Serafin Alvarado’s love of wine began more than decade ago, as a room service waiter for Hilton Hotels in his native Puerto Rico. It was the beginning of a career path that would ultimately lead him to achieve the remarkable distinction of becoming a Master Sommelier (M.S.) in 2005, achieving the status that only 149 other North Americans have reached after passing the rigorous M.S. examination.
Serafin has also turned his passion for wine into a successful career, working in positions in wine service, wine sales and most recently, wine education, joining Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Illinois, the largest wine wholesaler in the United States headquartered in Miami, Florida, as Director of Wine Education.
After two years working in the hotel industry in Puerto Rico, in 1994 Alvarado transitioned to a key role at Cadierno Corporation, a Puerto Rican fine wine distributor, where he established the island’s most prominent wine school. His wine courses became very popular and highly acclaimed by local press, attributed to his easy, entertaining, yet informative teaching style.
Alvarado’s most formative wine experience came after a move to Chicago in 2001 to work alongside Chef Charlie Trotter at his famed restaurant Charlie Trotter’s. Alvarado led a team of sommeliers responsible of managing one of the finest restaurant wine programs in America, following in the footsteps of his mentors: Larry Stone, M.S. and Joe Spellman, M.S. In his five years at the restaurant, Alvarado received considerable praise for his work establishing himself as one of the top sommeliers in the nation.
In October of 2005, Serafin received the Bill Rice distinguished Sommelier of the Year Award for his contribution to the culture of food & wine in the city of Chicago.
Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine included Serafin Alvarado among 40 outstanding individuals local to the Chicago area who have made a major impact in their respective industries before the age of 40. Former winners include professional actors and athletes, presidents and CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies, and high ranking political figures. Crain’s calls these rising stars “The Top 40 Under 40”.
Most recently, Johnson & Wales University recognized Serafin as a Distinguished Visiting Master Sommelier, an honor that only 3 prior individuals had received.
Today, along with his education responsibilities at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Serafin also finds time to teach and mentor Master Sommelier candidates through the program.
Serafin lives in suburban Lisle, Illinois. In his spare time he enjoys playing bass with The Rack & The Riddler, a local band, and training for the Chicago Marathon.
Regional Sales Manager for the Sorting Table since 2014 and also a MS Candidate, born in Lima, Peru.
Christopher Bates, MS, has spent over 20 years in all aspects of the hospitality industry, lending him a well-rounded perspective of all facets. Christopher and his wife Isabel own and operate F.L.X. Hospitality (www.flxhospitality.com), a quickly growing hospitality group that includes:
• F.L.X. Wienery (multiple locations)
• F.L.X. Table
• F.L.X. Fry Bird
• F.L.X. Provisions (multiple locations)
• The Quincy Exchange
• The Maillard Club
• Feast & Co. Catering
• F.L.X. Culture House
• Element Winery
• Colloquial Winery
Prior to completing his Master Sommelier Exam in May 2013, Christopher had racked up accolades such as Best Young Sommelier in the World and won TopSomm 2013, Americas most important sommelier competition. More recently, Christopher was included in Wine Enthusiasts Top 40 under 40 taste makers list.
Christopher and his wife Isabel have settled in the Finger Lakes region of New York with the intention to be a part of the growing hospitality industry, and be a catalyst for growth in the Finger Lakes. Christopher Is an active member of the sommelier community and continues to educate as a lecturer at The International Culinary Center and with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Originally trained as a geologist, Wayne Belding found his way from the oil fields to the vineyards. He began in the retail wine business, became an award-winning sommelier in Denver, and in 1990 became the 13th American to pass the Master Sommelier examination. He was also awarded the prestigious Krug Cup for passing all three parts of the examination on his first attempt. He has served as Education Chairman and Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas. He has been a wine teacher and competition judge both nationally and internationally for over 30 years. From 1986 – 2010, he was an owner of The Boulder Wine Merchant. He is the author of the recently-published book for wine consumers entitled “Diving Into Wine”.
