2017 Judges and Competition Information Coming Soon
Matt Kettmann – Senior 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.
Clarice Turner- Senior VP of Starbucks Food & Evenings Americas
Clarice Turner leads the Americas Food business and the Starbucks Evenings program which she helped pioneer. In recent years, she led a key part of the U.S. Starbucks store portfolio as senior vice president, general manager of the U.S. License Business and as senior vice president in the U.S. company business. She pioneered the “Starbucks Evenings” (wine, beer & small plates) concepts.
Clarice continues a tenure of service on multiple boards, private, advisory and nonprofit. She currently serves on the Culinary Institute of America Board of Fellows, as an executive board director for the National Restaurant Association, vice chair of the Food & Healthy Living committee and past chair of the Sustainability committee, and the Advisory Board for the Washington State University School of Business. Clarice earned a Master of Business Administration concentrating in international business, a bachelor’s in geology from San Francisco State University, and attended Fudan University in Shanghai, China where she studied Mandarin Chinese and published several papers on her research and work.
Laurie Daniel –Wine Writer
Laurie Daniel, a resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has been a journalist for more than 30 years. Although she grew up in wine-deprived surroundings in the Midwest, she quickly developed an interest in wine after she moved to California. She writes a wine column for the Tribune in San Luis Obispo and is a regular contributor to Wines & Vines magazine. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Beverage Dynamics, Food & Wine, Wine Country Living and Drinks and is online at lauriedanielonwine.com. Laurie also wrote the Central Coast section for the book Opus Vino, published by DK. She is a frequent judge at wine competitions and travels extensively to wine country in the U.S. and abroad.
Karen D. Bennett – Wine Director/Buyer
Karen has been in the wine business for 27 years, owning one of the first wine bars in California. After moving to the Central Coast in 2004, she managed and bought wine with Bill Hoppe at Hoppe’s Garden Bistro. Moving forward to San Diego, Karen consulted for various wine venues until she was drawn back to the Valley where for the past five years she has directed the wine list for Meir Brown’s Cafe’ Med Restaurant, in Bakersfield, California.
William S. Carter – Business Owner & Chef
William Carter owns and operates The Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast in Paso Robles, California with his wife Katherine Bloxsom-Carter. It is ranked the #1 Bed & Breakfast on the Central Coast by TripAdvisor and is a finalist for Sunset Magazine’s Best of the Best 2016. He is the former Executive Chef and Food & Beverage Director at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles for nearly three decades. There, he perfected his craft providing unsurpassed hospitality experiences to a worldwide audience garnering numerous accolades.
His philosophy is to bring out the best flavors in food products from beginning to end with uncompromising standards, spotlighting California’s agricultural abundance. His knowledge of wine enables exquisite food and wine pairings. He serves as a professional wine judge at competitions throughout California. Chef Carter is a recurring featured guest on numerous radio shows syndicated nationally, describing and promoting California wines and foods. He was featured as a celebrity chef at the prestigious Pebble Beach Food & Wine and Los Angeles Food & Wine events.
Chef Carter completed intensive studies with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, focusing on their Gold Standards of Hospitality Service. This high standard of training elevates the hospitality experience to all guests staying at The Canyon Villa. He is a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology. He enhanced his education in hospitality related studies at UCLA Extension. Additionally, he has successfully completed UC Davis Extension classes in oenology studies. In June 1999, Chef Carter received the PEI AWARD from Ms. Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy Enterprises. In April 2002, he received the esteemed Auguste Escoffier Medal of Merit from the American Culinary Federation.
For seven years, Chef Carter was featured as the Guest Chef for Bakersfield College’s Sterling Silver Dinner benefitting student culinary arts scholarships. Chef Carter served as an industry faculty advisor to Pacifica High School in the Oxnard Unified School District. Additionally, he lectured at colleges and universities across the Western United States to hospitality business programs.
