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Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2016 Judges
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."
Mark Crisler is an entrepreneur at heart. He founded the Trellis Wine Group in 2005 to help aid other entrepreneurs, focusing on family-owned wineries and artisan spirit companies. He has spent the last 10 years helping them to gain greater exposure to consumers through national restaurant and hotel companies. Ensuring that they are here to stay and can compete with the Big Brands. Previous to Trellis, Mark worked as a hotel director for Constellation Wines, Corporate Accounts manager for Robert Mondavi and Wine Manager for Southern Wine & Spirits. He has spent over 25 years working with wineries and spirit companies bringing them to restaurants & hotels.
Margie Ferree Jones is a 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.
Ian Blackburn is a distinguished alumina of Cal Poly Pomona, Collins School of Hospitality Management (91') and hosts a series of wine credentials including: 2nd Year Master of Wine Student (sitting June 2015)/ Sommelier/JWE and CSW. As Founder/CEO of Wine Cloud Inc, a collection of wine domains; LearnAboutWine.com (Digital Wine Education) and WineLA.com (LA based classes & tastings), Ian drinks wine for a living and plans approx 100 public and private events a year in the Southern California Marketplace representing the efforts of Santa Barbara, Napa, Bordeaux, Argentina and all fine wine regions in-between. Ian also is involved in wine-making and has successfully launched Beekeeper Cellars (BeekeeperCellars.com) - an artisan Zinfandel producer featuring extreme hillside vineyards. Ian's joy is teaching; sharing his passion for wine. The new LearnAboutWine goes live this year with its relaunch as a digital platform and wineLA takes over hosted & entertaining the LA audience which is approximately 80,000 total reach.
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.
Cassandra Brown is a west coast transplant from the Deep South who left her career in corporate sales and finance and took her first wine class in 2006, shortly after her Mother's passing from ALS, at age 61. In 2007, Cassandra began to pursue wine education with the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators, where she achieved both the Certified Sommelier(CS) and the Certified Specialist of Wine(CSW) credentials respectively. Already having a vast business background, she started fresh in a brand new industry at the age of 40, with driving aspiration to learn everything she could about the wine and restaurant industry and work her way up, whatever it took, even starting out as a backwaiter and eventually working her way up to Director of Operations. Continuing her quest for wine knowledge, she also earned the California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) credential with honors from the San Francisco Wine School, and is actively pursuing the Advanced Certificate with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust of London. Cassandra has managed wine and beverage programs for some premier Bay Area establishments, and has worked with 5 different Michelin Star Chefs at different stages of their careers. For the last three years, Cassandra has been employed with Hakkasan Group where she began as a Sommelier, then progressed to the position of Divisional Beverage Manager, where she managed all wine and beverage for the group's Fabric of Social Dining restaurant concepts. She is currently Director of Wine for Hakkasan Restaurants (US), where she oversees the wine programs for numerous Hakkasan restaurant concepts in the US. In her not so spare time, she consults under the guise of the "The Chocolate Grape" where she offers her Sommelier expertise and wine education for the private sector. She is a graduate of Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, and she has judged wine professionally since 2008 and judges several competitions, including the Los Angeles International and the California State Fair.
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).
Greg Burns of Lodi, California is a fifth generation descendent of Jessie’s Grove Vineyards & Winery. Greg is the director and head winemaker for Jessie’s Grove Winery. His family has been in Lodi since the 1850’s and has been growing grapes in the Lodi area since the 1880’s. He continues that legacy today, having returned to manage his family vineyards in 1994. With 280 acres of grapes in full production his collection for Jessie’s Grove Winery has been carefully hand selected. Where he is fifth generation grower, he is a first generation winemaker and has been actively making wine for the last 21 years. As Greg puts it, “Lodi’s rich history and recognition as an AVA producing high quality grapes gives our region’s growers and winemakers an incredible opportunity to define our uniqueness.”
Kimberly Charles, has over 30 years of marketing consulting under her belt. Her agency Charles Communications 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. Follow the company and clients @CharlesComm.
