2020 CCWC Judges

Chief Judge Tim McDonald CSW CSS – President of Wine and Spirits Spoken Here20150629_bio_tim-mcdonald-150x150

Tim has over 30 years of proven success in the wine industry with positions in public relations, trade relations, marketing and sales, event management and wine education.  His experience includes positions at prominent adult beverage companies; such as E&J Gallo where he served as Marketing Director Fine Wine Communications, Peak Wines as V.P. of Marketing and Communications, Trinchero Family Estates as Director of Trade Relations, with Heublein Wines as Director of Trade & Public Relations, and sales assignments with both Seagram and Heublein.

Tim has experience with all types of Media, National Accounts, Wholesale Distributors, Restaurant, and Retail segments. Tim has served as a Wine Judge at over 100 Wine and Spirits Competitions here in North America and spoken frequently on assembled panels at many wine industry events.

Karen BennettKaren Bennett –  Wine Buyer, Restaurant Owner

Karen has worked in the wine industry for 29 years and opened one of the first California wine bars in 1991. In 2004 she moved to the Central Coast and became manager and wine buyer for Bill Hoppe of Hoppe’s Garden Bistro in Cayucos. In 2011 she returned to the Central Valley as wine director and buyer for Meir Brown, a winner of The Food Networks ‘Cooks vs Cons’ television series and owner of Cafe’ Med Restaurant and Gourmet Shop in Bakersfield, California. Karen is certified WSET2 and Court of Master Sommeliers.

Greg Burns  –  Winemaker and General Manager, Jessie’s Grove Winery

IMG_9689Jonathan Cristaldi  –  Editor for The SOMM Journal and The Tasting Panel Magazine

Jonathan Cristaldi is the editor-at-large for The SOMM Journal and The Tasting Panel Magazine and is a regular contributor to Food & Wine, Liquor.com, and Seven Fifty Daily. Previously, he served as the editor-in-chief of WineAccess.com. His writing has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, First We Feast, Thrillist, Time Out LA, Tasting Table, and Psychology Today. Cristaldi was named a “Wine Prophet” by Time Out NY for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education. “The L-Train Luncheon,” a video on YouTube, features one of his best experiential event concepts, which came to life on a New York City subway car. In 2019, he was named Wine Writing Champion of the World.

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Michael Cervin – Wine, Food and Travel Writer

Michael Cervin is the author of seven books including California Wine Country and he covers wines and spirits for Robb Report, The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, The Tasting Panel, Fine Wine & Liquor Magazine (China), Decanter (London), Old Liquors Magazine (Netherlands), Vivino, IntoWine.com, Draft, Sommelier Journal, and many others.  As a professional wine and spirits judge he has served at competitions in Portugal, Puerto Rico and throughout California including The Critics Challenge, The San Francisco International Wine Competition, The San Diego Wine & Spirits Challenge, The California State Fair Wine Competition, and as a water judge for the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, and the Global Bottled Water Awards in Prague. He is the wine buyer for The Garden Market in Santa Barbara, and writes a wine and spirits blog, Boozehoundz.

Mike Dunne

Mike Dunne – Freelance Wine Writer

The retired food editor, wine columnist and restaurant critic of The Sacramento Bee, Mike continues to contribute a wine column and periodic other food, wine and travel features to The Bee, along with articles for other publications. He is a frequent presence on the wine-competition circuit, sitting on 15 or so panels annually at competitions that range from the small and regional to the large and international. He and his wife Martha, also a wine judge as well as author and interior designer, divide their time between homes in Sacramento and San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Traci-DuttonTraci Dutton – Culinary Institute of America – Manager –Public Wine and Beverage Studies

Traci Dutton serves as the Sommelier in the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. With the goal of creating The Ultimate California Wine Cellar to be housed in the former Christian Brothers winery, the wine list has won awards and gathered national recognition for the extensive representation of wines from throughout the state, with a special emphasis on Greystone’s Napa neighbors. Ms. Dutton worked in New York City for 14 years and came to California with vast experience in fine dining beverage service and international wine buying. She specialized in Italian wines with her first Sommelier position at Andiamo! and then immersed herself in French wines (though unfortunately, not literally) by joining the top notch service team at the 3 star Montrachet, under the direction of Daniel Johnnes. Ms. Dutton worked as a consultant for several other restaurants in New York at various times specializing in mixology, beer, organic wines and the wines of the northeastern United States. In addition to her work at the CIA, Traci has judged the Dallas Morning New Wine Competition and the LA County Fair “Wines of the World” Competition, two of the largest competitions in the country. She has spoken on marketing at UC Davis, Sonoma State University and the Wine Industry Financial Symposium.

