Wayne Belding, MS is a geologist turned oenophile. He has written about wine for over 35 years for local and national publications. In 1990, he became the 13th American to pass the Master Sommelier Diploma examination, passing all three parts of the exam on his first attempt. Since that time, he has been active in teaching and examining at all levels of the Master Sommelier program. He has served as Education Director and Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas.
Over the years, he has taught thousands of sommeliers and industry professionals, many of whom have risen to significant positions in the trade. After decades as a successful retail owner, he now teaches consumer and professional wine classes. He is a frequent wine reviewer, competition judge and speaker at wine events. He is a partner at Preferabli, the leading AI-driven, personalization software for the wine and spirits industry – changing the way people discover, evaluate, buy and share wine. He is also the author of “Diving Into Wine”, a guide for wine consumers.
Yannick Benjamin, a New York City-based sommelier, is both the cofounder of Contento Restaurant in East Harlem and Beaupierre Wines & Spirits in Hell’s Kitchen. Beaupierre is a family business led by born-and-raised Hell’s Kitchen natives of French origins. Unlike other NYC-based wine shops, Beaupierre is a place of family-oriented values, but also a space of community where inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability reign king. He is also a co-founder and director of development for Wine on Wheels, an organization of wine lovers and sommeliers who have come together to harness their love of great wines to benefit charity. Having worked in his early years at Le Cirque, Jean-Georges, Felidia and Atelier at the Ritz Carlton. Benjamin and partners opened Contento with the ethos and tagline “accessible for all.” It is a stunning example of quality hospitality designed with a broadly inclusive approach.
Yannick has been recognized among Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 under 40 and was named Person of the Year by New Mobility Magazine in 2017. He was the resident sommelier on the hit radio show “On The Town with Michael Riedel” on AM 970 The Answer, and has made multiple appearances on ABC, NBC, and CBS. In 2015, Yannick starred in “Uncorked,” a documentary series featuring sommeliers on Esquire TV. Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times calls Benjamin “the new star of New York’s gastronomic firmament,” and The Wine Spectator talks about Benjamin revealing a “kinder, gentler side of the profession.” He was recognized by the Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Awards as Sommelier/ Wine Director of The Year for 2021.
Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, CSW is currently an Advanced Sommelier at Cinder House within the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, MO. She was nominated as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Sommelier/Wine Director of the Year” 2021. Interests include wine and mead judging and consultation.
Dilek Caner currently is the Director of Tasting World/Dallas Wine Center, an organization that educates the wine trade and the consumer since 2005. Prior to the formation of Tasting World, Dilek taught at other organizations such as Institute of Culinary Education and American Sommelier Association. Earlier in her career, she has worked at Wine & Spirits Magazine and has been a sommelière at Restaurants Bruno Jamais and Alain Ducasse. Dilek is a Master of Wine, a title which has been earned only by 312 people in the world to date. She also holds a Ph.D. in Economics from New York University.
Journalist, speaker, blogger, author, and judge based in Manthattan. Former Global Beverage Director for Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the National Wine Director for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group.
Kimberly Charles’ name is synonymous with wine marketing at its best level. Over her 35+ year career she has, through her creative marketing efforts helped brands such as Taittinger Champagne, Domaine Carneros, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Square One Organic Vodka, Cakebread Cellars, Wente Vineyards, the region of Lodi, E. & J. Gallo among many others attain a level of recognition and draw in the marketplace. She possesses a natural gift of storytelling and helps her clients develop highly tailored messages, strategies and audiences to convey their brand essence and truly stand out. Additionally, her holistic approach to marketing from packaging to messaging coupled with strategic communications planning has helped her company Charles Communications Associates excel in its field. Charles Communications Associates celebrates 20th years in 2023 and specializes in strategic branding, and corporate social responsibility with a focus on launching, reinvigorating and repositioning of brands. Learn more at www.charlescomm.com follow on Twitter @CharlesComm and Instagram and Facebook @AlltheSwirl
Elaine Chukan Brown travels the world speaking and writing about wine. They love cockatiels, their rabbit Harrison, kid Ellaita, and long walks on the beach at sunset.
