A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life

About Us and Our Mission

The Underground Wineletter is an on-line magazine dedicated to wine, food, and the good life. All contributors to our magazine are experienced wine tasters who have spent their lives in search of the best wine and food. The writing is straightforward and honest. There are no nonsensical wine descriptions and no technical terms. We aim to provide relevant, professional, timely, and often controversial content. We are not bloggers, chemists, professors, or wine makers. We are consumers dedicated to providing the best information possible in an understandable and straightforward manner. Along the way, we expect to continue to learn, inform, and have fun. Our motto is “In Vino Veritas.”


Team Member Bios

John Tilson
John was founder and managing editor of The Underground Wineletter and co-editor of Rarities. He has been collecting and tasting wine for over 40 years.  As a prominent investment manager for over two decades, wine was always a true passion, rather than vocation.  Consequently, John has had neither hidden agendas nor obligations to fulfill.  In his  tastings and trips to global wine-growing regions, he has tasted far too many wines to remember them all.  While John is very knowledgeable in California and multiple European wine regions, he is renowned for his Burgundy expertise, having collected, tasted and written about the region and its wines for more than three decades.


Christine Graham
Christine was involved with The Underground Wine Journal in the mid-80s and was publisher/editor from 1991 to 1998, then editor until 2000. She was also publisher of Rarities.  Prior to joining John Tilson on The Underground Wine Journal, Christine had over 20 years experience as a financial manager and consultant for several of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Now a rare wine consultant and wine appraiser for Zachy’s Auction House, she is also a judge for several wine competitions, a member of the International Vodka Tasting Panel, on the steering committee of the Central Coast Wine Classic and a member of The Tasting Panel (formerly
Bon Appetit Magazines Tasting Panel).  She has been collecting and writing about wine for several decades and has visited many of the world’s wine regions.


Wyatt Peabody
Wyatt was partner and departments editor of The Underground Wine Journal, which he joined in 1998.  Throughout his career, he has been editor, entrepreneur, entertainment industry executive and wine & spirits writer and has organized numerous wine and food events and judged international competitions. He consults regularly on building and appraising wine collections throughout the United States.
Having visited many of the world’s wine regions, his experiences  led him to create a media platform integrating a democratizing reach with a nuanced understanding of wine and spirits.  Wyatt is the founder of Taste Media and a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine.  His work has also appeared in Robb Report, Fortune and the Washington Post.



Dennis Foley
Dennis was associated with The Underground Wine Journal and founder and co-editor of Rarities. He has been active in the world of rare wine and gastronomy for 35 years. Dennis spent four years working with Christie’s wine department in Chicago, followed in 1985 with his founding the Butterfield & Butterfield wine auction department in San Francisco. Subsequently, he returned to Christie’s where he functioned as rare wine consultant, until joining Zachy’s Auction House as a rare wine consultant. He has conducted many charity wine auctions and wine seminars all over the United States during the last 30 years. He is a lifetime member of the Society of Bacchus.



Edward Lazarus
Ed is an attorney in Los Angeles and a well-known connoisseur and wine collector. His cellar is legendary, containing many treasures. He was involved with The Underground Wineletter as West Coast Associate Editor since its inception as well as an editor with Rarities.  He has been drinking wine since his college days at the University of Alabama, from where he made frequent visits to New Orleans.  He has always had a particular fascination with the 19th century Bordeaux vintages, particularly 1870.  Ed is involved in many wine societies, including the Grand Cru Society, the International Wine and Food Society and the Society of Bacchus. He regularly visits the wine regions of France and Spain.

Geoffrey Troy
Geoffrey was getting a taste of the greatest wines in the world since he was a child!  His late father, Melvin Troy, had one of the great private wine cellars on the east coast and frequently drank the greatest wines.  Geoffrey was able to start his education at a young age and has become one of America’s great rare wine authorities.  He was a wine consultant to Park Avenue Liquors in Manhattan before establishing the New York Wine Warehouse on Long Island.  Geoffrey has been involved with The Underground Wineletter since its inception as East Coast Associate Editor as well as an editor with Rarities.  He visits France frequently, especially Burgundy.  He accompanied John Tilson and Ed Lazarus on their first wine tasting trips which began in 1981.

