Judging Panel


Chairman Marty Spate

Chairman Glenn Grabiec

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SJVWA 2014 Wine Competition Judging Panel:

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Michael Blaylock

A California native with a strong interest in the environment, Michael Blaylock obtained an Bachelor of Arts degree in Wildlife Zoology with a minor in Chemistry from San Jose State University. Wishing to become involved in wildlife management he joined the Peace Corps.

Assigned to the Republic of the Philippines as a liaison between the government and artisan fishermen, he helped administer a fishing equipment acquisition loan program funded by the World Bank. At about the same time, in an effort to develop new income generating jobs for the local fishermen, Mike established turkey farming and cashew wine production enterprises. Of the two, wine production proved to be much more successful and fun.

After two years Mike left the Philippines and entered the graduate enology program at California State University Fresno where he received his Master of Science degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Enology.

In 1983 he joined Quady Winery in Madera, California. As winemaker, Michael continues to produce the now legendary Essensia Orange Muscat and the rose-perfumed Elysium Black Muscat dessert wines as well as the new and exciting Electra. He is currently involved in the development and expansion of the estate Mission Arch and San Miguel Vineyards. The San Miguel Vineyard is devoted to the exclusive development of various Portuguese port varieties for the proprietary Quady Vintage Starboard and the Starboard – Batch 88 ports.

Always looking for something wild and crazy, Mike is crafting a medley of aromatized wines. These are wines that have been infused with aromatic herbs. The Sweet and Dry Vya Aperitif Vermouth offer an exciting twist to a famous concoction. Unique and stimulating, Deviation with Damiana and Rose Geranium herbs is sure to titillate the senses.

Produced from biodynamically grown Palomino grapes and aged in a five year Solera under a velo of flor yeast, the Palomino Fino Aamontiado-style sherry is Michael’s salute to traditional Old-World Spanish winemaking with New-World Quady California panache.

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Mike Stepanovich

Mike Stepanovich has been writing his wine column, “Life is a Cabernet,” continuously since 1985, and judging wines since 1987. His column first appeared in The Bakersfield Californian, and now is featured in Bakersfield Magazine, for which he also reviews restaurants. His work has also appeared in such national and international publications as International Wine Review, Wine News and Wine Business Monthly.
An avid wine collector, Mike also teaches wine classes at Bakersfield College. He travels extensively, and in addition to his native California has reported on wine developments in France, Italy, Germany, Austria and other regions of the United States.
Among the competitions where Mike has judged are the American Wine Competition, West Coast Wine Competition, Jerry Mead’s New World Wine Competition, Indianapolis International Wine Competition, Florida International Wine Competition, Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, Riverside International Wine Competition, Los Angeles International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition, Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and Long Beach Grand Cru.
He is managing director of the Bakersfield Wine Society, and directs the Bakersfield College Foundation’s annual scholarship fundraiser, “Red & White Wine & Food Festival,” a wine tasting that has grown to among the largest wine events in Central California.
He also makes wine from grapes he grows himself, and from other sources. In his spare time, he is writing a tongue-in-cheek novel about wine, tentatively titled “Zinforado!” which he hopes to publish sometime in the near future.

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Dr. Fred Nury

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Dr. Fred Nury

Dr. Fred S. Nury is an emeritus professor of Enology at California State University in Fresno where he also served as Department chairman.  Dr. Nury is the author and co-author of 58 publications, six US patents and three textbooks including the Winemaker’s Guide. He also was granted an award of life membership in the technical advisory committee of the Wine Institute as well as being a life member of the American Society of Enologist.

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Dennis Martin

As Vice President, Director of Winemaking at Fetzer Vineyards, Dennis Martin cannot imagine a better working environment.  “It’s perfect”, he says, “Because we work as a team in a relaxedatmosphere, which enables us to produce consistently high quality wine.”
Martin earned an Agricultural Business degree in 1973 from California State University at Fresno and a master’s degree in Enology and Food Science there in 1975.  He worked at United Vintners as a cellar supervisor, white and sparkling winemaker until 1982, when he moved to Scott Laboratories, a major winery supply company where he served as a sales enologist.  In 1985, Fetzer Winemaster Paul Dolan selected Martin as his assistant.  When Fetzer was acquired by Brown-Forman in 1992, Martin was named Director of Winemaking.  In 1996, Martin ascended to the position of Vice President/Winemaking accountable for all winemaking at Fetzer Vineyards for their several brands.
Martin and his winemaking staff are dedicated to working with individual grape growers and are committed to the concept that winemaking is an integrated team effort.  Martin is involved in all major winemaking decisions, including grape selection, tasting, and blending.  “I think one of our major successes as a winery is our ability to blend consistently, vintage after vintage,” Martin says.
In creating all of the Fetzer Vineyard wines, from Fetzer Premium Varietals to the Luxury Wine Collection, Martin selects the finest varietal fruit available from prized vineyards throughout California.   With the Luxury wines, production lots are kept relatively small to emphasize individual vineyard character in the wines, true expressions of the terroir they represent.  “We strive to make the best possible wine we can from each vintage, emphasizing the true character of each varietal.  Our goal is to offer our consumers quality wines that are stylistically pleasing and consistent from vintage to vintage.”
Fetzer was acquired by the Chilean wine company Vina Concha y Toro in 2011 and Martin is excited about the future opportunities for investment, growth and improved quality for all of the brands.  “It’s great to be owned by a wine company again,” Martin says.
Martin is a member, former director and a past President of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture.  He is married and has two children.

