Judges

Mike Dunne

Mike Dunne is a freelance wine and travel writer who divides his time between Sacramento and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. He contributes a weekly wine column to The Sacramento Bee, where he was the restaurant critic, wine columnist and food editor when he retired almost five years ago. He volunteers his time by participating in several wine-related endeavors, including the Vintners Hall of Fame and the Wine Writers Symposium, both in Napa Valley. He writes the blog A Year in Wine. He is one of two chief judges for the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

 

Laura Ness

Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist, wine critic and judge who has been immersed in the wine industry for nearly three decades. She regularly judges wine competitions, including the Jerry Mead International, National Women’s Wine, El Dorado County, Professional Wine Buyer’s and the Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition. Trained at the esteemed CIA at Greystone in their wine program, Laura has also been a regular at the West Coast Wine Competition, and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Rhone Shootouts held by Affairs of the Vine yearly. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA as part of a Best of Appellation Terroir Exploratorium conducted by Appellation America.

Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, including Wine Business Monthly and Vineyard and Winery Management, as well as consumer publications like Uncorked, Wine Country This Week and Edible Silicon Valley. She also has a weekly wine column in several newspapers, writes regularly for Wine OhTV and winefoodexplorer.com, and blogs, unapologetically, at myvinespace.com.


James A Wasson IV

James Wasson is the ambassador of fine wine throughout the diverse region of Mendocino County, along with showcasing exemplary International selections.
Sommelier/Manager at Enoteca Wine Bar, Wine Director at Saucy in Ukiah, and Director of Sales and Marketing for Knez Winery Corp. in Philo, California.
James has been in the fine dining and wine industry for just over a dozen years now. Front of House management/consultant for the Restaurant and hospitality industry. Specializing in all aspects of Front of House structuring, from hiring, training, uniform and logo selection to building custom wine lists according to the specific demographic of each establishment. Providing staff with the tools and product knowledge necessary to efficiently and effectively sell and represent a company's product and image.

 

Dan Berger

Dan Berger began writing about wine in 1976 and has been nationally syndicated since 1979. He and his wife, Juliann Savage, also publish a private weekly wine newsletter, Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences, available by subscription. He contributes articles to Wines & Vines, Decanter Magazine, the privately published California Grapevine, Wine Press Northwest, trade journals Cheers and Beverage Dynamics, Sommelier Journal, and numerous others.

He recently was project editor for the book North American Wine Routes for Reader's Digest. Mr. Berger was a reporter for The Associated Press from 1967 to 1976. He joined the San Diego Union in 1978 and wrote three wines columns per week for the newspaper and Copley News Service. He was subsequently Business Editor and wine columnist for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat; was syndicated by The New York Times Syndicate, and later full-time wine columnist and reporter for the Los Angeles Times. In 1996, he began publishing Vintage Experiences, a weekly newsletter on wine and food, which continues to this day.

 

Ellen Landis

Ellen Landis a published wine writer, certified sommelier and Certified Wine Specialist, is involved with many aspects throughout the world of wine. As Wine Director and Sommelier at Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn located in Half Moon Bay, California (which she co-owns with husband and chef Ken Landis), she continually seeks out interesting and noteworthy wines to enhance their extensive wine cellar, coordinates wine tastings and hosts wine events to help further educate wine aficionados. Ellen was also a Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton for four years. She has traveled many wine regions throughout North America including California, New York, Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, and Canada, and several international wine regions including Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone, Tuscany, and wine regions throughout Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina and Australia.

Ellen participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various wine events. Her wine consultant role also includes fine tuning wine lists for restaurants and creating and implementing wine education seminars. Her wine seminars focus on wine topics such as "Basic Wine Components", "Wines from around the World", "Food and Wine Pairings" and specific seminars focused on various wine regions.

In addition to an MBA, Ellen's wine education includes high marks in her completion of UC Davis course work, The Society of Wine Educators CSW program, and the Court of Master Sommelier Certification program.

 

Tom Simoneau

There are few people in Northern California’s Wine County — in fact, just one — who truly can be defined as The Wine Guy. That would be Tom Simoneau.

Grape grower and winemaker wine educator, wine competition judge and wine critic. Wine marketer. For more than a decade, the clever and insightful host of a syndicated daily radio show offering reviews and “wine stains” to help guide listeners towards exceptional wine experiences.

In 1988, Tom and wife Brenda purchased 12½ acres in the benchlands of Alexander Valley. Simoneau Vineyards began with 10 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and a small number of Bordeaux varietal blending grapes. Over the next two decades, they honed and improved the farming of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and became sought after growers for distinguished wineries.

Tom won the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair Sweepstakes Award for the Best Amateur Red Wine for his 1990 Meritage, just a foreshadowing of what was ahead.

With the 2005 vintage Tom and Brenda released their first commercial Simoneau Cabernet Sauvignon. The Brenda Lee Chardonnay was released in 2009 along with the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, both to immediate acclaim.
 

Greg Richtarek,

Director of Marketing at Guglielmo Winery

Greg has many years of critical winetasting experience, having accompanied his journalist/wine critic wife, Laura Ness, to a myriad of wine events and competitions, where he learned to hone his palate with the experts. Nearly every vacation he’s ever taken has involved winetasting/judging of some kind. For the past three years, he’s been Director of Marketing at Guglielmo Winery, where he is routinely involved in the day to day trials of hundreds of lots of wines that the facility produces for the winery’s own labels, as well as those of custom crush clients. Greg has also been a regular judge for Affairs of the Vine’s many Shootouts, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Rhone. Greg’s favorite wines are Pinot Noirs from cool climate regions, but he also has a soft spot for a well-crafted Chardonnay, and pretty much anything white.

 

Mark Bowery

In 1979, after graduating from California State University, Sonoma with degrees in Business and Psychology, he went to work as a cellarman at Simi Winery in Healdsburg.  Under the supervision of wine industry heavyweights Andre Tchelistcheff and Zelma Long, he learned--quite literally--the ins & outs and ups & downs of winemaking.

After a year of working in every aspect of wine production—from crush to bottling—he vowed to transform his love of the vine into a way of life and set out to become a copywriter specializing in wine.  With this goal in mind, he received a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon, where he became enmeshed in that state's newborn wine trade.  Mark accompanied author Leon D. Adams through the Oregon wine country as he revised his landmark book, "The Wines of America."

Then Bowery returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and spent the next three years learning about wine marketing, sales and distribution at McKesson Wine & Sprits.  In 1984, he was invited to join Masa's restaurant in San Francisco as its first sommelier.  During his 4+ year tenure, he established an internationally acclaimed wine list that Gourmet magazine called "extraordinary" and the Wine Spectator proclaimed "one of the best in the world."

In 1989, Bowery started a modest but successful wine and spirits consulting firm.  In addition to establishing award-winning beverage programs for fine restaurants, sourcing for wine clubs and maintaining cellars for private clients, he is also a freelance writer, a judge at international wine and spirits competitions, and considered an authority on single malt whisky.  He served as Wine & Spirits Editor for Millionaire Magazine and as a faculty member at the Brown-Forman Center for Global Wine Education, which was directed by wine and food guru, John Ash.  In 2003, he produced for the first time a wine (Spring Mountain Cabernet) under his own label.


More to Come!