John Brincko
John, the owner of Brincko Associates in Los Angeles, has had 34 years of executive, financial and operational management experience, providing personalized services to financially troubled companies and their investors.  John is a well-known wine connoisseur and collector, tasting wines for close to 30 years.  He is a founder of the American Institute of Wine and Food and head of the Los Angeles Grand Cru Society.  He has been involved with many monumental wine tastings and has visited many of the world’s wine regions, especially Burgundy where he is an annual visitor.

John Morrill
A stockbroker for the past 25 years, John was a contributing editor to The Underground Wine Journal, a wine consultant to restaurants and a wine distributor in the Northwest.  John is an annual visitor to Napa Valley and has traveled to many of the world’s wine regions, including Europe, the Southern Hemisphere, Croatia and Montenegro.

Ronald Brown
Ron was a contributing editor with The Underground Wine Journal for nine years.  His varied background includes building, engineering, architecture, astronomy, flying and amateur radio.  A consummate student, his interests have led him to acquire a BS, an MBA and to his current endeavor toward a Doctorate in Cosmology.  In addition to being an experienced and knowledgeable wine and spirits taster, as well as a collector of fine wines, he is a lover of opera and the arts.

Scott MacConnell
Scott has held a top administrative position at Wine Warehouse in Los Angeles for nine years, after leaving a stint in wine retail in Nashville, Tennessee.  Trained as an archivist with degrees from University of Chicago and University of California at Berkeley.  Haunted by wine from an early age after visiting Italian Swiss Colony in 1972, he has become an experienced taster, and is fascinated by the subjective and aesthetics of wine (what makes a great wine and why people drink a particular wine).

Cary Feibleman
A Dermatologist, Cary has been collecting wines for over 35 years and has toured many of the world’s wine-producing regions.  He is a member of a number of wine and food societies and tasting groups and has attended many comprehensive vertical and horizontal tastings of the world’s most sought-after wines.


Ron Light
A Doctor of Orthodontics, now retired, Ron has been a member and officer of many wine and food societies and tasting groups, including Brotherhood Knights of the Vine, Society of Medical Friends of Wine, International Wine and Food Society, Society of Wine Educators and more.  A wine collector for 45 years, he has many verticals of California wines dating back to the 1960s still in his cellar.

Vince Pirolli
Vince has been on both the retail and wholesale side of Southern California’s wine business for over 30 years.  He attributes his passion for wine to his Nana, his uncle Nick and his mentor and teacher, Robert Lawrence Balzer.  A wine columnist for the past 12 years, writing as The Wine Guy, he is a member of Anthony Dias Blue’s The Tasting Panel, a wine judge and an author of a booklet, Cooking With Wine.  He is currently compiling his collection of wine columns into a book, while working in real estate.


Greg McCluney
Greg  McCluney has been writing about wine, beer, spirits, food, travel and restaurants since 1988 from his home bases in Atlanta, Georgia and Tampa Bay, Florida, traveling most of the world’s wine regions to research and taste for his reports.  He has contributed to USA Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, Kansas City Star, Tampa Tribune, Wines and Vines, Tampa Bay Magazine, Tampa Bay Life, James Beard Publications, and he writes for the Atlanta Wine School.  He served as associate editor for The Wine Report Magazine in Atlanta and wine manager for the south’s largest consumer wine event, WineSouth.  Greg also writes about fly fishing and boating for Outdoor Life, TWA Ambassador Magazine, Destination Fish and other outdoor publications.


Bipin Desai, Ph. D
Bipin is a professor of physics at the University of California at Riverside.  He has been collecting wine for about 40 years.  In the past 30 years, he has organized some of the most comprehensive vertical tastings of wine ever presented in the world.  Bipin also travels extensively in Europe and has organized tastings at many chateaux in Bordeaux.

