Meet our 2013 Judges

John BJohn Buechsenstein

John Buechsenstein has been a winemaker and wine educator in California for many years. Most recently the COO of Sauvignon Republic Cellars, specializing in Sauvignon Blancs from around the world, he has also made award-winning wines at Fife Vineyards and McDowell Valley Vineyards. John is a noted educator, serving as Adjunct Wine Faculty at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and UC Davis Extension where he has lectured on wine sensory evaluation for over 30 years. He is a past-president of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, a charter member of the Society of Wine Educators, and judges wines throughout North America. Among his many publications, he co-authored the Standardized System of Wine Aroma Terminology, known as the Wine Aroma Wheel.

Martha Dunne Martha Dunne

Martha Dunne is a seasoned participant in the appreciation and estimation of wine.   From nightly dinners with wine to commercial wine judgings, her palate is ready and anticipatory.  She is administrator of, a Sacramento tour, tasting and consultation business. In addition to wine culture, Martha is professionally interested in the two interior designs - home decoration and neurological variation, as in autism. Her book "'Wait, What Do You Mean?' Asperger's Tell and Show" was published recently.

Mike DunneMike Dunne

Mike Dunne is a Sacramento-based freelance writer, concentrating on wine and travel. He contributes a weekly wine column to The Sacramento Bee, where for much of three decades he was the paper's restaurant critic, wine columnist and food edtior. He also maintains the blog A Year In Wine



Catherine Fallis - Wine JudgeCatherine Fallis, MS

A successful wine and service professional, Catherine Fallis, a.k.a. grape goddess®, is an approachable and entertaining wine expert who brings wine down to earth. While studying Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Catherine Fallis set out to explore the service industry in Europe. She studied elaborate European hotels and was inspired by every detail of what made them exceptional. It was during these travels when she first experienced wine not as an elite beverage but as something interesting and accessible, and has maintained this approach to wine throughout her extensive career in the industry ever since.

Catherine is currently the Master Sommelier and grape goddess® at Planet Grape® LLC ( Her diverse wine background as a salesperson, sommelier distributor, and supplier helped Catherine become the well-rounded and thorough expert she is today. She understands all facets of the wine business, and is a frequent speaker, event host, educator, and consultant for corporations, consumers and the wine trade. She is a highly sought-after wine expert and spokesperson for the wine industry.

Dan Kaiser - Wine JudgeDan Kaiser

Dan Kaiser is currently the General Manager and Sommelier at JoLe Restaurant in Calistoga. Previously he worked as part of the opening crew at Solage Calistoga. He came to Calistoga after graduating from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration with a concentration in Food & Beverage Management. He has received certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Culinary Institute of America.

Debra Wong - Wine JudgeDeborah Parker Wong, AIWS

Deborah Parker Wong is Northern California editor for The Tasting Panel magazine where she reports on the global wine and spirits industries with an emphasis on domestic trends. In addition, she contributes features on business and production technology to Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. Deborah co-authored 1000 Great Everyday Wines published by Dorling Kindersley in 2011.

As a professional wine judge, Deborah juries a dozen regional, national and international wine competitions each year. She holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Diploma and is a certified WSET educator who conducts educational tastings for SOPEXA and presents consumer tastings for trade organizations including the producers of Ribera Del Duero. Deborah is a member of the London-based Circle of Wine Writers and the Wine Media Guild of New York.

Ray Johnson Ray Johnson
Director of the Professional Judging
2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition

Ray Johnson is the Director of Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute, one of only three universities in the world to offer a master’s degree in wine business.

He continues to serve as the Assistant Director of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest professional judging of American wine in the world.

His company TasteWine has consulted and created events and seminars for a Who’s Who of organizations, including Four Season’s Hotels, GE Capital, LexisNexis, Siemens, Visa and Wells Fargo.

Johnson earned his Master’s in Wine Business from the University of Adelaide in South Australia. His publications have spanned three platforms: academia, with papers published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, the Journal of Wine Research, and the International Journal of Wine Business Research; the industry’s trade journals with articles in Practical Winery & Vineyard and Vineyard & Winery Management; publications for consumers with wine reviews on his blog TasteWine and an introduction to tasting through this primer The Good Life Guide to Enjoying Wine.

LCWA Judges

Photos above depict our 2011 Judges to whom we are very grateful!


Additional 2013 Judges

Bob Ecker, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Decanter, and others Freelance Writer

Don Neel, Practical Winery & Vineyard Editor

Lee Reinsimar, Dean and Deluca Wine and Spirits Buyer

Joel Riddel, Dining Around with Joel Riddell, Host and Executive Producer

Christopher Sawyer, Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar Sommelier