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.
John Blazon MS is Vice President of Sales for the Spire Collection since February 2010. The Spire Collection is a luxury driven division representing the artisan brands from the Jackson Family. As its educational and sales brand ambassador, John travels the US to work with a talented team of sommeliers in key markets focusing on collector and AAA accounts to build and strengthen equity for a unique selection of handpicked brands. A 35-year veteran within the Hospitality/Beverage industry, John is perhaps most noted as a former wine director for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. During his tenure, Blazon was responsible for the development of wine concepts and standards, including product selection, service and training for 55 restaurants, 20 lounges, 18 resorts,and 3 theme parks which also included Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. John received his master sommelier diploma from the International Court of Master Sommeliers, during a fall 2004 exam in London, England and became the 59th MS for the American Chapter. In 2003, Blazon’s efforts were applauded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), which awarded its “America’s Best Wine Lists Special Innovation” honor to Walt Disney World Resort at the Monterey Wine Festival. In addition, Santé magazine named Blazon its 2003 “Wine Professional of the Year. John continued to develop educational courses for Disney’s food and beverage team which included the Disney sommelier certificate program in partnership with the Court of Master Sommeliers. More than 750 cast members passed the introductory certificate level since the training began in 2000, which is a greater number than any food and beverage organization in the world. In 2006, Blazon was recognized by The STARWINE International Wine Competition as their “Sommelier of the Year.” In 2008 and 2013, John was elected to serve two terms on the board for the Court of Master Sommeliers and was appointed as an inaugural board member to the Guild of Sommeliers.
Erin Booke is the food and garden editor at The Dallas Morning News, where she covers cooking, wine and sustainable agriculture in North Texas. She has worked in both news and features journalism for 20 years and has a passion for all things food and drink, especially food systems, sourcing, and the local food movement. She lives in Plano with her husband, son and a multitude of unfinished gardening projects.
Lana Bortolot is a New York based journalist and editor, who has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, La Cucina Italiana and numerous magazines in the wine trade. She is a candidate for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma, with anticipated completion in 2020.
Master Sommelier Devon Broglie attended Duke University on an ambitious academic track, pursuing degrees in both psychology and economics; in his senior year he scored an internship with a prestigious consulting firm. But Broglie’s side job in a restaurant ended up being the catalyst that sparked his impressive career in the wine and spirits industry, leading to his current position as one of the top two global beverage buyers at grocery giant Whole Foods Market. After graduating from Duke, Broglie spent four years in the restaurant industry, as well as a grape harvest season in Spain, before joining the Whole Foods team in 2001. In his current position, he is in charge of purchasing and programming for the chain’s 320-plus U.S. stores that sell alcohol. Broglie also provides guidance and support for buyers across 11 regions and each store or metropolitan area’s beverage team. Broglie earned his Master Sommelier certification in 2011, and while that was certainly a career highlight, he describes his stint in Spain—in 2000 he moved to the Priorat region in Catalonia to work a harvest at a prominent winery—as instrumental in cultivating his passion for wine.
Board member and treasurer of Second City Sommeliers Tasting group in Chicago, Jim is a Master Sommelier and National Wine Director for the Hogsalt restaurant group. Formerly the Director of Education for Heritage Wine Cellars in IL, Jim focuses heavily on mentorship in the Chicago wine community when not cooking or trying to make the perfect canelé. Jim was the 2016 National TopSomm second place finisher and 2017 Guildsomm Online Competition winner.
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.
Tina Caputo is a Northern California-based writer and editor who covers wine, food, beer, and travel. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, SevenFifty Daily, Spirited, Visit California, Sonoma magazine, Eating Well, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications. She also produces the podcast “Winemakers Drinking Beer.”
Elaine Chukan Brown serves as the American Specialist for JancisRobinson.com, and as Contributing Writer to Wine & Spirits Magazine.
She contributed to the upcoming 8th edition of the World Atlas of Wine, as well as the recent award-winning 4th edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine. In 2019, the Wine Industry Network named Brown one of the 9 Most Inspiring People in Wine, and she was named by the International Wine & Spirits Competition and VinItaly as one of five of the top Wine Communicators of the Year in the world. Her writing has been featured in Decanter, World of Fine Wine, the Robb Report, and others, and recommended by Food & Wine, Imbibe, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and more.
