The Palates To Trust
The reputation of a wine competition is often defined by the quality of its judges. At the San Francisco International Wine Competition, our judging panels consist of the most respected, experienced experts in the industry.
Meet our judges:
Anthony Dias Blue
Anthony Dias Blue
President, Blue Lifestyle
Editor-in-Chief, The Tasting Panel Magazine
Anthony Dias Blue is the Executive Director and founder of The Tasting Alliance, parent company of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, and Singapore World Spirits Competition. Mr. Blue is recognized worldwide as a leading food, wine, and lifestyle authority. His work in all media is circulated to more than 30 million consumers each month. His James Beard Award–winning food and wine critiques, The Blue Lifestyle Minute, are broadcast daily on KNX in Los Angeles and on WCBS radio in New York, reaching an audience of more than 200,000 listeners daily. In 2011, he launched a nationally syndicated talk show called “Blue Lifestyle” that currently airs in more than 150 markets across the country. Formerly Wine & Spirits Editor of Bon Appétit, Mr. Blue is owner and Editor-in-Chief of the beverage trade publication, The Tasting Panel Magazine, the highest-circulating beverage trade publication in the country. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The SOMM Journal. In addition, he is a frequent contributor to numerous other publications. Mr. Blue is the author of nine books, including The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks and The Complete Book of Spirits. More about Anthony Dias Blue can be found on his company website www.bluelifestyle.com.
Founder, L’Academie du Vin
Spurrier is perhaps best known for having created the tasting between top Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California and France in May 1976, subsequently referred to as “The Judgement of Paris”. In 1988, he sold his wine business interests in Paris and returned to the UK to become an independent wine consultant. His clients have included Harrods in London and Hediard in Paris, Singapore Airlines and Christie’s for whom he created the Christie’s Wine Course in 1982.
He is the author of eight books on wine of which two: L’Academie du Vin Wine Course and L’Academie du Vin Guide to French Wines have been translated into several languages. Some of the prizes and awards that Steven Spurrier has won include “The Bunch Award” for articles in Decanter in 1996, “Le Prix de Champagne Lanson” in 1997, “Ritz Carlton Millienia Lifetime Achievement Award” in 1999 and “Le Prix Louis Marinier” for writing on Bordeaux in 2000. In 2001 he was awarded “Le Grand Prix de l’Academie Internationale du Vin” (only the third time this award has been given since 1982) and also “The Andre Tchelistcheff Maestro Award” from California.
Brian Baker, CSW
Brian Baker, CSW
General Manager at Mayacamas Vineyards & Winery
Beverage Director, Waterbar Restaurant
Wine Buyer, San Francisco Wine Trading Company
Sarah got a taste of the wine world while living and working as the pastry chef for a privately owned chateau in Southwest France. Her experience with Europe’s rich wine and food culture inspired Sarah to intensify her beverage studies upon returning to the United States. She pursued her interest in wine, becoming a certified sommelier and working in a variety of roles in both the wine and restaurant worlds. Sarah lived her dream by working in New York City. She began as a member of the wine team at the luxury hotel, Mandarin Oriental New York. Later, she made her mark as Beverage Manager of Aquavit. It was at Aquavit that she was part of the management team earning the restaurant its first 2 Michelin stars. After growing up on the east coast Sarah moved to San Francisco to explore the west and further her wine career. During her time in San Francisco, she worked as General Manager and Wine Buyer at Aster, a 1 Michelin starred restaurant and then as opening Bar Manager and Wine Buyer at the cave à manger Verjus. Sarah is continuing her journey as Wine Buyer at the San Francisco Wine Trading Company, a Bay Area landmark since 1976.
President, Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association (TWGGA)
Owner & WInemaker, Messina Hof Winery
Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Head Winemaker at Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Inc. Born into the Texas Wine Industry, Paul grew up working alongside Paul Vincent Bonarrigo and Merrill Bonarrigo, his parents and founders of Messina Hof, gaining knowledge in all aspects of the vineyard, winery, sales and marketing. Paul graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Systems Engineering from The United States Naval Academy and was commissioned as a United States Marine Corps Officer where he served on Active Duty. After two deployments to combat zones in Iraq as well as an overseas assignment in Nigeria, Paul returned to Messina Hof and worked as Operations Manager until becoming the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Winemaker in 2012. Paul received his certificate of Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis, and he has earned the Level 2 Award from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). Paul serves as the President of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) and Chairman of the Legislative Committee. He has served on multiple boards and committees representing Texas Wine throughout the United States, and continues his family legacy of growing and making great Texas Wine.
