2015 Sommelier Challenge
International Wine & Spirits Competition
San Diego, California
Early Bird Deadline: June 26, 2015
We are pleased to announce that Sommelier to the Stars Jesse Rodriguez of Montage in Laguna Beach, California, will oversee the 7th annual Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition as Chief Judge. Jesse has already assembled an all-star team of sommeliers, with more to come.
This year's Sommelier Challenge will incorporate a spirits judging for the first time. Look for more information on the spirits competition in the coming weeks.
Chief Judge, Jesse Rodriguez
Jesse Rodriguez currently holds the position of sommelier at Studio Restaurant at Montage Laguna Beach, an awardwinning hotel and resort in Orange County, CA. After 11 years and many attempts, in July of 2014 Studio received the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award. This accolade has positioned Montage Laguna Beach as one of two hotels in California to have both the Forbes Five Star Rating for Hotel, Spa and Restaurant, as well as the Wine Spectator Grand Award. The other is The Grand Del Mar and its restaurant Addison, where Jesse was previously wine director.
Rodriguez was named one of “America’s Best New Sommeliers” by Wine & Spirits magazine and StarChefs.com’s 2010 “Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Stars;” and “Best Sommelier” by the readers, editors and critics of San Diego Magazine and Ranch & Coast: San Diego’s Luxury Lifestyle Magazine for four consecutive years. Under Rodriguez, San Diego County and Addison also received the first ever nomination for the James Beard Awards SemiFinalist for Outstanding Wine Service, The prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award for 2009-13, Wine Enthusiast’s 2010 and 2011 Ultimate Award of Distinction and the 2010 Santé “Wine Restaurant of the Year” Award; and was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s “100 Best Wine Restaurants” in 2011 and 2012. The resort’s Amaya and Club M restaurants also received Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence” for 2010-12 and the “Award of Excellence” for 2012, respectively. The Grand Del Mar is the only resort in the world with Wine Spectator awards for three dining venues.
During his tenure at Addison and The Grand Del Mar, Rodriguez worked to assemble the resort’s 36,000-bottle wine inventory, and also collaborated with notable winemakers in California, Germany, Austria and France to create an extraordinary proprietary private bottlings collection for The Grand Del Mar and Addison. His efforts and expertise helped garner the highly coveted AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star Awards for the resort since 2009 and 2013 respectively; as well as both the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star ratings since 2009 for Addison – San Diego’s first and only restaurant to receive these designations.
Director, Robert Whitley
Robert has written about wine for newspapers across the United States for more than 20 years. His Wine Talk column and reviews are distributed by the Creators Syndicate, and he also publishes the online wine magazine, Wine Review Online. Robert is founder of the Sommelier Challenge, as well as its sister events Winemaker Challenge and Critics Challenge. Robert also has been Director of the San Diego International Wine Competition for the past 11 years. In addition to his own wine competitions, Robert will serve as a judge this year at the Dallas Morning News TexSom wine competition, the Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition, the Concours Mondial in Brussels, the Wines of Portugal Challenge in Lisbon and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.