Yannick Benjamin is the Head Sommelier of The University Club and a proud New Yorker from Hell’s Kitchen. Born into a family of French restaurateurs, Yannick has worked for many highly regarded restaurants throughout NYC: Le Cirque, Oceana, Jean-Georges, Atlas, Felidia, and Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton. Additionally, he has worked for ten years for Le Du’s Wines, one of the top wine retail stores in Manhattan. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed from the waist down. However, his passion for wine drove him to quickly adapt, outfitting his wheelchair with a table that allowed him to continue working as a sommelier to educate on wine.
Yannick went on to create “Wine on Wheels,” one of New York City’s largest and most exciting wine events. “Wine on Wheels” brings hundreds of esteemed sommeliers together to pour over 180 wines from around the world for noble charity. The event is going on its eighth year. Yannick’s tireless work and innovative vision is bringing awareness and visibility to seldom-heard voices in the wine industry and championing inclusivity.
Yannick Benjamin will bring his energy and passion to East Harlem as he plans on opening his first restaurant, Contento NYC in Spring of 2021. Contento will be a barrier free restaurant where wine and food come together and where they share a story of who they are and where social sustainability will be practiced and where they also plan to utilize their experiences and location to offer enriched programs that will enhance the quality of life for people living with disabilities.
Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, previously the sommelier of Elaia and Olio, is currently self-employed as an independent wine consultant in St. Louis, Missouri. She began working in restaurants after studying Equestrian Science and Biology at William Woods University in Fulton, MO. In 2007, her passion grew for wine and food pairing while waiting tables at fine seafood restaurant Oceano Bistro in Clayton, MO. Blackwell-Calvert was inspired to continue learning and decided to pursue a career in wine sales. She began as a wine consultant with Ionia Atlantic Imports in 2012, where Italian wine became a specialty, followed by wholesale distributor Vintegrity Wine & Spirits in 2015. Alisha is a Certified Sommelier and received the 2015 Walter Clore Certified Sommelier Scholarship for top score and also attained the Certified Specialist of Wine certification through the Society of Wine Educators with a 99% score the same year. It was in early 2017 when Reeds American Table approached her with a sommelier position and an opportunity to work along side now Master Sommelier Andrey Ivanov. Wine Enthusiast Magazine had awarded Reeds American Table for Top 100 Wine Restaurants three years in a row. Feast Magazine has named her a “Rising Star” for 2018. Most recently, she has been named one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers” in 2018 and one of the newest inductees to Les Dames d’Escoffier.
Alisha continues striving to introduce quality wine into the St. Louis market while delivering elevated but comfortable service. Blackwell-Calvert is currently preparing to sit for the Advanced Sommelier examination and developing a business in private wine consulting. Judging credentials include the Jefferson Cup and the National Mead Crafters Competition. In her free time, Alisha enjoys working with draft horses .
Sommelier Nadine Brown was born and raised in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. She came to the states to pursue a degree in social worker. After working with children for a number of years she later moved to D.C. She started in the industry as a hostess at a new French restaurant opening on Capitol Hill. Today Nadine sits on the Board of the Restaurant Association that represent Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Nadine first came to wine by reading and found the history of wine fascinated and took her first wine captain course to help her be a better manager. She has worked as a Sommelier, Captain, and managing partner to name of few.
Today Nadine is a twenty three year veteran of the Washington Area restaurant industry. She spent over 14 years at Charlie Palmer Steak as their Wine Director and Sommelier. She is a two-time winner of the Rammy’s Wine Program of the year for the region. Her palette won her the title of rising star from Star Chef in the summer of 2006. Nadine is a proud board member of a new nonprofit called the Verasion Project. The Verasion Project is tasked with fostering more opportunities for BIPOC individuals, through grants, mentorship and master classes. Nadine holds certifications from both the CMS and WSET. Founder of At Your Service LLC, wine tastings, wine education and consulting. She is a mother of two, Estelle and Emerson.
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.
Elaine Chukan Brown serves as a writer, speaker, educator, and illustrator of wine. Her work has appeared in books, print magazines, websites, apps, podcasts, feature length films, international television shows, newspapers, webinars, and radio shows in countries around the world. In 2021 she delivered the keynote address for Femmes du Vin, an international event sponsored by the US State Dept through the Paris Embassy. In 2020 she was named Wine Communicator of the Year by IWSC and VinItaly, and a Wine Leader of the North American industry by Wine Business Monthly. In 2019 Wine Industry Network named her one of the 9 Most Inspirational People in Wine.
