecca, their young daughter Francesca and their young son Dane live in Corona.  Snyder serves on the Board of Directors for the Anaheim Orange County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

     
   

 

Rodolfo (Rudy) Ruiz
Executive Vice President/Spirits at Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc.

Rodolfo (Rudy) Ruiz is the Executive Vice President/Spirits at Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc. Mr. Ruiz began his career in the drinks industry in 1979 at Bacardi USA, where his many professional accomplishments helped make Bacardi one of the world's premier alcoholic beverage suppliers, not only in the United States, but also around the globe. At Bacardi, Mr. Ruiz' previous positions have included President and CEO of Bacardi Asia/Pacific; President of Bacardi Global Brands; and most recently, President and CEO of Bacardi USA.

On a day-to-day basis, Mr. Ruiz will work closely with the Company's senior management team including Harvey R. Chaplin, Chairman and CEO; Wayne E. Chaplin, President and Chief Operating Officer; and Mel Dick, Senior Vice President and President/Wine Division.

Mr. Wayne E. Chaplin said: "We are pleased that Rudy has joined our organization at this very senior level. Rudy is helping our Company develop a greater, long-term strategic focus in partnership with our spirit suppliers, which currently make up about 50 percent of our nationwide sales."

Harvey R. Chaplin noted "Rudy has a great reputation in our industry for being a people person and having incredible knowledge of the spirits business in the United States. We look forward to him making a valuable and lasting contribution to our organization."

Mr. Ruiz said, "I am delighted and honored to work at this fine Company and I very much enjoy working with Southern's extremely talented senior management team as well as with our Company's diverse and performance-oriented group of some of the best-known spirits companies in the world."

 
     
   

 

Alex Puchner
Sr. Vice President of Brewing Operations

With BJ's since beginning of 1996. Previously brewed for Laguna Beach Brewing Company (1 year) and Huntington Beach Beer Company (2 years). Consulting brewer for Newport Beach Brewing Co. and Westwood Brewing Co. Began homebrewing in 1986. BJCP National Judge.

He received his B.A. (Beer Appreciation) degree from Cornell. M.B.A. (Master of Beer Appreciation) from University of Chicago. Siebel short courses in Brewing Microscopy and Essential QC.

Alex has also worked in Marketing for Mattel Toys, but enjoys spending time with his family (2 children and 3 dogs), backpacking, skiing, running, mountain biking and music. His ultimate goal is to spend a year traveling around the world with his wife, Kerry.

     
   




 

Cliff Coglietti
Owner of The Heights Restaurant and The Village Grille

BS in Business from University of Riverside.
Opened 20 plus restaurants as Bar Manager, General Manager
Restaurant Owner for 20 years with Multiple locations.
Current owner of The Heights Restaurant and The Village Grille.

     
   

 

Abel Alejandre
International Artist

"La Junta / The Gathering"
abelalejandre.com

Abel Alejandre is an international artist who works with several mediums including film, painting, drawing, and printmaking. He has worked as an Illustrator, Designer, Production Manager, Art Director and Senior Creative Manager the past twenty plus years. He immigrated to Los Angeles in 1975 from Apatzingán, Michoacán, Mexico with his mother and his siblings. In 1984, Alejandre painted his first mural for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics. More recently, completed twelve panels for a permanent installation at the Westwood/Rancho Park train station for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit system. Also, he completed a film documentary called "Resurrected Histories: Voices from the Chicano Arts Collectives of Highland Park." Although, most of his work deals with issues of masculinity, Alejandre also deals with contemporary: culture, class, politics, and race. He uses his art as a buffer between himself and the world. Alejandre creates aesthetically inviting work on the surface, underneath he confronts his own issues with his emotional experiences and his understanding of the human experience. Alejandre's work is a personal experiential journey with himself, his viewers, and his art.

 
     
   

 

Matt Fraser
Youngs Market Company

I am 35 years old and I live in Santa Barbara.  I am married to my wife Stephanie Fraser and I have 2 children - Harper age 4 and Willow age 6.  I have been in the industry for the past 15 plus years working in restaurants and bars.  I used to own a bar in Santa Barbara.  I have held 4 positions within Youngs Market Company.  I started with the Alliance Group (Bacardi, Brown Foreman, Remy Cointreau), was then a Division Wine Manager, Division Manager and I am now the branch manager for the Central Coast.

I am passionate about both wine and spirits. I have experience behind the bar creating beverage programs for the past 15 years (10 of that as a bartender/bar owner). I am looking forward to being a part of the tasting panel. 

 
     
   

 

Flori Cademartori

Flori Cademartori is a graphic & fashion designer from Southern California. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where she received her degree in Fashion Design.

For the last 9 years she has been the Co-Owner/CFO of Anenberg, a clothing brand and screenprinting shop hailing from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, which now also has 2 retail locations at local shopping malls.

She has been judging the Olive Oil & Wine Packaging Design Competitions for several years now, and as the youngest of the bunch she is honored to be part of such a prestigious organization.  She is looking forward to her first year as a Spirits Packaging Design Competition judge.