Joel Fisher, Ph. D.
President and founder of LAWineFest, a highly successful two-day event of wine, spirits and beer tastings, seminars and exhibitor show, Joel is a nationally known wine educator, winery consultant and author.  He writes a monthly wine column for the Culinary Connection for Chefs de Cuisine Association of California and can be heard on radio programs nationally speaking on wine.  In the 1960s, he served in many Washington positions then, returning to academia, taught at Georgetown University, Loyola and other Southern California law schools.  A member of the Society of Wine Educators and the UK’s Circle of Wine Writers, he is the author of several books on politics and wine and has led a number of trips to the world’s wine regions.


Sid Cross
Sid, a resident of Vancouver, is recognized globally for his knowledge, tasting abilities, and connections within the many wine regions of the world, He is Wines Committee Chair for the world organization of The International Wine & Food Society headquartered in London.  He writes for several outlets and is a frequent wine judge, panelist and educator on wine and food.  Sid is the only Canadian to be inducted as a Membre d’Honneur of the L’Academie du Vin de Bordeaux and to be awarded The Gourmet of the Year by The Society of Bacchus America.  Sid has been promoted by the French Government from Chevalier to Officer status in the prestigious Ordre du Merite Agricole.


Wolfgang Grünewald
Vintage 1930, raised in Germany and England. Decades of business ventures in France, Turkey, India, Japan and the U.S.  Considered in French a “Grand Wine Amateur.”  Curious about wine (and great cuisine) since the late forties, collecting wine with a vengeance since the late sixties. 1994 till today lives in Appenzell, Switzerland, a charming rural area.

Peter Smith
Peter Smith is a wine consultant who, since 1993, has conducted educational tastings, spoken at international wine conferences, and arranged and hosted custom tours for both amateurs and professionals to most of the world’s wine regions. Born and educated in the United Kingdom, he now resides in Newport Beach, CA, owns a home in France, and spends a considerable part of each year in Europe and South America. He and his wife Holly have recently founded the OC Wine School in Orange County, California.

Michael Mayfield
Michael Mayfield is the former CEO and Co-CIO of Santa Barbara Asset Management.  He has been tasting and collecting wine for years.   And now, in his retirement, Michael has more time to devote to wine.  Always on the lookout for new wine and food experiences, his passion has led him to numerous wine regions throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  A frequent visitor to France, he recently joined a group of investors in acquiring a Grand Cru property in Burgundy.


Allen R. Balik
Allen has been very active in the wine industry for more than 30 years as a collector, consultant, author, fundraiser and educator.  Through his company Club EssenceSavor Life Through Wine he works with wineries and wine related business on their sales, marketing and business strategies.  In 1990 Allen co-founded and continues to chair A Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters.  This event has grown into one of the largest single day charity wine auctions in the country with net revenues of $25 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s research and care programs.  Allen writes a bi-weekly column for the “On Wine” section of the Napa Valley Register and co-authored the best selling Guide to Serving, Choosing and Enjoying Wine.  Allen has also been a contributing journalist for several wine oriented websites and regularly conducts wine education seminars for a variety of wine related organizations and businesses.

In Memoriam

In memory of our former team members who have passed on to the land of Bacchus where the flow of great wine is never ending.

Chris Foskey (1933 – 2012)
The Australian associate editor for The Underground Wine Journal from 1984 to 1998 and contributing editor to the online Underground, Chris retired after a long career as a corporate attorney. He started drinking wine at the age of 14 when his father took him to a Wine & Food Society event. Chris collected  and drank wine his entire life. His favorites were Semillon from Australia’s Hunter Valley and Red and White Burgundies from France.

Albert Givton (1945 – 2017)
Albert was a longtime friend. And, given his knowledge of wine, enthusiasm, generosity and honest wine writing, we were fortunate to have him as one of our contributing editors. He was also a real estate investor who was active in the Vancouver wine community for over 40 years. He published The Wine Consumer from 1985 to 1992 – a critique of the wines available in the British Columbia state-controlled liquor stores. He was Maitre of the Vancouver Branch of the Commanderie de Bordeaux from 1988 to 1997, was the founder and president of Le Tastevin Wine Club from 1977 to 1997, he was a member of Conseiller du Vin de Bordeaux since 1995 and was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole by the French government. Albert authored two books – WineWise, published in 1988 and Carte Blanche, published in 1999. He visited the vineyards of Europe and California on a regular basis.

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