Wine & Spirits Consultant, Mark Bowery Consulting
In addition to designing and maintaining award-winning beverage programs for fine restaurants, Mark Bowery is a freelance writer, acquires rare spirits for collectors, appraises private cellars, and anchors a four-person panel that makes selections for three of the country’s most respected wine clubs. Armed with 35 years of tasting experience, he is also a judge at several international wine and spirits competitions, and considered an authority on single malt whisky (although his true love is tequila). He served as wine and spirits editor for Millionaire Magazine and as a faculty member at the Brown-Forman Center for Global Wine Education. While stationed in California’s coastal village of Mendocino, Bowery works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area each week and tirelessly travels the world in search of the finest alcoholic beverages.
Director, Marketing Communications, Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA
As part of the marketing team at Treasury Wine Estates, the world’s most celebrated wine company, Jim has particular responsibility for public relations support for notable Treasury wineries Beringer, Chateau St Jean, Sterling, Provenance and Etude, among others. His work in the tourism industry early in his career, where the intersection of food & wine was well underway, led to his interest in wine and a now two-decade old career as consultant for wineries such as Westwood Estate, Wakefield and organizations such as SIP (Sustainability In Practice) and in-house marketing communications director for several notable wine companies, wine organizations and wineries. He began his career as a newspaper reporter and photographer, and continues to contribute to trade and hospitality magazines as a journalist. His assignments have taken him to wine growing regions in France, Italy, Chile and Argentina, as well as throughout California. He has judged regularly at the San Francisco International, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego, Sunset, Las Vegas, Sauvignon Blanc Challenge, Zinfandel Challenge, Grand Harvest, West Coast Wine, International Eastern and Green wine competitions and is a member of the Wine Century Club, whose members have tasted and explored at least 100 distinct varietals (Jim is cresting the 200 mark).
Wine Writer, Decanter & Santa Barbara News
Wine Buyer, Santa Barbara Airport
Michael Cervin is a professional writer focusing on wine, food, and travel. Notable publications include Decanter (London), Fine Wine & Liquor (China), Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, The Tasting Panel, Sommelier Journal, Food & Beverage World, Skywest, Westways and over 80 others. He is the restaurant critic, and contributing travel writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press. As a wine and food judge he has been invited to the Best of Vinho Verde Awards in Portugal, the Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico, the Monterey Wine Competition, the Central Coast Wine Competition, the Paso Robles Winemakers Cook-Off, the El Dorado County Fair Wine Competition and many others.
He is the author of three national travel books including California Wine Country, published by Moon. His blog on all things wine, spirits and beer can be found at www.BoozehoundZ.blogspot.com. To see more of his work visit www.michaelcervin.com. Follow his other blogs: www.Exploracation.blogspot.com, and www.CervinsCentralCoast.blogspot.com
President & CEO, Great Northwest Wine
Eric Degerman is president/CEO for Great Northwest Wine — an award-winning news website that covers the wine industry of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine in 1998 and resigned from the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald in 2012 to launch Great Northwest Wine with Andy Perdue. In 2018, Eric was a contributing writer for Wine Trails: USA & Canada by Lonely Planet. He organizes the Cascadia International Wine Competition, the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, the Washington State Wine Competition, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition and the Idaho Wine Competition. As a wine judge, his résumé includes the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, New Orleans International Wine Competition, Grand Harvest Awards, Long Beach Grand Cru, Riverside International Wine Competition, Northwest Wine Summit, the Oregon Wine Competition, British Columbia Wine Awards, the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards and Savor NW Wine Awards in Cannon Beach, Ore. He lives in Richland, Wash., with his wife, Traci. For more information on Great Northwest Wine, go to: www.GreatNorthwestWine.com
Eduardo A. Dingler
Eduardo A. Dingler
Sake & Shochu Ambassador, Sake Drinker
Eduardo moved to Napa from Mexico in 1999 following his passion for wine. Throughout the years he worked at some of Napa Valley’s iconic restaurants including Tra Vigne and Bistro Don Giovanni. In 2010 he was part of the Morimoto Napa opening team as Beverage Director. In 2011, he assumed the role of Corporate Beverage Director; overseeing existing and new operations for the Morimoto Group. In September 2017 he started a journey in journalism, focused on wine, sake, food and travel. He has also taken on the role of sake and shochu ambassador by consulting for a number of Japanese breweries as well as founding sakedrinker.com an online retail and educational resource on Sake. He has gone through the Court of Master Sommeliers program and he is also a Certified Sake Professional.
