The judging system used by the AFWC is a combination of the best wine judging techniques as determined and put into place by Chief Judge and judging coordinator Monty Preiser. It employs a four-member panel consisting of the best possible mix of industry professionals. Wines are poured in private and then taken to the judging tables by wine professionals serving as Wine Angels. Glasses are numbered to correspond with the individual numbered wine bottles which are kept secret in the staging area. In order for a wine to be given any particular medal, at least 75% of the panel must agree. Double Gold medals are given when 100% of the panel agrees the wine is worthy of a Gold medal.
The consensus necessary for individual awards may well be reached, and are often facilitated, through discussions led by the Panel Leader, who changes periodically throughout the judging.
Invited judges are chosen based on their wine knowledge, their palates, their dedication, and the fact that they have no fiduciary interest in any commercial winery, distributorship or supplier. The judges are recognized professionals as wine educators, wine writers, restaurateurs, and sommeliers. This is truly a dream team of judges each possessing top qualifications, independence, and the ability to bring a wide variety of experience to the table in the wine & food industry. It is the combination of judges, wines, and the award system, that makes this a unique competition rivaling all others in prestige.
Judges for 2013 American Fine Wine Competition
Chief Judge and Judging Coordinator for the 2013 American Fine Wine Competition, Sara Preiser splits her time between South Florida and Napa, CA where she and husband Monty publish The Preiser Key to Napa & The Preiser Key to Sonoma, the only comprehensive guides to wineries and dining in Northern CA. Sara has written wine related articles for various periodicals nationwide and is currently a columnist for several magazines. Co-founder of the AFWC, she has judged numerous wine competitions across the country.
Monty Preiser is a former wine writer for the Boca Raton News and wine evaluator for Boca Raton Magazine. He co-owns a company which instructs professionals about wine, is the principal wine writer for a large Internet Website, has judged competitions nationwide, and publishes The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, Napaʼs only comprehensive guide to wines and restaurants.
Barry Alberts has been teaching about wine appreciation for over three decades. For 19 years he's organized one of the longest-running weekly wine tastings in the country, hosted every Friday evening, now at the Sonesta Hotel in Coconut Grove. He also runs the wine programs at the very popular Jaguar Restaurant in Coconut Grove.
Robin Alix Austin is the editor-in-chief of AmateurGastronomer.com, an online wine, food and entertainment magazine. Prior to founding The Amateur Gastronomer in 2008, Robin was a television news producer at CBS in Miami and NBC in West Palm Beach. Currently based in Atlanta, Robin is a Certified Specialist of Wine and a member of the Society of Wine Educators.
Charlie Arturaola has perhaps the most varied wine qualifications of any person on earth. He has served as sommelier and wine buyer for top restaurants and cruise lines. He is a teacher and lecturer worldwide. He has served as advisor for some of the nationʼs finest wine events from Aspen to Napa. And he is constantly in demand as a judge and advisor, being relied upon by several insurance companies to appraise wine collections of up to $1,000,000.00.
Virginia Philip, wine director at the Prestigious Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, FL, became the 9th woman in the world (currently there are 18 women and 198 total people) to earn the extraordinary accreditation of Master Sommelier. That achievement was complemented when the American Sommelier Association conferred upon her the title of “Best Sommelier of the United States” in 2002.
Tylor Field won the highest honor from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation– the Distinguished Service Award. As Morton's corporate VP of Wine & Spirits, he has guided the development of the restaurantʼs world-class wine selections.
Professor "Chip" Cassidy has served as head sommelier for the prestigious Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, and as the wine buyer for a major chain of wine stores, Crown Wine and Spirits. Chip now teaches full time at FIU, and has developed a Wine Certificate Program offered to professionals already working in the wine or related fields.
Italian born Roberto Colombi relocated to England in 2003 to learn English and work for Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London. While working for Gordon Ramsay, Colombi completed the Wine & spirits education trust in 2004, and the Certified level of the Court of Master Sommelier in 2006. In 2005 he was promoted to Assistant Head Sommelier, and in 2007 he left England for a Head Sommelier position at Cielo in the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida, where he remains today. In 2008, Colombi was awarded Rising Star Sommelier of South Florida by Starchefs.com.
Cary Combine Cary represents Napa based Intervine, Inc. as the director of wine sales to the cruise line industry. She has over twenty years of experience in the wine industry through former senior level positions with Constellation Wine, Sebastiani Winery, and Southern Wine and Spirits. Cary has earned her certification as a sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Additionally, she is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators.