Leon Cikota has been in the industry for over 30 years. His qualifications include owning and operating a fine dining restaurant along with a catering company. He started an international wine and spirits importing company partnership that was represented in over 20 states.
Leon was the President of the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival and was awarded Who’s Who in Food and Wine for the Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas Monthly.
He is the appointed invigilator for The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) for Republic National Distributing Company holding the Advanced Certificate and is recognized by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
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 a Contributing Editor for VinePair, the world’s largest online drinks platform. 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.
Born in London, raised in Sydney Mark has over 35 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 and also won the Spirited Industry Professional 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 the TEXSOM International Wine Awards and has judged many other competitions in both Canada and the U.S. He is in the process of writing the Wines of Australia book for Classic Wine Library.
Mark is currently Head of Education Development for Wine Australia in North America.
Mike Dunne, contributing wine columnist for The Sacramento Bee, is nearing his 50th year of writing about wine, focusing mostly on California but including other regions about the globe. He is The Bee’s retired wine columnist, restaurant critic and food editor. In addition to continuing to write for The Bee, he freelances for other publications, for books and for wine competitions that ask him to write tasting notes on best-of-class and other wines receiving high honors. He judges around 10 wine competitions yearly.
I’m an award-winning wine writer who became a Master of Wine in 2006. In that year I won the Robert Mondavi Winery Award for the best performance in the Theory Papers, and was more recently a winner of the WSET Outstanding Alumni Award. I’m particularly interest in the wines of Spain and wrote my MW dissertation on Sherry. I’m a former Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, and today I’m co-Chairman of the Decanter World Wine awards, the world’s largest. I work freelance, writing books and articles, consulting to wineries, hosting Masterclasses, and assisting with the MW study programme. I’m very interested in finding the right words, working out how best to write for a particular readership, how to develop your own style. I live in London, and am very sorry that I can’t be in Texas!
Nora Z. Favelukes is a pioneer of marketing and sales of premium Argentine wines in the United States. As an influencer, skilled spokesperson, moderator, negotiator and a natural diplomat with years of international experience, Ms. Favelukes understands the inner workings and complexities of the US, South American and European wine markets.
She is also a noted speaker specialized in European and South American wines and the US Wine Market.
Christy Frank is a leader of the independent wine retail scene. Her original shop, Frankly Wines, sold in 2017, was often touted as one of the top small wine shops in the country. She is the founder of Copake Wine Works in the Hudson Valley/Berkshires region, the New York Educational Development Manager at Wine Australia and writes for various industry publications. During her 20+ year tenure in the industry, she has worked in all three tiers, including a seven-year stint at Moët Hennessy USA, the wine and spirits division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Christy has served on the New York Times “Wine of the Times” Tasting Panel, Wine & Spirits tasting panels and is one of Food & Wine’s Top Wine Experts to follow on Twitter. Her shops have been recognized by publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times, Grub Street, and Food & Wine. She is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds various WSET certifications, and serves as a mentor with the Bâtonnage Mentorship Program and the Root Fund.
Michael Franz, Ph.D., is a wine writer, editor, educator, and restaurant consultant. He is editor of Wine Review Online and a regular columnist and reviewer for that website, which now attracts 1.4 million viewers annually and is among the world’s most widely visited destinations for wine reviews and commentary.
Franz’s work in wine began as regular wine columnist for The Washington Post from 1994 to 2005, and over that span he wrote nearly 300 articles before leaving to help found Wine Review Online as editor. He is also a wine consultant for 12 restaurants in the National Capital area with combined annual wine sales of more than $14 million, and teaches wine classes regularly at Capital Wine School in D.C.
He has conducted more than 1,600 site visits and tastings at wineries across Western and Eastern Europe, South America, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Franz tastes more than 9,000 wines each year, judges wine competitions regularly around the world, and has acted as Chief Judge for international competitions in San Diego, Washington, D.C., New Zealand and China. He has appeared on numerous television shows, has served as an expert witness in several cases regarding the wine trade in Federal District Court, and is interviewed often on public radio.
