2022 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cervin-photo-341.jpgMichael Cervin – Food, Wine 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rich-cook.jpgRich 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 – Vice President of Wine, Wine Access/JournalistEduardo Dingler

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    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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ziggy-eschliman.jpgZiggy Eschilman – The Wine Gal – Radio & Television Personality, Wine, Spirits, Lifestyle Journalist, Consultant, Educator

Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For 25 years, Ziggy, known worldwide as “The Wine Gal” has set and reported trends in wine, spirits and all things to imbibe. Her wine country lifestyle brand, ZigStyle, embraces her art of life, entertaining, wine, cocktails and gardening. Ziggy’s award winning, wine focused radio shows, have a long time loyal following and are broadcast on FM stations and stream worldwide. Her writings are featured in lifestyle and libation based publications. As a wine and spirits expert, Ziggy is a lead judge in both international spirits and wine competitions. Ziggy is a dynamic guest speaker, educator and presenter. ZigStyle is embraced in all she does and is a welcome, catching, organic approach to our busy lives.

Bill Hayes – BevMo! – Wine Merchant Bill Hayes_5835

Bill Hayes is the Wine Category Manager/Wine Buyer the growing BevMo! Retail chain of 163 Stores throughout California, Arizona and Washington.  With over 35 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 and Australia 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, Michael Pozzan 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 vast 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.

Stacie HuntStacie Hunt – Sommelier, Co-founder of SPLASH Productions

Stacie is a Certified Silver Pin Sommelier, AIS/WSA, Dame de la Chaine des Rotisseurs and Co-founder/Producer/Host of SPLASH Productions and Point Media, producers of Wine, Cuisine & Art events and exhibitions, videos and documentaries.  She is a producer/host of live streaming shows for wineries, regions, and brands*. An Emmy and Belding Award winning TV journalist; the wine/food contributor to the award-winning online magazine, MY LA Lifestyle, Huffington Post and other publications. She hosts, Share A Glass a hybrid virtual/in-person taste community in Los Angeles.

Stacie serves as Vice President of the National Association of Wine Retailers and is a guest professor at Cal Poly, USC and UCLA.  As an educator, Stacie co-created the Certified American Wine Specialist course for the North American Sommelier Association. Her passion is for communicating and encouraging accessibility and knowledge in wine and food.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is katy-long-headshot-square.pngKaty Long – VWE Director of International, Vintner & Brand Advocate

Katy Long serves as Vintner, Director of International, and Brand Advocate at Vintage Wine Estates, working with diverse teams across the organization in aspects ranging from wine and spirits production to marketing and sales. Additionally, Ms. Long has been a driving force in growing the VWE’s Angels Share Giving Campaign which provides support to local food banks, bringing much needed assistance to those experiencing food insecurity in the communities in which we live and work and has been an active member of the Board of Directors at the Redwood Empire Food Bank since March 2020.

Ms. Long has worked in the wine industry for nearly two decades with experience in production, sales, marketing, communications, and education, including at Far Niente Winery, Nickel & Nickel Winery, Meadowood Napa Valley and The Bounty Hunter Rare Wine and Spirits. Ms. Long earned an AOS from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and earned a BS from New York University, and earned DipWSET, CSS, and CSW certifications. Ms. Long is currently a Master of Wine Student.

Allison Levine.jpg

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.

Picture 2 CMANN (3)Curtis Mann – Group Vice President of Wine, Beer and Spirits for Albertsons Companies

Curtis Mann is a 20-year veteran of the US wine industry. He started his career at ZD Wines in the Napa Valley in hospitality, where he discovered his passion for wine. After graduating with an MBA from the University of California, Davis he worked as a brand manager for Trinchero Family Estates and then at Information Resources Inc. (IRI) as Director of Wine and Spirits Insights. In 2013, Curtis became the Director of Alcohol & Beverage for the Raley’s supermarket chain, where he transformed the wine offerings with the help of in-store wine stewards and educational tastings. In 2020, Curtis became the 53rd Master of Wine in the United States after successfully passing the exam in 2018 and completing his dissertation on Consumer Preferences for California Chardonnay at the end of 2019. Also, in 2020, Curtis was appointed Group Vice President of Wine, Beer and Spirits for Albertsons Companies and oversees US buying operations for the grocery chain. He is the only two-time winner of the Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Award for Retailer of the Year

Phil MarkertPhil 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is meridith-may-edited.jpgMeridith May – Publisher and Editor in Chief, Somm Journal Magazine and The Tasting Panel Magazine

Meridith May is the owner of The SOMM Journal and THE TASTING PANEL Magazine. She is responsible for the publications’ branding and content and has successfully increased each national magazine’s circulation and readership to reach over a million hospitality industry professionals annually. These national print publications have evolved to become the most widely distributed for the beverage industry.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cindy-rynning-photo.jpgCindy Rynning – Wine Writer

Cindy Rynning has been writing about wine on her award-winning wine blog, Grape Experiences, since 2011.  She passed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 program with Merit in 2012. Cindy engages in national and international wine travels, hosts virtual tastings, attends global trade tastings and media events, meets and interviews winemakers and others who share their stories and writes about tastings, food and wine pairings, wine travel, and more. She’s an active member of the judges panel at the Beverage Tasting Institute.

She has written for a variety of print and digital publications including Crave Local, Wine Tourist Magazine, Wine Traveler, Wine Enthusiast, and the wine club newsletter of Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants. She’s also co-creator of the YouTube channel, Crush On This. Cindy received the Drizly Blogger Award as Best Wine Blog – 2017 and her site was one of the Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blogs in the world in 2015 and the Lux International Magazine Best Wine Blog – US in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Two of her articles were finalists in the Millesima Wine Blog Awards – Wine Travel category in 2017 and 2018. From 2019-2021, Cindy has been featured on Good Day Chicago Fox 32, WGN-TV Channel 9, The Jam on Chicago’s WCIU TV, Good Day Sacramento (The CW31), The Rhode Show WPRI Channel 12, Colorado’s Best Fox 31 Denver and Yahoo Finance.

Grape Experiences is included in Feedspot’s Top 100 Wine Blogs – 2021 with a #14 ranking and Cindy is ranked #38 in the Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020 by Corking Wines.

A former educator, Cindy understands the value of lifelong learning and strives to share her knowledge of wine through writing, social media, personalized wine tastings and real-life conversation in order to inform, entertain, and inspire others to discover the beauty of our favorite beverage – wine.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wilfred-wong.jpgWilfred Wong – Chief Storyteller, Wine.com

Wilfred Wong, Chief Storyteller and in-house wine critic for Wine.com is a approaching his 50th year in 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, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, and many others) and internationally (competitions in Spain, France, New Zealand and Australia).  He lives in San Francisco with his wife Alice and dog Kaili.