She has been a celebrated key note speaker and seminar leader for events in wine, philosophy, and writing in New Zealand, China, Australia, Chile, Germany, Canada, and throughout the United States. Her work also appears on her own website WakawakaWineReviews.com. She is known online as Hawk Wakawaka, and is known for having created illustrated tasting notes, which @KermitLynchWine named “a new standard in wine reviews.”
Prior to her career in wine, Elaine was an academic philosopher. She served as the Charles A Eastman Fellow at Dartmouth College, and a Tomlinson Fellow at McGill University, where she did her doctoral work. Prior to her academic career, Elaine owned her own commercial fishing business in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where the rest of her family still operate their own commercial salmon fishing businesses.
Matthew Citriglia has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality and beverage industry, which began by stocking beer, wine, and soda at the age of fourteen at his father’s beverage store. His broad-based skills include retail ownership, winery sales ambassador, restaurant service and beverage management as well as wholesale management, sales and marketing. Currently, Matt is the Director of Education for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits Florida. Matt became a member of the Court of Master Sommelier, Americas in 2002 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2004. He has chaired multiple committees and has been deeply involved with the creation and development of examination and education programs offered by Court of Master Sommelier, Americas. Matt is regularly asked to lecture on a variety of beverage topics; helps coordinate and administer the Court of Master Sommelier exams and mentor’s numerous students attempting to pass the MS exam. He created series of training seminars geared toward motivating and educating wait staff as well as an innovative online e-learning server-training program. Matt’s passion for the beverage industry is infectious and highly motivational. When he is not traveling or speaking, he spends his time defying gravity on a yoga mat and drinking Champagne from a flute.
Jim Clarke is the Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa as well as a writer, contributing to both consumer and trade magazines including World of Fine Wine, Beverage Media, and Details magazine. Jim studied wine with the American Sommelier Association and worked as sommelier and wine director in New York for several years, initially at Megu, a high-end Japanese restaurant, and then at Armani Ristorante, inside the clothing company’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue. In September 2013 he left the restaurant industry to join Wines of South Africa.
Shana Clarke is a freelance journalist, copy editor, and content creator based in New York City. Her work regularly appears in a variety of consumer and trade publications, including Wine Enthusiast, Fortune, Hemispheres, and SevenFifty Daily, among others. Shana holds a Level 3 Advanced Certification from Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is a Certified Sake Sommelier.
Follow her on Instagram at @ShanaSpeaksWine and see more of her work on www.shanaspeakswine.com.
Master Sommelier Brian Cronin began his wine career in Raleigh, North Carolina. After studying biology in college, Brian realized that he wanted to make wine. However, it was his exposure in restaurants to wines from all over the world, and his growing passion for wine that made him want to learn everything that he possibly could. Brian then went to work as sommelier in some of the top restaurants in the country. He has been the wine director for Charlie Trotter’s, Gary Danko, and Aqua. Brian is a very active member of the Court of Master Sommeliers and has also been an elected member of their Board of Directors. Brian’s diverse career in the wine industry has helped him build his philosophy of fresh, funny and informative education that he now uses as National Education Manager for Palm Bay International. Brian devotes much of his spare time to running marathons&quat; for charity with the American Cancer Society. In 2016 he ran all of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, which are Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, and NYC marathons for charity – one of only a few people in the world to accomplish this feat. Best thing about the race…”Finishing, eating great food, and drinking great wine! But most importantly it is about the people that benefit from this wonderful cause.”
Founder of WineAlpha, a fine- and rare-wine advisory serving private, trade and institutional clients. Author of The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy and columnist for the Chinese version of La Revue du Vin de France and other magazines. Former Head of Wine (Asia and the Americas), Christie’s and former Director of Wine and Spirit Education, Moet Hennessy USA. Board member, Institute of Masters of Wine, North America.
Dame’s ability to transmit his passionate interest in wine make him a natural teacher. One of just seventy-three Americans at the time, to have passed the Master Sommelier Examination, Dame was the first to successfully pass all three parts in a single year. This feat and his high score won him the coveted Krug Cup of the British Guild of Sommeliers in 1984. Dame founded the American Branch of The Court of Master Sommeliers in 1986 and has played an active role in the expansion of the Master Sommelier program throughout America since that time.
As Cellarmaster of The Sardine Factory in Monterey, California for twelve years, Dame created a wine list which won the Wine Spectator Grand Award. With the many wine events held in the brick and wine lined Wine Cellar, Dame turned The Sardine Factory into a wine destination restaurant of world renown. He is also active in the culinary arts serving as an Honorary Trustee of The American Academy of Chefs, the honor society of The American Culinary Federation. He was awarded the Antonin Careme Medal and was made a Supreme Knight of the Knights of the Vine in 2000. He was elected to the prestigious National Restaurant Association College of Diplomates in 2004. In 2006 he received Sante Magazine’s Wine Professional of the Year as well as Starwine’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010 he was elected to the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame.
