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Rotary Winemakers’ Cookoff announces lineup of judges 

Winemakers' CookoffThe Paso Robles Rotary Club announced its lineup of judges for the 2014 Winemakers’ Cookoff fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, August 9. The 2014 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; Sara Schneider, wine editor for Sunset magazine, and Mike Stepanovich, a wine writer and teacher.

“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 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.

2014 Cookoff Judges

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

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 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, 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.

Sara Schneider is Sunset magazine’s first wine editor, responsible for tasting panels, food-and-wine pairing in the test kitchen, wine-related food and travel coverage,Sunset’s International Wine Competition, and the magazine’s wine club. Schneider writes a monthly column on food and wine pairing, trends, and issues in wine, as well as other wine-themed food and travel stories, and in 2007 co-authored the book California Wine Country, a Sunset Field Guide. She has judged many wine competitions, both on the West Coast and internationally. Schneider has been nominated twice for James Beard Journalism Awards and holds the Academy of Wine Communication’s Certificate for Excellence in Wine Writing.

Mike Stepanovich has been writing a regular wine column, Life is a Cabernet, since 1985 and judging wines since 1987. Stepanovich also teaches wine history and wine appreciation classes for Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge.

During its fifteen-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 many 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:

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.