Meridith May, Publisher / Editorial Director
Meridith is responsible for the branding and content for The Tasting Panel. As #15 on the list of INTOwine.com’s 100 Most Influential People in the Wine Industry, she has successfully made The Tasting Panel the largest circulated print publication for the hospitality industry.
Meridith co-owns The Tasting Panel with Anthony Dias Blue. She is also owner of sister publication The Somm Journal.
Anthony Dias Blue, Editor-in-Chief
Anthony Dias Blue is the recipient of a 2001 James Beard Foundation Award as well as the 1997 Communicator of the Year Award from the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. He is one of the most influential food and wine personalities in the United States. His work in various media is circulated to more than 30 million global consumers and trade members each month. He can be found in print periodicals, on radio, in bookstores, and in cyberspace.
For more than two decades, Anthony was associated with Bon Appétit, the largest-circulation food publication in the United States, his influential consumer-oriented “Blue Lifestyle Minute” radio program is broadcast several times each weekday on WCBS New York and KABC Los Angeles.
Anthony Dias Blue is Executive Director of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the nation’s largest and most prestigious wine judging event, and is also the founding Director of its sister event, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Bill Brandel, VP/Sales & Marketing
A veteran of the wine and spirits industry for over three decades, Bill worked in high profile restaurants and hotels in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles before starting his career with Southern Wine & Spirits in the Los Angeles area. After 20 years as an on-premise wine manager, Bill left the distribution industry to start his own wine brokerage. After two years of working with small, family-owned wineries, he opted out of wines sales to become VP Sales & Marketing for The Tasting Panel and The SOMM Journal. The experience, knowledge and skill set that Bill acquired in the wine sales and service industry made for a smooth transition into the wine and spirits publishing arena.
Anna Russell, VP/Finance Director
At The Tasting Panel, Anna handles all things finance and works closely with Meridith May in managing the magazine’s business endeavors. She graduated from the University of San Diego, where she was granted scholarships for both academics and athletics and is currently studying to earn a Master’s degree in Business Administration. As a former athlete she appreciates the camaraderie and team spirit which is such an intrinsic part of the atmosphere at the magazine.
In her spare time, Anna enjoys spending time with her friends, family and her dog, Dr. Watson, watching her beloved Los Angeles Dodgers and scientifically testing wine for the good of the publication.
Dr. Watson (seen above) is The Tasting Panel‘s official Head of Security and is a no-nonsense enforcer of proper behavior.
Ruth Tobias, Managing Editor
Ruth Tobias could write before she could tie her shoes, and she’s been chronicling her way through life ever since. After graduating with a BA in English literature from UCLA in 1992, she received an MFA in poetry from the famed Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa before heading to Boston University for her PhD in literature.
In Boston, her passion for food compelled her to follow an unexpected course of study. While working to obtain her Professional Chef’s Certificate at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, she began writing about restaurants and bars for a range of publications. After signing on as the local editor for Zagat, she left academia to pursue a career as a food-and-beverage writer.
Tobias now lives in Denver, where she continues to write about dining and drinking for local and national media.
Kate Newton, Senior Editor
Kate Newton joined The Tasting Panel in August 2017 after spending several years in Madison, Wisconsin, where she wrote for a collective of small-town newspapers and was a general nuisance to her coworkers with her frequent and very nitpicky editing suggestions. An Arizona native, she’s a Clippers enthusiast, fledgling Dodgers fan, budget foodie, and pop culture savant (caution to those who venture down the rabbit hole of asking for TV show recommendations) who’s now in charge of keeping our writers on the grammatical up-and-up.
Jessie “JABS” Birschbach, Senior Wine Editor
Jessie “JABS” Birschbach, also Managing Editor at The SOMM Journal magazine, is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers with a background in fine dining (Spago, Beverly Hills; Mastro’s Steakhouse, Beverly Hills), creative marketing (Signature Creative, Protagonist), and comedy (iO West, UCB LA, National Comedy Theatre). An avid beer enthusiast, JABS is an active homebrewer and belongs to the Pacific Gravity Homebrew Club. Her most recent enterprise involves pairing cannabis strains (and their respective terpenes) with wine and beer. Although she is from the island of Kauai, spending the first six years of her life on the islands, JABS grew up in San Diego, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from San Diego State University. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her wife and son.
David Gadd, Special Features Editor
David Gadd began with Anthony Dias Blue’s Blue Lifestyle organization in 1996 and has worked on projects as diverse as the “Blue Lifestyle Minute” and Anthony Dias Blue’s Pocket Guide to Wine, among many others. After leaving his day-to-day position at the magazines in 2017, he continues to write special features for The Tasting Panel and The SOMM Journal from his home in downtown Hollywood.
Rachel Burkons, Director of Business Development
After more than a decade working alongside the editorial teams at The Tasting Panel, SOMM Journal and Clever Root, Rachel currently works with the magazine’s partners to develop new business opportunities and relationships and is overseeing the publications digital strategy. She is also the Cannabis Editor for The Clever Root, which aims to normalize cannabis by placing it alongside mainstream brands, activations and trends. In 2016, she co-founded culinary cannabis company Altered Plates, where she continues this mission. Follow her on Instagram at @SmokeSipSavor.
Abby Read, Marketing and Editorial Associate
Abby Read graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English and a focus in Creative Writing. With an editorial and social media background, she loves telling stories through all platforms. Abby is an avid runner, amateur stylist, and absolute skin-care junkie (Sephora Rouge status).
Dominque Crowder, Events Assistant
Dominique Crowder moved to Los Angeles three years ago from Ohio, where she studied fashion and retail studies at Ohio State University. Dom enjoys traveling, movies, and all things L.A. (especially the weather). An avid sports fan, she loves watching her esteemed Buckeyes dominate, as well as Lebron James’ Laker takeover! Considering her experience in the hospitality industry over the last 12 years, it was only fitting for her to join The Tasting Panel team, contributing to both the social media and event-planning departments.
Sierra Doxey, Executive Administrative Assistant
Sierra Doxey joined The Tasting Panel in January 2018 after graduating from California State University Sacramento in May 2017 with a double major in Deaf Studies and Women’s Studies. She moved back to her hometown of Pasadena and enjoys the arts, dabbling in photography, sketching, critiquing new and old films, and exploring all types of music. Sierra is bilingual, speaking/signing English and American Sign Language (ASL).
Jessica Hammond, Accounting Assistant
Jessica Hammond is Anna Russell’s accounting assistant and aids other team members with various tasks around the office (most importantly, assisting in clearing out the wine cabinet each week). She currently attends the University of California, Santa Barbara, as a Sociology major and will be graduating in the summer of 2019. She has been with The Tasting Panel Magazine for two wonderful years and looks forward to continuing with the company until she begins law school.