With a career in hospitality spanning 20 years, Chris’s first restaurant job was a means to an end—a way to pay his bills while attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He immediately loved the challenge of serving tables—the fast pace, the attention to detail, and the demand to continue to learn about food and wine. His passion and curiosity for wine led him to apply for—and receive—a coveted wine internship at The French Laundry. Here, Chris went from having a mere interest in wine to being devoted to wine. He moved to San Francisco to work as a Sommelier at Spruce and from there went on to be the Wine Director at Restaurant Gary Danko. After stints at Sociale, Michael Mina and Octavia, Chris got the opportunity to open Ungrafted with his wife, Rebecca Fineman.
Despite the long days at work and a wife who wanted his attention (Rebecca), he continued to set aside time for his studies. He is a Master Sommelier candidate and has passed two out of three sections of the exam. He hopes to pass the exam in full in 2021.
Chris’s accolades are numerous and include: 2012 Best New Sommeliers (Wine and Spirits Magazine); 2013 Top New Somm Competition Winner (Guild of Sommeliers); 2013 Zagat 30 Under 30. Chris is also an adjunct instructor at the San Francisco Wine School.
When he is not at work, Chris enjoys dancing, running, and making silly faces with his four-year old.
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).
Eugenio Jardim moved to San Francisco in 1988 and worked at several of the top restaurants in the city while continuing his education in Food & Wine. Jardim opened and managed Eos Restaurant and Wine Bar in San Francisco in 1995 with Debbie Zachareas. Together they ran one of the most cutting-edge wine programs in the country and from 1999 until 2001 he became the sole Wine Director. Jardim then held the Wine Director position at one of San Francisco’s iconic restaurants Jardinière.
In 2010 Sunset Magazine named Jardim Sommelier of The Year! He has established many critically acclaimed wine programs for restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Apart from his work in restaurants Jardim became a featured guest Sommelier and Guest Speaker at many National and International wine competitions and conferences. Currently, as an Independent Wine Consultant, Sommelier and Wine Educator, he conducts high-profile, private and corporate wines classes, seminars and tastings, in the US, Portugal and Brazil, while also acting as the Brand Ambassador for Ernest Vineyards, an exciting boutique Sonoma Coast producer.
In 2015, he was selected to become the first Wines of Portugal US Ambassador overseeing and supporting Portugal’s educational and marketing initiatives in the USA. He is also the acting Director of Wine Studies at the San Francisco Cooking School and an Adjunct Professor at the CIA Greystone, Napa Valley (Culinary Institute of America).
In 2020, Jardim to co-create WiFi Wine Time, a virtual wine experiences company created to provide corporations and other organizations with the opportunity to remain engaged with their teams and clientele alike, in times of social isolation.
While studying History at the University of Montana, Max Kast supported himself by working in restaurants and wine bars. With a pocket full of tip money, he purchased a bottle of 1991 Chateau Musar Rouge and fell completely in love with wine. After graduating with a BA in History, he decided to forego the world of academia for a full-time career in the world of food and wine when he realized he spent more time reading Michael Broadbent, Kermit Lynch, and Jancis Robinson than applying to grad school. Max was the wine director at the Relais & Chateaux property, Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitteroot Valley of Montana before he moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he spent 10-years as Wine Director of the Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux Fearrington House Restaurant. During his time at the Fearrington House he helped the property earn the coveted Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux and the Forbes Five Star designations.
In 2018 after over a decade of traveling, tasting, studying and more studying, Max earned the coveted designation of Master Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Since 2016 Max has worked for Broadbent Selections, where he passionately promotes their diverse portfolio of family-owned global boutique wineries from around the world including the wine that set him on his path, Chateau Musar.
GaYoung Kim at present is the Luxury | Antinori State Manager for Texas for Ste Michelle Wine Estates, the pioneering and leading wine estate of Washington State. Prior to GaYoung’s supplier role, she has lead Dallas/Fort Worth into the world of natural wines through distribution.
From working for James Beard Nominated restaurants and chefs earlier in her career to private cellar management, curating and working with aged and rare fine wines for individual clients, GaYoung has vast experience in multiple channels of the fine wine business. GaYoung is an Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas and is continuously pursuing higher levels of education to achieve Master Sommelier and WSET Diploma. She is also the Vice President of the Dallas Sommelier Society, mentoring and guiding rising sommeliers through education to build a stronger beverage professional community.
|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.
