Meet Our Judges
Carrie Boyle, River City Wine
Carrie Boyle is the co-founder of River City Wine Week, a wine writer for Sacramento Magazine online and she has over 20 years in the wine industry. She has been a general manager for a national wine & spirits retailer, owned and operated her own fine wine shops, and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). She has judged wine competitions around Northern California, made her own wine, designed and taught classes, orchestrated large wine events and traveled to wine regions all over California, Oregon, Washington, Australia, New Zealand, France (Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Champagne, and Beaujolais), and Spain (Rioja and Ribera del Duero). Today, in addition to managing River City Wine Week, she acts as a broker representative for hand-crafted wineries from various corners of the world.
A huge fan of wine and spirits, Rich has been writing about adult beverages since 2008 and is currently a columnist and lead reviewer for WineReviewOnline.com and serves as co-editor of SpiritsReviewOnline.com. He is the founding Director of The Toast of The Coast Wine Competition, and also serves as the current Director of the Monterey International Wine & Spirits Competition, Distilled San Diego Spirits Competition and Robert Whitley’s Challenge Series of wine and spirits competitions. Rich also enjoys “sitting on the other side of the curtain” and has judged at several major competitions, including East Meets West, Grand Harvest Awards, Long Beach Grand Cru, Riverside International, Central Coast, North of the Gate and the Foothill Wine Fest.
John Compisi has been a freelance wine, food and travel writer for over 10 years. His website BitesFlightsandSights.com has been the locus of his writing for the past two years but previously Examiner.com and other print and digital media have featured his writing. His travels have allowed him to enjoy the wines of California, New York, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico, the Okanagan in British Columbia, most of Italy, Burgundy, Alsace , the Rhône region of France, Germany, Slovenia and Croatia. A longtime resident of Sonoma County, he and his photographer wife, Linda, relocated to Reno, NV in 2021.
Level II Certified Sommelier
-Former Sommelier of Michelin starred restaurant
-Two-time Wine Spectator Best of Award of excellence
My roots in hospitality can really be traced back to my mom. My restaurant experience however, started from my time working at Morton’s the Steakhouse. I moved on to other restaurants including Piatti and Ella dining room and bar. I became the Sommelier at the Kitchen and stayed there for almost 4 years. I transitioned into wine sales so I could focus on my growing family! After doing a year in wine sales (selling to restaurants), I was furloughed due to the pandemic.
That leads to now! I’m excited to put wines in front of you and your friends and family that you may not have had or heard of before! My goal truly is to bridge the gap between good people and good wine!
Mike Dunne began writing of wine 50 years ago as a reporter with the Amador Dispatch in Jackson. He has been following the evolution of the California wine scene ever since, with a continuing focus on wines, wine issues and wine personalities of the Sierra foothills. Today, he freelance writes for various publications and platforms, but for 30 years had been a writer and editor with The Sacramento Bee. When he retired from The Bee in 2008 he was the paper’s food editor, wine columnist and restaurant critic. For more than a decade after retiring he continued to contribute a wine column to The Bee. He and his wife Martha, also a judge on the wine-competition circuit, live in Sacramento.
Martha is a Wine Enthusiast who has been practicing for 25 years as an evaluator – “judge” if you will – with her husband, Mike Dunne. In addition to her wine interests, she is an autism advocate and author of “’Wait, What Do You Mean?’ Asperger’s Tell and Show.” She also loves her art form as a professional interior designer.
Michael Kelly started collecting wine in 1978 and have always enjoyed tasting and meeting folks in the industry. Was in executive management for several Silicon Valley startups. He visited wineries in India, China, South America, Canada and almost every state in the United States as well as numerous countries in Europe. Upon retiring from the high-tech semiconductor world in 2013, he immersed himself into my hobby and passion dealing with wine. He has sold tons of grapes, judged wine competitions, Founded the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition, on average tasted 1500+ wines per year and exported wine to Michelin 3 Star restaurants in Asia. Founded the website https://californiawinesandwineries.com which publishes a minimum of twenty times a month, a guest blogger on over 65 BLOG’s & social media daily and published nationally in American Wine Society. The focus and scope of writing is on small artisan and handcrafted wineries. He is also a collector of wines focused on California Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and premiere Chardonnay’s. In addition he likes to spend time on the lesser known wines like Mencia, Nero d’ Avola, Vranac, Negroamaro, Picpoul, Saint Macaire, etc. Currently located in Copperopolis but spend a great amount of time traveling to Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Livermore, Napa and Sonoma wine regions.