Michael Cervin- Wine, Food and Travel Writer
Michael Cervin is the author of the book California Wine Country and he covers wines and spirits for The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, The Tasting Panel, Fine Wine & Liquor Magazine (China), Decanter (London), Palate Press, Draft, and many others. As a professional judge he has served at competitions in Portugal, Puerto Rico and throughout California including The Critics Challenge, The San Francisco International Wine Competition, The California State Fair, and the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, among others. He is the wine buyer for Pierre Lafond Montecito Market, and writes a wine and spirits blog, Boozehoundz. Additionally he is the Geneva Correspondent for Forbes Travel Guides and is the restaurant reviewer for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for Gayot.com.
Mike Dunne – Freelance Wine Writer
The retired food editor, wine columnist and restaurant critic of The Sacramento Bee, Mike continues to contribute a weekly 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 17 panels during the past year at competitions that ranged 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 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. Her special interest is in passing on the belief that most wine should be for everyday drinking and to continue to find places which produce.
Ellen Landis– Wine Writer/Blogger
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 (AmericanWineSociety.org) among other publications.
Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintner’s Holidays annual event at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For 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, California State Fair Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Amador County Fair Wine Competition, Sonoma Harvest Fair Wine Competition, West Coast Wine Competition, Grand Harvest International Wine Competition, Grand Cru International Wine Competition, Riverside International Wine Competition, Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, Mendocino County Wine Competition, Monterey Wine Competition, Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging, and the Central Coast Wine Competition.
Tim Marson – MW
Having graduated in Classics from Oxford University, where he was a member of the University’s Blind Wine Tasting team, Tim entered the wine industry in 1997. During four years with Oddbins Ltd – at that time the leading multiple specialist wine merchant in the UK.Tim then moved into the independent specialist retail sector, working for some of the leading small wine merchants in London, initially as a store manager and later as a buyer.
Having moved briefly from retail into trade sales Tim then, in 2006, became Buyer at London-based Bibendum Wine Ltd., one of the UK’s largest and fastest-growing independent importers and distributors, where he was responsible for the sourcing of their northern hemisphere portfolio. In 2009 Tim passed the final dissertation component of the Master of Wine examination with a paper on the sub-appellations of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He is one of only 343 Masters of Wine (MWs) in the world, of whom 38 currently reside in the USA.
Tim relocated from his native England to California in 2011 to become Vice-President of Procurement at a direct-to-consumer online retailer. He is currently Senior Buyer at Global Wine Co. (based in San Rafael, CA) where he is responsible for sourcing both domestic and international wines for a number of high-profile partner wine clubs including Williams-Sonoma and The New York Times.
Tim has participated (often as a panel chair) at many local and international wine competitions including the International Wine Challenge, Decanter World Wine Awards, the International Wine & Spirit Competition, and Sunset International Wine Competition.
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.
Jim McMahon – Wine Writer, Author, Consultant
Jim McMahon is a Sydney based wine writer, author and consultant. Jim has been wine judging both nationally and internationally for the past 27 years and has judged at wine shows in Canada, USA, China, NZ, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, France and the UK. As a consultant, Jim advised for the 1995 Papal visit of John Paul II to Australia. Jim’s clients have included Cunard Shipping Line, Virgin Australia and presently Accor Hotels Australia.
Ron Rawlinson – Wine Educator & Judge
Ron Rawlinson began his wine industry career in San Diego as a sales rep for America’s largest wine wholesaler before moving to Arroyo Grande to open The Wine Guy in 1994. Since then, he has made wine, taught many courses at Cal Poly University, judged scores of major wine competitions, sommed at major events such as Savor and Hospice du Rhone soirees, directed one of America’s largest wine clubs, consulted for several boutique wineries and managed sales and distribution for Riedel crystal.