Paul Coker is the lead sommelier at Stonehill Tavern, the Forbes Four-Star Michael Mina restaurant at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. Coker has an Advanced Sommelier certificate, and oversees a wine selection of more than 700 bottles with a focus on boutique producers in the California wine regions. Prior to becoming a sommelier, Coker spent seven years as a cook and leverages his culinary background to create wine pairings on a molecular level. His fresh, fun approach to wine is easily accessible to aficionados and novices alike. Coker is engrained in the Orange County community having worked at several local restaurants. In his free time, Coker enjoys playing hockey, mountain biking and reading. “Sometimes people make too big a deal of it. We want wine to be fun,” said Paul. “My goal is for people to try something new, shift their paradigm a little, but ultimately have a great night enjoying delicious food and wine.”
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 several other wineries, including a couple of new projects. 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.
Joy Cushing is an Advanced Sommelier passionately working towards her Master Sommelier exam. She has worked at the Disney Resort in Anaheim for nearly 15 years. She has worked as a General Manager & Wine-Education Manager for the Napa Rose and Carthay Circle Restaurant. Currently she is with Patina Restaurants with Nick & Stef's.
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 25 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.
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, which was her first venture into the wine business. 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. In 2005, Gillian went on to become a founding member of Cumulus Wines, alongside Philip Shaw (original Rosemount Estate Winemaker). Soon after, Cumulus was acquired by Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners, where she is currently enjoying her tenth year with the company, and twenty fifth year in the business.
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, Mike continues to contribute a weekly wine column to The Bee, among other stories. In addition to judging at a dozen or so wine competitions annually he's been a judge of fellowship candidates for the Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium for the past decade and a judge for the Wine Blogger Awards in recent years. He recently completed a two-year stint as one of two chief judges for the California State Fair commercial and home wine competitions.
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 co-founded 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.
Dan Fredman worked for 20 years balancing between the not-necessarily-unrelated worlds of wine retail (Kermit Lynch, Grateful Palate, Wine House) and the indie side of the music business (IRS Records, Restless/Enigma). Dan Fredman has spent the past decade working in Wine PR. His approach to niche marketing has led him to represent boutique/artisanal wine clients in Austria, Australia, California and the Willamette Valley, in addition to his work with organizations such as IPOB, Hospice du Rhône, World of Pinot Noir. He lives in the new Malibu Coast AVA.
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.
Orietta Gianjorio is a certified sommelier, an olive oil, chocolate and honey taster. She collaborates with the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel, California Olive Oil Council, the Honey and Pollination Center and Mars Chocolate Taste Panel. Orietta was born and raised in Rome, and now resides in California. Orietta is the Delegate in Sacramento for the Italian Academy of Cuisine. She is the author of A guide to Olive Oil and Olive Oil Tasting and two children’s books about olive oil and tasting, Coratina and Come Visit The Teeny Tiny Town of Taste. Orietta has judged in different wine and olive oil competitions including the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and BIOL (Puglia, Italy). She has written, produced and hosted several TV shows in Italy and America and is a regular guest on many TV stations as a food and wine taster and expert.
Nick Goldschmidt was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Nick found his way to viticulture through a slightly tortuous route. After completing his Bachelor of Science at Canterbury he ended up in a research position at Lincoln University in 1982. After a year of working in Organics, plant breeding and in the small vineyard, Nick proceeded to take the Diploma in Horticulture at Lincoln. From there he went to Charles Stuart University in Australia to study viticulture. Then, after three vintages back in New Zealand, he returned to Australia to complete his post graduate degree in Winemaking. Chile was his next stop and then in 1990 became the VP/ Winemaker for the Simi Winery in California. During his time there he also developed his own brands: Forefathers and Goldschmidt Vineyard. During his time at Simi the winery was owned by LVMH where he helped with Cloudy Bay, Terrazas and Ruffino and then it was purchased by Constellation in 1999. In 2003 Nick became Senior VP / Winemaker for Allied-Domecq where he managed winemaking in California brands such as Clos du Bois, Atlas Peak, William Hill, Buena Vista and Gary Farrell to name a few, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain. In 2006 AD was sold to Jim Beam and Nick continued on overseeing all California winemaking but now also including Geyser Peak and Wild Horse. Starting in 2008 Nick went full time on his own. Making his own single vineyard wines and continuing to consult for 16 wineries in 6 countries. He also continues his fascination with new technology and Biodynamics.
