Judges Panel 2023

Tim McDonald

2023 Las Vegas Global Wine Awards
Chairman of the Judges Panel

Tim has served as a Spirits & Wine Judge at over 200 Wine and Spirits Competitions in North America. He's currently Chief Judge at the Central Coast Wine Competition and California Craft Spirits Competition.

Tim is also the former Director of Wine Judging at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.

His experience includes positions at prominent adult beverage companies; such as E&J Gallo where he served as Marketing Director Fine Wine Communications, Peak Wines as V.P. of Marketing and Communications, Trinchero Family Estates as Director of Trade Relations, and with Heublein Wines as Director of Trade & Public Relations.

Sandra Taylor

After being in the entertainment business, in front of the camera for over 20 years, Sandra Taylor is a world-class storyteller who brings a very unique quality to being a personal Sommelier.

Sandra’s ability to bring the wines to life and take you on a journey to their origins is her specialty. Her experience of travel to the world’s most coveted and important wine regions have given her first-hand knowledge, experience, and attention detail. She is apart of multiple exclusive wine groups. She is currently the wine consultant for Jean-Georges in Beverly Hills and the exclusive Sommelier and buyer for the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders. It was in Vegas that Sandra was inspired to combine her two worlds of the entertainment business and the wine world to create a first ever Sommelier position at an NFL stadium and feature a Premium wine list to offer the exclusive suite holders at Allegiant Stadium.

Sandi has completed wine programs at UCLA and The North American Sommelier Association where she earned her Certified Status and was awarded the prestigious Silver-Pin.

Erin Kirschenmann

Erin Kirschenmann, DipWSET, is the managing editor for Wine Business Monthly and has been with the company since 2012. In addition to production responsibilities for the monthly trade magazine, she writes about business, technology, sales and marketing, and also oversees content and programming for WBM's symposiums.

She speaks on wine industry trends at numerous conferences, including the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium and the World Bulk Wine Exhibition, and guest lectures on wine, media and public relations.

In 2022, she joined the Napa Valley Wine Academy as a WSET instructor. Erin has served as a judge in the international Concours Mondial de Bruxelles wine competition since 2016 and at several regional competitions. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in communications with a journalism emphasis from Sonoma State University. Find her online via her Instagram, @erinakirsch.

Traci Dutton

Traci Dutton is a beverage, food and hospitality expert based in the Napa Valley. With over 20 years of tenure as a sommelier, consumer and professional educator, and beverage specialist at the Culinary Institute of America’s California Campus, she has continued build relationships in all areas of the industry, create and track trends and shifting tastes, and hone the service and hospitality skills that are the foundation of her work ethic. Today Traci continues her work with the CIA, contributes as Beverage and Hospitality... instructor for the Napa Valley Cooking School at the Napa Valley College, consults, writes, and manages her vintage cookery and libations store, Heirloom Variety, located in Calistoga. From her first restaurant job at the age of 18, Traci knew her keen interest in everything that brings people to the table would be a lifelong vocation. Working in several restaurants in New York City, among them, Montrachet, the mecca for Burgundy lovers, helped to create a super-network of icons and specialists in the food and wine world whom she respects, admires and learns from on a daily basis. Mixology, cheese, olive oil, chocolate, wine service, restaurant management and trend setting are just a few of the subjects, in addition to wine tasting, that she loves to teach and help inspire consumers, students and professionals to continue to learn about and enjoy. Her approach is mindful, personal, fun and provocative without losing touch with the history, science and techniques that are so important to a rich understanding and appreciation of her varied and delicious pursuits.

Toshio Ueno

Sake School of America

Certified Master of Sake and Master Sake Sommelier. Toshio is the creator of Sake School of America and English Shochu Adviser Certificate program, and only one in the world to hold Master of Sake (酒匠), Master Sake Sommelier (日本酒学講師), and WSET Sake Educator diploma.

Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping... the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company's president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research. Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Director of Sake Specialist Department in marketing Japanese foods, Sake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Sake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America. In 2016 he was awarded the industry’s most prestigious title Sake Samurai from Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association. And recently February 2021, he was appointed as The Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Honors & Awards:
• 2021 Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
• 2020 Awamori JIbner, Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association
• 2019 Professionnel du Vin, Chaine des Rottiseurs Chevalier de la Societe Mondiale du Vin, Chaine des Rottiseurs
• 2019 Board of Director, Society of Wine Educators
• 2017 Distinguished Service Prize, FBO Japan
• 2016 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association Certification:
• 日本酒学講師 Master Sake Sommelier / Sake Educator, Sake Service Institute (SSI)
• 酒匠 Master of Sake, SSI
• 南部杜氏協会 研究科生 Nanbu Toji Guild Pre-Toji Candidate
• WSET Certified Sake Educator, Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET)
• Diploma Candidate, WSET – Level 3 Wine & Spirits and Level 3 in Spirits (WSET)
• Certified Specialist of Wine, Society of Wine Educators
• Certified Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers
• French Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
• Spanish Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
• Certified Italian Wine Specialist, North American Sommelier Association
• Certified Shochu Sommelier, SSI
• Citified Beer Adviser, FBO
• Cicerone Beer Server, Cicerone Judge:
• International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC), Spirits Judge
• Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, Wine & Spirits Judge
• San Francisco World Spirits Competition Judge, Spirits Judge
• San Francisco International Wine Competition, Wine Judge
• Texsom International Wine Awards, Wine Judge
• International Wine Challenge (IWC), Wine & Sake Judge
• CINVE Spain, Spirits Judge
• TAG Global Spirits Awards, Spirits Judge
• Las Vegas Global Wine Awards, Wine Judge

Wilfred Wong

Wilfred Wong, Chief Storyteller for Wine.com is a 40+ year veteran of the wine industry. In his role at Wine.com, Wilfred concentrates his efforts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). He is an extreme researcher and a taster of wines and employs his photography skills in his role. As a wine judge, Wilfred has participated domestically (Los Angeles International, San Francisco International, Sonoma County Harvest Fair and many others and internationally (Spain, France, New Zealand and Australia). He joined Wine.com on March 31, 2014. Wilfred lives in San Francisco with his wife, Alice and dog, Cody.

Anthony Mueller

Advanced Sommelier, CSW, WSET Level 3

Anthony Mueller is a sommelier and wine presenter with over 20 years of experience in the food and wine industry. He has worked as a sommelier in some of the top restaurants in the US, including the three-Michelin star The French Laundry in Yountville, California, Tribute in Michigan and Tarbell's in Arizona. He holds numerous wine certifications, including the Advanced Sommelier certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Award in Wines, the Certified Specialist of Wine certificate from the Society of Wine Educators, and the Certified Sake Advisor certificate from the Sake School of America. In 2016, he was named "Sommelier of the Month" by Food & Beverage magazine.

Mueller is an experienced wine judge, presenter and educator. He has judged wine competitions in California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and South Africa and has lectured at wine events and masterclasses across USA, Asia and Europe. Originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, Mueller relocated to Napa, California, to further his wine education. He joined the Robert Parker Wine Advocate reviewer team in 2019, reviewing the wines of Washington State and South Africa. He is excited to share his passion for identifying the world's best wines and presenting them to consumers. When not drinking Sherry, Mueller enjoys riding his motorcycle and exploring the beauty of Napa Valley. Although he has never attended culinary school, Mueller enjoys cooking elaborate meals in his small kitchen at home, preparing dishes made with ingredients grown from his home garden.

Eric Degerman

Great Northwest Wine Magazine

Eric is a native of Portland, Ore., who graduated from Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, Wash., Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., and the University of Washington.

During college, he worked for the Vancouver Columbian, the Valley Daily News in Kent and The Seattle Times before spending 25 years as an editor and award-winning sports writer at the Tri-City Herald. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest, becoming a food writer and wine judge. In 2018, he was a contributing writer to Wine Trails – USA & Canada by Lonely Planet. In 2020, he began contributing to The Seattle Times, Sip Magazine and the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business. In 2021, he received the Idaho Wine Commission’s Impact Award. He also served as the Washington state field editor for the 2022 Slow Wine Guide.

