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2013 Rotary Winemakers’ Cookoff  judges

The Paso Robles Rotary Club announced its lineup of judges for the 2013 Winemakers’ Cookoff fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, August 10. The 2013 Cookoff judging crew consists of the five respected food and wine industry professionals: Robert Whitley, San Diego-based syndicated wine writer and wine-industry judge, Mike Cervin, Santa Barbara-based food and wine journalist and author; Kathy Marcks-Hardesty, local wine industry journalist; Brigit Binns, a central coast author of 26 cookbooks; and Lisa Pretty a Paso Robles food and wine writer and owner of Pretty Smith Vineyards and Winery.

“This is an extremely experienced and cohesive group of judges,” says Sharon Ross, the chairwoman if the Rotary Winemakers’ Cookoff.
The judges’ duties are to sample the wine and food pairings prepared on site and served to event attendees by the 30 participating wineries to determine winners of the Judges’ Choice awards. In a parallel food and wine pairing competition, participating winemakers solicit votes from attendees for the People’s Choice awards.

Who are the judges for the Winemakers’ Cookoff?

Below are brief biographies of the five talented wine-industry pros lined up to judge this year’s cookoff:

Robert Whitley

Robert Whitley is host of the “Wine Talk” column, wine columnist for the Creator’s Syndicate published in major newspapers. Robert also is publisher of Wine Review Online, which draws upon the expertise of top U.S. wine and food journalists. Whitley oversees the Critics Challenge, the San Diego International Wine Competition and the Monterey Wine Competition as well as numerous wine tasting events, including San Diego’s annual Wine & Roses Charity Wine Tasting. Robert also hosts two weekly radio shows – Whitley On Wine and The Gourmet Club.

Michael Cervin

Michael Cervin has been involved in the wine industry and focused on the Central Coast for a dozen years as a writer, judge and educator. He is the author of the national travel book, California Wine Country, and has written about wine for “Decanter,” “Wine Enthusiast,” “Wine & Spirits,” “Sommelier Journal,” “The Tasting Panel,” “Food & Beverage World,” and he regularly contributes to “Fine Wine & Liquor,” the largest wine magazine in China. His professional judging experience has included The Best of Vinho Verde Awards in Portugal, the Taste of Rum Festival in Puerto Rico, the California State Fair Wine Competition, The Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the Central Coast Wine Competition, and many charity wine and food competitions. He is also the restaurant critic and travel writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Kathy Marcks Hardesty

Kathy Marcks Hardesty, Central Coast wine and food columnist for nearly two decades, is an alumna of the California Culinary Academy. She worked for the famed chef Wolfgang Puck at Postrio in San Francisco in 1989. Marcks Hardesty left the restaurant industry after more than a decade to become Wine Tasting Coordinator for Wine Spectator magazine. She relocated to the Central Coast in 1996 and began writing her wine and food column in “New Times SLO.” She has been a frequent contributor in wine industry magazines, and has contributed to Wine Spectator, Central Coast Magazine, and USA Today. Formerly, she was co-host of the live weekly radio show Grapevine Radio. Marcks Hardesty is currently working on a guide about Central Coast wine country.

Brigit Binns

Brigit Binns is the author or coauthor of 26 cookbooks and editor of more than 40, several for Williams-Sonoma. She has collaborated on books with some of the country’s most respected chefs, including New York’s Michael Psilakis and Los Angeles’ Joachim Splichal. She adapted all the recipes for Chef Psilakis book, How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking, nominated for a James Beard Award. Her collaboration with San Francisco butcher Ryan Farr (the “King of Meats”), Whole Beast Butchery was also nominated. When Brigit and her husband, actor Casey Biggs, relocated to California’s central coast wine country Casey promptly, and accidentally, became the viral Youtube sensation “Paso Wine Man,” who advocates for the fast-growing wine region.

Lisa Pretty

Lisa Pretty is the owner and winemaker of Pretty-Smith Vineyards and Winery and San Miguel, producing estate grown Bordeaux varietals and blends. She is a food and wine writer published regularly in the Paso Robles Press and Vino magazine. She is author of Eat This with Paso Robles Wine, a food and wine-pairing book with over 130 recipes on 250 pages.


During its fourteen-year history, the Paso Robles Winemakers’ Cookoff has become one of Paso Robles’ most-popular wine, food and music events. It is also one of its most unique. The Cookoff features not just local wines, but the culinary talents of more than 30 of the appellation’s winemakers. Participating wineries pair their culinary creations with their finest wines and compete for both Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice awards the day of the event. Since the first Winemakers’ Cookoff in 1999, proceeds from the Winemakers’ Cookoff have been deposited in Rotary’s Harlow Ford Scholarship Foundation building a perpetual fund that has enabled the Paso Robles Rotary Club to award scholarships exceeding $400,000 as well as build a perpetual fund that will help guarantee future scholarship benefits. For more information on the Paso Robles Rotary Club and the Winemakers’ Cookoff visit: www.winemakerscookoff.com