A sixth generation Californian, Dame graduated from Washington and Lee University with a degree in journalism and communications. A European trip after high school piqued his curiosity about wine and food. Since then, he has applied his considerable persuasive skills to the service and appreciation of fine wine.
Tina Danze is a freelance writer and editor who writes regularly about wine and spirits for The Dallas Morning News. For twelve years, she has headed The Dallas Morning News Wine Panel, a group of sommeliers and food professionals that explore wine and food pairings.
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, Sunset Magazine and LA International wine competitions. In addition, he developed a wine education and restaurant etiquette course for Simon Fraser University Global Asset and Wealth Management MBA program. Mark is currently Head of Education for Wine Australia in North America.
Nick Davis is a Master Sommelier and founder of two companies. With his first venture Medium Plus, Nick selects fine wine for private clients, and hosts educational events for industry students and enthusiasts. His second project is Unicorn Imports, offering Champagne and other fine wines from around the world to the Seattle restaurant and retail market. During his down-time, Nick enjoys language learning, jazz music, and visiting Red Pandas at the local zoo.
Jessica Dupuy is a Wine and Spirits columnist for Texas Monthly magazine and forbes.com and has written for other publications including Imbibe, Guild of Sommeliers, SevenFifty Daily, Wine Enthusiast, Southern Living, and National Geographic Traveler. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, an Advanced certificate holder for the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust, and is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators.
Jessica has also covered food trends for various publications throughout her career and 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. Follow her on Instagram at @jessicandupuy and on twitter at @jdewps.
Jameson Fink is a writer, editor, and consultant who has worked for Wine Enthusiast, msn.com, and Grape Collective. His eponymous blog is a two-time finalist for a Saveur Blog Award. After many years as a wine buyer in Seattle for shops massive and small, he moved to New York in 2015. You might know him as somewhat of a pariah for his unwavering defense of the Champagne flute. He will die on this island.
Michael Franz is a wine writer, educator, and consultant. He is editor of Wine Review Online and a freelance contributor to many national and international wine magazines. From 1994 through 2005, he wrote as wine columnist for The Washington Post. Franz is also a wine consultant for 14 restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as an instructor for L’Academie de Cuisine and the Capital Wine School. He has conducted more than 1,200 site visits at wineries across Western and Eastern Europe, South America, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. He tastes approximately 9,000 wines each year, judges wine competitions regularly around the world, and has acted as Chief Judge for international competitions in Washington, D.C., San Diego, New Zealand and China.
Born and raised in Napa Valley Keith is one of the world’s youngest Master Sommeliers and proud recipient of the illustrious Krug Cup trophy. He has more than 20 years of experience ranging from bussing & waiting tables, to writing award-winning wine lists, consulting, training and lecturing for prestigious and renowned restaurants, hotels, cruise lines & wineries including; Domaine Chandon, Masa’s, Spago, Picasso, Aureole and Crystal Cruises.
Mary Gorman-McAdams is a Master of Wine, wine educator, wine judge and wine business strategist. Since May 2019 she is the Director at International Wine Center, New York City, the First WSET School in the Americas.
Between 2014 and 2019, she was the North American Market Adviser for the Bordeaux Wine Council, where she led its marketing and educational programs focused on growing the market for Bordeaux wines. During her tenure the United States moved from being the fourth most important market by value to the second most important market by value at the end of 2018, where volumes imported were the highest in 35 years
Since 2012 Mary has also served on the Institute of Masters of Wine Global Education team, which manages the Institute’s academic program around the world.
Mary became a Master of Wine in 2011, also winning the Viña Errázuriz Award for the highest marks in the Business of Wine paper.
When not talking and tasting wine, Mary can be found on the sidelines of a soccer field with husband Joe McAdams, cheering on their 16 year old son Luca.
Rich Higgins is all things beer: brewmaster, beer travel operator, author, public speaker, and a consultant to breweries and restaurants. He is one of 19 Master Cicerones in the world, and additionally is a Certified Sommelier. He runs Beer Immersions educational beer tourism trips to Belgium and Germany. To offer an organized approach to blind beer tasting, he is the author and developer of the Deductive Beer Tasting Method.