John Gorman has 20 years experience in the industry as an importer and online retailer of Southern Hemisphere wine exclusively.
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 22 years ago. Laely has made wine in France, Spain, and Napa. Last year was busy-she launched a new Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon called LAELY, and realized a dream when she became the proud owner of 2 small vineyards; one in Chateau-Neuf de Pape, and the other in Gigondas. These wines will be available in 2017.
Rob Holder is Director of Beverage and Brand Development for JNK Concepts, a restaurant group based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He discovered his passion for wine fifteen years ago and translated that to work as a wine buyer for valley restaurants. In 2011 he joined Roka Akor as Beverage Director. He quickly broadened his scope to manage all of the concepts under the JNK umbrella, including establishments in Scottsdale, Chicago and San Francisco. His work with JNK led Rob into the world of sake and shochu, inspiring the Sake Professional Certification he earned in 2012. He has since accumulated four years of sake and shochu buying experience.
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, Automobile 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 syndicated radio and 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. Facebook.com/MikeHornCRN.
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).
Linda Noel Kawabata is a certified Sake Specialist holding a Level II certificate from The Sake Education Council, Tokyo, Japan. She is fluent in both the language and customs of Japan, having owned and operated a business there for more than 25 years. Linda is President of Ai Sake Solutions a company that explores marketing potential and provides representation to Japanese sake brewers; as well as educational courses, restaurant consultation and sake presentations for individuals, and corporations in the United States. She has planned sake dinners for award winning chefs across America. Linda makes Sake understandable and enjoyable for the western chef, restaurateur, wine specialist and consumer.
“My goal is to slide open the paper doors and welcome everyone to the world of sake enjoyment.”
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.
Wesley Kollar's professional journey began as a student at Sonoma State University, earning extra money working in his first job in the wine industry. He subsequently worked with over a dozen wineries throughout Northern and Central California where he gained experience with vineyard management and laboratory analysis. This foundation led to tasting room experience, working in Barrel Rooms, and hands-on experience making wine. He has held almost every position possible in his 20 years in the wine industry, where he now enjoys a 360 degree viewpoint of the industry, with knowledge of wines from vineyard to table and all points in between. He has traveled to wine regions in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and North America to sample wines and work one-on-one with vineyards in vineyard design and consulting. He has hosted hundreds of Wine Events throughout California, specializing in Wine Pairing Dinners. Currently, he works in wine sales, distribution and brokering.
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 Director of Winemaking for The Wine Hooligans based out of Santa Rosa, California. He produces and/or supervises the production of a number of nationally distributed brands such as Cycles-Gladiator. He is also the proprietor and winemaker for LaZarre Wine Company, an artisan wine company specializing in small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to name a few. He is a veteran winemaker with over two decades of experience behind him. 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.
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."
Michael Madrigale is Head Sommelier of Boulud Sud as well as Wine Buyer for Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud and Épicerie Boulud. Michael is well respected in the wine industry, and has been named by both Food & Wine Magazine and Wine Enthusiast as “Top Sommelier of The Year”. He is also the U.S. Ambassador for Planet Bordeaux, which represents Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs.
Monica Marin, was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. Throughout her career, Monica has visited the best wine regions of Italy, Germany, Chile, France, California and Spain, falling in love with the culture, wine and gastronomy in Piemonte, Toscana, Bordeaux, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Monica has completed the WSET Diploma/AIWS/French Wine Scholar Instructor/Wine Academy of Spain Educator/WSET Intermediate , Advanced and Diploma Instructor. She is currently a Master Of Wine student. 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 family-owned retailer in Southern California).