Patrick Dodd, CSS, CS, CWE
Patrick Dodd, CSS, CS, CWE
Sr. Director & Corporate Workforce Development, Gallo University
Pat is a native of the state of Illinois, but he moved to California in 1985 to work for the E. & J. Gallo Winery after earning a degree in political science and business from the University of Notre Dame. Pat’s first job with the Winery was in sales, working in Southern California and later the State of Louisiana. He moved to Modesto, CA, in 1987 to take a position in the marketing department. Prior to his current role at Gallo, Pat was responsible for managing numerous brands, culminating in the development and launch of the Winery’s first ever premium wine brand, Gallo of Sonoma; and directing Gallo’s Trade Hospitality program for many years. Pat now oversees all aspects of Gallo University, including Wine and Spirits Education, and Gallo Management/Leadership programs.
For the last 34 years, Pat has studied the science and art of winemaking extensively at Gallo, in wineries and vineyards around the world, and at the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture and Enology. In 2001, he applied for and was accepted as a candidate for the Institute of Masters of Wine credential program (MW). In 2002, Pat tested for and passed both the Society of Wine Educator’s (SWE) prestigious Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exams, becoming one of fewer than 250 CWE’s worldwide. In 2009, Pat passed the SWE’s Certified Specialist in Spirits (CSS) exam; and in 2010 he passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Certified Sommelier (CS) exam.
Partner, Wine Ring by RingIT, Inc.
Wine Director, Blue Plate Oysterette
Brand Ambassador, Bird in Hand Winery & TIKI Wine & Vineyards
Wine Director, Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
Traci Dutton is a sommelier, a wine judge, and the manager of public wine and beverage studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. She joined the CIA in 1998 as beverage manager and sommelier for the college’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Over the course of more than 30 years in the wine world, Ms. Dutton has worked in high-end establishments such as Montrachet, The Striped Bass, and 231 Ellsworth, and has served luminaries as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Bacon, and Chef Paul Bocuse. She has studied and tasted great wines at vineyards around the world, from Portugal and Austria to Argentina and the United States. Her writing on wines and beverages has appeared in Kitchen & Cook, the St. Helena Star, iSanté.com, and many other publications. In 2011, she was named one of the top wine country sommeliers by Tasting Panel magazine.
The Wine Gal & Countess of Cocktails, Wine Country Radio
Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative, and entertaining libation experts. For over 20 years, Ziggy has set and reported trends in all things to imbibe. Her award-winning radio shows are broadcast throughout wine country and stream live on the Internet. She is a dynamic guest speaker and presenter and her credits include American Women in Radio and Television, Gourmet Magazine’s “Gourmet Wine Cellar,” MusExpo, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, YWCA, Cinema Epicuria Film Festival, and Santa Rosa Junior College. She also leads seminars on vodka, tequila, rum, and a variety of spirits. As a wine and spirits educator, Ziggy has developed programs for a diverse range of organizations including Gourmet magazine, Benziger Family, Legrande Hospitality, Relish Culinary School, Beverage Builders, IBM, PepsiCo, KFC Inc., Meritage Alliance, So Co Farm Bureau, Showcase of Wine & Food, and Sinclair Communications. www.ziggythewinegal.com
Editor, Wine Review Online
Wine & Beverage Consultant, Clyde’s Restaurant Group
Owner, ORIETTA LLC Wine. Olive Oil. Chocolate. Honey.
Orietta Gianjorio, native of Rome, expands her expertise to several commodities. She holds a 3rd level Sommelier certificate (Associazione Italiana Sommeliers), an Olive Oil Taster certificate (IOC/EU), and she is part of the Italian Registry of Olive Oil Experts. Orietta is one of only two people in America to hold a certificate as an Expert in Honey Sensory Analysis, and she is part of the Italian Registry of Honey Sensory Experts. Orietta also holds a 2nd level certificate as a Qualified Chocolate Taster (International Institute Chocolier).
Orietta is the owner of ORIETTA LLC, a consulting company on sensory evaluation and descriptive analysis to the wine, olive oil, chocolate and honey industries. She works mainly on research for quality standards and labeling systems and for consumer outreach. Some of her clients are: the California Olive Oil Council, University of California (Davis), The Honey and Pollination Center (Robert Mondavi Institute), Mars Chocolate, the California State Fair Olive Oil Competition and Wine and Olive Oil Educational Center, The Italian Trade Commission and several wineries in the Napa area.
She is also the author of A Guide to Olive Oil and Olive Oil Tasting and three children’s books about olive oil and sensory evaluation, Coratina, Come Visit The Teeny Tiny Town of Taste and Brainy Boo (to be released in the summer of 2019).
