Judge Bios

Download list of Judges

 

Michael Jordan, MS, Wine Competition Honorary Chairman
Margie Ferree Jones, Ph.D., Wine Steward


Michael A. Jordan, MS, CWE, "Sommelier for the People" Veteran restaurateur, chef and farmer, Michael is one of only fifteen in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier and the Certified Wine Educator Diplomas. He is currently Director of Global Key Accounts with Jackson Family Fine Wines. Michael is also the host of the syndicated weekly “What’s Cooking With Wine” Radio Talk Show featuring Wine, Food and Travel. It is broadcast LIVE in several major AM Radio markets across the US. The Show also airs Live on CRN Digital Talk Radio (internet). Before joining the Jackson Family team Michael was VP of Food & Beverage at THE RANCH, Anaheim. Prior to that, he worked nine years as Global Manager of Wine Sales and Standards and Wine Educator for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts® Worldwide. Michael opened Napa Rose, Pinot Provence, Pavilion and Bella Teresa ‐ Four top restaurants in Southern California. Early on Michael worked his way up to executive chef at his family's Matteo's Italian Restaurant ‐ his father Matty's Hollywood celeb hang‐out that opened in 1963. The California Restaurant Writers Association (CRWA), a journalist organization, named Michael “2001 and 2002 Sommelier of the Year,” The STARWINE International Wine Competition Board named Michael “Wine Educator of the Year 2003” and in 2005 Orange Coast Magazine named Michael “General Manager of the Year 2006” and also voted him “Restaurant Professional of the Year 2005.” The Whitefish Food & Wine Summit honored Michael as “International Sommelier of the Year 2008.” Additionally, in 2008 the Southern California Restaurant Writers (SCRW) voted him “2008 General Manager of the Year” and then in "2011 F&B Director of the Year."


Margie Ferree Jones is an Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. She is a certified sommelier and a certified wine educator (CWE). She has been a wine judge at several international wine competitions. Margie is a board member of the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) and is involved in a number of other wine related organizations.


William S. Bloxsom‐Carter is the Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, California. He has been creating extraordinary food and exclusive wine offerings for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion parties for over 27 years. Chef Carter completed intensive studies with the Ritz‐Carlton Hotel Company focusing on their Gold Standards of Hospitality Service to enhance the hospitality experience to all guests attending corporate and charity events at the Playboy Mansion. He initially completed his college studies at Florida Tech. He enhanced his education in hospitality related studies at UC Los Angeles Extension. Additionally, he has successfully completed UC Davis Extension classes in enology studies. Chef Carter achieves his personal sense of purpose through a high standard of integrity, working tirelessly with the next generation of culinarians, giving back to the community, seeking‐out hospitality food service innovations for the guest’s pleasure and synergizing creativity to increase staff morale. Chef Carter strives daily to achieve a “gold standard” of leadership accountability.


Chris Braun was born and raised in California. After playing professional volleyball for three years, he received an MS in Wine and Spirits from ESC in Dijon. Chris then started working in Bordeaux and later moved to the Languedoc region in southern France where he was Managing Director of Ciatti Europe in Montpellier. He received the Chevalier de l’Ordre de Merite Agricole medal for his service to the French wine industry. Chris now runs Advinture, a wine import consultancy, and is based in Southern California.


Bernard Burtschy
is wine columnist in Le Figaro (a French newspaper, every Thursday), the internet site "L'Avis du vin" and in several magazines in the French press (Amateur de Bordeaux, GaultMillau, La Revue du Vin de France) and abroad (Wands in Japan, Feinschmecker Germany). He is also President of the French Wine Press and permanent member of the Grand Jury Européan (the leading European wine tasting group).


Kimberly Charles, marks her 30th anniversary as a marketing communications professional in the wine business in 2014. Her agency in San Francisco was started in 2003 specializing in strategic branding, corporate social responsibility with a focus on launching, reinvigorating and repositioning of brands. She has a particular passion for aligning social causes with businesses and advocates for sustainability in all business practices, as she likes to say, “Green is the new black”.

 

Rene Chazottes originally from Madagascar, after private schooling in France and Switzerland, Rene came to the United States in 1967. Rene has been featured in the New York Times, Wine Country Living and Santé Magazine. He conducts wine and gastronomic tours in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Rene was named “Best Sommelier” in the United States in 1988 and is the only Frenchman outside of Europe to hold the title “maitre Sommelier” and Commandeur” in the International Association of Masters Counsel in French Gastronomies.


Patrick Comiskey
is a freelance wine writer and editor living in Los Angeles with years of wine competition experience. He contributes regularly to the Los Angeles Times Food Section, as well as Bon Appetit Magazine, Zester Daily, and Wine & Spirits.