He teaches public classes, industry trainings, video beer courses online, and is a public speaker and coordinator of events around the world. He spent over a decade as a professional brewer and brewmaster, is a past president of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, and served as Event Director of San Francisco Beer Week.
Contact him at www.richhiggins.com.
A native of Yakutsk, in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in northeastern Siberia, Andrey immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1992. He earned his Bachelor of Science in International Business, Economics, and Russian Studies from St. Louis University. His sommelier career began and continued in St. Louis with stints as Beverage Director/General Manager for a number of highly acclaimed restaurants in town. Currently, Andrey is based in San Francisco where he is the National Wholesale Manager for his company, Bliss Wine Imports. He also works full time on the restaurant floor alongside his good friend Matt Dulle at Lazy Bear, a one-of-a-kind Michelin dining experience by Chef David Barzelay. Andrey has been recognized as one of the top sommeliers in the U. S. by Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, and Food and Wine Magazine. He won the 2015 Chaine des Rotisseurs’ Best Young Sommelier Competition for the U. S. In 2018, he achieved his long-term professional goal of passing the Master Sommelier exam, becoming one of only 274 people in the world to have done so.
Nick Jackson is a Master of Wine from New York. He runs his own business, Vintage Variation LLC, which advises private clients, retailers and others on all aspects of fine wine. He previously worked at Sotheby’s Wine for seven years, in London and New York, culminating in five years spent as the buyer for the US retail business. He published his first wine book, Beyond Flavour, in 2020.
While studying history at the University of Montana, Max Kast supported himself by working in restaurants and wine bars. With a pocketful of tip money he purchased a bottle of 1991 Chateau Musar Rouge and fell completely in love with wine. After graduating with a B.A., 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 Bitterroot Valley of Montana before he moved to Chapel Hill, N. C. where he spent ten 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 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. Max is one of only 274 Master Sommeliers in the world. 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.
Master Sommelier David Keck discovered his love for wine while pursuing a career — and traveling the world — as an opera singer. David passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2016, making him the 149th American Master Sommelier and the 233rd in the world. Shortly after, David co-founded Goodnight Hospitality in Houston. His first project, the honky-tonk Goodnight Charlie’s, opened at the end of 2017, and several more projects are planned for 2019. Previously, David ran Camerata at Paulie’s wine bar for three years, which rose to national acclaim under his leadership. David was named one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2016. He has a Master of Music Degree from Rice University, an undergraduate degree in English from Columbia University and attended Juilliard for opera performance.
Jack Mason, Master Sommelier at the Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Houston Downtown and Galleria locations, achieved MS status at the very young age of 27 and is one of the youngest to do so. He is one of only 9 esteemed Master Sommeliers currently in the state of Texas and one of 144 Master Sommeliers in the United States. Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mason developed a fondness for the food and beverage industry while working in local restaurants in his hometown of College Station, Texas. Mason’s interest in wine was piqued while taking a wine education requirement class while pursuing a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. Mason soon left to enroll in Hospitality Management at Cornell School of Hotel Administration. It was there he met his future mentor, Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars, and became a wine course teaching assistant. To further his education, he spent summers back in College Station working within wine shops and restaurants. Mason returned to Texas following his graduation to begin his career in Houston as a Sommelier at the Grand Award-winning Pappas Bros. Steakhouse while simultaneously studying for and passing the Advanced Exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers In 2013, Mason moved to New York City to work in various notable restaurants. He refined his knowledge and passion of Italian wine as Sommelier of several Michael White Italian restaurants, including Ai Fiori and Marea. The following year, Jack joined famed restaurateur Danny Meyer to open Marta as the wine director, where he focused on wines from southern Italy and furthered the team’s beverage education. In 2015, Jack was inducted into the Court of Master Sommeliers. Mason decided it was time to return to his roots and moved back home to Texas in November 2016. He re-joined Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston as Master Sommelier at both the Houston Galleria and Houston Downtown locations. He is responsible for an inventory of more than 60,000 bottles of wine and close to 3,000 selections from the restaurant’s extraordinary wine collection. In his current position, Mason informs guests on the nuances of wine quality that make for a stunning dining experience. He also is responsible for providing continuous wine programs and education for both the wait staff and patrons. Mason has been featured in Forbes’s annual “30 Under 30” list of outstanding young professionals nationwide, Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list in New York City and was named Wine & Spirits “Best New Sommelier 2015.” He was also featured in the series “Uncorked” on the Esquire Network that followed his journey to receiving his MS certification. In his personal life, this Master Sommelier enjoys spending time with friends, cooking and working on the house he shares with his wife Carly and their Goldendoodle, Mr. Bojangles.
