Andy also introduces the newcomers to the judging fraternity.
And then we were off and running!
Each judge found their respective table, colleagues and team of volunteers who
take care of presenting the wines and tabulating the results.
Each panel has a chair-person and two or three other judges.
Chairing Panel A is an old pro, Jim Trezise.
Jim has been the President of the International Riesling Foundation for a number
of years and headed the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
He's a globetrotter and we've seen him not only in San Francisco but in Europe,
Jim is a major celebrity in New York as one can see by the signage near Times
Wine.com's Wendy Stanford is also on Panel A.
Wendy travels the world in furthering her wine education.
Her passport got stamped in Great Britain, France, Greece and even Oregon this
San Diego's Robert Whitley publishes the Wine
Review Online and organizes several wine judgings.
Mr. Whitley has been around since the days of Marilyn Monroe (and earlier)...
Anthony Dias Blue is the Executive Director of the whole Three Ring Circus of
the San Francisco International Wine Competition; he chairs
Panel B (as in "Blue").
Despite leading a Blue
Lifestyle, Andy was "in the pink" this year...
He publishes a number of magazines, in both print and on-line formats.
Being a famous celebrity, Andy is no stranger to media
An old copy of Rolling Stone magazine...
Bethany Burke is the VP of Public Relations and Corporate Communications for Palm
Bay International and Taub
Bethany is a graduate from a University called "College Cork" which
demonstrates her passion for wine, apparently.
That and the tattoo, maybe.
The famous Lubo
Bárta from the Czech Republic.
He's the Editor in Chief for the Czech Sommelier Magazine and he's enshrined in
the Czech Wines Hall of Fame.
We noticed this billboard in the Powell Street BART Station which has since been
Another All-Star on Andy's panel is New Zealand's Kate Radburnd.
She's a famous winemaker and has numerous accolades as a vintner and wine judge.
We saw some ladies with an official "Great Kate" poster near North
Beach in San Francisco.
The chairman of Panel C: Jim Harré from New Zealand.
Jim is a judge in Britain for the International Wine Challenge, and judgings in
Australia, Japan and China.
He's been coming to San Francisco for many years and some will tell you he speaks
English with a Californian accent.
Panel C apparently has its own "C Notes."
Dr. Rowald Hepp from Germany's Rheingau region was teamed with Jim on Panel C.
He's the manager of a famous little wine estate, Schloss
Apparently he moonlights playing music as DJ Hepp in the
evenings and on weekends.
Jim Harré has heard some of the tunes Rowald selects and told us "Shit
Bob Silverstein is affiliated with Venice Beach
Wines, a hip Southern California
Being in Venice Beach (when he's not in Italy), Silverstein is an avid surfer.
The Dude is known to be a proficient Duck Diver.
He uses surfing terms such as "stoked," "mushburger" and
"rad/radical" when judging wines, too.
Brian Baker chaired Panel D.
After many years at Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, he's now the General Manager at
another historic Napa winery, Mayacamas
We saw one of the volunteers with a signed Brian Baker
"Tasting a Rare No-Award Red."
The Sandwich is $8.95.
The Cabernet is $189.95.
Liz Thach is a Professor of Wine at Sonoma State University.
She's officially a "Distinguished Professor of Wine" at Sonoma State.
Plus she holds the title of "Master of Wine."
And she's a Doctor!
She's got a doctorate from Texas A&M in Human Resource Development.
In addition to her numerous articles and books about wine, Liz has written a
Actually the kid's book is about a Crane.
the Sandhill Crane
Nick Dumergue is the Wine Director at Santa Monica's Blue
Nick has a fan club, The Dumerguerettes.
He is originally from New Zealand and spent some years in London.
Nick has been a judge at Decanter Magazine's World Wine Awards.
He can be seen in London's National Gallery, too.
Yes...he's holding a bottle of Château d'Yquem.
Wine Gal" Eschliman chaired Panel E (as in
Ziggy is on the radio, 95.9 in Sonoma, every Wednesday morning.
More than one judge has described Ziggy as a "work of art."
Jordan Ogron of the LA Restaurant Group.
He's affiliated with the new, swanky Los Angeles restaurant called Tesse
and its neighboring wine emporium called Boutellier.