Orietta has judged in national and international wine, olive oil, honey, chocolate and cheese competitions including the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, The California State Fair Wine Competition; the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, Biol International Olive Oil Competition (Puglia, Italy), Sol D’Oro (Verona, Italy), The California State Fair Cheese Competition, The Guittard Chocolate and California State Fair Chocolate Competition, and the Good Food Award.
Wine Columnist, The Vine Guy
Scott Greenberg, also known as “The Vine Guy”, is the host of the “Wine of the Week” show on WTOP radio in Washington, DC. For the last ten years, his weekly radio segment reaches over 750,000 listeners every Friday evening, covering interesting wine related topics and wine reviews in a down to earth, easy-going style.
In addition, Scott has recently launched “The Vine Guy” podcast, a weekly show on Podcast One where he delves into the world of wine with winemakers, wine producers, wine professionals and wine lovers. In each episode, Scott samples a few wines with his guests and shares his opinions and insights about which ones he thinks are worthwhile.
Scott started his career in wine journalism as the syndicated wine columnist for the Washington, DC Examiner newspaper 19 years ago where, for over ten years, Scott’s articles appeared weekly in over 260,000 copies of the paper throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Scott is involved in several wine writer associations and wine tasting groups. He is also a frequently sought after wine lecturer and guest speaker. He has taught a course on North American Wineries for the Smithsonian Associates program in Washington, DC, and has hosted wine tasting classes for numerous charitable organizations. Scott has earned two notable wine qualifications, including To Kalon Vineyard Specialist and Italian Wine Scholar. He has written for Tasting Panel Magazine and participates as a wine judge in several wine competitions each year, including the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.
While Scott is an avid collector, his greatest joy is discovering unknown wine gems for his readers and listeners. Scott and his wife, Cindy have three boys, a dog, and too many bottles of wine. They reside in Potomac, MD.
Wine Consultant, The Gates Country Lodge
Jim comes from a family that is rich in wine making history, his grandfather, father and brother were all winemakers, and his other brother has been involved in the wine trade in France for the last 25 years. After studying winemaking and viticulture at the Eastern Institute of Technology in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay, Jim has worked vintages in France, Australia, New Zealand and as well spent time working in Christies Fine Wine Department in London. In August 2000, Jim authored a research paper “The effect of the aircraft environment has on the sensory perception of wine” which was published at the 2000 Romeo Bragato Conference in New Zealand.
Having been involved in wine judging for over twenty- five years Jim has been part of the judging teams of every major New Zealand Show, including the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, Bragato Wine Show and the Royal Easter Show Wine Competition. Internationally Jim is a regular judge in the United States, London, Australia, Japan and China. Jim currently holds the position of Senior Judge for New Zealand Winegrowers, Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge, Chairman of Judges for the New World Wine Awards, Victoria Wine Show (Australia), Wine Luxe International Wine Competition (Hong Kong), International Aromatics Competition and is a Wine Consultant for Air New Zealand.
Proprietor & Beverage Director, Diablo Restaurant Group LLC
Beverage Director, Mersea Restaurant
Steven Izzo brings over 25 years of experience to his position as Beverage Director & Sommelier at Waterbar, San Francisco’s stunning, Pat Kuleto-designed bayside restaurant. Izzo oversees and maintains an extensive collection of both domestic and international wines, as well as a classically minded cocktail and spirits program. Steven started his career as a bartender near his hometown in 1986 at a small, high-volume seaside restaurant in Guilford, Connecticut and after years in the industry in various locations, finally settled in San Francisco. In addition to his wine and spirits duties at Waterbar, Steven has participated as a member of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Tasting Panel and currently serves as a judge for both the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Izzo has passed The Court of Master Sommelier’s Certified Examination and plans to sit for the Advanced Sommelier Examination later this year.
Proprietor, The Mara Wine Group
A nationally recognized wine judge, winery owner and wine merchant, Charles F. Mara is a force within the wine industry. Having traveled to many of the world’s most prestigious wine regions, he is a well respected and knowledgeable wine guru who brings to the table a love of wine.
Charles is also noticed, not once but twice, in the Guinness Book of World Records. One listing is “most paid for a single bottle of wine” – an 1806 Lafite-Rothschild for $28,000 and the other is “most paid for a bottle case of American wine” – 1979 Opus I for $24,000.
Vice President Marketing & Merchandising, Albertsons Companies
A memorable food and wine experience in 1988 prompted Markert to establish the Fine Wine Program in Santa Monica. In 1991, he was then promoted to store manager of the Belmont Shore Vons, where he moved the Fine Wine Program—including everyday low pricing, expanded wine selection, local specialty foods, community events, in-store chef demonstrations, bottle signings, winemaker dinners at local restaurants, full service staff, a newsletter and home delivery service.
