Wine Competition Judges

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2021 Wine Competition Judges

New Competition Judges

timothy nishimoto

Timothy Nishimoto

Wine Buyer, Made in Oregon, Certified Sommelier

Timothy Nishimoto has been in the Food & Beverage industry for forty years, first in Los Angeles, and for the past 28 years, in Portland, Oregon.

In, and around, Los Angeles Timothy was in restaurant management, and he moved to Portland in 1991 to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant. After managing restaurants, then working as a wine steward for Wild Oats natural food stores, he opened a wine bar, Vino Paradiso, in 2005 in Portland’s Pearl District. He re-branded the place in 2011 as Coppia, focusing on the wines and cuisine of Piedmont, Italy, and sold it in January of 2015. (He became a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2010.) Two months later he became the Wine Buyer for the Made in Oregon stores, and continues in this position today.

In 2018, he established Trellis: Curated Wine Dinners with his former Coppia chef, pairing wine and food at wineries and in private homes all around the state, from Hood River to Ashland, the Oregon Coast and everywhere in-between.

For almost two decades Timothy has been touring around the world as a vocalist, percussionist and photographer for the music group, Pink Martini, eagerly tasting local wines and cuisines along the way!

christopher sawyer

Christopher Sawyer

Somm, Judge, Journalist, Public Speaker

Christopher Sawyer is an internationally-renowned sommelier, wine judge, consultant, wine journalist and public speaker.  Voted Best Sommelier of Sonoma County 2019 by Bohemian Magazine for the sixth consecutive year, he is also a recipient of many more prestigious awards and industry honors. To follow his wine adventures follow his Blog The Sommelier Files and YouTube Channel featuring The Varietal Show!

Brianne Cohen

Brianne Cohen

Somm and Wine Writer

Brianne Cohen is the principal in a new lifestyle brand and business based out of Los Angeles, California. She has been producing events and weddings for over 10 years. To complement the event and wedding arm of her business, she added her love of wine and also offers her services as a wine educator, writer, and consultant to inspire people of all ages. Most recently Brianne judged at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and the International Wine Challenge in London. Brianne completed the entire curriculum with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and received her Diploma certificate, which is one of the most coveted and difficult wine certifications. She also holds an MBA from Loyola Marymount University and currently blogs at

Cyndi Gierok

Cyndi Gierok

Wine Buyer Fred Meyer Stores

Cyndi has been a Wine Steward/Buyer for Fred Meyer Stores since 2008, and has become especially passionate for Oregon Pinot Noir during that time. She has achieved different levels of wine education including CSW and CMS 1, and also has her WSET I & II. Cyndi is returning to judge, having participated in the McMinnville Wine Classic Competition in 2014 and 2015. She has also judged the Salem State Fair winemakers’ competition in 2019. As a lover of Pinot Noir, she has participated in IPNC and Pinot Camp, and is known to get out of the store and into the local vineyards to help with harvest when time allows.

AJ Weinzettle

A.J. Weinzettel

Oregon wine fellowship artisan

A.J. Weinzettel, WSET 2, is a technologist by day and an Oregon wine fellowship artisan by night. A.J. brings together the wine community via a long-form weekly email newsletter, virtual hangouts, aka #ajsHappyHour, and Winederful a social winery locator App for the iPhone. With 27 years of technology experience, a passion for geeking out over wine, and connecting stories, A.J. strives to surface authentic human kinship leveraging technology and, of course, a glass of wine.

Returning Judges


Eric Degerman

President & CEO of Great Northwest Wine

Eric Degerman was born in Portland, Ore., raised in Spokane, Wash., and graduated from the University of Washington prior to sinking roots in the Columbia Valley and the Pacific Northwest wine industry.

While earning his history degree, he worked in the sports department at The Seattle Times, which set him up for 25 years as an editor and award-winning sports writer at the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest, becoming a food writer and wine judge. In 2013, he became president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning journalism site he co-founded with wine writer Andy Perdue.

Along the way, they launched a weekly wine column that is syndicated in 22 newspapers and has a potential print and online audience of more than 5 million readers. Eric also is the wine columnist for Portrait of Portland/Seattle magazine and contributes to the Idaho Statesman.

Eric co-owns and operates the Pacific Northwest’s two largest international wine competitions — the Cascadia International and the Great Northwest Invitational — as well as the Washington State Wine Competition and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition, which are fundraisers for the viticulture and enology programs at Yakima Valley College and Walla Walla Community College, respectively. He also organizes the Platinum Judging on behalf of Wine Press Northwest.

His judging history includes the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Oregon Wine Competition, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, Grand Harvest Awards, Long Beach Grand Cru, Riverside International Wine Competition, Northwest Wine Summit, British Columbia Wine Awards, Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, Washington State Wine Competition, Savor Northwest Wine Awards, Tri-Cities Wine Festival, Idaho Wine Competition, Oregon’s Greatest of the Grape, the Wenatchee Wine and Food Festival Wine Competition and the Capital Food & Wine Festival Wine Competition.