He's quite a celebrity in Los Angeles and people often mistake him for some
movie star, asking "Mr. Pitt, can I have your autograph?" or "Can
I have someone take our picture together Mr. Cooper? I loved you in A Star is
Pat Dodd works for the Gallo Family and started his career with them just three
years before his beloved Notre Dame won their last national football
championship. They have not won since.
But hope springs eternal.
It turns out he's also an avid fan of baseball's Chicago Cubs.
Pat is a dedicated sky diver and here's a snapshot of him just after he jumped off a
plane over his hometown of Modesto.
John Cunin is a Hospitality Pro, Philosopher, Scientist, Mechanic and Social
Optimist, amongst other things.
He's the top dawg at JMC Consulting in Las Vegas, providing guidance and
expertise to restaurants.
In a previous life, John managed San Francisco's famed Masa's restaurant and
then his own place, the Cypress Club.
It turns out Paris Hilton is a big John Cunin Fan, owning a Cunin Coffee Cup,
along with a collection of magazines featuring John.
After many years working for Albertson's and Safeway in the grocery store
business, Jim Blumling is now the VP of Operations with the Copper Cane Wines
and Provisions company.
Jim told us "My life is like an open book."
And so we see it is!
Nicole Carter is the Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Winemaking for the
Hess Family Estates, overseeing the California wines of Hess and also the
Colomé and Amalaya wines from Argentina along with Glen Carlou from South
Nicole is a true Napa Valley Celebrity.
We looked for that article by Andy in the magazine, but since there are no $25
Napa Cabernets, the page was blank.
Sean Ludford of Bevx.com
was the Captain of Panel G.
Sean is from Wisconsin and has a strong Milwaukee accent as you'll notice as
soon as he starts talking.
We saw a woman carrying a portrait of Sean out by Ocean Beach and wondered what
that was all about.
She mumbled something about Ludford's mantra being "Everything in
moderation, including moderation" and she walked out into the cold surf.
Despite his young age, Ryan McHendry has held wine buyer positions with a
couple of major chains.
He's broken free from those chains, however.
Ryan has even written a book of tasting notes of his favorite bottles.
Also on Panel G is Eduardo Dingler-San.
Eduardo is the former Beverage Director for Morimoto Restaurants.
Morimoto is an Iron Chef and someone said Eduardo has an Iron Palate.
He's currently a freelance wine writer and writes the Wine
to Sake column for the Napa Valley Register.
It turns out Eduardo is a big fan of college football.
It was Eduardo Dingler Day at the stadium that Saturday afternoon and no beer
was being sold for some reason.
Ron Washam, The
Hosemaster of Wine.
Ron took charge of Panel H (as in Hosemaster).
As Ron is quite a comedian, his Panel had to taste all the "funny"
wines (or so we're told).
Ron, who used to live near Hollywood, has been in several films, none of them
He said when he signed to be in the film, he thought it was about wine and he
was going to play one of the Three Muscat-eers.
Mr. Washam's command of a sword is just as dangerous as his command of the
Rachel Van Til is an Advanced Sommelier with Pappas
Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas, Texas.
She's traversed the countryside, moving from Michigan to The Lone Star State to
pair wines with dry-aged, prime beef.
Rachel, following in Ron Washam's footsteps, has also been on the silver screen.
That's her in a scene from Pulp Fiction with John Travolta and Samuel L.
All three of them are drinking Cabernet out of unusual tasting vessels.
Travolta said "It's a blind-tasting. I have a decaf Napa Cab I
Judging with Boris and Natasha on Panel H is Chris O'Gorman.
Having worked at Gallo, Merryvale Vineyards and Paul Hobbs, these days Chris is
the Director of Communications with
Chris is an enological Jedi as it turns out.
Mark Bowery is THE man of Mark Bowery Consulting Services.
He's worn many hats in the wine industry, once working as a Cellar rat at
Sonoma's Simi winery and later as a Sommelier for the famous Masa's restaurant
in San Francisco. He's also credited with assembling a brilliant wine list at
Mark has been the host on the old TV show "What's My Wine?" with
Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Kilgallen.
Michael Cervin writes...and
His work is found in numerous venues and he's written a handful of books.