In 1994, Markert was promoted to Fine Wine Sales Manager in Arcadia, rolling out that same program to fifty Southern California stores. In 2002, he was promoted to National Category Director of Wine for Safeway companies and expanded the wine program across the USA, then to VP and General Manager for Alcohol and Tobacco. Markert returned to his roots in southern California in 2015 as the Liquor Sales Manager for the newly combined Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions Division of the Albertsons companies, with the goal to fulfill his vision that he started in 1988 of a full service, wine, spirits and beer store inside grocery stores.
In 2017, Markert took on the additional responsibilities of VP of Marketing/Merchandising of Pavilions. As of 2019, he’s back as the full-time Director of Liquor for Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions.
Director of Sales, Golden State Wine Company
With a career spanning three decades, Drake has experience across a broad spectrum of the wine business. For more than 20 years he was Vice President/General Manager of Diamond Wine Merchants, a fine wine import-distribution company which specialized in French, Spanish, and Italian wines. Particular interests and expertise include Sherry, Burgundy, and Barolo. Drake has a long tenure as a judge at this competition.
Tim McDonald, CSS
Tim McDonald, CSS
President, Wine Spoken Here
Based in the Napa Valley, Tim McDonald founded a full-service marketing communications consulting company in 2006. As a 30 year spirits and wine industry veteran, Tim has held positions with E & J Gallo as Marketing Director Fine Wine Communications, Peak Wines as V.P. of Marketing & Communications, Director of Trade Relations with Trinchero Family Estates, Heublein IDV as Director of Trade & Public Relations, and National Accounts sales assignments with Seagram and Heublein. He started his career bartending in Las Vegas and Honolulu before becoming a spirits salesperson. Tim has experience with all types of media, national accounts, wholesale distributors, restaurant, and retail segments. He has served as a spirits judge in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition from its inception. Tim has also been a wine judge in over 100 wine competitions and was recently named Director of Judging for the San Francisco International Wine Competition. www.wineandspiritsspokenhere.com
Category Management Manager—Beer, Wine, Spirits, & Non-Alcohol Categories, Delaware North
Wine Consultant, Wine World 2000
Jim McMahon travels and lectures widely in the area of food and wine. He was a member of the National Council of the Australian Society of Wine Education representing Queensland and then NSW from 1990-1999, and is sought after for writing/speaking and wine judging engagements worldwide.
McMahon’s book Australian Wines Regions & Rituals was published in 1995 and launched by Len Evans OBE. He came through the Royal Sydney Wine Show stewarding and then progressed as Associated Judge in 1989 judging throughout Australia. For the past 23 years he has been judging wine internationally in New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Switzerland, France, the UK and USA.
As a wine and food consultant in the area of hospitality, Jim advised for the 1995 Papal visit of John Paul II and has lectured aboard Silversea Cruises and many of Cunard/Seabourn Cruise Lines, most notably Cunard’s legendary QE2 from 1990 to 2008. Jim was the wine buyer/consultant for Virgin Australia from 2008 to 2014 as well as consultant to Accor Hotels Australia from 2005 to 2015.
Host, The Wine Show WIST AM 690 Radio
Tim’s weekly radio program is now entering its second decade of broadcasting in New Orleans, The Wine Show with Tim McNally, is on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every Friday at 5 p.m.
Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure. They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major and nationally and internationally well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.
Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist for www.myneworleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his weekly hosting duties on The Wine Show.
Sales & Marketing Manager, Academie du Vin Library
Lilla works with Steven Spurrier and friends on the exciting Académie du vin Library publishing venture. She is a wine judge at the prestigious International Wine Challenge. Lilla was founder of Wines of Hungary UK and worked hard on putting back Hungarian wines on the international wine scene. Beyond wine, Lilla has a wide range of experience, ranging from UK education industry marketing, scientific publishing, through to not for profit organisations and tier one companies. Her love of wine origins from an early stage, as child, helping at their small family vineyard at lake Balaton (Hungary). Lilla has recently won International Wine Challenge Consumer Campaign of the Year 2019 for a successful UK marketing campaign ran to promote the Furmint variety.
Director of Communications, Rodney Strong Wine Estates
Chris is a wine marketing and communications professional with over 20 years of wine business experience. Growing up in Healdsburg, California, he caught the “wine bug” early, working as cellar hand at wineries in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.