Geoff Labitzke is the Director of Sales for Kistler Vineyards. For over 40 years, Kistler has produced some of the best California examples of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Geoff directs global business and implements strategic business initiatives.
Geoff began his career as a retailer in Southern California in 1978. In 1983 Geoff became Director of Marketing at Hi-Time Cellars. While at Hi-Time, he wrote a weekly wine column for the Orange County Daily Pilot.
In 1986, Geoff joined Wine Warehouse and was quickly promoted to management. In 1989 Geoff attained the Certified Wine Educator credential from the Society of Wine Educators. Geoff would later serve on the Society’s board of Directors and he chaired the annual conference held in Sonoma. In 1989, Geoff earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing at the California State University, Fullerton.
In 1991 Geoff relocated to Northern California and joined Vineyard Brands, a prestigious national wine importer. Geoff represented some of the greatest Burgundies in the world as well as prominent brands from Europe. In 1995, Geoff returned to Wine Warehouse as Imports Manager . There he worked with top wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia, Italy and Champagne.
In 2000, Geoff was hired as Imports Manager for Young’s Market Company. There he oversaw imported wine sales for the state of California and directed wine and sales education for the entire company. In 2006, Geoff was one of two Americans to pass the Master of Wine examination. In 2016 Geoff attained his MBA from Sonoma State University.
Former United States Marine, Black woman vintner and co-founder of Salt and Pepper Wine, Cheramie Law is a woman on a mission to share the beauty of Texas wine with the world. Raised in Sherman, Texas, and with a successful career as a Data Management Specialist in the railway industry, Cheramie has been advocating for Texas wine since 2014. What began as a first date to Fredericksburg with now-fiancé Todd Aho for wine tasting in 2013, has forged into a partnership in wine and life. This partnership is celebrated with the launch of the Cheramie Wine brand.
Cheramie’s vision is simple: “My hope is to inspire those who don’t see themselves represented in the wine industry and to show them there’s a seat at the table for them. So pull up a chair and raise your glass, because wine doesn’t have to be so serious. We’re here to have some fun! “
Marquita discovered her passion for wine while waiting tables to support her dance career. Wine became her main focus upon retiring from dance in 2002. Upon the recommendation of her mentor at Jean Georges, she received her Vinification/Viticulture certificate and pin in 2004 from the American Sommelier Association. She has worked at many restaurants including Indochine, Al di La, Jean Georges, Colicchio & Sons, Lure Fish Bar, Bowery Meat Company, and Waverly Inn. She works at Red Hook Winery, as a Sales Rep for Volcanic Selections, is developing her consulting business, and as an On Call Somm at Waverly Inn. Last year, with the help of her mentor Lisa Granik MW, she began her studies to start The Master of Wine certification. She is currently studying for the Certified Specialist of Wine exam in order to start the Diploma WSET, and the first step to becoming a CWE.
Susan is the Head of Wine Expertise for online fine wine retailer Belmont Wine Exchange in the San Francisco Bay Area, serving customers worldwide. As a consultant she curates wine collections, designs wine programs, and specializes in wine and spirits music pairings and events. Susan was named Master of Wine in February 2021 upon the passing of her research paper ‘Influences of classical music on the perception of a Brut non-vintage Champagne’. Susan completed the WSET Diploma while working as a program manager in the high-tech industry, during which she lived and traveled extensively in East Asia. A lifelong devotee of music, Susan is a classical pianist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Classical Piano Performance and Musicology. She has performed internationally as a Chinese classical and folk dancer. Susan also works with performing arts organizations to grow their audiences through innovative programming and events, integrating wine whenever possible. Her joy is to create memorable experiences through wine and the performing arts.
Patrick is a wine industry veteran, spending all 15 years working in the wholesale trade for Republic National Distributing Company in both on and off premise capacities. Currently, Patrick manages the retail chain business for RNDC’s two fine wine divisions in the state of Texas. In addition to coordinating the retail business of RNDC’s importers and suppliers with the top retailers in the state, Patrick has pioneered RNDC’s education initiative as a WSET Accredited Program Provider. In the last seven years, RNDC, under Patrick’s instruction, has certified over 1000 people in WSET programs. Patrick holds a degree in Geology from the University of Texas as well as the WSET Diploma. When he is not working, teaching or studying wine, Patrick enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, swimming, cooking and playing the occasional game of chess.