He lives in Washington wine country with Traci, his wife of 26 years, and felines Anakin, Hondo and Pinky.


Ken Robertson

Tri-City Herald & Wine Press Northwest Columnist

Ken Robertson has been sipping and writing about Northwest wines since 1978. The retired editor of the Tri-City Herald, he has been a columnist for Wine Press Northwest magazine since 1998, and works as a wine judge in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, as a wine tour guide and as a wine industry consultant.


Hoke Harden

Wine Educator, Judge & Writer

An enthusiastic lover of wine and spirits, Hoke Harden left a career in academia to follow his other muse for the last 35 years, trekking around the world to the great producing regions. Recently referred to as a veritable walking omnibus of wine and spirits knowledge, he has experienced every possible facet of the world of wine and spirits as a retailer, restaurateur, bartender, buyer, wholesaler, supplier, marketer, critic, writer, competition judge and an educator.

He is currently with Elixir Vitae Wine & Spirits Consultants, the Taste & Compare Academy of Wine, Spirits and Food in Portland OR, a writer and blogger, a member of the Society of Wine Educators, CSE, CSW, Wine & Spirits Instructor at Mt. Hood Community College, a Master Instructor with the French Wine Academy, a B.N.I.C. Certified Cognac Educator, and Pineau des Charentes Ambassador.

ellen landis

Ellen Landis

Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier

Ellen is a published Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, Wine Educator and Professional Wine Judge. She is the author of the blog and writes for the AWS Wine Journal magazine, Great Northwest Wine, Wine Press Northwest, Michigan Uncorked, and Spirited magazine among other publications.

Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintner’s Holidays annual event at the Majestic (formerly Ahwahnee) Hotel in Yosemite, the American Wine Society annual conferences, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For more than sixteen years, she and husband Ken co-owned award-winning Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn where Ellen served as Wine Director and Sommelier. They sold their Inn to devote more time to the world of wine. Ellen was also a Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton for several years.

In addition to an MBA, Ellen’s wine education includes UC Davis viticulture course work, CSW certification from the Society of Wine Educators program, and holds the credential of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Ellen serves as a judge at numerous national and international wine competitions including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Mid-American Wine Competition, The Great American International Wine Competition, California State Fair Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, North Coast Wine Challenge, Amador County Fair Wine Competition, Sonoma Harvest Fair Wine Competition, East Meets West Competition, Harvest Challenge International Wine Competition, The Cascadia Wine Competition, Savor Northwest Wine Competition, Dan Berger International Wine Competition, Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, Mendocino County Wine Competition, Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging, Selections Mondiales des Vins Canada, Pacific Rim Wine Competition, and the Central Coast Wine Competition.



Wine Judge, Educator and Quality Control Consultant

Patrick is a 5th generation native Oregonian. He became a member of the Oregon wine industry in 1980. For 28 years, he managed the Oregon Wine Tasting Room, which received numerous accolades in such publications as The LA Times, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and British Vogue. In 1999, he became a tasting instructor in the Winemaking and Viticultural Program at Chemeketa Community College, where he continues to serve as the only original faculty member. He was one of two faculty members who served on the building design committee for the Eola Center winery and classroom building. He currently works in Sales and Marketing for Sineann Winery – where he has been employed since 2007. In addition, he has been a wine judge and quality control consultant for most of his tenure in the Oregon Wine industry.


CHRIS Czarnecki

Owner & Chef,
Joel Palmer House

Christopher Czarnecki is 4th generation chef and restaurateur. He has been operating The Joel Palmer House Restaurant for the last 10 years. Chris has been involved with the family business since grade school and spent most of his 20’s working, traveling, and cooking, including a 3 year term of service in the US Army. In 2004 he deployed to Iraq and married his high school sweetheart, Mary in 2008. They have 2 boys, 3 and 5 years old, both of whom have already gotten a chance to go out mushroom hunting in the woods with dad and Poppop!



Chef, Somm, Educator, Wine Scholar

Maxine Borcherding is a chef, sommelier, lover of wine, fine food, and good whiskey; travel enthusiast, writer and passionate educator, and the  founder of the Taste and Compare Academy of Wine, Spirits and Food. Recently retired from 16 years as Lead Chef Instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute, she is happily spending her “retirement” teaching consumer and professional level classes in wine and food, is the Oregon and SW Washington provider of the  French Wine Scholar Study and Certification Program for the Wine Study Guild,  provides operational consulting and staff training for hospitality venues,  promotes the wines of France, Italy, Spain, and the Pacific Northwest,  and leads food and wine  tours to the great wine and culinary regions of France and Spain.


Maxine’s professional certifications include Sommelier (International Sommelier Guild), French Wine Scholar (Wine Study Guild), Spanish Wine Educator (Wine Academy of Spain), and Wine Location Specialist (Center for Wine.Origins). She also serves on the Boards  of the  Oregon Wine Education Center  and the Oregon Truffle Festival.

Carl Giavanti


PR & Media Relations,
Carl Giavanti Consulting

Carl Giavanti is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 9th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (

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