Jim Clarke is the U.S. Country Manager for Wines of South Africa. Prior to joining WOSA in 2013 Jim was the wine director at Armani Ristorante and Megu, both in New York City.
Jim has also been writing about wine for twenty years and has contributed to a wide range of trade and consumer publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Fortune, World of Fine Wine and Club Oenologique.
In 2020 Jim received the International Louis Roederer Wine Writer Award for Feature Writing and in August of that year Wine Business Monthly named Jim as a Wine Industry Leader of the Year for his work supporting South African wine during the Covid pandemic.
Jim is the author of The Wines of South Africa, published by Infinite Ideas as part of the Classic Wine Library in July 2020.
Julia Coney is a Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas-based wine writer, wine educator, speaker, and consultant. Her wine writing includes stories on wine, winemakers, and the intersection of race, wine, and language. She holds a WSET Level Two Certification in Wine and Spirits and is currently pursuing her Master Level Champagne Certification with the Wine Scholar Guild and WSET Level Three Certification. Julia is the recipient of Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Social Visionary Award Winner for her work in writing and speaking on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the wine industry.
Julia is the Founder of Black Wine Professionals, a resource for wine industry employers and gatekeepers, professionals, and the food and beverage community. Their goal is to lift up the multifaceted Black professionals in the world of wine.
Julia is the Wine Columnist for Sweet July. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, VinePair, Wine Enthusiast, Thrillist, The Tasting Panel, Plate Magazine, Forbes.com, WineEnthusiast.com, The Washington Post, Seven Fifty Daily, Wine Searcher, the Financial Times, JancisRobinson.com, Glamour, Essence, and numerous print and digital publications. Julia is a 2019 Fellow of the Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. Julia has spoken at conferences such as wine2wine, Assemblage Symposium, The Culinary Institute of America’s Summit for Sommeliers and Beverage Professionals, and Bâtonnage Forum. You can find her on all social media at @juliaconey and her website juliaconey.com.
With over 29 years of experience Jimmy has worked in both FOH and BOH in restaurants, then jumping to on premise wine sales, then back to restaurant as a consultant. You can often find Jimmy spinning vinyl at Taco Y Vino while he pours great juice alongside his wife Hollie and 5 kids.
Born in London, raised in Sydney Mark has over 40 years of experience in the hotel, restaurant and wine business, fifteen of those as a Sommelier. In 2001 he was name Sommelier of the Year at the Vancouver Wine Festival- also won the Spirited Industry Professional award in 2014.
As a Department Head and instructor with the International Sommelier Guild he was instrumental in the on-going development of the curriculum and has taught classes in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Mark is an annual judge at Texsom International Wine Awards and has judged many other competitions in both Canada and the US. His Wines of Australia book for Classic Wine Library will be available in 2023. Mark is currently Head of Education Development for Wine Australia in North America.
Eric Degerman is president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine LLC, a journalism business that publishes to its eponymous website and produces a quarterly print magazine. Eric began writing about the Pacific Northwest wine industry in 1998 while working as a sportswriter for the Tri-City Herald, a daily newspaper in Washington state’s Columbia Valley. He helped create Wine Press Northwest, the newspaper’s quarterly wine and lifestyle magazine, with now-retired author Andy Perdue.
In 2000, they created the Platinum Awards. It is an October judging of wines made with Pacific Northwest-grown fruit that have received a gold medal at a respected wine competition anywhere in the world during the previous 12 months. Along the way, Eric has judged more than 20 North American wine competitions.
Great Northwest Wine LLC owns and operates two international wine competitions, conducts the Idaho Wine Competition in collaboration with the Idaho Wine Commission and serves as a consultant to several other Pacific Northwest judgings. In 2020, Degerman began a freelance relationship with The Seattle Times to spearhead coverage for its annual Wine Issue of Pacific NW Magazine.
Jessica is a Wine & Spirits columnist for Decanter, Forbes.com, and Texas Monthly. Her work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, Imbibe, GuildSomm, SevenFifty Daily, Southern Living, VinePair, and National Geographic Traveler. Dupuy also co-hosts a wine and spirits podcast, Another Bottle Down, with Mark Rashap of Broadbent Selections. She holds a Diploma with the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust, and is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators.
