Joel Butler MW

Co Owner, World of Wines, Washington

As one of the first two resident American Masters of Wine (1990), Joel Butler, MW has had a long and varied career in the wine industry.

Joel Butler graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in History, also attending university in Florence Italy.  Later, he also received a Masters Degree in European History from the University of Colorado.  From the fall of 1972, when he returned to Europe to learn the wine business spending many months visiting wine producing regions, participating in the harvest in Burgundy, and gathering information, he has never ceased his involvement in the wine industry over the last 40 years. His visits and meetings with winemakers and wineries globally have continued, and are especially important now that he is a wine-merchant again, and continuing his educational functions with WSET.

Over the decades, Butler has been a retail and restaurant wine buyer/manager, an importer/distributor for a small San Francisco wholesaler, the National Manager and Director of Education for Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines and Ste Michelle Wine Estates respectively, and now a partner in WineKnow LLC in Seattle, WA,  a full-time education and consulting company.  WineKnow teaches WSET and French Wine Society courses, among others and counsels importers, retailers and producers.

In January 2015, Joel became co-owner of World of Wines, Redmond; a fine wine merchant and wine bar near Seattle, featuring over 900 selections from around the world.

In 1977, Butler started writing professionally on wine for VINTAGE magazine.  Subsequently, he wrote for FRIENDS OF WINE, THE INTERNATIONAL WINE CELLAR, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, the LA TIMES, and a regular column in the CONTRA COSTA TIMES, among others.   Currently he is a Contributing Editor to the highly regarded International Wine Review (

His first book with Dr Randall Heskett:  Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age was published by MacMillan Palgrave. . Research in the Near East, as well as Greece and Italy required many months of travel, which continues, in the hopes of offering a second, updated edition of the book.  It has received positive reviews and was voted by Gourmand International UK best wine book of 2012. Butler has also been a participant in the ‘Origins of Wine Civilization’ program, last year at the Smithsonian.

Subsequently in 2015, he authored several entries in the The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives 3 Vol].

Joel has been a highly regarded wine judge, for decades globally, most recently at the International Wine Competition, Bucharest; as a Senior Judge at the International Wine Challenge and Decanter World Wine Awards in London; the Dallas Morning News Competition, the Seattle Wine Awards, and in 2017 at the Gansu Province China Wine Competition.  He began making wine (non-commercially) in 1980, producing  many award-winning wines at the California State Fair and Orange County Fair.

He is a member of the Institute of Masters of Wine, teaches on the annual North American seminar program, as well as being a Panel Chair and Examiner for the Masters of Wine Exam.


Meet our 2021 Judges

Peter Marks MW

Master of Wine, Partner & Vice President at Napa Valley Wine Academy

Juli Gregg

Wine Director, Tony's Pizza Napoletana/ Capos's, Restaurant Consultant, San Francisco, California

Thomas Brenner

Sommelier and wine buyer at the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club