Following graduation from U.C. Berkeley and a stint as a sports and politics writer, Chris made his way back to the wine business in sales at Scott Street Portfolio, which imported boutique Southern Hemisphere wines with a focus on terroir. After a year, he was managing all of California, the largest wine market in the United States.
In 2002, Chris joined E. & J. Gallo as public relations project manager at their Healdsburg winery. The next five years would be instrumental in learning fine wine public relations and marketing.In January of 2007, Chris left Gallo for Merryvale Vineyards in the Napa Valley, where he was Director of Marketing and Communications and served on marketing and public relations committees with the Napa Valley Vintners. In 2013 he joined Paul Hobbs Wines to take over marketing and communications for Paul’s various projects domestically and abroad, and in 2016 Chris became the Director of Communications for Rodney Strong Wine Estates. In 2017, Chris also assumed responsibility for Rodney Strong Hospitality, encompassing the Tasting Room, RSV Terrace and Events.
Chris has been judging wine professionally since 2004 at some of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world, including Finger Lakes International, San Francisco Chronicle, Jerry Mead, North of the Gate, Great American International, and Bacchus of Spain.
Principal, LA Restaurant Group
Ogron began his career in the restaurant industry serving as the Wine Director for Rivera Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. He was responsible for co-writing (with M.S. Steven Geddes), overseeing and developing the wine list, which was awarded with a “Two Wine Glass” Wine Spectator Award in 2012. After demonstrating his expertise in this area, Ogron was quickly promoted to Assistant General Manager.
In 2009, Ogron was given the opportunity as a consultant to work as both Wine & Beverage Director and Director of Operations for Fraîche Restaurant in Santa Monica. Brought on to reinvent the restaurant’s rustic French and Italian market-fresh approach, Ogron delivered quality-focused results. Ogron created a Pre-prohibition, seasonal cocktail program and wrote a new wine list consisting of over 300 labels.
After his tenure at Fraiche Restaurant, Ogron spent three years at Fig & Olive in both New York and Los Angeles, working his way up from Floor Manager to Service Director for Fig & Olive Inc. Ogron also lent his expertise to the beverage program and was involved in all upper management beverage-focused decisions, acting as the Corporate Wine Director for the east and west coasts.
In late 2012, Jordan served as General Manager for Bestia DTLA. He moved on from Bestia to become the Director of Food & Beverage at The Standard in Hollywood. His final tenure was with Hakkasan Group, where he was hired to resurrect a failing restaurant (Hakkasan Beverly Hills) and open a new restaurant (Herringbone Santa Monica) almost simultaneously for the company. Ogron left Hakkasan Group in September of 2016 to pursue his dream of becoming an Owner. That dream becomes a reality with Tesse Restaurant and Boutellier Wines.
Sommelier & Wine Director, One Market
Tonya Pitts has been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. Her career started in St. Louis, Missouri as a host during college. Tonya was very fortunate to be surrounded by nurturing food and wine professionals who realized that she had a palate. Tonya’s Fine Art studies relocated her to the Bay Area and a new chapter was born. Tonya’s first job in San Francisco was with Chef Judy Rodgers at Zuni Cafe and Chef Jeremiah Tower at Stars Restaurant as a server. Needless to say, Tonya only paints for fun now. After three years, Tonya was running the wine program for Loretta Keller at Bizou Restaurant. It was with Loretta Keller that Tonya realized her true passion for wine.
Tonya has worked in many notable houses in the Bay Area and has been featured in Wine & Spirits Magazine, Tasting Panel and numerous news and industry publications. She is also a judge for the San Francisco International Wine Competition and is a tasting panelist for Wine and Spirits Magazine. Tonya is currently pursuing wine studies with the Court of Master Sommeliers and continues to educate herself and others on the world of wine.
Estate Director, Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate Napa Valley
Michael discovered the world of wine while studying abroad on the Spanish island of Mallorca. After receiving a degree in hospitality from the University of Wisconsin, he embarked upon a career-long obsession with fine wine and cuisine. Following college, Michael joined Four Seasons Hotels where he spent five years in operations. Additional affiliations have included Auberge Resorts and Peninsula Hotels. He has led openings and operations of venues in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for Chefs José Andrés, Michael Voltaggio, and Chris Cosentino. Most recently Michael oversaw all resort food and beverage operations at Las Alcobas Napa Valley in St. Helena. As a certified sommelier and frequent wine judge for competitions around the United States, Michael has fulfilled his true passion as the Estate Director for the Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate Napa Valley.
Editor & Publisher, The California Grapevine
Editor & Publisher of the California Grapevine wine publication for the past forty-five years, and wine judge for the SFIWC every year since its inception.