Jessica is the author of Uchi: The Cookbook, The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love, Jack Allen’s Kitchen Cookbook, The United Tastes of Texas and The United Tastes of the South through Southern Living, and Tex-Mex: Traditions, Innovations, and Comfort Foods from Both Sides of the Border with Atlanta-based chef Ford Fry. Her latest book, The Wines of Southwest U.S.A., a part of the Classic Wine Library, covers the emerging American wine regions in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.
Dupuy holds a B.A. in History from Trinity University and an M.A. in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier–Austin and lives in the Texas Hill Country. Among the things she enjoys most are cooking with her kids, sharing great wine with friends, and fly fishing with her husband.
Follow her on Instagram at @jessicandupuy.
Etinosa Emokpae is a wine professional based in Philadelphia via The Bronx, NY. While cutting her teeth at Maialino, Lafayette and Mission Chinese in New York City, Etinosa developed a deep appreciation and love for all things wine. In search of new adventure, she moved to Philadelphia in 2016.
She served as Beverage Director at Walnut Street Café and later Wine Director at Friday Saturday Sunday. She was named one of SevenFifty’s Rising Stars in Philadelphia for 2019. Etinosa is a current WSET Diploma candidate and is a Pennsylvania sales representative for Skurnik Wine & Spirits.
Sarah Jane Evans MW is a writer, broadcaster, speaker & consultant, Co–Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, former Chair IMW, and a Series Editor of the Classic Wine Library. Research focus on wines of Spain, and Chair of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino. WSET Outstanding Alumni Award.
Christy Frank is a leader of the independent retail scene, the founder of Copake Wine Works, and a writer for many industry publications. She is a mentor with multiple organizations and is (perhaps unwisely) launching a canned cocktail business called Hamlet Hound, because everyone loves a dog.
Mary Gorman-McAdams is a Master of Wine, independent wine consultant, wine judge, educator, conference speaker, and wine business advisor. Elected Council Member of the Institute of Masters of Wine and served on Global Education Committee 2012-2023. Proud judge and speaker at TEXSOM.
Lisa Granik MW is the author of both Granik’s Guide to Georgian Wine (2021) and The Wines of Georgia (2020), along with numerous articles about Georgia and other regions world-wide. Her career has spanned the off-premise, distribution and import channels, and most recently has worked as a consultant and market adviser to wineries looking to improve their performance in the American market. Before her career in the wine trade, she was a lawyer and a law professor, with an expertise in international law. With more letters after her name than in her name, she is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including two Fulbright Scholar awards (in 1990-91 and 2017-19).
In 1991 Peter Granoff was the 15th American to earn the coveted title Master Sommelier, and is one of the 19 Americans to date that have earned the Krug Champagne Cup by passing all three parts of the exam on the first attempt. He is active today as an examiner and lecturer for the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory, Advanced and Masters level programs. In 1991 Peter also received the James Beard Foundation Sommelier of the year Award.
In January of 1995 Peter and Robert Olson, a software engineer, launched Virtual Vineyards, an ecommerce pioneer and the first US entity to sell wine on the Internet. Virtual Vineyards was the subject of a Harvard Business School Case Study, and was cited in numerous business and e-commerce marketing journals & texts as a pioneer during that heady (headless?) era.
Prior to Virtual Vineyards Peter spent 25 years in the hospitality industry in the US, France & Switzerland. He is active as a speaker, panelist, judge, and educator in numerous wine consumer and wine industry settings, and has presented at professional wine and e-commerce conferences at Harvard, Wharton, Rhodes, and UC Berkeley, and as far away as Switzerland, France, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Today Peter is co-proprietor of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco, Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in Napa, California, Mission Bay Wine & Cheese and Mission Bay Wine Bar @ Thrive City, both in San Francisco.