Bill Hayes_5856Bill Hayes – BevMo – Wine Merchant

Bill Hayes is the Wine Category Manager of the growing BevMo! Retail chain of 163 Stores throughout California, Arizona and Washington.  With over 33 years of career experience in the Wine  Retail industry, Bill has developed key relationships with winery Owners, Winemakers, Growers as well as other industry partners that have cultivated his vast knowledge of and passion for Wines around the world.

Bill’s career in the Wine business began as a Buyer with the Liquor Barn stores.  Bill was also a part of the Kendall-Jackson Family Wine organization where he managed the Distributor portfolio that included Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, Cambria and Stonestreet Wines.  In 1994 Bill joined BevMo! as one of its very first employees as the Corporate Wine Buyer.  He has played key roles in the development, launching and fostering of BevMo!’s iconic 5₵ Wine Sale that has grown from one Wine to now over two-hundred.  As part of the BevMo! Private Label/Exclusive Wine program, Bill has traveled throughout Europe and South America to work with Wineries and industry partners to blend and bottle Import Wines such as Zolo and Tapiz, and has blended and developed varietal extensions of the Unruly , Shiloh Road and Stateland Cellars brands.  Bill’s current focus with BevMo! is sourcing and developing the premium selection of wines from around the world  and promote the local brands for the next-generation BevMo! Consumer.

The Hayes family has had deep roots in the Russian River Valley and its Wine industry for over 50 years.  Bill continues that heritage and tradition through his love and passion of Wine, whether it be an approachable bottle or  a rare bottle for his cellar.  If you know Bill, you have been fortunate enough to share in a great bottle of Wine along with a story that truly captures the spirit of the Wine, its origins and the people who made it.

image001Stacie Hunt – Sommelier, Co-founder of SPLASH Productions

Stacie is a Certified Silver Pin Sommelier / AIS / WSA and Co-founder of SPLASH Productions (www.splashpros.com), producers of Wine, Cuisine & Art exhibitions and video productions/documentaries, television/digital publicity and marketing for wineries and regions. She is an Emmy-Award winning journalist and contributor to “Good Food” on KCRW-FM, Los Angeles’ NPR flagship station and the Sommelier Journalist writing the wine column for the award-winning online magazine,

MY LA Lifestyle (www.mylalifestyle.com).  Additionally, she is taster for Wine & Spirits magazine.

She is Vice President of the National Association of Wine Retailers (www.nawr.org) working to “free the grapes” via direct shipping from wineries to retailers and consumers nationwide. For Du Vin Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood she is the marketer and a buyer specializing in the wines of Italy and Latin America.

Her most passionate areas of work are as a spokesperson, international wine judge, educator, journalist and Course Co-Creator (AWS – American Wine Specialist and the Olive Oil Specialist, Baja Wine Specialist courses) with North American Sommelier Association. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Cal Poly University and lecturer at UCLA Vintage.  In this capacity Stacie is a thought leader for communicating, educating and encouraging students to develop and continue their knowledge in wine and food. An equal passion is functioning as a judge for wine competitions in the US, Argentina and Mexico.

Along with her work in the wine industry, Stacie is the founder and CEO of Point Media (www.pointmedia.com), a digital video production firm specializing in the music industry, developing music videos, multi-cam concert productions and apps. At times her two passions of wine and video production crossover.  Stacie is producer of the one-hour award-winning documentary for Wine Spectator magazine and producer of over a dozen Satellite Media Tours featuring wineries.  She is an Emmy and Belding Award winner for her news and journalism work with NBC.  As a product/brand spokesperson she has conducted international webcasts and shows for Bertolli Foods and Saeco and is spokesperson for the Baja Winemakers and Chefs Association.

Cathy Huyghe – Journalist, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Enolytics

Cathy Huyghe is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur, and a dynamic and engaging public speaker. A two-time graduate of Harvard University, first from the Graduate School of Design and then from the Journalism program, she transitioned to a career in wine after working successfully on reconciliation projects in the Middle East.

As a journalist, Huyghe was shortlisted in 2019 as the Louis Roederer Columnist of the Year for her Forbes column on the business and politics of the wine industry. She is a featured commentator for the “Reign of Terroir” episode in the Netflix series Rotten, and her writing has also been seen and heard on the BBC, the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR and WNYC. She is a columnist (“Life, Entrepreneurially”) for Inc.com and her first book, Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass, won the World Gourmand Award for Women in Wine in 2016.