Mitch Cosentino is known for his innovative and artistic approach to winemaking. He has founded, developed and/or created numerous wineries and brands including his own pureCru Napa Valley Winery where he produces wines by hand in small, individual lots, using the old Burgundian method of punched cap fermentation for all red varietals. Mitch still consults for others including his original namesaké winery. He has an exceptional talent for identifying fruit sources while crafting and designing the final blends. He takes great pride in each and every wine regardless of where the grapes are from and for whom the wines are made.


Jan Cotter is the Vice President of Wine Sales Education for Jackson Family Wines. During her tenure, she has witnessed its growth from eight wineries to over 35 distinct wineries today. Hands‐on always, Jann has worked harvest in California, France, Argentina and Chile. A respected wine judge at the San Diego and Monterey wine competitions, Jann works with celebrity chefs in conjunction with Food & Wine Magazine. Jann is a Certified Advanced Level Sommelier and Society of Wine Educators Certified Wine Educator. When she’s not kicking the dirt in a vineyard, look for a dust trail behind her mountain bike or Harley!


Fred Dame, Master Sommelier brings an impressive blend of experience, expertise and enthusiasm to the world of wine and cuisine. He is the first American to have served as President of The Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide and assists restaurateurs and hoteliers in developing their wine programs in his role as Vice‐President of Prestige Accounts, American Wine & Spirits California. He is currently the President of The Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. He holds Honorary Professorships at Purdue University and The University of South Carolina. He received his MS Diploma in the UK in 1984 becoming the first American to win the prestigious Krug Cup of the British Court of Master Sommeliers. He is also heavily involved in the culinary arts as he is an Honorary Trustee of the American Academy of Chefs and a holder of the Antonin Careme Medal.


Sammie Daniels has extensive experience in the wine and food world. This includes living and working for the past twenty‐eight years at various Tuscan wineries. In Italy she conducts tastings and acts as a private wine tour guide. She has more than 24 years’ employment with Young’s Market NW (Admiralty importers), where she is a wine consultant and liaison to the Italian wine market. She currently divides her year between Tuscany and Northern California.

 

Bhatia Dheeraj, CSW is the Chief Sommelier at The Peninsula Hong Kong, overseeing the wine program for all of the hotel’s restaurants as well as acting Sommelier for Felix Restaurant & American Bar. In 2011, he was named Best Sommelier at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore and in 2013 he was recognized in the top 10 Sommeliers in Hong Kong. Bhatia has also continued to excel in his field by enrolling in various certified wine courses, allowing him to further expand his knowledge.


Gillian Dodd is the Director of Sales and National Accounts for Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners, a unique collection of traditional and contemporary wine brands from some of the world's most coveted wine regions. Gillian has over 25 years’ experience in the wine industry. Her career began with Heublein Spirits (now Diageo) followed by Beaulieu Vineyard, where she had the opportunity to taste with the great Andre Tchelistcheff. Gillian was instrumental to the growth and success of Australia’s famed Rosemount Estate, where she was Vice President of Sales, West, and then went on to create and lead their first national accounts team through the Southcorp merger. As a founding member of Cumulus Wines in 2006 alongside Philip Shaw (original Rosemount Estate Winemaker), Gillian achieved national distribution and growth in quick secession which positioned Cumulus for an attractive acquisition by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners where she works today, especially enjoying her time with Argyle’s famed
winemaker, Rollin Soles. Residing in Southern California, Gillian’s passion for wine sends her globetrotting to various
wine regions around the world, working alongside and being mentored by some of the industries most awarded winemakers.


John Downing developed an interest in wine while attending college in Europe. He worked in the corporate world thereafter and moonlighted in retail wine sales. He began a full‐time career in wine retail in 1996. After 15 years as an import wine buyer at Hi‐Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, Calif., John accepted a postionat K & L Wine Merchants Hollywood where he is currently the Floor Manager. John has an enduring passion for both domestic and imported wines, but is best known for his expertise in Italian wine.


Mike Dunne
is a freelance wine writer who divides his time between Sacramento, California, and San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The retired food editor, wine columnist and restaurant critic of The Sacramento Bee, he continues to contribute a weekly wine column to The Bee. He also writes for other publications and in his spare time tends to his wine blog A Year in Wine (www.ayearinwine.com). He judges at around 12 wine competitions a year, and recently was named one of the two new chief judges for the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.


Traci Dutton of Calistoga, California, is currently the Manager of Public Wine and Beverage Studies for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Working with the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies, a state of the art sensory facility, she oversees the instruction of classes on wine, beer, spirits and other beverages for consumers and professionals.


Gary Eberle, began his forty‐year career in winemaking in the 1970’s. After achieving academic and athletic success at Penn State University and while pursuing his doctorate in zoology at LSU, Eberle met a professor who introduced him to the world of wine and soon changed his life. In 1973, Eberle made his first trip to Napa and entered the UC Davis winemaking doctoral program. Four years later, Eberle was heading his family’s Estrella River Winery. In 1980, he cofounded the Paso Robles Appellation and in 1983 Gary opened the doors to his own Eberle Winery. Today, Eberle handcrafts 30,000 cases of wine each year and consistently remains one of the highest award‐winning wineries in the United States.