He was recently on a series of billboards in Southern California in an effort to
shock drivers into slowing down their vehicles.
Phil Markert handles Markerting and Merchandising for the Pavilions
grocery chain in Southern California.
That means he's also affiliated with the Vons/Albertsons chains, too.
He sold so much wine this past year that they had Phil on a
billboard outside Staples Center where the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers play.
One judge told us they were not surprised by this, saying "Phil is not only
a good spitter, but he dribbles better than LeBron James."
Steve Izzo iz the chairperson of Panel J.
After many years at Waterbar in San Francisco, Steve is now the owner and
manager of the Dobbs
Ferry restaurant on Gough Street near Davies Symphony Hall.
Here's a Toast to Steve (and his wife/partner Lee Ann) in a successful run
at Dobbs Ferry!
"San" Francisco Bazo took over as the wine guru at Waterbar when Steve
Izzo departed for Dobbs Ferry.
Apparently Land and Sea Restaurants, the owner of Waterbar, requires its wine
buyers to have the letter "Z" in their name.
Francisco, who is originally from Lima (Peru), has bean (sic) in the local restaurant
scene since 1997 where he worked at One Market.
Over in the Dogpatch area we saw a painter putting the finishing touches on a
mural honoring Mr. Bazo.
Stacie Hunt is a Silver Pin certified Sommelier, so she was easily able to
needle both Steve and Francisco in assessing wines.
She's a media whiz, too, being a partner in Point
Media, a public relations enterprise and much more.
Here's more evidence of Stacie and her Silver Pin.
We're told she's quite a comedian as she had the "Z Men" in stitches
over the course of the tastings.
Charles Mara is from upstate New York and he runs The
Mara Wine Group, a winery that makes a handful of Sonoma County
As a result, he does speak New Yorkese.
One of his colleagues said a wine deserved a Silver Medal...
Charles said "fuhgeddaboudit! Dat's a Gold Medal" and, sure enough, the
wine received a Double Gold.
He's a major celebrity in The Big Apple, too, having been in several episodes of
Tom Selleck's Blue Bloods TV series.
Tasting with Charles, as always, is Drake McCarthy of the Golden
State Wine Company.
Drake is a well-known Trumpet player and blows his own horn every chance he
He was recently on the cover of Horn Blower Magazine!
Adding a measure of dignity to the panel was Dana Farner.
Dana gave up her gig at sevenfifty.com and has been auditioning for movie gigs
We heard she's tried out for the lead role in "The Meryl Streep
We saw a nice piece displayed at the Getty Museum of Dana pouring Champagne.
Dana has long been a sharp-shooter, as you can see here.
Yeah, that's me on Panel L.
We found a number of good wines and I had two wonderful old pros on the panel.
Someone snapped a Polaroid picture of me wearing my Nostrilar Optimizing
Sniffing Enhancement (NOSE for short) as we were tasting.
To my right this year was the amazing Jim Caudill.
Jim is the Marketing and Communications Director at Treasury Wine Estates.
He's privileged to work with Penfolds and Beaulieu Vineyards, as well as Stags'
Leap Winery and Chateau St. Jean.
Britney Spears is a big fan of Mr. Caudill.
Some say her tune "Chillin' With You" was written with Jim in mind.
Rumor has it she had been drinking a recent vintage of BV Private Reserve.
Jim, though, is a real Masterpiece.
Mike Tadich was on the panel, too.
Mike is a Mechanical Engineer, so it's easy for him to guide lost souls such as
Jim Caudill and myself back to reality.
For years he was the Italian Wine Specialist for Wirtz Beverage in
These days he's the Italian Wine Portfolio manager for Breakthru
Beverage in Las Vegas.
Being a specialist means he doesn't have to run around "Barefoot."
As he would routinely urge Caudill and me to focus...
...I heard the same thing later in the day at the Judge's Dinner.
And I must admit I don't know an "f-stop" from a bus stop.
There's a famous San Francisco dining spot that Mike's
Chris Sawyer is a famous Sonoma Sommelier and Wine Consultant.
You can check him out on SawyerSomm.com.
Chris is famous for his Selfie images.
This one was at the Smithsonian until it shredded
As part of her "initiation," Orietta Gianjorio was obliged to taste
with Chris Sawyer.