Wine Blogger, 1 Wine Dude
Joe holds the Level 2 (Intermediate, with Distinction) and Level 3 (Advanced, with Merit) Certificates in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in England. He’s a member of the U.S.-based Society of Wine Educators, holding their Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) qualification. He also holds the Wine Location Specialist (WLS) qualification from the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) and the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP), and is a member of the Wine Century Club (but that last one’s just for geeky bragging rights, really).
Joe has contributed to and/or been quoted in the L.A. Times, New York Times, CNBC.com, The Washington Post, Mutineer Magazine, Publix® Grape Magazine, Palate Press, Mint.com, Parade, Wines.com, SOMM Journal, The Guardian UK, Table Matters, Wine Nabber, Wine4.Me, Nomad Editions’ Uncorked and Chester County Cuisine & Nightlife. His unique wine mini-reviews (composed in 140 characters or less via twitter) have been used in popular iPhone and PDA wine applications such as Sipp, Hello Vino, TedRec and Pocket Wine Assistant. He’s also been a judge in wine competitions (such as the Critics Challenge International, the San Francisco International, the Lake County Wine Awards, California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, the Wines of Portugal Challenge, and the Argentina Wine Awards), wine writing competitions, and award programs (such as the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award), and authored the freelance wine column Wined Down for Playboy.com.
Independent Wine Educator & Consultant, Sawyer Sommelier Consulting
George Skorka, MS
George Skorka, MS
Wine Consultant, Skorka Wine Consulting
George is a tall, courtly, wine expert with a musical Hungarian accent. He represents family owned high integrity wines and has recently been the GM of Bastide, F&B Director of La Merigot Hotel and Sommelier in Church and State.
Senior Wine Buyer, Wine.com
Wendy Stanford is a Senior Wine Buyer at Wine.com, the top national online retailer of wine in the United States. With over 14 years-experience at Wine.com, her current focus is France, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Oregon. Wendy’s knowledge and understanding of the ever-changing American consumer palate and wine industry complexities is vast. With the Certified Specialist of Wine complete and the WSET Diploma underway, she is dedicated to a lifetime of wine education and enjoyment. Her greatest passion is traveling to wine regions around the world to study the terroir and winemaking practices, to meet the people behind the scenes, and to learn about local cuisine and culture. Wendy is originally from Atlanta, GA, and has lived in San Francisco almost 25 years.
Italian Portfolio Manager, Breakthru Beverage
Earning an MS in Mechanical Engineering could not displace the childhood memories and experiences of working family vineyards and orchards with his grandfather. After establishing himself professionally in manufacturing Mike went back to his passion for food and beverage.
Owned and operated destination restaurant in upstate New York until moving to Las Vegas in Spring of 2005. He became corner stone of wine program at Wynn’s Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare. After three years there, Mike accepted the position of Italian Portfolio Manager at Wirtz Beverage Nevada, now Breakthru Beverage.
Mike is also one of the original judges for the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
Editor, Hugh Johnsons Pocket Wine Book
Freelance Wine & Spirits Writer
Tim Teichgraeber is Bay Area entertainment attorney, wine and spirits writer, and judge. Over the past twenty years, he has contributed over a thousand articles to newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Decanter Magazine, wine trade publications and encyclopedia. He is currently the California editor of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and has a blog called Modern Wine.
Liz Thach MW, Ph.D.
Liz Thach MW, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Wine & Management, Sonoma State University
Dr. Liz Thach, MW (pronounced “tosh”) is the Distinguished Professor of Wine and a Professor of Management at Sonoma State University where she teaches in both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 37 countries. In addition, she is an award-winning author who has published over 130 articles and 8 wine books, including Call of the Vine, Best Practices in Global Wine Tourism and Wine Marketing & Sales. A fifth-generation Californian, Liz finished her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and now lives on Sonoma Mountain where she tends a small hobby vineyard and makes pinot noir wine. She also works as a wine judge in various competitions, and has served on many non-profit wine boards. Liz obtained the distinction of Master of Wine (MW) in May of 2011.
Certified Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier, and Shochu Sommelier, Mutual Trading Co., Inc.
Certified Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier, and Shochu Sommelier. Toshio is the only one in the world to hold Master of Sake (酒匠), Master Sake Sommelier (日本酒学講師), and WSET Sake Educator diploma. Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research. Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Manger of the Business Development Department in marketing Japanese foods, Jizake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Jizake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America. In 2016 he was awarded the industry’s most prestigious title Sake Samurai from Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association.