Sharron McCarthy, Director Emeritus and Past President of the U.S. Society of Wine Educators and former VP Wine Education at Banfi Vintners, is a wine industry legend.
Over the past four decades, this lively, engaging, articulate woman has traveled the world, sharing with others her boundless knowledge and enthusiasm for the joy of wine. From wine clubs and consumer groups, to law firms and Fortune 500 companies, to hospitality and grad students at some of America’s most prestigious centers of learning, to floor staff at wine stores and restaurants, and to frequent appearances on radio and TV, Sharron is in constant demand as one of the wine industry’s most popular and effective guest speakers.
At the heart of her success is a refreshingly unpretentious, progressive approach, firmly aimed at demystifying wine.
Born and raised in Long Island, NY, Sharron McCarthy’s wine business career began in 1978 when she joined Banfi Vintners. In 1986, Sharron went on to form her own consulting agency. A partnership with the Italian Trade Commission in New York is widely credited with playing a pivotal part in advancing Italy to its current status as America’s leading source of imported wines. Sharron subsequently returned to Banfi Vintners in the mid-1990s, where she took on the role of Executive Director for Riunite wines. Sharron later pioneered a role as VP focused exclusively on developing wine education which she left in April of 2021.
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 Morano MW found her interest in wine initially sparked during a trip to Italy when she was 17. She began her formal wine education at the International Wine Center in New York City in 1997 following graduation from Duke University. In November 2003, Sheri earned the esteemed title Master of Wine.
With a background anchored in interdisciplinary studies, Sheri enjoys working in a variety of capacities within the wine industry. She is a senior partner at Wine Ring, the market leader in consumer preference technology, consults for a number of wine companies and also judges at wine competitions around the world. She resides in NC with her husband, son, and an assortment of pets. In her spare time she enjoys running, gardening, traveling, cooking and yoga.
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Joshua Orr got his start in the wine industry while attending Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California. He worked for Breakaway Wine Tours as well as at Taste Wine Bar, a tasting bar for the Edna Valley Vintners Association.
Following graduation from Cal Poly, he lived and worked for a year in the famed Burgundy wine region of France. Upon returning from France, Orr moved directly to Las Vegas to begin work as a sommelier at B&B Ristorante in the Venetian and then Fiamma Trattoria in the MGM Grand. He left Vegas for San Diego where he was wine director for Vineagogo as well as the Marina Kitchen at the San Diego Marriott Marquis. With the birth of his first son, Brady, in 2015 he moved to the sales side of the industry with Epic Wines and now works for Broadbent Selections, a national wine importer.
Orr is one of the US’s newest Master Sommeliers, having passed the exam in 2019. He also was top of his class when passing the advanced exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is also a certified specialist of Sake from the Sake Education Council. Orr was named Ranch and Coast’s Best Sommelier in San Diego in 2012 and 2014. Also in 2014 he won the Top I Somm competition for best sommelier in the US.
Orr currently lives with his wife and two sons in San Diego managing sales for SoCal and Nevada for Broadbent
Bob has nearly forty years in the wine trade. He was a long-time wine store owner prior to becoming an MW in 2002. After selling his shop, he went into corporate roles, holding key leadership roles for major wine retailers throughout the US and Australia, such as Wal-Mart, Southeastern Grocers, Bevmo, and Coles. Currently, he owns a B2C e-commerce business, Stellar Bottles. He also consults on several projects for final blending, brand building, and technical expertise. He routinely works in wineries to stay connected by pruning vines, harvesting, etc. He’s judged in major competitions throughout the US, Europe, South America, and Australia. This is his 15th year at Texsom.
Francis Percival writes on food and wine for The World of Fine Wine. His work won Louis Roederer Best International Wine Columnist in 2013 and Pio Cesare Food & Wine Writer of the Year in 2015. Francis is also a judge in The World of Fine Wine World’s Best Wine List Awards. Apart from The World of Fine Wine, his work has appeared in Decanter and the Financial Times in the UK and Saveur, Serious Eats, and Gourmet in the US.
Together with Bronwen Percival, he is the author of Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese (Bloomsbury; 2017). Reinventing the Wheel won a 2018 Gourmand Award and was Wine & Spirits magazine’s Book of the Year 2017.