Vince Ferragamo is a former Los Angeles Rams Superbowl Quarterback. He owns and operates Touchdown Real Estate, a full service residential sales company. Vince is an active wine enthusiast, sommelier and owner of Tenuta di Ferragamo Winery, which produces a world class Super Tuscan called “Caressa J, named after his daughters.


Don Galleano is the President of The Historic Galleano Winery which makes it a third generation of wine growers in the Cucamonga Valley. Galleano Winery produces Old Vine Zinfandel and world class Ports, Sherries and Angelica.

 

Josh Goldman started his career in food & beverage by bartending while in college. He developed a passion for the industry which led to formal coursework with the Court of Master Sommeliers where he earned the distinction of Advanced Level Sommelier in 2007. He became General Manger at critically acclaimed Bastide under the helm of Chef Walter Manzke, who he would eventually follow downtown to Church & State. At both establishments, they earned back‐to‐back 3‐star ratings from the Los Angeles Times. In 2009, he joined Chef Michael Voltaggio at The Dining Room at the Langham, overhauling the wine program to complement Voltaggio’s innovative menu. In 2011 Chef Voltaggio and Goldman opened Voltaggio’s first restaurant ink., where Josh was General Manager and Beverage Director. The restaurant was awarded the title of “Best New Restaurant in the County” from GQ Magazine. Josh is now partners with acclaimed bartender Julian Cox in Soigné Group a consulting and management company.


Nick Goldschmidt was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Nick began his career in viticulture whilst taking a research position at Lincoln University in 1982. After completing his Bachelor of Science at Canterbury and a diploma in horticulture at Lincoln, he went to Charles Sturt University in Australia to study viticulture. Then after three vintages back in New Zealand he returned to Australia to complete his post graduate in Winemaking. Chile was his next stop and then in 1990 he became the VP winemaker for Simi Winery in California. During his time there he began his own brands; Forefathers, Goldschmidt Vineyards, Boulder Bank, and Pampano. In 2003 Nick became Senior VP winemaker for Allied Domecq where he oversaw winemaking in California, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain. While still working in many countries internationally, in the same role Nick moved over to Beam Wine Estates overseeing all California winemaking. As of March 2008 he went out on his own and now works in four areas; consulting in 4 countries, branded wines, exclusive wine brands, and high tech and new developments for the wine industry. Biodynamic and organic vineyards are a large part of what he does.


John Gorman has 20 years experience in the industry as an importer and online retailer of Southern Hemisphere wine exclusively.


Daryl Groom is the Owner and Winemaker for Groom Wines from Australia. This highly acclaimed Australian Winery focuses on three varietals; Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. In addition to Groom Wines, Daryl is involved in many other wine projects. These are: Colby Red, a wine launched nationally in partnership with Walgreens that raises money for heart research. The wine was inspired by and named after his 13 year old son Colby who recently underwent back to back heart surgeries. You can check out the story through a video at www.colbyred.com. DXG, which is a limited release range of wines from premium wine growing areas of California. SocialGrapes, a newly launched socially driven and revolutionary mobile engagement platform that allows every day wine lovers to share and discover wines with their friends. Daryl's previous experience includes winemaking and operational management at Penfolds, Geyser Peak Winery, and Beam Wine Estates.

 

Joe Hart has owned, and made wine for, Hart Winery in the Temecula Valley since l980. He is a resident of Carlsbad and the tiny eastern Sierra community of Aspendell, near Bishop. He is a professional member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Southern California regional director of Family Winemakers of California, and past president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. He owns a classic Cessna Taildragger, drives a recently restored 1960 Alfa Romeo, and is an avid catch‐and‐release fly fisherman, pursuing, and occasionally catching, the wily trout of California’s eastern Sierra. He has been a wine judge since 1982.


Laely Heron's
unconventional upbringing in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the US may explain the wanderlust which has led to her passion for international wine studies and winemaking. She began at the Institute of Enology in Bordeaux, and worked with wines in the US, Australia, and Scandinavia before starting Heron Wines 19 years ago.


Rob Holder is Director of Beverage and a Certified Sake Professional for JNK Concepts based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He became passionate about wine in 2001 and soon began working as a buyer for various restaurants around the Valley. In 2011 he took a position as the Beverage Director for Roka Akor and subsequently all of the concepts under the JNK umbrella. Holder currently oversees the programs of establishments in Scottsdale, Chicago and San Francisco. Rob has four years of sake and shochu buying experience and earned his Sake Professional Certification in 2012. He anticipates completing his Advanced Certification in 2015 through the Sake Education Council.