Dr. Valery Uhl
Dr. Valery Uhl
Wine Educator; Viticulture Manager; Competition Director, North of the Gate Wine Competition
Dr. Uhl is the Chief Judge and Director of the “North of the Gate” Wine Competition for the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California as well as the California Zinfandel Championships in Pittsburg, California. She judges Wines and Spirits at numerous competitions throughout the world: the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the Grand Harvest Awards, the Mid-American Wine Competition, the Japan Wine Challenge, the West Coast Wine Competition, the California State Fair Wine Competition, the Monterey International Wine Competition, the Central Coast Wine Competition, the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition as well as numerous others.
Valery has a degree in Viticulture Management, and graduated Cum Laude from U.C. Davis where she was a Taster for the U.C. Davis Enology and Food Science Departments. Her family owns Gold medal awarded Pinot Noir vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA. She has written papers and given lectures across the nation on the health benefits of wine, including at the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference in Missouri. She also educates the public on wine and food pairings and has been a guest speaker for the Wine Enthusiast’s “Wine & Film” series.
She continues to collect and donate wine for many of her special causes such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) as well as various Breast Cancer events. She and her Eagle Scout son Tristan received the American Cancer Society’s Volunteer of the Year Award for their many years of fund raising and thank all their winery friends for their many donations toward this great cause.
Rachel Van Til, CS
Rachel Van Til, CS
Sommelier, Pappas Brothers Steakhouse
Rachel was raised in northern Michigan on Old Mission Peninsula where she eventually took a job during a year off from college at Bowers Harbor Winery. After graduating, she pursued a career in restaurants as a sommelier, going on to recieve an award as one of Wine and Spirit’s “Best New Sommeliers of 2016” as well as help open Detroit’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year, Mabel Gray. Rachel recently passed her Advanced Sommelier Exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers and currently works for Pappas Bros Steakhouse in Houston.
Kevin M. Vogt, MS
Kevin M. Vogt, MS
Vice President & Partner, Wine Country Connection
Master Sommelier Kevin M. Vogt is Vice President/Partner at Wine Country Connection. Previous to that, Vogt was the Wine Director for Chef Emeril Lagasse in Las Vegas, working with Lagasse’s organization since 1996. In 1999, Mr. Vogt successfully passed the Master Sommelier exam. Since 2000, Kevin has been a judge for Anthony Dias Blue’s San Francisco International Wine Competition, and for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He is a wine educator and public speaker and has taught college level wine courses and lectured aboard Crystal Cruise Lines for their food and wine festival events. Kevin graduated from UNLV with a degree in Hotel Administration in 1993. www.masterywines.com
Sommelier, HoseMaster of Wine™
At a tender age, Ron turned away from a career as a comedy writer to become a sommelier. He served nineteen years as a sommelier in Los Angeles, and was twice named Sommelier of the Year by the California Restaurant Writers Association, primarily because he was unbeatable in the swimsuit competition. He also serves as a professional wine judge in many formerly prestigious competitions. Ron is one of only one HoseMaster of Wine™ in the world, and writes a monthly satirical column for TimAtkin.com, for which he received a Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Award as Best Online Wine Columnist in 2016.
Retailer & Wine Buyer, Weimax Wines & Spirits
A life-long California resident, Gerald Weisl grew up in the wine industry, first visiting cellars when there were perhaps just 17 wineries in the Napa Valley. He’s a prominent Bay Area wine merchant, owning Weimax Wines & Spirits, a “destination” wine shop located in Burlingame. Gerald travels extensively in search of good wine and has been a judge at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition for nearly two decades. Known as “The Fastest Glass in the West,” he’s the youngest member of a monthly Bay Area wine-tasting group that celebrated its 45th anniversary earlier this year. Gerald claims “wine drinkers improve with age.” He’s been judging (and causing chaos) at the San Francisco International Wine Competition since the early 2000s.
Wine Talk Columnist, Creators Syndicate
Robert Whitley is now in his 29th year as a nationally syndicated wine columnist. His weekly “Wine Talk” column is distributed by the Creators Syndicate. Robert also is publisher of the online wine publication Wine Review Online. In addition, Robert operates four international wine competitions, including the venerable San Diego International and the unique Critics Challenge, all based in San Diego.
Chief Storyteller, Wine.com
Wilfred Wong, industry professional for nearly five decades, is the Chief Storyteller for Wine.com, the largest wine e-tailer in the United States, and most recently launching spirits. In his role at Wine.com, he tastes upwards of 5,000 wines annually and posts reviews on www.wine.com of his highest rated wines. He has been active on the judging circuit since the early 1980s. Wong, a native of San Francisco, lives with his wife Alice and their dog Kaili.