The Panel of Judges for 2018

The Competition is a double-blind wine competition conducted by a select panel of esteemed wine judges.
Berger Dan

Dan Berger Writer and Wine Columnist | Santa Rosa, CA

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 also runs the Dan Berger International Wine Competition (formerly Riverside International Wine Competition). Among his honors are the Wines & Vines Wine Writer of the Year award; the Father Junipero Serra Award of the California Wine Patrons of Los Angeles; the Wine Literary Award, presented by the Wine Appreciation Guild, and was the 2010 Wine Writers Hall of Fame honoree of the Wine Media Guild in New York. Three of his five books have been on wine.​

Brix Jacque

Jacques Brix

President, US French Association of Wine Executives

Jacques Brix found his calling in the wine industry as a second career… To hone his basic wine production knowledge and enjoyment, he created a vineyard in Texas Hill Country, developed hobby vineyards in Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa Counties, and made “garage” wines for more 2 decades.  As a partner in the oldest and largest wine trade publishing company in North America, Wines & Vines (established in 1919)

As the president of the US French Association of Wine Executives, he continues to emphasize and maximize the relationship between the French suppliers of technology/services for the North American grape growers and wine producers

Byre Bernadette

Bernadette Byrne

Executive Director of the Mendocino WineGrowers

Bernadette moved to Mendocino County almost 30 years ago to work for the Fetzer family as Director of Hospitality, and was instrumental in the creation of the Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center. During her tenure at Fetzer, her dynamic personality was a perfect fit as wine educator, developing trade training programs.  After a decade as Marketing Director of McDowell Valley Vineyards, Bernadette channeled her passion for Mendocino County wines, founding SIP! Mendocino, a wine shop featuring unique and small lot wines. Now as Executive Director of the Mendocino WineGrowers, Bernadette works with Mendocino grape growers and vintners to promote the grapes and wines from Mendocino County.  She has also been a judge in many prestigious wine competitions.

Dutton Traci

Traci Dutton

Sommelier, Wine Judge and Manager – Public Wine and Beverage Studies, CIA | Napa County, CA

Traci Dutton is a sommelier, a wine judge, and the manager of public wine and beverage studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. She joined the CIA in 1998 as beverage manager and sommelier for the college’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Over the course of more than 30 years in the wine  world, Ms. Dutton has worked in high-end establishments such as Montrachet, The Striped Bass, and 231 Ellsworth, and has served luminaries as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Bacon, and Chef Paul Bocuse. She has studied and tasted great wines at vineyards around the world, from Portugal and Austria to Argentina and the United States. Her writing on wines and beverages has appeared in Kitchen & Cook, the St. Helena Star, iSanté.com, and many other publications. In 2011, she was named one of the top wine country sommeliers by Tasting Panel magazine.

Renata Franzia

Renata Franzia

Sommelier, Classic Wines of  California (Bronco Wine Co.)

Our family has been in the wine business for four generations. I am currently the Northern California Chain account manager for Bronco Wine Company founded by Joseph, John and Fred T. Franzia in 1974. I began in sales and marketing after graduating from Santa Clara University. I then transitioned into chain sales and enjoyed growing our brands in the marketplace. After starting our own family, I returned to the marketing side and began entering and managing our various companies brands into national and International wine competitions. Over the years we have developed a system to manage the wine awards and accolades. I have recently become a certified wine judge for local wine competitions. Over the years, I have served and taken leadership roles on a variety of non-profits boards ranging from school PTA’s, Athletic Boosters, organized sports to our community’s HOA. I am excited to see what the future holds.