Eugenio Jardim is the Wines of Portugal USA Ambassador, the Brand Ambassador for Ernest Vineyards in West Sonoma Coast, and the co-founder of WiFi-WineTime, a virtual events company.
He was the Director of Wine Studies for the San Francisco Cooking School and an Adjunct Professor at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, Napa Valley. He currently conducts very high-profile, private, and corporate, wine seminars and tastings in the US and South America under My Private Somm, his personal venture focused on finely curated wine events.
He was the Wine Director of Jardinière, Chef Traci des Jardins’ flagship Restaurant in San Francisco, from 2001 to 2013 and he was named Sunset Magazine’s 2010 Sommelier of the Year! He also consulted on the wine programs of many award-winning restaurants in California.
Eugenio is a featured guest Sommelier and Speaker at national and international events and a judge at many National and International wine competitions.
Jirka Jireh makes it a point to challenge the status quo and encourage marginalized folx to take up space in whatever industry sparks passion for them, including wine & spirits. A few years ago Jireh left New York for the West Coast in order to connect with what she saw as the inception of a grassroots push to increase BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ representation amongst domestic natural winemakers and the reclaiming of Black and Brown farming practices. In 2020, Jireh organized The Price of Admission, a workshop on bias and sexual assault in the wine world which equipped a network of professionals with language and tools to combat these issues across the country. Later, Jirka would become the Co-Founder of Industry Sessions, a digital wine education program exclusively for marginalized people that spans 14 cities in the US and Canada. Behind the scenes, Jirka uses her network as a tool to advocate for BIPOC in the winemaking sphere and connects like-minded professionals with business opportunities. Her leading voice has become associated with interrogating misogyny and white supremacy within our industry with a focus on restructuring the ways in which we activate & influence change throughout beverage spaces.
Her work has been celebrated in the pages of The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Imbibe, Cherry Bombe Magazine, Pipette, Punch, and Wine Enthusiast to name a few. In 2021 she was even invited to host an episode of “Mind of a Sommelier”, a spin-off to PBS’ “Mind of a Chef”.
When she is not mentoring, educating, or diving into regenerative farming practices she spends her free time pouring wine at events in community centered spaces that highlight foods of the Diaspora, zipping around the country to show love and support to the various radical beverage businesses founded by her BIPOC & Queer colleagues or popping to the West Coast to check on her winemaking projects.
The majority of Jirka Jireh’s 15 years in hospitality were fine-tuned in New York City’s bustling fine-dining world. She is currently based in NYC where she runs Industry Sessions and consults on a variety of groundbreaking projects geared at reclaiming wine spaces for all people.
|Early on in his life, Kyungmoon Kim discovered that he had exceptional palate. As he immersed himself in the world of wine, he leveraged his palate and his natural aptitude for memorization to build an extensive base of wine knowledge.
Kyungmoon spearheaded the beverage program at JUNGSIK in Seoul and New York, then while he was working at the Modern, Kyungmoon has earned the title of Master Sommelier in 2016.
After many years of dedication in beverage industry, a desire to seek his heritage and learn about traditional Korean beverage grew. He decided to explore different parts of Korea and seek sool producers that could showcase true mastery, superior quality, and sense of place. These products have never been introduced in U.S. market and it is Kyungmoon’s goal to make Korean soju as a new and exciting category in the restaurant and bar scene.
Upon retiring from Dance in 2002, Marquita began working in and studying Wine. In 2004, she received her Viticulture/Vinification Certificate from the American Sommelier Association. She homeschools in Wine in preparation for the rigorous Master of Wine program. Her hopes are to teach and write!
Susan is the Head of Wine Expertise for fine wine retailer Belmont Wine Exchange in the SF Bay Area. She creates delightfully thought-provoking experiences through music and wine. Susan approaches her craft through an interdisciplinary lens, forged by her background as a high tech program manager, performing arts program developer, and as a classical pianist and dancer. Her research and work on the interaction of music and wine have been featured on Decanter, GuildSomm, Robb Report, and others. Each of Susan’s creations is rooted in academic research and inspired by a deep respect for the essence of wine and music.
