Our 2015 Lineup


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 was nominated for a prestigious James Beard award, and 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.

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

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 the books California Wine Country, and the forthcoming, Santa Barbara Booze, in addition to his wine and spirits blog, Boozehoundz.

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

Paul Lukacs’ latest book, Inventing Wine, was released last year 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 ten Critics Challenges. Ed also writes a column for Wine Review Online. @EdChampagne

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 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,, 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

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

Leslie Sbrocco, aka Thirsty Girl, is one of the NBC Today Show's requent 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.

Sara Schneider is Wine Editor of Sunset Magazine, California's leading lifestyle publication. Sara also oversees the Sunset International Wine Competition, now in its fourth year and remarkably successful for a young wine competition. This will be Sara's debut appearance as a judge at the Critics Challenge.

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, 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 the "Chief Storyteller" for He researches, tastes and talks about wine. His stories include the wine’s history and purpose. Wilfred has been a retailer for more than 40 years (he started young). Additionally, he blogs and provides photography for He also is active on social media (facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and others). Wilfred currently resides in San Francisco with his wife, Alice, and dog, Cody. @WillieboySF


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