As an entrepreneur, Huyghe co-founded Enolytics, which was a finalist for the Born Digital Wine Award in Innovation, also in 2019. Enolytics provides data-driven business intelligence to beverage alcohol companies around the world; its client list includes Bollinger Champagne, Marchesi Frescobaldi, Wines of California, Wines of Chile, Gonzàlez-Byass and Freixenet-Mionetto. Huyghe is also the co-creator of content for A Balanced Glass, a community dedicated to wellness in the wine industry, which was a 2019 Drinks Innovator for SevenFifty Daily.

Huyghe’s community involvement includes serving on the Atlanta Commission on Women, grant reviewer for the Food Well Alliance, past president of the Harvard Club of Georgia, member of the Board of Directors for the Harvard Alumni Association, and founder of the Harvard Alumni in Wine and Food shared interest group. She is also a certified yoga teacher, and is trained in meditation and negotiation.

She lives in Atlanta with her husband and their twin boys.


Matt Kettmann – S
enior Editor of The Santa Barbara Independent and contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast

Matt Kettmann is a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, where he reviews more than 150 Central Coast wines per month, and a senior editor for The Santa Barbara Independent, where he has covered wine as well as news, arts, culture, and more since 1999. A fifth generation native of San Jose, where his family settled in the 1850s, and a graduate of UCSB, Matt has also written about wine and other topics for New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Wine Spectator, Sunset, and Beer Advocate magazines. In 2009, he co-founded New Noise Santa Barbara, an annual music conference and festival held each fall, and, in 2012, he started making very small lots of his own wine under the non-commercial label Periodista, which means “journalist” in Spanish. He is the father of two young children and lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Joanna, who was born in Bordeaux, France.

Erin Kirschenmann – Managing Editor at Wine Business Monthly

Erin Kirschenmann is the managing editor for Wine Business Monthly and has been with the company since 2012. In addition to production responsibilities for the monthly trade magazine, she writes about wine industry trends, including business, technology, sales and marketing topics and oversees content for WBM’s nine conferences. She has spoken on industry trends at numerous conferences, including the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium and the World Bulk Wine Exhibition and guest lectures on wine, media and public relations. Erin has served as a judge in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles since 2016, the Central Coast Wine Competition and at the 2017 edition of the Catad’Or Wine Awards. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University in communications with a journalism emphasis.

Ellen Landis – Wine Writer, Sommelier, Educator and Judge

Ellen is a published Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, Wine Educator and Professional Wine Judge.  She is the author of the blog EllenOnWine.com and writes for the AWS Wine Journal magazine, Great Northwest WineWine Press Northwest and Spirited magazine among other publications

Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintner’s Holidays annual event at the Majestic (formerly Ahwahnee) Hotel in Yosemite, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For more than sixteen years, she and husband Ken co-owned award-winning Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn where Ellen served as Wine Director and Sommelier. They recently sold their Inn to devote more time to the world of wine. Ellen was also a Sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton for several years.

In addition to an MBA, Ellen’s wine education includes UC Davis viticulture course work, CSW certification from the Society of Wine Educators program, and holds the credential of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.  Ellen serves as a judge at numerous national and international wine competitions including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Mid-American Wine Competition, The Great American International Wine Competition, California State Fair Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, North Coast Wine Challenge, Amador County Fair Wine Competition, Sonoma Harvest Fair Wine Competition, East Meets West Competition, Harvest Challenge International Wine Competition, The Cascadia Wine Competition, Savor Northwest Wine Competition, Dan Berger International Wine Competition, Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, Mendocino County Wine Competition, Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging, Selections Mondiales des Vins Canada, Pacific Rim Wine Competition, and the Central Coast Wine Competition.

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Allison Levine – Owner of Please the Palate

Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry. With over 20 years of experience in communications, marketing and event planning, Allison is passionate about the world around her and the diverse people in it. Allison holds a Master’s Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. She also holds a WSET Level 3 Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), an Italian Wine Specialist Diploma from the North American Sommelier Association, a Certified Meeting Professional Certificate (CMP), and is BarSmarts Wired certified.

As an industry expert, she works with wine regions around the world, organizing trade and media events around the United States. She has traveled extensively and has lived abroad in Italy, Spain and Mexico where she developed her passion for food and wine. Her work allows her to live life to the fullest and, as a freelance writer, Allison communicates her experiences into articles, as well as in her blog (pleasethepalate.com/blog). She is a columnist for the Napa Valley Register, as well as a regular contributor to California Winery Advisor and ATOD Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Wine Industry Advisor, Drizly, WineTouristMagazine, Thrillist, LA Weekly, LAPALME Magazine, BIN (Beverage Industry News), FoodableTV, Drink Me Mag, WeSaidGoTravel.com, Wine Country This Week and The Tasting Panel.