Michael Horn is President/CEO of CRN Digital Talk Radio, the nation’s largest radio syndicator across multiple platforms (AM/FM Radio, Cable TV, Internet, Cell phone Aps, I Tunes etc.) . He is also the host of “Whats Cookin Today” a food, wine, travel and entertainment show and “The Whats Cookin On Wine” show, both daily wine shows on heard in over 11 million homes. Michael has reported and covered major wine events around the world including Auction Napa Valley,The Sonoma Showcase Of Wine and Food, Kaanapali Fresh and many more. He currently produces “Brown Bag Wine Tasting” with William Shatner. Follow him on Twitter MikeHornCRN.


Don Huffman is a California native and a 25 year wine industry veteran, entrepreneur, agriculture advocate, winemaker, alternative energy lobbyist, and marketing communications professional. With agency and client‐side marketing expertise, Don has worked with such as brands ‐ Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Delicato Family Vineyards, Paso Robles Vintners and Growers, Mendocino Wine Growers, Miller/Coors, Sodexo/Marriott, Safeway Stores, McDonald's Restaurants and more. An extremely creative, strategic contributor to the marketing/communication process, Don is always mindful of all green oriented issues relating to communications, farming and operations. Don's current responsibilities for Nomacorc include: North American on/off‐premise wine education; developing retail marketing intelligence and strategic planning; initiating pre/post‐consumer sustainability programs; and fostering
relationships with private label and custom‐crush providers. Don lives with his wife and three girls in Napa, California and is a community advocate serving on several boards including: serving as the current board President for the Napa County Office of Education and as a Director on the 25th District Agriculture Association for the State of California.


Stacie Hunt, Certified Sommelier and Co‐founder of SPLASH (www.splashpros.com), producers of Wine, Cuisine & Art exhibitions and video productions/documentaries, television/digital publicity and marketing for wineries and regions. Stacie is NPR's on‐air wine reporter and a blogger for "Good Food" on KCRW‐FM, Los Angeles flagship station. Stacie writes a wine column on the award‐winning MY LA Lifestyle (www.mylalifestyle.com) and National Wine Examiner (www.examiner.com). She is producer of the anniversary documentary for Wine Spectator magazine; Emmy Award winning journalist; Product/brand spokesperson. Stacie is a partner in Du Vin Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood, specializing in the wines of Italy and Latin America; Board Member, North American Sommelier Association (www.nasommelier.com) and NAWR (National Association of Wine Retailers).


Chuck Keagle of Upland, California, is founder, owner, and CEO of Cask & Cleaver restaurants and the Sycamore Inn. Chuck is a former board member of the Collins School of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona, and the California Avocado Commission and the California Restaurant Association. Chuck is an avocado grower and former wine grape grower.

 

Tommy Lam is owner of Bistro Amigo in Singapore and President of Asia Wine Institute. He is a wine educator all over China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore and is affiliated with universities in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. He is organizer of National Sommelier Competitions for Asia Countries (China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia) and organizer of Asia TOP Sommelier Summit, China Wine Revolution Conference and founder of China Sommelier ‐ Wine Challenge (Judges only by China TOP Sommeliers and Master Sommeliers). He is the first Chinese to hold the Bordeaux WineMBA.


Wing Lam is co‐founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco. Wing has done extensive work with charity wine auctions, tastings and wine dinners. He has also judged food competitions and has appeared on the Food Network, ABC Secret Millionaire and was the Southern California Spokesman for Ford the last 2 years.


Adam LaZarre is the proprietor and winemaker for LaZarre Wine Company. He is a veteran winemaker with nearly 20 years of experience behind him. Most recently, he was the mind behind the successful Villa San‐Juliette and Fat Monk line of wines in Paso Robles. Adam is one of the most accoladed winemakers in California, with Best‐of‐Show wins at the most prestigious wine competitions in the world including the L.A. International Wine Competition where he is the only three time winner of this respected wine competition. In 2005, Adam was named “Winemaker of the Year” in the Sacramento Bee and was also named “One of the Top Five Winemakers” in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. Earlier in 2012, Adam was ranked #69 on IntoWine.com’s “100 Most Influential People in the US Wine Industry”. Adam and his wife Angie are completely committed to providing the very best possible wines at any price and will continue to do so until he departs this earth. After all, wine is a gift from God and should be enjoyed responsibly or at least naked…..


Shelby Ledgerwood
, CWE is the owner of Savant Wines ‐ a wine education and consulting company in Southern California. She has worked in the food and wine industries for over 20 years where she regularly conducts wine education seminars for luxury hotels, restaurants and wine distributors. Shelby is a senior instructor in the Wine Education and Management Program at UCLA Extension and a former Academic Instructor of wine at The California School of Culinary Arts (Le Cordon Bleu). Shelby Ledgerwood is a Certified Wine Educator (CWE) with the Society of Wine Educators and wrote her first exams for the Master of Wine in 2008. She holds credentials from numerous wine organizations such as: The Court of Master Sommeliers, The Wine and Spirits Education Trust, The Wine Academy of Spain, L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux and L’Ecole du Vin de Bourgogne.