At least that's what Andy explained.
She owns her own company, Orietta,
and teaches classes regarding Wine, Olive Oil, Chocolate and Honey.
She's a professional taster and holds the title of being an Olive Oil Taster.
Orietta was recently on a billboard near Times Square in New
After numerous traffic accidents due to drivers being distracted, Mayor Bill de
Blasio asked the billboard be taken down and moved someplace less dangerous.
Tim Marson is a Master of Wine and works for wine.com as a senior buyer.
He attended The King's School in Canterbury, England before attending Oxford
He is shy to reveal his starring role in the Kingsman films.
He plays the role of "Eggsy," a young secret service agent with many
talents, including tasting wine.
"Captain N" this year was Nick Ponomareff, publisher of the California
It's the oldest, continuously-published, subscription wine journal in the
Nick is visible on a billboard in his hometown of San Diego.
By the way, Nick was sporting a new MedicAlert bracelet:
Michael Franz is not only a Professor of Political Science at Loyola University
in Maryland, he's an editor for Wine Review On-Line.
He's a prolific writer and writes sensible articles about all sorts of
Michael is partial to the wines of South Africa, as well as being a
fan of the wines of Piemonte.
We went for a cruise after the first round of tasting and were
delighted to see a boat coming towards us with an interesting sail.
You don't see that every day!
We told another passenger on the boat we could see Franz and they said
"There's no way you can see that distance. France is very far away."
Sarah Blaufränkisch is presently working on opening a wine bar, dining spot/store
in San Francisco for the Quince and Cotogna crew
She had been seen on a mural near the new place that is said
to open shortly.
Michael Feil is the Chief Operating Officer at Florida's famed, exclusive
It's a secretive club and Michael says "If I tell you anything about the
place and its members, I'd have to kill you."
One of the judges found a copy of Golf Digest and was reading an article early
Saturday morning about Mr. Feil.
Given his being so secretive, the article did not reveal Feil's golf handicap,
his favorite wine or anything about his stamp collection.
Tasting with Mr. Feil is N'Awlins Tim McNally.
"Where y'at on dat wine? I'll take me a gold medal on Wine G!"
Tim can be found Speakin' Easy on the radio in New
is the station.
McNally is a world traveler as we noticed from this secret
document which was parked under his chair during the tastings.
Napa's famed Traci Dutton has been affiliated with the Culinary Institute of
America for many years.
She's much more than a "Somm." Traci is the Manager of Public
Wine & Beverage Studies.
In addition to her CIA affiliation, Tee-Dee moonlights with
We thought FBI was some sort of Food & Beverage Institute, but it turns out
she carries more than a corkscrew!
Dr. Valery Uhl judges at numerous tastings across the country.
She's an Oncologist in real life, but also studied viticulture at U.C.
Davis. Dr. Uhl owns a vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River Valley and is the
organizer of the North
of the Gate wine competition.
Valery is "on display" at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art.
Toshio Ueno is the Executive Instructor and Vice-President of the Sake School of
America, based in Los Angeles.
He is officially a Sake Samurai and was awarded that honor in 2016.
Toshio-San is a Master of Sake, Master Sake Sommelier and is a WSET Sake
We saw he is on a billboard in Tokyo this week, making note of his Samurai
And then we got confirmation of his status as a Sake Samurai!
HERE TO SEE HOW A "SAMURAI" IN NAPA USED HIS SABER (POORLY)...
The Great George Skorka (that's Nagy György
if you speak Hungarian!) from Southern California.
George is an old-timer in the world of wine and food.
Mr. Skorka is a philosopher of great note and people are sometimes confused when
listening to him.
As a result, an enterprising publisher has come to the rescue.
Some people who don't own the three volume set of Skorka-to-English dictionaries
think George is a puzzle.
Turns out they are right!
Kimberly Charles is the owner of
Charles Communications Associates in San Francisco.
That's a Public Relations company and she works with all sorts of wine
Kimberly was one of several judges to be on the newly-minted coins for the San
Francisco International Wine Competition.
We tried buying a beer at the nearby Foley's pub after the first day of tastings
but they, for some reason, would not accept these.
