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February 2, 2014

Here Come the Judges

We've completed the team for the 11th annual Critics Challenge International Wine Competition, and it's another seriously good collection of wine journalists.

This year's judges have written numerous wine booksand contributed columns, articles and reviews to respected print publications, and are a force in the wine blogosphere, too.

The 2014 Critics Challenge is scheduled for June 14-15 in San Diego. In the unique Crticics Challenge format, awards are supported by excerpted comments from the judges' own tasting notes and published on the competition website, CriticsChallenge.com, shortly after completion of the competition.

The 2014 Lineup

Chief Judges

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW was the first woman to earn certification as a Master of Wine and is co-author of Wine for Dummies and numerous other wine books, as well as Director of the International Wine Center in New York City since 1984. 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

Robert Whitley writes the syndicated Wine Talk column for Creators Syndicate and is publisher of the online publication Wine Review Online. Robert’s columns have appeared in newspapers and magazines from coast to coast, and he also contributes columns and reviews to Wine Review Online. Robert is Director of the San Diego International, Winemaker Challenge and Sommelier Challenge wine competitions in addition to the Critics Challenge. This year Robert also is scheduled to judge at the Wines of Portugal Challenge in Lisbon, the Dallas Morning News TexSom, the Sunset Magazine International and the San Francisco International wine competitions. @wineguru


Michael Apstein is a regular contributor to Wine Review Online, which publishes his reviews and columns. While a wine columnist for the Boston Globe he won a prestigious James Beard award. His articles have appeared in many publications, including the wine section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Michael has judged at all of the previous nine Critics Challenges. @MichaelApstein

Dan Berger is arguably America's dean of wine writers. Dan has held many top positions in wine jourmalism, most notably as wine columnist for The Los Angeles Times. He also wrote a wine column for many years for The San Diego Union, as well as the Copley News Service and the Creators Syndicate. His wine column frequently appears in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the Napa Valley Register in the heart of the California wine country.

Stephen Brook is a London-based columnist and blogger for Decanter and a noted wine-book author with multiple works to his credit, including Bordeaux: People, Power and Politics; The Wines of California; and Liquid Gold: Dessert Wines of the World. Stephen judges numerous international wine competitions in Europe and has judged at all nine Critics Challenges. @StephenPBrook

Laurie Daniel has written on wine for the San Jose Mercury News for the past two decades and is recognized as an expert on California wine. She has judged numerous wine competitions through the years, including the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, and the Monterey Wine Competition. This will be Laurie’s debut at Critics Challenge.

Michael Franz is Editor of Wine Review Online. 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 Wine Review Online. 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

W. Blake Gray is a regular contributor to Wine Review Online and authors The Gray Report wine blog. Blake was a reporter covering wine for the San Francisco Chronicle before striking out on his own a number of years ago. Blake judges at numerous important international wine competitions, including the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. @WBlakeGray

Paul Lukacs’ latest book, Inventing Wine, was released just before Christmas to critical acclaim. His first book, American Vintage, the Rise of American Wine, was nominated for a prestigious James Beard award. Paul is a regular contributor to Wine Review Online as well as numerous national publications. Paul also organizes the annual Wine for Oysters competition in Washington, D.C., along with colleague Michael Franz. @PaulLukacs

Ed McCarthy is co-author of Wine for Dummies and solo author of Champagne for Dummies and numerous 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 nine Critics Challenges. Ed also writes a column for Wine Review Online. @EdChampagne

Linda Murphy came out with a new book, American Wine, last year 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 Wine Review Online. Linda and Jancis are touring the United States extensively this spring and summer to promote American Wine. @LindaMurphyWine

Rebecca Murphy is wine columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Director of the Dallas Morning News TexSom wine competition. Rebecca also is the person behind the scenes at several other major wine competitions, including the Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition. @Rebeccaonwine

Nick Passmore is a British-born, New York-based independent wine writer and wine consultant, Nick contributes to Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, Four Seasons Magazine, USAirways Magazine, Bloomberg and Businessweek. He is the recipient of the Pearl Award for editorial excellence in custom publishing. His website is NickOnWine.com.

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 Playboy.com. This will be his first trip west (Joe is based in Philadelphia) to participate in the Critics Challenge. @1WineDude

Leslie Sbrocco is perhaps the most entertaining personality in the world of wine media. She’s an award-winning author (Wine for Women and The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide), television host (Check Please, a popular PBS show in San Francisco) and multimedia star as The Thirsty Girl. Leslie also makes frequent appearances on The Today Show to chat about wine. She is currently working on her third book, Adventures of a Thirsty Girl. @LeslieSBrocco

Bruce Schoenfeld is Wine & Spirits Editor for Travel + Leisure. Prior to T&L he was a contributor to The Wine Spectator for a dozen years, and before that a rising star as a sportswriter for a number of different newspapers. Bruce is an avid collector of Barolo and Bordeaux, and has a rich background in Spanish wine after living in Spain for a number of years. @BruceSchoenfeld

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 currently working on a book about affordable wines, which are clearly his passion. @wine_curmudgeon

Marguerite Thomas is a columnist and reviewer for Wine Review Online. She is a columnist at Vineyard & Winery Management and a contributor to Sommelier Journal and other national wine magazines. She has been a regular contributor to Hugh Johnson’s annual Pocket Guide to Wine for the past ten years. Marguerite has written previously for the Los Angeles Times, and she is the author of a cookbook and two books about wine. @WineWith

Deborah Parker-Wong is Northern California Editor for The Tasting Panel magazine and a frequent judge at important international wine competitions. She has a WSET diploma and is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers (London) and the Wine Media Guild (New York). Deborah is a frequent contributor to Sommelier Journal and other nationally distributed wine and spirits publications. This will be her second appearance at Critics Challenge. @ParkerWong

Wilfred Wong is eCommerce Director for Beverages & More, a national chain of wine & spirits shops. Wilfred is a longtime contributor to a number of national wine publications and is recognized globally for his astute wine palate. This will be Wilfred's third appearance as a judge at Critics Challenge.
Posted by Robert Whitley at 12:58 PM