Shelley Lindgren is the wine director and founder of San Francisco’s Italian restaurant A16 since 2004 . A16 also has locations in Oakland, SF Ferry Building and Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan. She has received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program; has received the 2023 Slow Wine Fair International Award for Best Selection of Good, Clean, and Fair Italian Wine; and has been knighted by the Italian government, receiving the prestigious “Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella Italia” (Dott.ssa) distinction for her professional dedication to Italian wine. Available on preorder currently, Shelley’s third book Italian Wine – The history, regions and grapes of an iconic wine country will be available August 2023. Shelley’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Punch, San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications. Shelley started a wine label called Tansy Wines in 2021 with Kitty Oestlien – inspired by Italian varietals of Northern California but also Pinot Noir and an upcoming Cabernet Sauvignon all from organically grown, single vineyards. She served on the board of La Cocina, the Guild of Sommeliers, and Slide Ranch and is a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, two sons, and a border collie.
Michael McClendon is the co-founder of Sages Vintage, a “custom crush” winery and consultancy in Nacogdoches. In addition to producing world class wines at Sage’s Vintage he has been named as a “Young Turk of Texas Wine ” by Dr. Russ Kane; featured in the Dallas Morning News; and on the cover of Wine and Spirits Magazine as part of their national collective of “Rising Black Voices” in the wine industry. At Sage’s Vintage, Michael has produced over 80 labels for nearly 30 winery and brand owners.
These wines have medaled in competitions across the US including San Diego Critics Challenge, American Wine Society, and San Francisco Chronicle. Michael graduated from The University of Texas at Tyler with a B.S. in Biology. His career has taken him all over the world, from Chile to New Zealand, but East Texas still has a special place in his heart. He has worked with several local organizations such as the Heritage Land Bank Northern advisory committee, Discovery Science Place board of directors, and the former Tyler Bolts Rugby Club. Michael loves spending time with his wife, Senetra, and their nine-year-old son, an avid baseball player.
Sheri became a MW in 2003. A Duke University graduate, she has worked in a variety of fields, including marketing research & wine education. She is a Senior Partner at Preferabli, the leading AI-driven, B2B2C personalization & recommendation software platform for the wine, beer & spirits industry.
Chris achieved Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas in February of 2013. As Divisional Director of Wine & Spirits, Chris oversaw the beverage programs of Morton’s, Oceanaire, and Strip House. Chris has judged for the Lone Star and HLSR International Wine Competitions. He is currently COO of Better Beverage Bureau.
Francis Percival writes on food and wine for The World of Fine Wine. With Bronwen Percival, he is the coauthor of Reinventing the Wheel: Milk. Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese. He is also a judge for the World of Fine Wine’s World’s Best Wine List Awards.
Monica Samuels is the VP of Sake and Spirits for Kome Collective, the Japanese division of Vine Connections. She is based in New York City.
Monica’s 15+ years of experience in the sake industry include working as a restaurant beverage director, overseeing the category for one of the country’s largest wholesalers, and now directly importing sake and spirits from Japan and beyond. 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),” received the title of “Sake Samurai” in 2017, and 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 L3 Award in Sake. She participates as a judge for many international competitions including TEXSOM, IWC, and the US National Sake Appraisal.
Monica was born in Los Angeles and spent summers in Tokyo at her grandparents’ 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.
Kerry is the winemaker for Côte Bonneville. Her parents planted DuBrul Vineyard in 1992 and were active in the early Washington wine industry, so it only made sense that she began making wine in middle and high school in a series of science projects. After earning her engineering degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, she worked in Torino, Italy and Chicago, Illinois in Fiat’s management development program before deciding to enter the world of wine in 2005. While she was at Northwestern, Côte Bonneville was founded to showcase the distinctive grapes that are grown in DuBrul Vineyard.
Kerry has been immersed in the family businesses of DuBrul Vineyard and Côte Bonneville since the inception, but especially after leaving engineering. Recognizing the importance of quality at every step, she earned her master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis, and gained experience in California, Argentina, and Australia. She worked in all aspects of winemaking at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Robert Mondavi Winery, Tahbilk, and Tapiz, before returning to Côte Bonneville full time. Since 2009, she has expanded the range of wines beyond the Bordeaux blends and Chardonnay to also include Riesling, Cab Franc Rosé, Syrah, and a second label, Train Station, celebrating their historic tasting room location.