Herbst Barry

Barry Herbst

Wine Director, Bottle Barn Liquors | Santa Rosa, CA

Barry has more than three decades of experience in the wine industry, ranging from sommelier and wine shop owner to high-level retail and private cellar acquisitions. He was raised in Southern California, where he earned his stripes in some of LA’s most celebrated restaurants, among them Chinois on Main and Osteria Angelini. Most recently, Barry was General Manager of the Rare Wine Company in Sonoma, as well as working with Soutirage and Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits in Napa Valley. Currently, he is the wine buyer for Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA, a 15,000 square foot superstore and arguably has the largest and finest selection of fine wines north of San Francisco. Barry blames a bottle of 1980 Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux for having sent him down the rabbit hole many years ago. Today, he lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife, two children and Australian Shepherd, Elvis, to whom he happily dedicates every spare moment outside of work.

Miller Erik

Erik Miller

Owner & Winemaker, Kokomo Winery

Originally from Kokomo, Indiana, Erik had always dreamed of moving west. After graduating from Purdue University in 1999, with a degree in Organizational, Leadership, and Supervision, he set his sights on Sonoma County in order to pursue his dreams.

Starting at ground level as a cellar worker, there was an immediate connection to the industry. After working that first harvest, Erik decided to enroll at U.C. Davis to study Oenology and learn from the best in the field.

While handling his duties in the cellar, Erik began Kokomo Winery with a 2004 single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Dry Creek Valley.  After the 2006 harvest, Kokomo Winery moved into its own facility at Timber Crest Farms in Dry Creek Valley. In 2008 Erik brought on his partner in the winery, Randy Peters, who is a fourth generation farmer in Dry Creek Valley.  “Having a partner who grows in three appellations in Sonoma County really completed the loop for us and ensures consistency in quality and terrior”.  Erik’s wife, Kimia, joined him at the winery in 2014 to help shoulder the administrative and sales duties, allowing Erik to place more of his focus on winemaking.

Sandri David

David Sandri

Wine Educator and Advisor

David has been in various parts of the wine and alcohol business for over 25 years, from retail in tasting rooms to production and compliance. He has judged at competitions throughout the country, including the California State Fair, Finger Lakes International, International Wine Challenge (UK), and many others. At College of Marin he teaches classes on tasting, regions, and production, and he also gives lectures through the Wine Business program at Sonoma State University.

Sawyer Christopher

Christopher Sawyer

Wine Writer and “Sommelier to the Stars” | Sonoma, CA

Christopher Sawyer is an internationally-renowned sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic and public speaker: He travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a VIP judge in the world’s top wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Redbook, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, CNN and Esquire. Already legendary in the industry for his encyclopedic wine knowledge and rich wine industry relationships around the globe, Sawyer has been a personal sommelier for an array of luminaries and aficionados, from the Getty Family to the Gorbachevs, as well as for Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer of Pixar-Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter. Christopher has also become renowned for his unusual and entertaining ability to pair wines with just about any pop cultural experience. His wine pairings for movies are already celebrated, and have been featured in major national media. Sawyer is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. Most recently he was voted 2014 Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by readers in The Bohemian’s Best of the North Bay issue.

Vicini Cathy

Cathy Vicini

Proprietor & Operations Manager, Trecini

When not helping families as a practicing Psychotherapist, Cathy is the Proprietor and Operations Manager at the family winery during the day. Never content to run a business she didn’t understand, Cathy attended the wine program at the Culinary Institute’s Wine Immersion Program in Greystone to learn about wine making and the nuances of the various wines. It has been her goal to understand what goes into winemaking, and learn the subtleness in the various wines. Cathy loves sharing her passion for wine and stories about Trecini wine in the tasting room. She brings with her years of business experience as a previous owner and manager of a multi-location retail gift and clothing company.

debra 11

Debra Del Fioretino

Competition Director

Debra Del Fioretino is an International Wine Judge, Advanced Sommelier, Certified Wine Professional and Certified Specialist of Wine. She is a consummate wine professional who brings a dynamic energy and expertise to every endeavor she undertakes. Debra is a familiar face at numerous prestigious wine competitions. She also is President and owner of Wine Competitions Management & Productions, and Libation Logistics Inc. She is a founding partner in Spirited Magazine as well as an independent wine educator and partner in Russian River Vineyards.