Peter Marks, MW, is the Vice President of Education for Constellation Wines in St. Helena, California. Before joining Constellation, Peter was the Senior Vice President of Wine for COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa, CA. Peter has also been the Chief Wine Merchant at Wine.com, a wine Internet retailer, and Director of Wine for Draeger's Supermarkets located in San Mateo, Menlo Park, and Los Altos, California. Peter is one of 35 members of the Institute of Masters of Wine residing in America, and the first American to receive the Madame Bollinger Foundation Award awarded each year to the MW candidate with the highest blind tasting score. Peter also consults for restaurants and private clients, and teaches wine classes through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. He is the Education Coordinator for the Institute of Masters of Wine tasting exam in the United States, is on the Wine Education Committee of the Napa Valley Vintners, judges at many international wine competitions and is a member of the Society of Wine Educators.
Dennis Martin, now retired, was most recently vice president and winemaker at Fetzer Vineyards. Martin and his winemaking staff were dedicated to working with individual grape growers and were committed to the concept that winemaking is an integrated team effort. Martin, during his tenure finished his career focused on the Fetzer super premium and Luxury collection and selected the highest quality varietal fruit from vineyards in the finest growing
regions of California. One of Fetzer’s major strengths as a winery was the ability to blend consistently, vintage after vintage. Martin had been with Fetzer Vineyards for 31 years.
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 pr & marketing. The brands represented include, Clo Pegase, Wine Sisterhood, Deep Purple, Middle Sister, Girl and the Dragon, Purple Cowboy, Wild Oats, Our Daily Red, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Robert Oatley Vineyards, Light Horse, Niner, Chronic Cellars, Tooth & Nail Force of Nature wines, DGB Wines, Giesen Estates, Chakras, Luna Nuda, Woodhouse Winery, Whiplash and Reata Wines and others. He is the Director of Judging for the San Francisco International Wine Competition and has served as a judge at dozens of international wine competitions. He enjoys life with his beautiful wife Lisa and 21 year old son Angus who all love food, friends and family.
Jon C. McPherson is the Director of Winemaking at South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa, in Temecula, California, “The oldest winemaking frontier in California that isn’t yet on any map.” He has over thirty years of winemaking experience, starting with his tenure at Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, Texas. He moved to California in 1985 to pursue sparkling wine production at Culbertson Winery, and later Thornton Winery.
Harry McWatters has been a driving force in the development of the British Columbia’s wine industry for 40 years. He is founder and former President of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and See Ya Later Ranch and is President of SunDial Vineyard, Okanagan Wine Academy, and the Vintage Consulting Group Inc. Harry is instrumental in the founding of VQA Canada, a trade association that spearheaded the development of national wine standards for Canadian vintners. He lives in the town of Summerland, British Columbia in the heart of the Okanagan Valley.
Julien Miquel AIWS is a French wine writer, wine blogger, winemaker, and founder of Social Vignerons. One year after its creation, Julien’s website SocialVignerons.om was voted 2015 Best New Wine Blog by the Wine Bloggers Conference Awards. Qualified winemaker from the Bordeaux Faculté d’Oenologie, Julien spent several years making fine wine around the world in France, Spain, Italy, California, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2009, he decided to offer his wine expertise to the online wine community developping the content of the world leading website Wine-Searcher.com. Since 2014, Julien writes and reviews wines for his own venture at Social Vignerons as well as in various online publications.
Eiji Mori is the General Manager of Katana Restaurant in West Hollywood California. Katana is one of the restaurants in the Innovative Dining Group which also includes Sushi Roku, Boa Steakhouse, Delphine, Soleto and the newest restaurant RivaBella. Eiji is originally from Gifu in Japan where he was surrounded by Sake brewing culture. He came to the U.S. when he was 20 years old unable to speak any English but with a passion for the restaurant business. He started with IDG practically at the beginning of the company and as the company has grown so has Eiji’s career progressed. Not only is Eiji General Manager of one of IDG’s most successful restaurants he is also Sake Sommelier for all of the restaurants in the group. He is responsible for selecting the company’s extensive sake list and educating all of the new members of staff on the rich cultural history of sake as well as regular tastings and seminars.
Ann Miller is the Marketing Manager at St. James Winery in Missouri a top producer of sweet, fruit and regional varietal wines in the Midwest. Ann has served as a wine judge for several 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 Competition.
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 15 years.