Christoph Leu, grew up in Switzerland inspired by his mother’s passion for cooking simply‐prepared meals. At 17 years of age, he entered a three‐year culinary apprenticeship program, working in some of the most prestigious, five star luxury hotels and resorts in each of the German, French and Italian parts of Switzerland, learning a full range of European cuisines. His travels brought him to Montreal, Calgary and to the U.S. Leu’s career path with Starwood started in 1998 at the Westin Copley Boston, where he was quickly recognized as a leader in the industry, wining the “Chef of the Year” award by the American Executive Chef Academy as well as the American Culinary Federation’s Boston Chapter. In 2006 Leu’s role expanded to the national level where he now serves as Starwood Hotels & Resorts’, North American Division, Corporate Executive Chef, responsible for providing F&B guidance and support to all nine Starwood hotel lifestyle and luxury brands across Canada and the U.S. His initiatives include the development of new restaurant and bar concepts, training and growth of culinary talent in current food trends, quality enrichment, cost control,
revenue and profit enhancement.


Keith Mabry graduated from the Collins School of Hospitality Management at CSU Cal Poly Pomona. During a wine class, he tasted a wine that changed his life forever, a German Riesling from the Mosel. After completing the course, Keith knew his passion had become wine and he became the teaching assistant for the wine course several times. While finishing his degree he began working at Wally’s, one of Los Angeles’s top retail stores. There he quickly worked up through the ranks of sales people and became the Sales Manager and Spirits Buyer. After a few years, he moved over to Los Angeles Wine Company where he became the General Manager. In 2007, Keith was recruited by K&L Wine Merchants, one of California’s largest independent wine retailers, to help launch their newest location in Hollywood. He came on board as the Sales Manager and ultimately has become the Import Director for the Hollywood location.


Philip Scott MacConnell has been haunted by wine since he visited Italian Swiss Colony at the age of eight. He has worked in the trade since 1996. Scott is a trained Archivist and advocates for the Southern California pioneers of the California Wine Industry. He also explores the space between sketch comedy and wine education in a Web Series entitled "One Minute Wino."


Brian Maloney is the winemaker at DeLoach Vineyards. Brian was born and raised on a ranch in the Sonoma Coast. He pursued a degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis and has worked at DeLoach Vineyards since the 2003 harvest and has been the winemaker since 2007.


Monica Marin, was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. Throughout her career, Monica has visited the best wine regions of Italy, Germany, Austria, France, California and Spain, falling in love with the culture, wine and gastronomy in Piemonte, Toscana, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Monica has completed the WSET Diploma/AIWS/French Wine Scholar Instructor/Wine Academy of Spain Educator/WSET Intermediate and Advanced Instructor. Monica and her family now live in California, where she dedicates her professional efforts and time to wine by working at The Wine House (the largest independent retailer in Southern California).

 

Dennis Martin is vice president and winemaker at Fetzer Vineyards. Martin and his winemaking staff are dedicated to working with individual grape growers and are committed to the concept that winemaking is an integrated team effort. Martin is now focused on the Fetzer super premium and Luxury collection and selects the highest quality varietal fruit from vineyards in the finest growing regions of California. One of Fetzer’s major strengths as a winery is the ability to blend consistently, vintage after vintage. Martin has been with Fetzer Vineyards for 29 years.


Patrick Mazeau was born in Washington DC, he is an agricultural engineer specialized in vines. He is one of the coowner of chateau de Costis, a family owned estate in Bordeaux France. With his parents and sister he produces around 800,000 bottles per year. Chateau de Costis is a 120 Hectares wide estate, which produces mostly red Bordeaux wines. The production is sold in France, Belgium, GB, USA (14 states), China. Patrick is in charge of the growing of the vines.

 

Sharron McCarthy is the Vice President of Wine Education for Banfi Vintners, the U.S. leading wine importer and a major producer of premium offerings from Italy. Throughout her career she has conducted food and beverage management courses at the Culinary Inst. Of America, Cal Poly, UNLV, University of Denver, University of Houston, Cornell University, Johnson and Wales and the Smithsonian, among others. She is past President of the Society of Wine Educators and has been associated with the American Inst. Of Wine and Food, American Wine Society, Sommelier Society of America, New York Women’s Culinary Alliance just to name a few. She is also an associate member of the Cornell Hotel Society.