An industry changemaker, Tonya Pitts is a wine professional who catapults wineries and winemakers into the mainstream. She is also a leader for diversity and inclusion in the hospitality, food and beverage industries.
Tonya is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Her career has been shaped by women chefs and restaurant owners. As Sommelier & Wine Director for One Market Restaurant in San Francisco, Tonya curated a wine list with a bold style and flavor profile, including offerings by women, Black and Latino winemakers. Since 2011, Tonya’s wine programs have received Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.
Tonya is an active philanthropist and mentor. She established Women in Wine to improve representation in the industry. She also holds a professorship with the University of San Francisco, working with students on food and wine pairings. And she joined Wine Unify as an ambassador, advisory board member and mentor to people in the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities who are pursuing careers in the industry. Tonya is a core committee member of Batonnage Forum Mentorship Program, a board member for United Sommelier Foundation and Teneral Cellars, who are dedicated to empowering and elevating women.
Tonya has been a five-time judge for the San Francisco International Wine Competition, a speaker at Culinary Institute of America Summit for Beverage Professionals, and an advisor for Areni Global, the Fine Minds4Fine Wines think tank in Europe. Her media appearances include CBS This Morning, CNBC, ABC 7 News “Sips with Spencer” (video clip), Daily Beast, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Somm Journal, Tasting Panel, Wine Stream, Wonder Women of Wine and Wine Spectator.
Thomas Price has been in the hospitality industry for his entire adult life. His first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at a diner in Juneau, Alaska, at the age of 14. By 18, he was the day lead cook at an upscale burger house called Harry’s in Anchorage. He moved into the front of the house as a server and bartender upon turning 21. His passion for wine was instantaneous, and was fueled by stints at Zeppo’s, an Anchorage wine bar, and its parent restaurant, The Marx Brothers Cafe. Thomas and his wife Jessica operated their own restaurant, Luau Polynesian Lounge, in Seattle, between 1997 and 2004. Following that, Thomas took a positon at Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill and began to pursue Master Sommelier certification. He achieved Basic certification in September 2004; Certified Sommelier certification in 2006; Advanced Sommelier certification in 2007 (passing on the first try); and Master Sommelier certification in May 2012. During those years, he was promoted to Sommelier/Captain at Metropolitan Grill; moved to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where he was Wine Director for its Seattle and Bellevue locations; and returned to the Metropolitan Grill in 2007, where he served as Head Sommelier. He is currently the National Director of Wine Education for Jackson Family Fine Wines.
Editor at Vinous, covering the wines of Spain, Australia, the Rhône Valley, Beaujolais, Oregon, Paso Robles, the Santa Lucia Highlands and Chile as well as pink wines from around the globe. Formerly Assistant Editor of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and, long ago, the National Sales Manager for Rosenthal Wine Merchant.
A first-generation American, Martin has held influential roles in many sectors of the wine industry since 2002: wine director, importer, educator, international judge, award-winning winemaker, and writer. His wine story began with an over-indulgent Parisian dinner as a Stanford undergrad; soon after he was stocking shelves at his local wine shop. In 2011, Martin became the principal buyer for national wine club programs including The New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine, Williams-Sonoma-
Wine, and was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top Forty under Forty Tastemakers in 2015. After working harvest at Solomon Undhof in 2016, he took over production for Sonoma-based Peter Paul Wines, a role he continues to this day.In 2018, Martin became the first Master of Wine of Mexican descent and founded Reyes Wine Group LLC, a multidisciplinary wine consultancy with a growing specialization in climate action. That same year, he launched Reyes Selections, a small East Coast portfolio culled from his years as an international buyer. In 2020, Martin co-founded Wine Unify, an organization that increases and empowers the presence of underrepresented communities in wine through education funding and mentorship. Martin’s work has been featured in JancisRobinson.com, American Association of Wine Economists, and Napa Valley Viticultural Society’s Annual Journal. During his spare time, Martin teaches WSET courses, judges at various international competitions, attempts to become fluent in a fifth language, and unfortunately for his family and dinner guests, has become an avid purveyor of dad humor.
