Monica Samuels is the Director of Sake and Spirits for Vine Connections. The portfolio consists of sakes from 16 artisanal breweries throughout Japan and is curated in collaboration with John Gauntner, the world’s leading non-Japanese sake educator. Monica manages the sales of the Vine Connections sake portfolio through the 50 states of America and several provinces of Canada.
Monica has over a decade of experience in the sake industry, including 6 years as the Sake Ambassador for Southern Wine & Spirits in New York. She was also the Corporate Sake Sommelier for SUSHISAMBA, an international restaurant group fusing the flavors of Japan, Peru, and Brazil. She has been recognized for her efforts in sales and education in Wine Spectator’s “Sake’s True Believers (2013),” Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Tastemakers Under 40 (2014),” as a recipient of the prestigious “Sake Samurai” recognition (2017), and most recently as part of the IWSC and WSET’s “Future 50 Awards (2019).” Monica’s education in sake includes studying under John Gauntner and his Sake Education Council, where she received both Certified and Advanced Sake Professional distinctions; she is also a WSET certified Educator for the Level 3 Award in Sake. She has assessed sake for different competitions internationally and is currently a Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge sake category.
Monica was born in Los Angeles and spent summers in Tokyo at her grandmother’s house growing up. As a bilingual individual with a unique perspective on two very different cultures, she has been particularly successful in demystifying sake for the US audience. Her years in the hospitality business and ingrained passion for the restaurant industry have given her an exceptional understanding of pairing sake with food, particularly outside of the traditional Japanese setting.