His judging history includes the San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, INDY International Wine Competition, New Orleans International Wine Competition, Savor NW Wine Awards, the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards, Oregon Wine Competition, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, Grand Harvest Awards, Long Beach Grand Cru, Riverside International Wine Competition, Northwest Wine Summit, British Columbia Wine Awards, Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, Washington State Wine Competition, Tri-Cities Wine Festival, Idaho Wine Competition, McMinnville Wine Classic, Oregon’s Greatest of the Grape, the Wenatchee Wine Awards and the Capital Food & Wine Festival Wine Competition.

Eric resides in Washington wine country with Traci, his wife of 31 years, and rescue felines Anakin, Hondo and Pinky.

Tonya Pitts
Wine Director & Sommelier

Ms. Pitts has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years and a Wine Director/Sommelier for well over 20 years. Ms. Pitts’s food and beverage experience has been in San Francisco - the Bay Area and Saint Louis, MO.

She has worked with high profile notable chef’s, the late Chef Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe, Chef Jeremiah Tower of Stars Restaurant, Chef Loretta Keller of Stars Café, Bizou Restaurant and other notable houses in the Bay Area.

She is currently working with Chef Mark Dommen of One Market Restaurant. Ms. Pitts has been the Wine Director and Sommelier for thirteen years. In addition to her post, Ms. Pitts has dedicated her career to Philanthropy, Mentorship and amplifying the voice of those that are not heard.

Ms. Pitts has been featured in numerous industry publications. She is a Certified Sommelier and continues to educate herself through the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine Spirit Trust.

Allison Levine
Owner, Please The Palate

Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry. With over 20 years of experience in communications, marketing and event planning, Allison is passionate about the world around her and the diverse people in it. Allison holds a Master’s Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. Allison is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. She also holds a WSET Level 3 Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and an Italian Wine Specialist Diploma from the North American Sommelier Association.

As an industry expert, she works with wine regions around the world, organizing trade and media events around the United States. She has traveled extensively and has lived abroad in Italy, Spain and Mexico where she developed her passion for food and wine. Her work allows her to live life to the fullest and, as a freelance writer, Allison communicates her experiences into articles, as well as in her blog (pleasethepalate.com/blog). She is a regular contributor to the Napa Valley Register, Alcohol Professor, Monarch.wine, California Winery Advisor, and BIN (Beverage Industry News). Her work has also appeared in Winetraveler, SommTV Mag, Wander with Wonder, Daily Ovation, ATOD Magazine, Wine Industry Advisor, SommJournal, The Tasting Panel, and more. Allison is the host of the podcast WineSoundtrack USA where she interviews winemakers and winery owners who share their stories, insights and some humorous anecdotes. Allison can also be found on YouTube where she hosts a weekly chat about wine on Crush On This.

Allison sits on the Board of the non-profit Vintage Hollywood and is the Wine Committee Chair for its annual food and wine charity event.

Laura Ness
Wine Columnist

Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is a wine journalist and wine competition judge who writes about every aspect of the wine business; the good, the bad and the verboten. She is the wine columnist for The San Jose Mercury News, Los Gatos Magazine, South Valley Times and Edible:Monterey, and is a regular contributor to Edible:EastBay, Wine Industry Network, Wine Country This Month and Wine Business Monthly. She’s known to carry a corkscrew in every purse, because winemakers are generally without one.

Katy Long

Katy Long has worked in and around the wine industry for nearly two decades with experience in production, sales, marketing, and communication. Katy fell in love with wine on a trip to Germany in 1996 where she tasted her first German Pinot Noir and was awe-struck. Later, her passion for wine was affirmed while studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

A one-week trip to Napa Valley post-graduation turned into a four-year stay learning all aspects of the wine industry. Starting as a production intern at Far Niente Winery followed by sales, hospitality and wine educator roles at Nickel & Nickel Winery.

Katy attended New York University, earning her B.S. in Culture and Communication, and upon returning to the Napa Valley she extolled the joys of wine, food, and travel through concierge work at Meadowood, Napa Valley, and later as Content Manager at The Bounty Hunter Rare Wine and Spirits. She has since earned the WSET Diploma with Merit, and the Sandeman Port Prize for high achievement. In addition, Katy has earned the CSS and CSW certifications, and continues to relish the exchange of knowledge surrounding wine and spirits.