Serving as sommelier and maitre dʼ of Kentuckyʼs only five diamond restaurant, Julie DeFriend has helped bring the famed Oak Room to new heights. After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in art history she began her career in the food and wine industry as a server before receiving continuous promotions to her present prestigious position
Jenny Benzie, Head Sommelier + CEO of Pour Sip Savor, offers 'An Assemblage of Sommelier Services' that provides educational wine tastings for consumers and private client wine services. Benzie has honed her skills as a Sommelier at some of the nation's finest restaurants including Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, USVI, Café Boulud-Palm Beach and Michael's in Santa Monica. She is currently the Wine Director at CRU Restaurant on Nantucket. Her credentials include Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Wine Educator (CWE) by the Society of Wine Educators and Diploma of Wine & Spirits (DWS) with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET).
Florida native Don Derosher, Sommelier at The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, has achieved four Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence for his wine programs at Via Luna in Fort Lauderdale and Solu in Palm Beach. He is certified through the United States Sommelier Association, and currently pursuing his advanced level certification. Don has been featured in publications such as Sommelier Journal, Florida Travel & Life, Trip Atlas, Consumer Traveler, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and Notables of the Palm Beach Post.
A Johnson & Wales University graduate, Tim Eagan served as sommelier at The Old Homestead Steakhouse before being hired to assemble the Beverage Program at the critically acclaimed Atlanta based Chops Lobster Bar. In addition, he holds Advanced Certification from the Master Court of Sommeliers, and will be sitting for the Master Exam in 2010.
A graduate from culinary school in Quebec, Sylvie Gervais has worked over 20 years in the hospitality industry. She is currently the sommelier at the Mizner Country Club. She holds the WSET Diploma, is an Associate member of the prestigious Institute of Wines & Spirits in London, and is a Certified Sommelier by the CMS. She is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and teaches at the International Sommelier Guild program at Miami Culinary School.
Dr. Barry H. Gump is the first holder of the Harvey R. Chaplin Eminent Scholarʼs Chair in Beverage Management at Florida International Universityʼs School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Dr. Gump is a noted wine author, and has been a professional wine judge for many years at a number of major wine competitions.
Veronica Litton has worked in the wine business in South Florida for over 20 years. In 1996 she founded The South Florida Womenʼs Wine Association. Veronica acquired her CSW from the Society of Wine Educators in 2005. In her current capacity as the Wine Buyer for Crown Wine and Spirits, her responsibilities include managing a multimillion dollar inventory year round with over 1400 selections from around the world.
Wine Educator, Consultant and Sommelier, Stephanie Miskew is the author of The Glamorous Gourmet, a blog dedicated to food, wine, entertaining and travel. Stephanie has also written wine reviews and educational content for other publications including Gary Vaynerchukʼs website Corkʼd and regularly conducts local wine seminars including the “Art of Wine & Food” series which she established at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
Master Chef Angelo Romano, owner of Lake Worth, Floridaʼs Paradiso Risorante, honed his culinary skills at establishments located in a wide range of luxurious resort towns on the Italian Riviera and the Isle of Capri, as well as in Bermuda and Palm Beach. This international background serves Angelo well in his selection and evaluation of wines.
Peg San Felippo, has been writing about wine and wine related issues for the last decade. A past chair of The American Institute of Wine and Food - Wisconsin Chapter, Peg is also a former wine columnist for The Palm Beach Post, and has written for numerous publications across the country including Wine Business Monthly and Wine Business Insider.
Delius Shirley, proprietor of Ortanique in Miami, has been a restaurateur and consultant for nearly 20 years, consistently collecting accolades from his peers for his ability to create wine lists of distinction nationwide. He is driven by a passion for an evolving wine industry and its opportunity for education.
A wine journalist, consultant, and educator, Patrick Sullivan is the wine & spirits editor for DINE Magazine in Florida. He has been involved in many aspects of the wine business for over twenty years - writing and conducting seminars and classes, as well as working in the retail and wholesale segments of the industry.
Ellen Landis, a former Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton, Ellen is a certified Somm and the Wine Director at Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, in Half Moon Bay, CA, which she co-owns with husband and Chef Ken Landis. She holds wine seminars on topics such as “Basic Wine Components,” “Wines from around the World,” and “Food and Wine pairings.” In addition to an MBA, her wine education includes UC Davis courses, and the Court of Master Sommelier certification program.