Sunset International Spirits Competition -
Meet Our Judges
Head Distiller, Hanger 1 Distillery
Caley Shoemaker is one of a handful of female distillers to lead operations for a major American spirits brand. As Head Distiller of The Hangar 1 Distillery, Caley draws on inspiration from the California’s abundant seasonal ingredients to make the fresh tasting vodkas that give Hangar 1 its signature crisp and clean taste. Motivated by local innovation and technology, Caley is also known for thinking outside the box when it comes to traditional vodka and spirits distillation, connecting with local industry thought leaders to create truly innovative products. A Denver native, Caley got her start in craft spirits distilling at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. As she worked her way up under Master Distiller Rob Dietrich’s guidance, Caley immersed herself in every aspect of the production process, from the sourcing of grains to distillation and bottling. She is a self- proclaimed “spirits nerd” who is fascinated by how the chemistry of distilling affects the quality, texture and flavor of the final product. In 2014, Caley left the world of whiskey and joined Hangar 1 where she brings her expertise of capturing flavors from all ingredients to create a clean, well- crafted spirit with a signature style. This is best demonstrated in her Made of California series of vodkas, including her Distiller’s Exclusive limited-edition Pink Peppercorn, Honeycomb and Chipotle vodkas, as well as her renowned Fog Point Vodka, which is made from Bay Area fog.
Journalist & Educator, Alcademics.com, Camper English, Spirits Expert, Influencer, Journalist
Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer, speaker, and consultant. His work has appeared in Popular Science, Cook’s Science, Whisky Advocate, Saveur, Details, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, and many other publications. He is a popular speaker at cocktail conventions and has given seminars on everything from the science of water to prehistoric cocktail technology to the relationship between bugs and booze. He has judged dozens of international cocktail competitions on multiple continents. Camper has a background in physics, and with his visits to 130 distilleries, blending houses and bodegas in more than twenty countries, has become an authority on the science behind spirit production and cocktail creation. Of all his work, he is probably best known for pioneering the Directional Freezing technique with which many thousands of people now make clear ice for their homes and bard.
Oxbox Merchants, Mission Bay Wine and Spirits, Mission Bay Wine and Spirits Bar @ Thrive City
Joining the team all the way from New York City as our Spirits Buyer is Chris Rivera. His passion for spirits and wine began during his years living in Europe as a professional classical trombonist. Eventually, he left classical music behind him and began working in restaurants. As General Manager & eventually Director of Operations, Chris quickly realized the fast paced restaurant life is exactly where he wanted to be. In 2018, Chris decided to move out west in order to further his wine studies and enjoy the beautiful California coast with his wife & bulldog.
Christopher Sawyer is an internationally-renowned sommelier, Spirit judge, wine judge, consultant, Spirit and 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.
Master Sommelier, Spirits Brand Ambassador for Germain-Robin
Over the last 35 years, Eric has garnered invaluable experience in the alcohol beverage and hospitality industries, holding various positions in fine dining and fine wine retail. His time working in the wholesale field offered him the opportunity to travel and gain hands-on learning, further cementing his passion for wine and spirits. By 2010, Eric became a Master Sommelier – one of just 150 in the world at that time. “In the days after passing the Master Sommelier exam, people would say to me, ‘I want to know what you would drink because you know what is best,’” says Eric. “And I always respond with, ‘The one thing I definitely don’t know is what you like, you’re going to have to tell me!’” Eric never tires of expanding his wine and spirit education and sharing that knowledge with others, helping them find what they enjoy most. Now, he is on a quest to do for California Premium Brandy what he’s done for wine – excite people with the discovery of something they know little about or have never tried. “I fell in love with the diversity in wines. The same goes for California Brandy,” says Eric. “There is so much knowledge and discovery to share. I feel about Brandy as I do about wine – I can’t stop talking about it.” In 2018, Eric joined E. & J. Gallo Winery as Spirits Brand Ambassador for Germain-Robin. In his role, Eric focuses on what comes naturally to him: educating and sharing his enthusiasm for California Premium Brandy. “I discovered Germain-Robin in 1991, and right away I knew it could compete with Cognac,” Eric said. “Many don’t realize we have come a long way from France dominating the wine and Brandy markets, and I am excited to share the history and quality of this brand with the world. It truly is the Premium California Brandy.”
Erik Adkins has been bartending in San Francisco since 1993. He is responsible for the bar program at the Slanted Door and for designing, opening, and managing multiple bars including Hard water and The Coachman. He has also designed the bar program at Flora in Oakland. With cocktails appearing in several national magazines and newspapers, Erik’s bar menus reflect an eye for detail and execution that defines craft cocktails and respect for ingredients and responsible agriculture that is the San Francisco Bay Area. Erik likes to show case spirits and cocktails that demonstrate a link to agriculture and to a specific place and time in history. He is grateful to be bartending at a time when there are so many passionate and talented people involved in the resurgence of the American cocktail.