Phil Markert – Director of Liquor for Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions

Phil Markert began his career in the retail grocery industry in 1978, where he worked as a stock clerk in an independent liquor store while attending high school in North Torrance.  His career with the Safeway organization began in 1982, where Phil worked as a bagger in a Torrance store.  He quickly advanced through the retail ranks, serving as clerk, head clerk, grocery manager, assistant manager and store manager.   

His entrance into the liquor business began in early 1988 when he was introduced to Fine Wine at a restaurant in Santa Monica during a food and wine experience with friends and family that forever changed the landscape of how wine is sold in grocery stores.  At this dinner, a 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet was served – the first 100 point wine rating given by Robert Parker to a California wine.   Seeing the dinner guests enjoying and talking about it, the idea came to light that there is a correlation between what customers buy at a restaurant and at a grocery store in the same marketing area. Weeks later, with the support of senior management, the birth of the ‘Fine Wine Program’ took place in Santa Monica Ca. 

Phil was promoted to store manager of the Belmont Shore Vons in 1991 and moved the Fine Wine Program to the Belmont Shore.  The program included 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.  

From 1994 to 2002, Phil moved to the Vons Division office in Arcadia, and was promoted to Fine Wine Sales Manager.  His job was to rollout the Fine Wine Program to fifty Southern California stores, duplicating what he had accomplished in his store. 

In 2002 Phil was promoted to National Category Director of Wine and relocated to Pleasanton.  Phil took his experiences from the Southern California program and applied it to twenty-one states across the country, leading a team of people to become the largest wine retailer in the United States.  In 2007, Phil was promoted to Vice President, General Manager for Alcohol and Tobacco and applied his Neighborhood Marketing approach to Beer, and Spirits.

In 2010 Phil left Alcohol and was promoted to VP of Merchandising/Operations for Non-Perishables for the company. His responsibilities included overseeing the merchandising/marketing and the execution at retail. He also led the companies clustering initiatives, and our Premium store project.

In 2014 Phil was appointed as the company’s leader for Perishables and Non-Perishables of our LOCALIZATION initiative and Neighborhood Marketing efforts.

In 2015 Phil returned to his roots in SOCAL as the LQ. Sales Manager for the newly combined Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions Division of the Albertsons companies. In 2017 Phil took on the additional responsibilities of VP of Marketing/Merchandising of Pavilions.

Phil supports a wide variety of organizations serving local communities, including City of Hope, and the Christermon Scholarship Foundation. Phil  has a passion for fitness and loves Food, & Wine, – hence the workouts!

Chris Shackelford – Sommelier, Owner of Trelio Food & Wine

Chef/Sommelier Chris Shackelford has spent 30 years in the Food & Beverage industry working at almost every level and area of sales, production, and education. His early years were spent working in fine dining restaurants and hotels in California. With 20 years working in Relais & Chateaux properties and boutique restaurants, Chris opened Trelio Food & Wine in Clovis, California in 2006. As a sommelier for well over 20 years, Chris has assisted with many festivals and events including 12 years with World of Pinot Noir.

 Mike Stepanovich IMG_9870-1Mike Stepanovich  Wine Journalist, Educator & Judge

Mike Stepanovich of Bakersfield, California, has been writing his wine column, “Life is a Cabernet,” since 1985, and judging wines since 1987. His column is published in Bakersfield Magazine, for which he also reviews restaurants.

An avid wine collector, Mike is managing director of the Bakersfield Wine Society. He also teaches wine history, wine appreciation and wine-and-food-pairing classes at Bakersfield College.

His work has appeared in such national and international publications as International Wine Review, Wine News and Wine Business Monthly.

A Paso Robles native, Mike travels extensively and has reported on wine developments in Europe as well as the United States.

He made wines for 12 years from grapes he grew, and his recently completed wine novel, titled “Zinforado!” set in “Oak Pass,” is available at Amazon.com.

Ron Washam copyRon Washam – HoseMaster of Wine Blog

At a tender age, Ron turned away from a career as a comedy writer to become a sommelier. One could say he prefers spitting to gagging. 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. He is one of only one HoseMaster of Wine™ in the world and writes a monthly satirical column for TimAtkin.com. In 2016, Ron won the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award for as Online Communicator of the Year.

Wilfred WongWilfred Wong – Chief Storyteller, Wine.com

Wilfred Wong, Chief Storyteller and in-house wine critic for Wine.com is a 40+ year veteran of the wine industry.  Each year Wilfred tastes, scores, and reviews thousands of wines to help Wine.com customers choose their next bottle with confidence.  He is an extreme researcher and a taster of wines and employs his photography and storytelling skills across the Wine.com site, blog, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). 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 lives in San Francisco with his wife Alice and dog Kaili.

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