 

Michael McCay, owner/winemaker of McCay Cellars, says he has a simple goal: to make wine with a sense of presence and character that expresses the trueness of the vineyard. He has farmed wine grapes in Lodi for 25 years. He came to Lodi in the early 1980s, planted a vineyard, started making wine in 1994, and launched his own family label McCay Cellars in 2007. Sometimes in life, if we are really, really blessed we get to follow our passion. Wine and everything about it has been a passion of Michael for decades. In the early 1980’s Linda (Michael’s wife) and Michael spent time exploring Northern California Wine Country. Michael tasted, watched and learned everything he could about the art of winemaking. Right from the beginning, he fell in love with a wine which has a tremendous sense of “presence and character”... ZINFANDEL. Zinfandel ha.

 

Tim McDonald of Napa, California is a thirty year veteran in the wine industry and founded Wine Spoken Here, a reputation engineering company for wine brands, including Wine Sisterhood, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Robert Oatley, Light Horse, Vistalba, Argento, Tomero, Wild Oats, Clos du Val, Taltarni, DGB Wines, Giesen Vineyards, Chakras, Luna Nuda, DAOU Winery and Reata Winery. He is the Director of Judging for the San Francisco International Wine Competition and has judged at dozens of international wine competitions. He enjoys life with his beautiful wife Lisa and 20 year old son Angus who all love food, friends and family.

 

Ann Miller is the Marketing Manager at St. James Winery in Missouri, the state's largest winery. A graduate of the University of California Davis, Miller began in the wine industry working in a vineyard. She has been an active force in the Missouri wine industry for more than 10 years. She most recently worked as an independent consultant for the 100 member Missouri Wine & Grape Board, which promotes Missouri wines and the unique varietals grown there. Miller’s experience also extends to the field of wine judging, where she has served as a wine judge for national and international wine competitions including the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition, the New York Wine and Food Classic, and the Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition.

 

Sally Mohr, MS, earned the title of Master Sommelier in 1995 and was the second woman in the United States to achieve that distinction. She enjoys passing the wonders of the wine world to aspiring Master Sommeliers through the courses sponsored by the Court of Master Sommeliers. She began her wine career as an employee at The Boulder Wine Merchant in 1983 and became a co‐owner of this prestigious specialty retail wine shop in 1986. In August of 2010, The Boulder Wine Merchant was sold allowing Sally to pursue other avenues in the beverage trade. In 2009, Sally passed the Advanced Saké Specialist course in Japan. She is a board member of the Saké Education Council, whose mission is to spread the word of the joys of Saké. Kanpai! She continues to put her palate to the test by judging in various wine competitions. Besides wine, Sally enjoys spending time with her husband and two grown children in the wonderful outdoors of Colorado and the tropical beaches of the Caribbean. Her travels have taken her to many wine regions around the world and her long‐term goal is to feel the dirt between her toes in all of them.

 

Robert Mott of La Quinta, California, is owner and wine buyer for The Wine Bar in Old Town La Quinta. After a 25 year career as an executive in the technology sector, he has dedicated his energies to running a top tier wine bar, restaurant and premium wine retail establishment. Robert is a dedicated wine taster, constantly looking for the best new wines for his clientele, regularly tasting over 2,000 wines annually and traveling the west coast looking for small production wineries producing top quality hand crafted wines. He is equally dedicated to wine education, bringing a series of fun and informative classes to his customers as well as broadcasting a weekly wine focused radio show.


Mark A. Newman of Studio City, California has been Chairman and CEO of three wine & spirits industry companies, and has spent a lifetime in the industry. Mark is currently consulting for wineries in the south of France, Bordeaux, Italy, Spain and California. In his over 35 years in the wine industry he has owned the largest per unit wine & spirits retail chain in Arizona, held key California winery positions as well as senior level executive positions in the wine distributing business. Mark has also produced wine in both California and France. He received his education at the University of Southern California in Business (Marketing & Finance) and is a member of several wine industry trade groups. Mark was inducted into the prestigious Commanderie de Bontemps du Medoc et Graves recognizing his years of dedication to the wine industry, and is Maitre Consiels of Gastronomy, an honor bestowed by the French Minister of Agriculture, and he has previously had his palate insured for one million dollars.


Robbi Jo Oliver is the Wine Buyer and The Director of Training for Mastro’s Restaurants. She has worked with Mastro’s for over 14 years.


Deborah Parker Wong, AIWS is Northern California editor for The Tasting Panel magazine and contributing editor to SOMM Journal where she reports on the global wine and spirits industries with an emphasis on domestic trends. In addition, Deborah contributes frequently to Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine and writes a lively consumer drinks column for Examiner.com. As a sensory consultant, Deborah works with start‐up companies in the beverage and technology industries and serves as a professional wine judge for several regional, national and international wine competitions each year. She holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Diploma and is a certified WSET educator.


Steven G. Poe, MS of Southern California got his start in wine working at Napa Rose Restaurant, Disneyland Resort, as a
server before becoming a wine captain and assistant wine educator. He attainted the distinguished Master Sommelier Diploma in 2008 and is currently serving as Beverage Director at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach.