Lars Ryssdal uses his deep background as a wine educator and twice- certified sommelier as Co-Publisher of Art Culinaire Magazine, the hard-bound document to modern cooking for over 31 years. Among his many roles previous to publishing, he served as General Manager of Napa Valley’s Ackerman Family Vineyards, Brand Manager for Corliss Wine Estates and as a working sommelier for Seastar Restaurant, The Herbfarm, and Cascadia in and around Seattle. Lars was the training manager for Young’s Market in Washington and Oregon.
Lars takes pride in his 10-year stint as Chef Sommelier for the Children’s Hospital Auction of Washington Wines, and as Service Director for Taste Washington. He proudly earned the appointment by the Washington Wine Commission as the state’s first and only “Ambassador of Wine.” Recently Lars has taken the volunteer position of Chef Sommelier of the San Francisco Chapter of Meals on Wheels for their annual gala.
Lars has helped facilitate the careers of many aspiring sommeliers with his heartfelt involvement in the Court of Master Sommeliers and Society of Wine Educators. Before wine, Lars hustled records in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years. Gaining airplay for the early Huey Lewis and the News albums (among many others), Lars brought the first Hip Hop records to the West coast. You can occasionally hear him humming “hotel… motel…. Holiday Inn…” Lars held positions as a promotion manager with Motown and as a regional promotion manager with Elektra Records. Lars chaired the Strategic Partner Committee and is on the Marketing & Promotions team for Napa Valley Vintners. He still listens to a lot of music.
Monica Samuels is the Vice President 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.
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.
Bree Stock, a Master of Wine since 2016, has worked in many roles in the wine industry from sommelier and wine director roles, importing and sales, teaching, and production. She is currently the Education Director at the Oregon Wine Board and Director and winemaker of Constant Crush wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Francisco Terrazas started bartending in his desert hometown of Tucson, Arizona at a small craft cocktail bar. From there he moved to Austin, Texas where he got a job bartending at one of the city’s premier restaurants, FINO. He then started working with agave spirits when he was asked to be the General Manager of world-famous mezcalería The Pastry War. After running that bar program for two years, he was asked by Judah Kuper to be the Brand Ambassador for Mezcal Vago. A few years later, the brand also started Paranubes Oaxacan Rum, one of the first craft rum brands produced in Mexico! Francisco was the project manager for Paranubes while the brand got its start. He is now the Agave Spirits Specialist for Samson & Surrey, teaching people all things Mezcal Vago and Tequila Ocho.
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.
Certified Master of Sake and Master Sake Sommelier. 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), and WSET Sake Educator diploma. 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 recently February 2021, he was appointed as The Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Dirceu Vianna Junior is originally from Brazil, where he studied Forest Engineering and Law, before moving to London in 1989 and becoming involved in the wine industry.
For most part of his career he has been a Buyer and Director at some of the largest wine distribution companies in the UK.
In 2008 he became the first South American male to obtain the title of Master of Wine, also receiving the Viña Errazuriz Award for excellence in the business of wine paper.
He is the Founder and Director of Vianna Wine Resources, a consulting company that advice companies in different parts of the world, using the experience of different sectors of the Wine Industry extending over three decades.
He is also a judge at selected wine competitions, a technical advisor, commercial consultant, wine educator and writer. He is a regular speaker at wine events around the world.
David Yoshida first got started in the wine profession while in graduate school, finagling a position teaching wine classes at Yale’s student pub. After a brief time working in wine retail, he transitioned to a sommelier position with the AvroKO group in New York City. Curiosity led him to spend the next few years working in vineyards and wineries in Walla Walla, Bierzo and Chinon. Since completing the Master Sommelier examination in 2017, he worked at an online wine retail startup, Pollux Wine, and is currently dividing his time between Berkeley, CA and Honolulu, HI where he is currently working with Chef Jason Kiyota to open Threadfin Bistro. David currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, and the Aloha Wine Foundation.
Debbie Zachareas is the Proprietor and Managing Partner at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s restored Ferry Building, the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in downtown Napa, and Mission Bay Wine & Cheese in San Francisco. She is the consulting wine buyer for Boulibar in the Ferry Building and the consulting wine director to the Warriors at the new Chase Center. Most recently she has taken on the role as wine consultant to the two Izzy’s Steak Houses in the Bay Area. Zachareas will be spearheading another new project this year: Mission Bay Wine Bar at Thrive City. 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, 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 innagural 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.