In her current role as Senior Marketing Manager International, and Brand Advocate at Vintage Wine Estates in Santa Rosa, CA, Katy works with diverse teams across the organization to promote the appreciation of wines and spirits and ignite the spark in others to do the same.

Jessie Birschbach

Senior Wine, Beer & Spirits Editor, The SOMM Journal

Jessie “JABS” Birschbach, senior wine, beer, & spirits editor for The SOMM Journal magazine, is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers with a background in fine dining (Spago, Beverly Hills; Mastro’s Steakhouse, Beverly Hills), creative marketing (Signature Creative, Protagonist), and comedy (iO West, UCB LA, National Comedy Theatre).

Also a Certified Cicerone, JABS is an assistant brewer at Macleod Ale Brewing in Los Angeles: one of the few places in the United States where one can find true, fresh cask ale.

As the daughter of a former cannabis grower, Birschbach maintains a high level of cannabis knowledge, fascinated with the pairing potential of the plant’s strains (and its respective terpenes) with wine and beer.

Although she is from the island of Kauai, spending the first six years of her life on the islands, JABS grew up in San Diego, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from San Diego State University. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her wife and son, living part-time in the San Bernardino Mountains, where she serves as a paid-call firefighter.

Allison Curatolo

Wine Director - RPM Italian Las Vegas, Advanced Sommelier

Allison Curatolo is the Wine Director at RPM Italian Las Vegas, a restaurant that is modern in approach and Italian in spirit. Curatolo is originally from Arizona, but came to Vegas by way of Chicago, where she spent a decade immersing herself in the food and beverage industry. In 2016, Curatolo joined the RPM team, where she rose through the ranks – first as a receiver and a sommelier, then being promoted to the Head Sommelier at RPM Italian Chicago.

It was during this time that she passed the Advanced Sommelier Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2022, Curatolo was promoted to Wine Director of the newly opening RPM Italian Las Vegas, where she curated an extensive wine program with over 1,000 unique selections. She continues to build the cellar with an eye towards intentional pairings that highlight the symbiotic relationship between the dish and the beverage – bringing out the best in both. When Curatolo isn’t at RPM Italian, she can be found spending time with her husband and young son.

Jennifer Huether

Master Sommelier

Jennifer’s love affair and studies started in her early twenties with taking an interest course at George Brown college in wine. From there, she immediately leapt into the Sommelier Certification from ISG graduating top of class, then Diploma of Wine from WSET, followed by the Advanced Sommelier passing in 2005 and finally the Master Sommelier Exams-becoming Canada’s first female Master Sommelier in 2011 graduating in Dallas Texas.

Her restaurant industry is vast, starting off in Toronto Restaurants is where she found wine. Jennifer has also worked for Canadian owned Cliff Lede Vineyards based in Napa Valley, and for 7 years ran one of Canada’s top wine programs at MLSE in Toronto, spanning over 6 restaurants and overseeing a multi-million dollar beverage program, while mentoring the properties 11 Sommeliers. Jennifer most recently was employed with California based Jackson Family Wines representing their brands throughout Canada. Jennifer is co-founder of @socialherbivore together with Priya Rao and published the first book ever on plant-based food & wine matching.

After winning the Ontario Sommelier Competition in 2006, Jennifer decided to invest her energy heavily in the execution of the competitions from 2008 to 2019. Jennifer together with Alex Evans made it their mission to hold the Ontario & Canadian ASI Competitions to the highest level of quality, integrity and standards therefore giving the best possible experience to the Candidates. She sat for several years on the board of directors of CAPS Ontario and focused her energy into building competitions and the content for them. She is also a continually active teacher with the Court of Masters, and mentors several Advanced and Master Sommelier Candidates throughout Canada and teaches with WSET. Jennifer has sat on the Board of Directors for Femmes du Vin as the Education Chair executing seminars to enhance the lives of all women in wine and raise money for women in wine and mentors at the non-profit VinEquity.

