Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition

Taking part in an international wine competition in San Diego 

26-28 May 2017 in San Diego

Many thanks to friend and chief judge Robert Whitley, for the opportunity to judge this weekend for the Critics Challenge in San Diego. I am honored to be a part of a panel of great wine connoisseurs.

Robert writes the syndicated Wine Talk column for Creators Syndicate. He and I agree totally that the Médoc excelled in particular for #Bordeaux16; here his excellent post. It is always a great pleasure to meet Robert in Bordeaux during en primeur or at Vinexpo. It will be great to meet again in San Diego these next three days!

Robert also is publisher of the online wine publication His columns covering wine and spirits over the past 25 years have appeared in newspapers and magazines from coast to coast, and he also contributes columns and reviews to

He also keeps busy as Executive Director of the San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition and Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition in addition to the Critics Challenge. @wineguru

I look forward to meeting chief judge Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW as well. She was the first American woman to earn certification as a Master of Wine and is co-author of Wine for Dummies and 12 other wine books, as well as Director of the International Wine Center in New York City since 1984. That is mighty impressive! Mary also writes frequently for newspapers and magazines and travels the world extensively in the course of covering wine. She is an experienced and sought-after wine judge and has been Chief Judge of Critics Challenge since its inception. @memmw

So this will be my first time participating. The judge list, below:

Wayne Belding, MS is a Master Sommelier as well as a wine writer. Based in Colorado, Wayne contributes columns and reviews to the online wine publication WineReviewOnline and is a contributor to Sommelier Magazine. This will be Wayne’s debut appearance at Critics Challenge. @WayneBeldingMS

Michael Cervin is the wine and spirits writer for The Hollywood Reporter, and Fine Wine & Liquor Magazine, the largest wine magazine in China. He contributes to Decanter, Forbes, The Tasting Panel, and He is the author of six books including California Wine Country, and the forthcoming Santa Barbara Booze, in addition to his wine and spirits blog, Boozehoundz. @MichaelCervin

Rich Cook is a prolific reviewer of wines for and also serves on the California Grapevine tasting panel. In addition, Rich is a seasoned wine competition pro. After serving the past six years as Assistant Director of the Critics Challenge, he was recently promoted to Director. @RichCookOnWine

Laurie Daniel, a resident of northern California, has been writing about wine for more than 20 years, most prominently for the San Jose Mercury News. Laurie is an experienced wine judge who has evaluated wines at competitions around the globe. This will be her third appearance as a judge at the Critics Challenge. @LDWine

Michael Franz is Editor of and Sommelier Magazine. In addition to those duties, he contributes columns and reviews to WRO and also writes for France Magazine. Michael was wine columnist for the Washington Post for more than a decade before joining Michael also organizes the annual Wine for Oysters competition in Washington, D.C., and is Chief Judge of the San Diego International Wine Competition. @Michael_Franz

Panos Kakaviatos is an American-born wine writer based in Europe, with particular expertise in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the wines of Alsace. Panos has been contributing to Harper’s and Decanter since 2001, and also authors the Wine-Chronicles blog. This will be his first appearance at Critics Challenge. @PanosKakaviatos

Ed McCarthy is co-author of Wine for Dummies and solo author of Champagne for Dummies and 12 other wine books. Ed’s broad experience with wines the world over is invaluable in an important international wine competition, and he has judged at every one of the previous 13 Critics Challenges. Ed also writes a column for

Linda Murphy is co-author of American Wine, in collaboration with Jancis Robinson, MW. Linda is the former Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wine section and currently writes on wine for Decanter and @LindaMurphyWine

Nick Passmore is a veteran of 12 of the previous 13 Challenges. Based in New York, this Brit-born wine & spirits writer is a fixture on both topics at Forbes, and he finds time to write the NickOnWine blog as well. Nick also contributes to Business Week and Four Seasons Magazine. @NickOnWine

Joe Roberts is the talented, eccentric and downright infamous 1WineDude, a wine blogger extraordinaire who makes tasting wine–and reading about tasting wine–relaxed, fun and entertaining. Joe also writes a wine column for @1WineDude

Leslie Sbrocco, aka Thirsty Girl, is one of the NBC Today Show’s frequent wine experts and has authored a number of top-selling wine books, including Wine for Women. Leslie also co-hosts an Emmy Award-winning PBS television show in San Francisco, “Check Please,” that covers the Bay Area restaurant scene. @LeslieSbrocco

Jeff Siegel is The Wine Curmudgeon, an eclectic and very popular wine blog that emphasizes affordable wines. Based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Jeff was wine columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Jeff is author of a book about affordable wines, The Wine Curmudgeon Guide to Cheap Wine. Jeff has written five other books.

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