Alley 6 Craft Distillery, Distiller | Co-Founder
Jason Jorgensen began working in the hospitality industry at a very young age. After a few kitchen jobs, a hiring manager in Scottsdale suggested he try his hand behind the bar as a bar-back and so his spirit career took off. He quickly graduated to bartender after coming of age and went on to work in some of the best bars and restaurants around the country, learning his craft and expanding his palette. He went on to pass the sommelier exam before moving to Northern California, then became interested in beer and wine making. After a couple of harvest seasons, Jason turned his attention to distilling. He always had a passion for spirits and whiskey but distilling it himself was a whole other challenge. Knowing that the base to all whiskey was a "distillers’ beer", intrigued him and he began distilling his home brew recipes. He and his wife Krystle embarked on a trip to Scotland for their thirtieth birthdays to expand on their knowledge of spirits and traditional production techniques. This trip became the inspiration for their distillery, Alley 6 Craft Distillery, which launched in 2012. Production then began in 2014 with the first bottle of Rye Whiskey hitting the shelves in 2015 at the very bar he last bartended at, Stark's Steakhouse in Santa Rosa, CA. Jason has been featured in such publications as Imbibe Magazine, Sunset Magazine and liquor.com for his unique take on spirits. Jason is an adoring father to his beautiful one-year old daughter and a loving husband celebrating 22 years with his high-school sweetheart.
General Manager and Spirits Buyer for Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA.
He has been managing the store for over two decades now and has been Spirits Buyer since 2006. Along with his duties at the Bottle Barn, Jason is a frequent judge in local bartender competitions and travels to Kentucky and beyond where he selects spirits for Bottle Barn's Single Barrel program. Jason lives in Santa Rosa with his wife Laura and daughters Lucy and Vivian and enjoys music and sports, as much as, he does a nice stiff drink.
JEFF DEGNER, CSW
Wine and Beverage Consultant, Eastern Retail Services Inc.
I was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon. In 2007 my wife and I settled down in the wonderful city of San Antonio, Texas and in December 2008 I decided to change careers to pursue my passion. I studied for industry certifications and passed the Level 2 certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers to become a Certified Sommelier. I also passed the CSW (Certified Specialists of Wine) certification and the Level 2 from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET). I began my career with Texas’s biggest distributor (RNDC) in their Platinum Beverage Division and currently am working for a consulting company as their Beverage Specialist for the last 6 1/2 years.
Head Distiller, Purple Wine + Spirits
Jeff Duckhorn is the head distiller of Sonoma County based Purple Wine + Spirits and is locally known as a number cruncher gone rogue. Jeff is a UC Berkeley grad with a BS in Environmental Economics & Policy. He began his career at Purple in 2011 working in the finance department but he always identified as maker, experimenting with everything from homebrewing to breadmaking for a number of years. When the owner of Purple, Derek Benham, built out his distillery in 2014, Jeff received the opportunity to leave finance and turn his passion into his profession. Over the years, Jeff has taken over the role of head distiller and become the creative force behind all sourcing, distilling, blending and aging of spirits across several categories at Purple. He’s constantly experimenting with new ingredients, refining his processes, and expanding his knowledge whenever possible.
Buyer / Oliver's Market Montecito
Wine and Spirits Manager for Oliver's Market Mendocino. Over 15 years of wine industry experience, in winery sales management and on the buying side. Earned the Certified Sommelier credential from the Court of Master Sommeliers, MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University
Co-Founder of Duke's Spirited Cocktails, Certified Sommelier, Spirits Buyer and Beverage Program Consultant
Laura has over 20 years in the food and beverage industry. She spent five years working for Joie de Vivre Hospitality in San Francisco developing her passion for food, wine and cocktails. In 2009, Laura moved to Sonoma County to attend Santa Rosa’s College’s Wine Studies program, interning for the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and later becoming a Certified Sommelier in 2012. She then joined the talented bar team at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, CA, and honed her knowledge of craft cocktails and spirits. In 2014 Laura co-founded the consulting company Batch Cocktails with former Spoonbar manager Tara Heffernon. Together they designed bar programs for restaurants in Napa and Sonoma County while also consulting for spirits brands on product and recipe development. In 2016, along with three Spoonbar alums, she co-founded the successful bar Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg. As the spirits buyer for one of the largest spirits collections in the North Bay, Sanfilippo has experience with a huge number of products from all over the world. She continues to consult for spirits brands as well as teach classes on cocktails and spirit tasting. Duke’s has received numerous accolades including Best Bar, Best Cocktails and in 2019, Laura was voted Best Bartender in the North Bay Bohemian readers poll. Laura and the Duke’s team have been featured in Sunset Magazine, Imbibe, Wine Enthusiast, SF Chronicle, Edible and Liquor.com among others.