Dr. Elizabeth Smith, Napa Valley Register, Nappa Valley Life Magazine, Matt Parish Wines
Elizabeth is a former community college professor turned award-winning writer and journalist by way of a detour through the Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine industry. She is a contributing wine, food, travel, and lifestyle journalist to FWT Magazine, Napa Valley Life Magazine, and WineBulletin.net. She is also a content coordinator and writer for Best Version Media and a copywriter for Grovedale Winery, Matt Parish Wines, MonthlyClubs.com, and Scott Peterson Wines. Elizabeth won the 2017 Born Digital Wine Award for “Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine” for her feature entitled, “Lodi: Beyond the Zinfandel.” She holds a doctoral degree in community college education and Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Level 3 advanced certification. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Sacramento Chapter and the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association.
Jeff Back, Chef & Certified Sommelier, Back Bistro
Jeff Back is a sommelier, chef and entrepreneur. He’s been in the restaurant industry for almost 30 years and currently owns a restaurant in Folsom with his wife called Back Bistro which has over 150 wine selections and has a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Back Wine Bar was started in Folsom in 2008 as the first wine bar in Folsom and has grown and transitioned into a full-service restaurant currently located at the Palladio.
Jeff is a Certified Sommelier from the Court of Masters and completed the Sommelier Diploma Program from the International Sommelier Guild where he studied under a master sommelier. He has held every position in the restaurant industry and continues to have a passion for all things wine, food and Bourbon related. As a devoted restauranteur, his newest concept coming soon is 24 Hour Kitchens which will be a place for startups to rent kitchen production space for their own life adventures.
Scott Litteral, Owner, Pizzeria Classico
Scott Litteral is owner of Pizzeria Classico and Il Forno Classico. Il Forno Classico has received many Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and features close to 450 different wine labels on their list. Scott has been purchasing wine for many restaurants since 1990. Scott has attended the Windows on the World wine class, Oregon Pinot Camp, Paso Robles Cabernet Collective, multiple Family Winemakers Tastings, Premier Napa Valley Wine events, Zap wine tastings, Rhone Rangers Tastings, Evan Goldstein wine classes, Sterling Viticulture Seminar, and numerous trade tastings. Not to mention weekly tasting with local wine suppliers. Scott has been in the restaurant business since 11 years of age with his family and has owned and operated 15 restaurants. Pizzeria Classico has been on Sutter St. in Historic Folsom since 1985 and Il Forno Classico has been serving Gold River since 1995.
Laura Ness is an avid wine journalist for whom storytelling is second nature. A visit to France shortly after college indelibly imprinted the concept of terroir, as she tasted wines in the very towns that bear their names. Sancerre, Chinon and Vouvray were not just wines, they were actual places you could taste.
Laura’s wine obsession eventually led her from high tech communications to the wine industry, where she is the wine columnist and regular contributor to Edible:Monterey, Los Gatos Magazine, the San Jose Mercury News, Edible:East Bay and The Livermore Independent. She judges wine competitions throughout California and has a corkscrew in every purse.
After moving to the Sierra Foothills in 2016, Guy Tucker was so captivated by the local wines, he created foothillswino.com to shine light on the world class wines and wineries of the region. Guy, a WSET Diploma student who is certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild, assembled a panel of sommeliers to blind-taste Foothills wines and to anonymously visit Foothills wineries for the website ratings. Guy avidly collects old wines and is currently writing a book, Wine Alchemy: The Magic of Aged Wine. He regularly blogs about the topic and his favorite wines on Instagram @wine.alchemy.
Chelsea handles external affairs for The Raley’s Companies, an innovative, digitally sophisticated retail company, operating more than 250 stores in the Western United States. In her role, she serves as the spokeswoman for the broader organization, while developing and executing the company’s public affairs and brand reputation strategies. In her career in grocery retail, she has partnered with wineries and distributors to promote and inspire wine consumption through public relations, social media and event strategies. She has a passion for food, wine and promoting the greater Sacramento region as a destination for residents and visitors.