He wants people to know that the timing of his resignation only coincidentally comes in the wake of the scandal. As he has aged, the travel has been hard, particularly with his arthritic knees. His plans include writing a primer on Spanish wine.

Miller said he doesn't know if Campo attempted to bribe any wineries. "That's the 64,000-dollar question," he says. "But in the end, only he knows."

Campo, reached by email in Spain, said neither he nor Miller ever took money for a wine tasting.

"We can [categorically] confirm that not a single winery has ever paid Jay Miller or the The Wine Academy for the privilege of visiting them or for tasting their wines," Campo told The Sun.

Robert Parker, meanwhile, is standing behind Miller, even as he launches an international investigation focusing in particular on Campo, whom he has worked with in the past and introduced to Miller. Campo is president and founder of The Wine Academy of Spain.

For many in the rarefied world of wine, good marks from Parker and his reviewers carry extra validity because unlike other publications, The Wine Advocate prides itself on editorial independence.

It doesn't accept advertising. The publication is entirely subscription-based. Critics foot their own travel bills.

"We're being damaged by these allegations," Parker says, "and were trying to get to the bottom of what the truth is."

Miller's reputation, locally, seems quite solid. Foreman, who with chef Cindy Wolf owns such high-end Baltimore restaurants as Charleston, Pazo and Petit Louis, calls him "about as pure a taster as you're going to come up with in that world."

He speculated that his friend and former business partner, whom he has known for nearly 40 years, is the victim of the cutthroat high stakes wine world.

"The world of the wine blogosphere is a very jealous one, given to over-analysis," Forman says. "There are a number of people known for their skill and an awful lot of people who spend their time knocking them down."

Ian Stalfort, a wine buyer for The Wine Source doesn't know Miller personally — only his good name and that of his publication. And as someone who has tasted many of the wines Miller has reviewed, Stalfort thinks his opinions are typically astute.

"I find it really hard to believe any of these guys would jeopardize their reputation for a free trip anywhere," he says. I can't imagine anything super-nefarious was going on."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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