George Skorka –
Wine Warrior & Kalinist Sommelier and Maitre’D George Skorka wasn’t yet a teenager when he tasted his first wine, a cup of tea with the teaspoon of white wine in it, and he remembers it clearly, it always brings back memories: “The wine made the tea immediately lighter in colors, and it’s flavors with the odd but stimulating bouquet, good acidity and gentle richness mesmerized the little boy.” By age 6 he was cooking daily fresh food from the farmers market with his grandmother. The Hungarian Olympic kayak team member made supporting money by being a bar back in the most famous night club in Budapest. Master Sommelier
After college and working in the classic floor system in many ranks, Skorka become assistant Food and Beverage Director in the 200 years old legendary Hotel on the Danube’s treasure Margaret Island in the heart of Budapest. At age 30 the revolutionary New York restaurateur Paul Kovi of the Four Season gave him a Gourmet Magazine review of Gyertya, his former Restaurant in Budapest. They collaborated in the New York Years in the complete rewriting of the Transylvanian Cuisine, published in 1984. “I must thank Paul for a half of my inspirations in life he was magical to direct people towards to spiritual values in our material business”- said Skorka, the other great amongst of my many mentors is Terry Leighton the renaissance man of Kalin Cellars. Escaping communist Hungary for political reasons in 1981 with $ 5 in his pocket and not to speak English, gave a great new opportunity to Mr. Skorka: start again. In a few months the busboy become a waiter in N.Y. Moved to Washington DC and from waiter became a Manager of the Kennedy Center, running Ronald Regan’s Inauguration Ball. In 1985 The Jefferson Hotel Maitre’D become the Maitre’D of the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles. In the next two plus decades Skorka spent in Los Angeles and became a Maitre D’/Sommelier in Shutters on the Beach and Casa Del Mar Hotel, New Chasen and Crustacean, La Merigot and many more. The wine buyer/MaitreD position in the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel become the major opportunity to discover a Central Coast’s potential before it become known for many. Skorka’s own restaurant in Beverly Hills 456 North Bedford was a turning point. Constant touring of the vineyard become a passion, and Skorka is proud of his contribution in Tantara Vinery. He spent years in the winery and his chosen barrel in the spring racking got the highest score from Robert Parker in that time.
Years with one of the leading wine Company as a District Manager further benefited him and the organization. He was one of the first among them to be tested with the Court of Master Sommeliers then three level advance exams. The entire group started to focus on the education of the employees afterwards. Skorka’s current plans are learning and teaching: After running the successful Jonathan Club and Bastide, his latest was the opening of BottleRock downtown. “The casualty but Riedel standards fit to the new generation” said the opening Skorka. Skorka is also on the advisory Board of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, and in the last half decade he is a judge on the largest wine event in the USA: the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Skorka’s philosophy is shared with his winery find and sommelier certified wife, his mountain cabin and two Bernese Montain dogs: “I am very lucky, in my life I always being paid for what I love to do anyway…”
Mike 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, and 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. He travels extensively and has reported on wine developments in Europe as well as the United States.
In addition to the Central Coast Wine Competition, wine competitions where Mike has judged include the American Wine Competition, Indianapolis International Wine Competition, Florida International Wine Competition, Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, Riverside International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition and Long Beach Grand Cru.
He also makes wine from grapes he grows himself, and from other sources. In his spare time, he is writing a tongue-in-cheek novel about wine, tentatively titled “Zinforado!” which he hopes to publish sometime in the future.
Dr. Valery Uhl is the Chief Judge and Director of the “North of the Gate” Wine Competition for the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. She also judges the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, the Grand Harvest Awards, the International Women’s Wine Competition, the West Coast Wine Competition, the Japan Wine Challenge and multiple other wine competitions. She and her family grow award winning Pinot Noir in the Green Valley subappellation of the Russian River AVA. TnT Vineyards are bottled under the PaulMatthew Vineyards label.
She has written papers and given lectures on the health benefits of wine. She also educates various Bay Area clubs on wine and food pairings. She continues to collect and donate wine for special causes such as the American Cancer Society of which she is a Board member and various Cancer events.
Russ Winton – Writer – Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star
Russ Winton, author of Wine Line, writes a consumer-friendly column for two newspapers in California’s Central Valley, The Modesto Bee and The Merced Sun Star. His advice to readers is to trust their palates. He encourages them to find a wine they like at a price they can afford.