Harley Carbery

Corporate Wine Director,
Red Rock Resorts

Currently as Corporate Wine Director, Station Casinos, Harley oversees 6 Hotel & Casino Properties as well as 10 neighborhood Casinos under the Wildfire Brand. These properties are located throughout the Las Vegas area. Managing all things wine including sourcing, purchasing, training and menu development.

Previously Harley held two positions with one of the largest beverage distributors in Las Vegas, Johnson Brothers of Nevada. Here his roles were Luxury Portfolio Manager and District Manager, On-Premise Sales. Harley’s team of sales consultants called on and worked with the top restaurants and luxury hotel properties in Las Vegas.

Before his time in sales Harley held the role as director of wine for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, he was the definition of a passionate wine expert. Not only did he oversee the resort’s 150,000 bottles, 4,000 labels, and team of 9 sommeliers, he was responsible for wine-related training and wine operations for the casino, room service, banquets, and pools as well as the resort’s dining outlets, three of which hold the Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine as well as one with the Grand Award.

This passion was sparked at his first job at a family-owned Dairy Queen in Canada, Carbery’s home country. While making guests smile with chocolate dipped cones, he discovered his aptitude for customer service and decided to pursue a profession in the food and beverage industry. His career began at The Fairmount Algonquin where he was a banquet supervisor. Soon he moved to the Fairmount Tremblant where he worked as a cook specializing in French cuisine while pursuing a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Camosun College in Victoria, BC.

In 2003, he joined the team at The Fairmount Chateau Whistler as the general manager of the fine dining restaurant, The Wine Room and the casual dining room, The Wildflower. Here under his leadership The Wine Room achieved AAA Four Diamond status and earned Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. While in Whistler, Carbery also earned a sommelier diploma from the International Sommelier Guild.

Carbery moved to Las Vegas in 2007 to work at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas where he worked as general manager and sommelier for the AAA Four Diamond fine dining restaurant, Medici Café & Terrace as well as manager of in-room dining, Galileo Lobby Lounge & Bar and the Pool Bar and Café. In 2008, Carbery joined the team at Robuchon restaurants at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. He began as assistant general manager and sommelier at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and was then promoted to wine director for Chef of the Century Joël Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurants; Joël Robuchon Restaurant and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. In his time serving in this position, the wine lists at Joel Robuchon Restaurant earned the elite Wine Spectator Grand Award for the first time in 2009.

Carbery is a highly certified wine professional. In 2009, he became a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Sake Specialist by the Sake Education Council. Carbery earned the distinction of Certified Spanish Wine Educator from the Wine Academy of Spain in 2008. Most recently Harley passed the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines, with Distinction.

Judging Process

The 2022 panel of our dynamic judges is a group of highly decorated and extremely reputable individuals, with tremendous and diverse experience in all aspects of the wine industry.

The panel we have assembled perfectly fits the high level of quality and visibility that we wanted.

The judging process, itself, is conducted as a 100% blind tasting process from the early rounds all the way through the sweepstakes rounds.

An extensive amount of diverse and very specific wine categories have been created to assure that the entries are judged correctly.

As each entry is received, the supplier registers it initially. From there it is double-checked by our staff, catalogued in our system, and (if need be) put into its most appropriate sub-category. During the competition, all the Wines in their respective and specific sub-categories are sampled together as flights, carefully evaluated in all aspects, and scored numerically by each one of our spirits judges on that that flight.

The scoring ranges are:
Gold – 90-94
Platinum – 95-100

Each judge gives the wine a score. The judging group then totals up their scores to determine the average, and that average determines the numerical score the wine will receive, as well as the color of the medal it will be awarded. All wines that the judges deem the very best in their preliminary judging will move forward to the final day of sweepstakes where they will be reevaluated by the entire panel of judges to determine the Highest Awards in the competition, The Best of Show Categories.

A worldwide press release will be sent out announcing all the winners on May 1st. That announcement alone will be viewed by millions of people around the world in the industry as well as consumers in the public. In addition, also on August 1st, an entire Winners Section will be revealed on The Las Vegas Global Wine Awards Website, complete with images of the winners and all information about them.

Each winner will also receive a one of kind medal to celebrate their success with no restrictions on usage, as well as a complete digital media kits including multiple file format graphics and links to all press releases.