Chief Judge Tim McDonald CSW CSS – President of Wine and Spirits Spoken Here
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 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.
Michael Cervin – Wine, Food and Travel Writer
Michael Cervin is a wine and spirits writer and author of 11 books including California Wine Country. His wine and spirits work has appeared in Robb Report, Forbes, Vivino, The Hollywood Reporter, Decanter (London), Fine Wine & Liquor (China), Old Liquors Magazine (Netherlands), Wine Enthusiast, Draft, The Tasting Panel, SOMM Journal, and many others. He is the Wine Reviews Editor for Bonfort’s Wine & Spirits Journal, and Drink Me Magazine. He also writes the Cocktail of the Month column for Arroyo Monthly Magazine, is a contributing reviewer for The Whiskey Reviewer, and columnist for IntoWine.com. He has served as a judge at various competitions including the Best of Vinho Verde Awards in Portugal; the Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico; the California State Fair Wine Competition; The San Diego, and San Francisco International Wine Competitions, and others. He is the Chief Spirits Judge for the Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition, as well as a professional water judge at the Global Bottled Water Awards, and Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting. Michael is also a consultant with a northern California wine PR firm, and is the wine buyer for the Santa Barbara Airport
Rich Cook – Wine Reviewer – WineReviewOnline.com
A huge fan of wine and spirits, Rich has been writing about wine since 2008 and is currently a columnist and lead reviewer for WineReviewOnline.com and is an occasional panelist with The California Grapevine He is the founding Director of The Toast of The Coast Wine Competition, and also serves as the current Director of the Monterey International Wine Competition, Distilled San Diego Spirits Competition and Robert Whitley’s Challenge Series of wine and spirits competitions.
Rich also enjoys “sitting on the other side of the curtain” and has judged at several major competitions, including East Meets West, Grand Harvest Awards, Long Beach Grand Cru, Riverside International, Central Coast and North of the Gate.
Eduardo Dingler – Independent Journalist
Eduardo served as Corporate Beverage Director for the Global Morimoto Group and has worked at some of Napa Valley’s most iconic restaurants including Tra Vigne and Bistro Don Giovanni. He is a professional Wine, Sake, and Spirits Judge for many competitions in the US and Japan and writes for both the Napa Valley Register and has contributed Decanter Magazine and Somm Journal Magazine. He is an Advanced Sommelier Candidate and is also a Certified Sake Professional. He’s also a sake educator working with JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) and he is VP of Wine for Wine Access.
Traci 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.
Stacie 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.
Matt Kettmann – Author and Senior Editor
Author of Vines & Vision: The Winemakers of Santa Barbara County, Matt Kettmann is the contributing editor in charge of the Central Coast and Southern California for Wine Enthusiast. A fifth generation Californian originally from San Jose, Kettmann is a senior editor for the Santa Barbara Independent, where he started his journalism career in 1999, and has reported on wine and more for the New York Times, Time Magazine, and Wine Spectator, among other publications. Kettmann has made small batches of noncommercial wine almost every vintage since 2012, and lives in the Santa Barbara suburbs with his Bordeaux-born wife and their two kids, where they grow many fruit trees and one vine of Zinfandel, originally from Santa Cruz Island.
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 Wine, Wine 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.
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, Allison 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 regular contributor to the Napa Valley Register, Alcohol Professor, Monarch.wine, California Winery Advisor, and BIN (Beverage Industry News). Her work has also appeared in Wander with Wonder, Daily Ovation, ATOD Magazine, Wine Industry Advisor, Drizly, WineTouristMagazine, Thrillist, LA Weekly, Caviar Affair, LAPALME Magazine, FoodableTV, Drink Me Mag, WeSaidGoTravel.com, Wine Country This Week, SommJournal, and The Tasting Panel. Allison is the host of the podcast WineSoundtrack USA where she interviews winemakers and winery owners who share their stories, insights and some humorous anecdotes. Allison can also be found on YouTube where she regularly reviews wines in one-minute videos for the Wine Weirdos and hosts a weekly chat about wine on Crush On This.
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. In 2019 went back to full time in alcohol as the Director of Liquor for AVP
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 Sawyer – Sommelier, Consultant & Educator
Christopher Sawyer is an internationally renowned sommelier, wine judge, consultant, wine journalist and public speaker. Voted Best Sommelier of Sonoma County 2020 by Bohemian Magazine for the seventh consecutive year, he is also a recipient of many more prestigious awards and industry honors. To enjoy his wine adventures follow his Blog The Sommelier Files & YouTube Channel featuring The Varietal Show!
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.