"And we don't take wooden nickels, either!" The bartender informed us.
So we tried paying for a round of beers with this:
For some reason, that didn't work, either.
LA Dodgers Fan Ian Blackburn was on Panel O as in "0 for 30" in terms
of recent World Series Championships.
Ian is the man behind the
Beekeeper Cellars wines.
And he runs the LA Wine School. WineLA.
We saw this billboard in Burbank, California.
Tim Teichgraeber is an entertainment
industry lawyer as well as being an accomplished free-lance wine
He's written articles for numerous publications such as Decanter magazine, the
San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Panel magazine, Wines & Vines and he has
his own wine blog, Modern
Dude, Joe Roberts.
We've seen him as an airplane pilot recently, as he's grown weary of flying
Now it seems he's moving on a fast track behind the wheel of a race car.
We are unsure if Joe is faster at tasting wine or driving the car.
Joe plays guitar and sings in a band...CLICK
HERE to see a video of "Wine Kissing Days."
The Vine Guy is Washington DC's Scott Greenberg.
He moonlights during the day at Greenberg,
Wexler & Eig selling insurance, but he writes articles about wine
and appears on DC's WTOP-FM
to talk about wine.
Scott is on display at The National Gallery, too.
And then there's the inimitable Tonya!
Tonya Pitts is the Sommelier and Wine Director at San Francisco's famous One
We saw her on a billboard at a Muni stop not far from the restaurant.
She's a major San Francisco Eno-Celebrity!
It's really great to see some of the folks who make this event possible.
Beth has been a volunteer at the judging since she was in high school!
Barbara has been a panel coordinator for many years.
Janine is a major "star" at the San Francisco
International Wine Competition.
During the course of the tastings, Andy is positively aglow.
And there's a group photo of the judges.
With numerous Double Golds, there are often "Super
Tastings" where judges are recruited to pick but one or two wines to be
entered into the final day's tasting of Sweepstakes wines.
After tasting more flights of wines, many of the judges head
out for a "palate cleanser" before the Judge's Dinner.
After some refreshing beer, we gather atop the Nikko Hotel for
the Judge's Dinner.
The Captain and Tennille.
Peter, Paul and Mary.
Leia, Han and Luke.
Annie, Brenda and Elise.
Kurt and Goldie
Lady Gaga and Beyoncé
Sonny and Cher
Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson
Siouxsie and The Banshees
Crosby, Stills and Nash
Loggins and Messina
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
Herbert Grônemeyer and Karel Gott
The Righteous Brothers
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Cameron, Ferris and Sloane
Kimberly, Andy and Selfie Sawyer
The "A Team": Andy and Amanda
Harry, Ron and Hermione
Simon and Garfunkel
Tracee Ellis and Diana Ross
Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
Big Brother and The Holding Company
After all these photos, it was finally time to sit down for dinner.
I had my usual bag of tricks filled with unusual and esoteric
Ermes Pavese's Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle
The Blanc de Morgex is made of Prié Blanc and it's a bone dry, crisp, stony
Someone shared a taste of their Wiston Estate Rosé from England.
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and a small percentage of Chardonnay...quite good!
Mike Tadich brought a bottle of Podere Il Carnasciale's "Il Caberlot."
It's claimed the grape variety is called Caberlot and it was discovered,
according to the legend, in a vineyard near Padova.
Transplanted to Tuscany, the Il Carnasciale estate makes a tiny quantity of this
The grape is said to have elements of Cabernet and Merlot.
We were treated to wines of the Francis Coppola winery since they were the
"Winery of the Year" at last year's judging.
Little Gem Lettuce Salad
Rowald Hepp shows off his 2016 Kabinett Riesling.
Damned good, too!
Berries and a touch of spice.
Cannonau di Sardegna...Gabbas is a top producer.
A bottle of Bonnes-Mares from Drouhin-Laroze.
Mr. Skorka rose to propose a toast to our dear friend, the late Jeffery Stivers
whom we lost just a few months earlier.
Drake brought over a nice bottle of sweet wine.
Petit Manseng...nicely honeyed.
And the evening was winding down...it had been a long day!
And so the day was completed and we were ready to continue tomorrow!
HERE FOR SUNDAY'S ACTIVITIES