James is a sommelier, writer, + educator based in Brooklyn. He draws the Children’s Atlas of Wine, which maps underrated wine regions, overlooked grape varieties, and the people that grow them. With Jirka Jireh, he co-founded Industry Sessions, a natural wine study for BIPOC beverage professionals.
Stevie co-owns Bay Grape wine shops and bars in Oakland and Napa and Italian restaurant MAMA Oakland. She also founded the Bâtonnage Forum and has earned a reputation for progressive thought leadership and advocacy for greater sustainability and diversity in wine retail and hospitality.
Bree Stock is a Master of Wine, since 2016, she is Oregon’s first MW and the only female MW in the Pacific Northwest. Australian-born, her wine career began in the Canadian on-trade with Sommelier buying roles on both coasts before returning to Australia to pursue a career in wine importing, sales, and winemaking roles. Her curiosity and love for wine led her to travel extensively to pursue harvest roles in Austria, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the US where she fell in love with Oregon’s Willamette Valley and her now partner, Chad Stock. Together they are committed to knowledge and idea sharing and to expanding the conversation around sustainable and innovative vineyard and wine production in the region. She is the Director of Education for the Oregon Wine Board. She is also the co-winemaker in Limited Addition Wines, and Concinnitas Fermentations and winemaker for Artist Block wine, and Grace + Vine all based in Oregon and sourcing grapes and wine from the Pacific Northwest.
Scott Tyree is a sommelier, hospitality consultant and educator based in Freeport, Maine. A 25-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Tyree started his wine career as wine director at Michelin-starred Restaurant Tru, a James Beard Award winning restaurant in Chicago. During his 9-year tenure at Tru, he received numerous accolades including being named Best Sommelier in 2003 and 2005 by the Jean Banchet Awards, a peer-given award by the Chicago restaurant industry.
In 2004, Tyree was named a James Beard Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Wine Service. In 2007, Tyree joined Hart Davis Hart, an internationally recognized fine wine auction house, as a marketing specialist. After a return to the restaurant floor in 2009 as the wine director of Michelin-starred Sepia Restaurant in Chicago, he was once again chosen as Best Sommelier by the Jean Banchet Awards for a third time.
He is now a dual resident of the rocky Maine coast and Cape Town, South Africa. In April of 2019, he earned the Master Sommelier Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He currently mentors several sommeliers and wine professionals throughout Maine and upper New England.
Toshio Ueno MSS, DipWSET, CSW, FWS, SWS, IWS, CS
Toshio is the creator of Sake School of America and English Shochu Adviser Certificate program, and only one in the world to hold Master of Sake (酒匠), Master Sake Sommelier (日本酒学講師), WSET Sake Educator diploma and WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits. Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research. Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Director of Sake Specialist Department in marketing Japanese foods, Sake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Sake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America. In 2016 he was awarded the industry’s most prestigious title Sake Samurai from Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association. And in February 2021, he was appointed as The Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Honors & Awards:
2022 Ambassador of Yamanashi, Yamanashi Prefectural Government
2021 Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
2021 Brewing & Distilled Spirits Education Award, Brewing & Distilling Educational Services
2020 Awamori Jinbner, Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association
2019 Professionnel du Vin and Chevalier de la Societe Mondiale du Vin, Chaine des Rottiseurs
2019 to Current Board of Director, Society of Wine Educators
2017 Distinguished Service Prize, FBO Japan
2016 Sake Samurai, Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association
日本酒学講師 Master Sake Sommelier & 酒匠 Master of Sake, Sake Service Institute (SSI)
南部杜氏協会 研究科生 Nanbu Toji Guild Pre-Toji Candidate
WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits, Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET)
WSET Certified Sprits Educator & Sake Educator,
Certified Specialist of Wine, Society of Wine Educators
Certified Sommelier, Court of Master Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
Spanish Wine Scholar, International Wine Guild
Certified Italian Wine Specialist, North American Sommelier Association
Citified Beer Adviser, FBO
Cicerone Beer Server, Cicerone
International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC), Spirits Judge
San Francisco World Spirits Competition Judge, Spirits Judge
TAG Global Spirits Awards, Spirits Judge
CINVE Spain, Spirits Judge
New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, Wine & Spirits Judge
International Wine Challenge (IWC), Wine, Spirits & Sake Judge
San Francisco International Wine Competition, Wine Judge
Texsom International Wine Awards, Wine Judge
Las Vegas Global Wine Awards, Wine Judge
Le Mondiale des Vins Blancs Strasbourg, Wine Judge
Berliner Wine Trophy, Wine Judge
Catad’Or World Wine Awards, Wine & Spirits Judge
Vinalies Internationales, Wine Judge
Jennifer Uygur is the co-owner of Lucia, a 2023 James Beard nominee for Outstanding Restaurant, with her chef/husband. Prior to opening Lucia, Jennifer was the Wine Manager at Central Market. She’s a member of the Dallas Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier and is a certified Italian Wine Professional.
