Meet the Judges of the Most Important Wine Competition in the USA

17/09/2018 From retail stores to restaurants to hospitality venues, these UWR Judges represents every sector of the wine industry.

A world-class wine competition requires a world-class panel of judges, and that’s exactly what the USA Wine Ratings event has assembled in San Francisco. These 25 judges represent every important sector of the wine industry, from retail stores to restaurants to hospitality venues. Moreover, there is representation from every major wine region of the country.

With that in mind, here’s a full listing of the judges of the USA Wine Ratings event in San Francisco:

What all of these wine judges have in common is strong commercial buying expertise. All of them are on the front lines of buying or selling wine to the consumer, and that means they are very much attuned to market trends, consumer tastes and preferences, and the overall dynamic of supply and demand in the marketplace.

2018 USA Wine Ratings Judges

Supermarkets and national retail chains

With supermarkets and retail chains – think Kroger’s, Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s – accounting for an ever-growing proportion of wine industry sales, it’s perhaps no surprise that this vibrant, fast-growing sector of the industry is well-represented on the judging panel.

For example, meet Jeffrey Cody, Wine Buyer for Whole Foods Markets in New York City. As part of his daily job, he must decide which wine bottles to stack on the floor and on the shelf, what types of wine displays will work best to entice customers, and how to price the wines so that they represent a real value to the consumer. At other conferences held around the United States, including those sponsored by Beverage Trade Network (the organizers of the USA Wine Ratings event), Cody has spoken about the various factors that impact the relative success of Whole Foods Market’s wine sales in New York.

Major hospitality venues

The on-premise industry (i.e. hotels, bars, restaurants) is a very vibrant sector of the wine industry and the place to see many of the industry’s top trends – such as the private label trend – at work. Thus, it’s also not a surprise that top consumer-facing representatives from these establishments have also been added to the judging panel of the USA Wine Ratings event.

For example, meet Amy Witz, the Sommelier for the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Or meet Brandon Bidwell, General Manager & Wine Director for Hyatt Regency in California. Both of them are at the forefront of new consumer trends and are very much attuned to the differences in consumer tastes on a region-by-region basis. They understand the types of wines that patrons are ordering from the hotel wine list, as well as the competitive advantages that wine can confer to any on-premise establishment.

Famous and trendsetting hotels, restaurants, bars and lounges

And, speaking of the on-premise industry, there is plenty of representation from this very important segment of the market.  For example, consider JoAnn DeCaglia, Sommelier, Glenmere Mansion, a boutique luxury hotel in New York State’s Hudson Valley. In 2013, Forbes named this hotel one of the “20 Hottest/Coolest New Hotels” in the country. And that’s not all – some judges are owners or wine directors at some of the most popular wine bars and lounges in California, while others are wine directors at national restaurant chains.

Or, for example, meet Sharyn Kervyn CSW, Wine Director at The Capital Grille. In this role, she has wine buying responsibility for this popular national chain of steakhouses. She has spoken at industry events nationally, including events organized by Beverage Trade Network, about what it takes to sell wine to national chain accounts. It takes more than just a great tasting wine, she says, it also takes a real understanding of where the wine market is headed. It’s not enough, she says, simply to have a wide selection of Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa – and that’s why it’s so important to be able to spot (and then fill) any gaps in a wine portfolio. She brings this unique expertise to the judging panel.

USA Wine Ratings Judges

Top retail wine stores

Retail wine stores – both small, family-owned stores and larger regional and national chains – have always been the traditional sales focus of the wine industry. Get your wines distributed to these stores, the thinking goes, and your wine will become a huge success. Thus, the USA Wine Ratings event also includes prominent representation from these off-premise establishments, such as Daniel Sullivan, Wine Director of Super Buy-Rite in New Jersey.

A broad cross-section of the wine & spirits industry

Without a doubt, these judges represent a diverse and very broad cross-section of the U.S. wine industry. They understand which wines are going to do well in the current marketplace, and they very much have their hands on the pulse of the modern wine consumer. As such, they are particularly well qualified to assess and evaluate wines from around the world on the basis of three key criteria – Quality, Value and Packaging. These judges are one big reason why the USA Wine Ratings event has quickly become the leading wine competition in the nation.