Sommelier, True Spirits Expert, Buyer, Consultant
Wine & Spirits Consultant, Mark Bowery Consulting, In addition to designing and maintaining award-winning beverage programs for fine restaurants, Mark Bowery is a freelance writer, acquires rare spirits for collectors, appraises private cellars, and anchors a four-person panel that makes selections for three of the country’s most respected wine clubs. Armed with 35 years of tasting experience, he is also a judge at several international wine and spirits competitions, and considered an authority on single malt whisky (although his true love is tequila). He served as wine and spirits editor for Millionaire Magazine and as a faculty member at the Brown-Forman Center for Global Wine Education. While stationed in California’s coastal village of Mendocino, Bowery works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area each week and tirelessly travels the world in search of the finest alcoholic beverages.
Editor in Chief of Sunset Magazine
Matt Bean is the Editor in Chief of Sunset Magazine and an entrepreneur advising start-ups and early-stage companies. He is the former editor-in-chief of Men’s Health. Formerly he was senior vice president of editorial innovation at Time Inc., where he led a group charged with extending the company's award-winning content. Bean came to that role from Entertainment Weekly, where he was editor. Before helming EW, Matt served as managing editor of SportsIllustrated.com, where he launched numerous digital brands, pioneered Time Inc.'s long-form content strategy, and was awarded an Emmy for his multimedia work in 2013.
Head Distiller, Great Women Spirits, part of the Family Copola
Natalie Dale became the Distiller for Great Women Spirits, part of The Family Coppola, through an untraditional route. For years she packed her bags to travel the world from grape harvest to grape harvest. As a winemaker with nearly 15 years of experience, she was looking to broaden her skill set into the world of distilling. She turned to Moonshine University and attended an intensive course taught by 40 industry experts. In 2018, The Family Coppola gave her the opportunity to explore distilling more and she became the Distiller for the Great Women Spirits collection. In this role she creates small-batch, house-crafted, classically styled spirits that are as unique and remarkable as the women honored on each label. This opportunity propelled Dale to seek out other women in the distilling community and become one of the few pioneering members of the Women’s Distillery Guild in the US. “The people in this industry have charmed me with their warmth and unimpeded access of knowledge and skills,” says Dale. “I hope to give back by inspiring other women to pursue distilling.” Dale is currently studying for her Masters in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University of Scotland.
Distiller & Co--founder of Spirit Works Distillery
Born in Peru, with British heritage, Timo spent much of his life at sea and traveling the world – until he met his partner Ashby and fell in love with Northern California, specifically West County, Sonoma which they have called home for many years now. With an education in Ethics, mastery in Tallship sailing instruction, and a keen eye for organization and developing systems Timo is known today as one of the founding partners, along with his wife Ashby, of Spirit Works Distillery. It turns out Ashby’s passion for the intricacies of whiskey and Timo’s generations-old family recipe for Sloe Gin was just the right ingredients they needed to jump into the craft distillery industry. Open in Sebastopol since 2012, Spirit Works Distillery is celebrated throughout the community for their commitment to quality in their award-winning, grain to glass Vodka, Gins, and Whiskey portfolio. When not managing the distillery Timo can be found walking along Dillon Beach with his dogs or putting together a mean cocktail on the deck at home.
Spirit and Wine Buyer
Traci Dutton is a sommelier, a spirit as well as a wine judge, and the manager of public wine and beverage studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. She joined the CIA in 1998 as beverage manager and sommelier for the college’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Over the course of more than 30 years in the wine world, Ms. Dutton has worked in a multitude of high-end establishments such as Montrachet, The Striped Bass, and 231 Ellsworth, and has served luminaries as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Bacon, and Chef Paul Bocuse. She has studied and tasted great wines and spirits around the world, from Portugal and Austria to Argentina and the United States. Her writing beverages have appeared in Kitchen & Cook, the St. Helena Star, iSanté.com, Spirited and many other publications. In 2011, she was named one of the top wine and spirits sommeliers by Tasting Panel magazine.
The Wine Gal & Countess of Cocktails
Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For 23 years, Ziggy, known worldwide as “The Wine Gal” has set and reported trends in wine, spirits and all things to imbibe. Her wine country lifestyle brand, ZigStyle, embraces the art of life, entertaining, wine, cocktails and gardening. Her award winning, wine focused radio shows, have a long time loyal following and are broadcast on FM stations and stream worldwide. Her writings are featured in lifestyle and libation based publications. As a wine and spirits expert, Ziggy is a lead judge in both international spirits and wine competitions. Ziggy is a dynamic guest speaker, educator and presenter. ZigStyle is embraced in all she does and is a welcome, catching, organic approach to our busy lives.