 

Shawn Richcreek is passionate about people, passionate about training and most importantly, he is passionate about providing amazing customer experiences! He is currently the Director of Training and Development for BevMo! retail stores, where he is responsible for the on‐boarding and product knowledge education for all 3000‐plus BevMo! Associates nationwide. Prior to joining BevMo!, Shawn was the Southern California wine buyer for Cost Plus World Market and has worked on the retail side of the Wine and Spirits business in Southern California for more than 20 years. Shawn is a Certified Sommelier and a Certified Specialist of Spirits.


Leslie Sbrocco is the author of Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine and The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide. She is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers from the San Francisco Chronicle to Redbook, Good Housekeeping, O! The Oprah Magazine, Coastal Living, and other publications. She is the host of PBS television's "Check Please!" for which she has won an Emmy and James Beard Award and appears on television and radio programs around the country including the Today Show. Leslie speaks nationally at trade, consumer, and corporate events and is a wine consultant for Kimpton Hotels and Virgin America Airlines.


Andrew Schweiger gained a passion for winemaking early in life being surrounded by vineyards on the family property on Spring Mountain, high above St. Helena. He worked in a variety of capacities at local wineries and started his formal training in winemaking at the University of California, Davis. Andrew expanded his winemaking bag of tricks at various wineries, including Joseph Phelps, Trefethen Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean and Cain Cellars. In 1994, Schweiger Vineyards began wine production and Andrew was able to oversee the winemaking operations and in 1999 Schweiger Vineyards chose to stop selling fruit to other wineries and Andrew took the leap to Schweiger Vineyards full time. He resides in St. Helena with his wife Paula and two children, Jerry and Megan.


Nelson Siu is a renowned creative professional and entrepreneur from Hong Kong with over fifteen years of advertising and publishing experience. In 2009, he entered the wine industry where he started WINE.Luxe in Hong Kong and Macau. Nelson is now the Editor‐in‐Chief of WINE.Luxe Hong Kong and China Edition, and he became one of the most influential Wine Editors in Greater China.


Howard Soon was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has 33 years experience in the British Columbia Wine Industry, including the past 23 years as Senior Winemaker for Sandhill Wines /Calona Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Also, Howard is a Certified Wine Educator and teaches at Okanagan College. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the WineGen Research Project under Genome Canada. Recently Howard was inducted into the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservice Association (BCRFA) Hall of Fame as a Friend of the Industry.


Mark Tarbell is the owner of Tarbell’s in Phoenix (a 16 year recipient of Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence") and coowner
of The Oven in Lakewood Colorado. He earned his culinary degree at La Varenne Ecole Des Cuisine and studied wine at l'Academie du Vin. Nominated "Best Chef ‐ Southwest" by the James Beard Foundation, Mark and his restaurants have earned more than fifty awards in the past 17 years. He serves on many advisory councils and boards, from the Arizona Department of Education to the Phoenix Theatre. He has appeared on “Good Morning America”, the “Today Show”, and several Food Network programs, including his triumphant "Battle Apple" against Iron Chef Cat Cora on "Iron Chef America" in 2007. Mark is the weekly wine columnist for The Arizona Republic and has been published in numerous magazines including Wine & Spirits and Food Arts.


Chef David Teig’s cooking career began at an upstate New York Buddhist ashram, giving him an early appreciation for fresh products and organic foods before it became mainstream. Further experiences lead him to France, working at the Michelin three‐star, Maison de Bricourt, followed by a number of private and hotel restaurants, throughout Europe and United States. Prior to settling at the Sheraton Fairplex, he traveled for Starwood Hotels, leading hotel openings and providing operational support. At McKinley’s Grill, the focus is on fresh market cuisine, using local and sustainable food sources. The menu revolves around seasonality and the Fairplex Fairview Farms, where the hotel organically grows produce ranging from stone fruits to citrus to herbs and vegetables.


Hugh Thacher founded The San Francisco Wine Exchange in 1975, the oldest US based, independent wine marketing company.

Andrea Francesco Torelli‐Lesky is an Italian wine expert. He is consulting wine import director for several independent U.S. importers. He is a wine educator and proprietor of Deluca Trattoria & Wine Bar in El Segundo, California and partner at Roxbury Market in Beverly Hills.


Jim Trezise has been President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation since its creation in 1985. He is also President of the International Riesling Foundation, a Board member of four national organizations, and a judge in many competitions.


Andrew Turner is the National Sales/Brand Manager for Clos Pepe Estate in the Santa Rita Hills. He is a Certified Sommelier and previously was the sommelier at Michael’s Restaurant for 7 years.


Toshio Ueno is a Master Sake Sommelier, Shochu Advisor and 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 is 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. He is executive instructor at Sake School of America.