Debbie Zachareas is the Proprietor and Managing Partner at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s restored Ferry Building, Mission Bay Wine & Cheese in San Francisco, and the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in downtown Napa. She was the consulting wine director to the Warriors at the Chase Center and has recently opened her latest Wine Bar at Chase Center’s Thrive City, Mission Bay Wine Bar. She is the wine consultant to Izzy’s Steak House in the Bay Area, and the Madrona in Healdsburg. She is also a well-known wine judge, lecturer, sommelier, and guest speaker throughout the country.
Zachareas has served as a trustee for the French American International School and International High School, as well as Family House, San Francisco. She chairs and volunteers for a number of fundraisers close to her heart, including Make a Wish, Meals on Wheels and the Food Bank, just to name a few.
Zachareas’s past include developing some of the most innovative wine programs that have helped to shape the city’s wine culture. She was the founder of one of San Francisco’s most extensive wine programs at bacar restaurant, the wine buyer for the Ashbury Market, EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar, the opening sommelier at Rubicon Restaurant, and the opening wine director at Vertigo in the TransAmerica Building. She won the inaugural Wine Director of the year award for San Francisco Magazine and was the only sommelier ever to have won the award twice. Nationally recognized by Food and Wine Magazine, Market Watch, Wine Spectator and Saveur Magazines, Bloomberg, Women in Wine Leadership, The California Wine Institute and she remains a renowned international wine judge and brings a passion and expertise wine to her profession.
Rania Zayyat (she/her/hers) is the founder of Lift Collective, a non-profit organization advocating equity and inclusion in the wine industry. Her experiences in a male-dominated wine culture during her formative years motivated her to create change in the wine industry by elevating marginalized groups and developing a platform to level the professional playing field. An esteemed sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and gender equality advocate, Zayyat is passionate about creating equity in the wine industry via Lift Collective and its respective programming.
Rania is also the Managing Partner and Wine Director at Bufalina, a Neapolitan pizza and natural wine destination in East Austin. Rania has spent 10 years in the wine industry and nearly two decades in hospitality, where she is now a leader in equity and inclusion initiatives–including Lift Collective’s activities.
Rania has been recognized for her work in Zagat 30 Under 30 2015, Forbes, VinePair, The Somm Journal, Wine Enthusiast, The Vintner Project, Wine & Spirits, Sprudge, Eater, Texas Wine Lover, The Doctors, By The Glass Podcast, and The Alexi Cashen Podcast. She was named one of “The Most Inspiring People in Wine” by Wine Industry Network in 2021, listed in Imbibe’s “75 People to Watch in 2021”, named as a Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40, and featured in Austin Monthly’s “12 Women Shaping the Future of Austin” in 2021. In August 2022, Rania was named Executive of the Year by The Hue Society at the Wine + Culture Fest in Atlanta, Georgia. Rania is also a co-founder of Be The Change, the wine industry’s first virtual job fair with a focus on diversity and inclusion.