Michael Ploetz is the Director of Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Beverly Hills in Los Angeles. A certified sommelier, he oversees all food and beverage operations at The Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond property that includes the iconic Belvedere Restaurant. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin he began his career with Four Seasons Hotels, holding positions at Four Seasons Chicago and Four Seasons Jackson Hole. In 2008 Michael began an extended tenure with José Andrés’ Think Food Group. He held several posts with the company including Tres, The Bazaar at the SLS, and finally as opening General Manager of Jaleo and é at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Michael has also worked for Auberge Resorts and most recently served as Corporate Director of Operations for celebrity Chef Michael Voltaggio.
Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon, is an award-winning wine writer whose blog annually ranks among the top 25 wine sites on the Internet. He is the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement and an adjunct instructor at El Centro College in Dallas. Siegel's current book is “The Wine Curmudgeon's Guide to Cheap Wine.” He lives in Dallas.
Mark Tarbell earned his cooking credentials in Paris and has had two inductions to The Arizona Hall of Culinary Fame and a nomination for “Best Chef – Southwest” by the James Beard Foundation. He and his restaurants have earned more than 50 awards. Mark was the only winner on the 5th season of "Iron Chef America" and has appeared on dozens of other programs. He has been the weekly wine columnist for the Arizona Republic since 2004.
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.
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 Sta Rita Hills. He is a Certified Sommelier and previously was the sommelier at Michael’s Restaurant for 7 years.
Spreti Valente, Certified Sommelier, is the senior wine buyer and sommelier for Anne’s Boutique Wines in Costa Mesa, California. As wine buyer, Spreti meets with winemakers, importers and winery owners to sample hundreds of wines each month. From these wines, a limited few – the best of small producers from 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. Additionally, Spreti consults with aspiring restaurateurs and event planners, and participates as a speaker, panelist and event planner for various wine events, including seminars on wine related topics such as Food and Wine Pairings, Introduction to Wine Tasting and Regional Wine presentations. Spreti serves as a wine judge for several prestigious wine and spirits competitions.
Jeannie Villarreal-Bissell has specialized in Food & Beverage at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts for nearly 30 years. She recently took on a new role as the Club 33® Membership Experience Manager. Her past roles include, Food & Beverage Concept & Development Beverage Manager and Club 33 General Manager. She also assisted with the opening of the Napa Rose Restaurant alongside Michael Jordan, MS. She successfully completed the Level-1 Introductory Sommelier program, as well as the Cicerone Certified Beer Server program. She has an enormous amount of passion for the Food & Beverage industry at work and in her personal life. During her free time, she enjoys cooking and gardening. Jeannie’s garden is filled with herb plants, grape vines and fruit trees.
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.
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, Caymus, Wente, 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 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. With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, he hosts a radio show and podcast: “Bottle Talk with Rick & Paul” Tuesday at 11 a.m. Pacific time at www.rickandpaulwine.com. Also on KVON AM 1440, in Napa, and on i-tunes.
Brian Weitzman of Foster City, California, is currently the Wine Sourcing Manager for MGM Resorts International. His prior roles include Group Wine Director for PTT Family (based in Jakarta), Director of Wine for MGM Grand (Las Vegas) as well sommelier positions within MGM Grand and Wynn Las Vegas. He is a Certified Sommelier and Certified Sake Professional.
Wilfred Wong, Chief Storyteller for Wine.com is a 40 year-plus veteran of the wine industry. In his role at Wine.com, Wilfred concentrates his efforts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). He is an extreme researcher and a taster of wines and employs his photography skills in his role. As a wine judge, Wilfred has participated domestically (Los Angeles International, San Francisco International, Sonoma County Harvest Fair and many others) and internationally (Spain, France, New Zealand and Australia). He joined Wine.com on March 31, 2014. Wilfred lives in San Francisco with his wife, Alice and dog, Cody.
Marvin Zeidler of Los Angeles, California, is a partner and he CFO of FOODCO in Santa Monica, California, and the general partner of Cora’s, Brentwood Restaurant, Cafe Brentwood, and Capo Ristorante. 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. He is also the sponsor and adviser to Zeidler Cafe at the Skirbal Cultural Center.