Spreti Valente is the Wine Buyer for Anne’s Boutique Wines in Costa Mesa, California. Spreti has been immersed in the world of wine since her study abroad college days in both South America and France. As a wine buyer, Spreti consults with winemakers, importers, and winery owners to sample hundreds of wines each month. From these wines, a limited few ‐ the best wines of small producers from all around the world, are chosen to be featured in weekly tastings, included in one of three wine clubs she oversees, and/or offered at the retail boutique. Spreti was first introduced to wine by her Mother, who owned a spirits store in Guatemala City, Guatemala. During her college years, she further immersed herself in the world of wine through studies abroad in South America and France.


Matt Viotto is a 22 year industry veteran. He started out with a small broker in Southern California working with top end producers. Graduated to working as California Manager with Chalone Wine Group, managing the purchase by Diageo for the state. Matt currently is with Talbott Vineyards running Global Sales and Marketing.


Roger Voss
, born in London, has been writing about wine for over 25 years. He is the European Editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine and has been a wine correspondent for many British newspapers. He has written books: Guides to the Wines of the Lorie, Alsace and Rhône, to Port and Sherry, to the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, an indepth guide to the Wines of the Loire, and a full colour illustrated book on French food and wine – Wine and Food of France. Now based in the Bordeaux region of France, he travels widely through Europe and other wine regions of the world, meeting and writing about the fascinating people who make up the world of wine, and tasting their wines.


Paul Wagner formed Balzac Communications & Marketing on April 1, 1991. Current clients include Diageo Chateau and Estates Wine Company, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Consorzio Chianti Classico, Franciacorta, Mendocino Wine Company, and a host of other wine and food specialists. Paul Wagner is an instructor for Napa Valley College's Viticulture and Enology department and the Culinary Institute of America, and contributes to Allexperts.com in the field of wine and food. He is a guest lecturer for Golden Gate University, Grayson College, Sonoma State University, MIB School of Management in Trieste, the University of Dijon, and the OIV program at UC Davis. He has lectured throughout the world on communications, public affairs, wine and wine marketing. With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, he has published a book: Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market by The Wine Appreciation Guild, which won the Gourmand International Award in 2008 for the best wine book for professionals. In 2007 he was awarded Una Vida Dedicada al Vino at the Feria Nacional de Vino in Spain.


Alicia Whitney, SeaLegs Wine Bar founder, brings a high level of experience in the media, marketing and events industry. Prior to starting SeaLegs, she created and planned events for alcohol promotions, media and entertainment, and managed the marketing of venues in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Through her versatile skill sets and exposure to the various food and beverage industries, she was able to transfer that knowledge directly to her own business, creating an instant success. After working professionally in the events and entertainment world, and in the midst of starting a family, Alicia wanted to create something of her own that fulfilled her passions. Combining her professional experience and passion for life, wine and food, she turned to her journal and creativity during her pregnancy, thus the idea for SeaLegs was born. A wine aficionada, Alicia’s hand‐selected wine list takes center stage in making SeaLegs Wine Bar a favorite among local wine lovers. Less than two years after opening, SeaLegs has exceeded $2 million in sales and has gone on to win two Golden Foodie awards including two back to back nominations for Best Wine List in Orange County.
SeaLegs also has been currently titled Best Wine Bar by OC Weekly.


Wilfred Wong, a 30 year‐plus veteran of the wine industry. A retailer at heart, Wilfred is based in San Francisco and is now the Chief Story Teller for wine.com. Wilfred previously worked for Beverages and More! for over 19 years. As a writer, he is currently contributing to Vineyard & Winery Management, Beverage Industry News, Epicurean and Beverage Industry News, and Wines & Vines as a regular columnist. Wilfred resides in San Francisco with his wife, Alice and dog, Cody.

 

Debbie Zachareas is the Managing Partner and Wine Buyer at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco's restored Ferry Building, and at the Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa. Both locations offer and international wine selection with an emphasis on small‐production and sustainably farmed wines. Zachareas hosts weekly wine tastings in her San Francisco wine bar. Great winemakers, importers, and winery owners educate and entertain her clientele by featuring their wines at the bar. Debbie teaches wine classes both at her own business as well the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California. She is a well‐known wine judge, lecturer, sommelier, and guest speaker for a number of wine events throughout the country.


Marvin Zeidler of Los Angeles, California, is President and CFO of Broadway MMM, Inc., and the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, California. He is a general partner of Cora’s, Brentwood Restaurant and Capo Ristorante located in Santa Monica. He was founder and general partner of Citrus Restaurant and was President and CEO of Zeidler & Zeidler Ltd., a chain of men’s clothing stores. He is an active member and past chairman of the Wine & Food Society of Hollywood and serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Cal Poly Pomona, among other organizations.

 

2014 Competition Dates:
May 14-15, 2014