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G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski, CWE

 

 

G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski, CWE, is a dynamic and exciting speaker, whose enthusiasm for wine is balanced by his 30+ years of teaching and educating both consumers and members of the trade. A certified wine educator, prolific writer and highly sought-after speaker, Pucilowski brings his infectious enthusiasm and dedication to  educating others about the myths and misconceptions people have about wine and the industry. What began as an intense curiosity about wine and the industry decades earlier has turned into a lifelong passion for Pucilowski.

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Stillman Brown

 

Stillman Brown, a party animal native to California, started as the winemaker of the infamous Jory Winery, which he co-founded
in 1984; he originally focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the northern Central Coast, particularly exotic and rare clones. He conceived and developed the Red Zeppelin brand for Syrah and other Rhone varietals in the ’90’s, and then along with his new partners started Red Zeppelin as an independent winery in 2003, bringing his winemaking expertise and creative abilities, both of which are considerable. For more information – perhaps too much information – about Stillman please see his “enological party website”

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Carl Rana

My name is Carl Rana and I am the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Stefanelli Distributing Company, Inc. located in Fresno, CA. Family owned since 1951, Stefanelli Distributing is the oldest, continuous E & J Gallo wine distributor in the world. I am a Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Specialist of Spirits and a Certified Wine Professional, the first in central California to earn all three certifications. Born and raised in Fresno, CA. I am a graduate of the University of Idaho where I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry, Wood Utilization and Forest Products and held a managerial position with Architectural Wood Products. After opening several restaurants I later joined ARA Services to continue my restaurant career until 1984 which time I entered the wine industry. The experience that I have had as a Restaurateur, Corporate Executive Chef, Corporate Director of Food and Beverage, has allowed me to offer my knowledge through publications to the public as well as the food and wine industry. I have consulted with sales representatives, winery personnel, retail, and restaurant owners along with their staff.  Memberships and associations with the International Society of Wine Educators, The American Wine Society, the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and the San Joaquin Valley Winegrower’s Association keeps me current on the evolution of the wine industry and local consumption trends.

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Andy Starr

Andy Starr, founder of StarrGreen, is an entrepreneur, marketing manager and winemaker with over twenty five years of Fortune 500 and start-up experience in identifying innovative, profitable new business opportunities, and creating and building the organizations to meet their needs.  Andy works in both the wine and green technology industries.

His winemaking experience includes six years as a winemaker at facilities in California, Israel and Australia, highlighted by two years as the award-winning head winemaker at the in Israel.  Andy received a BS degree in Fermentation Science from U.C. Davis in 1981 and was the youngest member of his graduating class.  He received an MBA with a marketing emphasis from UCLA in 1988.

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Mark Chandler

Mark Chandler is a 35 year veteran of the wine business who has been a winemaker, marketer, general manager and association CEO. He is well known for his 20 years at the helm of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, a time during which the local industry was transformed from an anonymous winegrape region to one the most vibrant, innovative and rapidly growing wine appellations in North America. As of 2013 Mark is Executive Director of WineAmerica, based in Washington, DC, which serves over 500 members in 48 states.

Mark is a 7th generation California farmer who holds a BSc in Agricultural Business from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and an MA in Organizational Management from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara. He is also a graduate of the esteemed California Agricultural Leadership Program. He holds Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certificate from the Society of Wine Educators, an organization of which he is past president. He is a Grand Knight in the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine. He has received many honors for his industry leadership, including being named Wine Professional of the Year by Sunset Magazine, and picked among the Top 100 Most Influential People in US Wine by INTOWINE.com. Mark is a judge at several wine competitions, and is a popular speaker at wine venues around the country. Mark and his wife, Jan, farm 180 acres of vineyard in the Lodi appellation.

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Chris Willis

 

 

Chris Willis is a winemaker in the Central Valley. He started out as an intern in a custom crush winery on the central coast. He then interned with E&J Gallo, Fresno. After earning his degree in Enology at California State University, Fresno, Chris was hired by The Wine Group where he has made concentrate, Kosher products, generic wine, and varietal wines. He has 8 vintages under his belt, including one in Australia’s Riverina wine region. He now makes custom wines for several customers around the world.