Robert Whitley
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20th Annual
Critics Challenge
International Wine & Spirits Competition
June 23-24, 2023

The 2023 competition is complete - results are posted. 


Founded by wine critic Robert Whitley in 2004, Critics Challenge is one of the most important and respected wine and spirits competitions in the world. Entries are judged blind by noted wine and spirits journalists, bloggers and critics. Comments and scores from the individual judges are published on the competition results page for all award-winning entries.Platinum-winning wines receive reviews at WineReviewOnline and Platinum-winning spirits at SpiritsReviewOnline.

Rich Cook, Competition Director
+1 (760) 522-3167

Click Here for: Press Release

Robert Whitley Memorial Award Announced; Other Top Honors

(July 2023) - Twenty years ago, Robert Whitley had the idea to start a different kind of wine competition – one that gathered his fellow wine writers from around the country to bring their unique talents and worldwide perspectives to a blind tasting event. Over the next two decades Critics Challenge saw wines from around the world take top honors, testifying to exceptional vintages, great winemaking and the pursuit of excellence. We lost Robert in 2021, but his innovative spirit lives on in this annual event. We marked the occasion of the 20th anniversary by naming the Critics Challenge top wine award in his honor. 

The first winner of the Robert Whitley Trophy for Wine of the Year is Scott Palazzo’s 2019 Left Bank Red Cuvée, Master Blend Series, Napa Valley – a Cabernet Sauvignon-based nod to the west side of the Gironde River in Bordeaux. It couldn’t be a more fitting selection. Robert was a collector of great Bordeaux over the years while at the same time serving as a champion for the fine wines coming out of California. Chief Wine Judge Michael Franz describes the Palazzo as having “very smart styling, resulting in superb wine,” in a way similar to how I would describe Robert’s Critics Challenge idea: very smart concept, resulting in superb results. Well done, my friend.

There was plenty to celebrate at the 2023 competition, from Paso Robles’ Eberle Winery taking Domestic Winery of the Year honors to Australia’s Zonte’s Footstep - and their ever-growing line of wines - taking the Import Winery of the Year title. Jean Charles Boisset’s portfolio showed quality across the board to land his Boisset Collection the Wine Company of the Year award. 

The spirits division had one of its largest showings to date. Spirits judges awarded Spirit of the Year to a high-concept Reposado Tequila from El Cristiano 1761. Courvoisier’s stellar line of Cognacs earned the venerable producer the Distiller of the Year prize.

In all, 685 medals were awarded, including 64 Platinum awards. You can check out all of the wine and spirits winners on our results pages

If you’d like to learn more about Robert Whitley you can read a collection of tributes at this link at – another one of his great ideas. It’s my honor to play a part in continuing his legacy, and our team looks forward to celebrating more great beverages at the 2024 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Challenge next June. Cheers!

Rich Cook
Competition Director





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