Certified Cicerone. Education Director, Court of Master Sommeliers–Americas. James Beard Nominee, Best Sommelier (Philadelphia). Diverse industry experience including bartending, importing, distribution and education. CIA graduate.
Josh Nadel is currently the Beverage Director for the NoHo Hospitality Group in New York City for top restaurants such as The Dutch (SoHo & Miami), Lafayette, Joe’s Pub & The Library @ The Public Theater of New York, Bar Primi and Little Park. Previously, he served as the Head Sommelier at Veritas and Cru, where he was the recipient of nine consecutive Wine Spectator Grand Awards. He also earned the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service.
Josh is regularly featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wine & Spirits Magazine and is on Esquire’s TV show “Uncorked,” about sommeliers attempting the Master Sommelier certification.
Josh created and launched Gothic Wines, a boutique winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon in 2009.
Josh will be presenting the Alsace Rocks: Exploring the Region’s Grand Crus seminar on Friday, November 18th from 1:45pm – 3:15pm. Josh is a huge fan of Alsace wines, especially appreciating their complexity, aromatics and ability to age.
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 Hotel and then at Fiamma Trattoria in the MGM Grand Hotel, as well as passing the first two certifications in the Court of Master Sommeliers. Before joining Marina Kitchen as the Director of Beverage, Orr was the wine director for Vineagogo, a wine company in San Diego.
Orr is one of the newest Master Sommeliers for the Court of Master Sommeliers, having passed the exam this year. He is one of only 171 people in the United States and 262 worldwide to have passed the incredibly difficult Master Sommelier exam. He was awarded the Rudd Scholarship for top honors in his class when he passed the advanced exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is also certified as a specialist of Sake from the Sake Education Council and holds a bartender’s certification through Pernod Ricard’s Bar Smarts program. Orr was also named Ranch and Coast’s Best Sommelier in San Diego in 2012 and 2014.
In 2014, Josh was awarded one of the most prestigious Sommelier awards in the nation at the Guild of Sommeliers’ Top|Somm Competition. During the Fifth annual US Championship, Orr stood alone as the winner, taking home the Rodney Strong top trophy.
Joshua currently lives with his wife and two sons in San Diego and works Broadbent Selections managing their sales for Southern California and Southern Nevada.
Having worked in the restaurant industry since the age of sixteen, Aaron discovered early on his passion for restaurants. This passion led him to attend and graduate from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. While working for an Italian restaurant, his interest was sparked by the Wine Director recounting the state of the Champagne region in the 1800’s and the innovations that grew the industry. His love of history with his newly found love of wine made it an easy decision for a life long passion, and career, in wine. In October of 2017, his wine goal was achieved when he became one of the 247 people to pass the Master Sommelier Exam. After nearly twenty years in the restaurant industry he joined a Family owned Distributor, Young’s Market Company, and ran the Fine Wine Market Team as the Director Fine Wine. His team excelled in growing market share in some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area. Then, after nearly ten years in San Francisco, company and family values drew him to Dallas where he is the Director of Business Development for Republic National Distribution Company.
Francis Percival is food editor and columnist for The World of Fine Wine. His work has been shortlisted at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards for the last five years, winning Best International Wine Columnist in 2013 and Pio Cesare Food & Wine Writer of the Year in 2015. Apart from The World of Fine Wine, his work has appeared in Decanter and the Financial Times in the UK and Culture, Saveur, and Gourmet in the US. Besides writing, Francis also teaches wine and cheese classes for Neal’s Yard Dairy and cofounded and hosts the London Gastronomy Seminars, a long-running series of lectures and talks in London dedicated to making the technical side of food and drink fun and accessible. Together with his wife, Bronwen Percival, Francis is the author of Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese.
Jackson is a born and bred native of Seattle, Washington. A year abroad in Italy during college opened his eyes to the world of food and wine. While finishing his Creative Writing degree at the University of Washington, Jackson began his career at Seattle’s esteemed Canlis restaurant. For a decade he worked as a barista, bartender, kitchen server, lead server, and sommelier, eventually becoming the Assistant Wine Director under Nelson Daquip. He passed his Advanced Sommelier exam with the highest score in 2012, earning the Rudd Scholarship and the Jeffrey H. Johnston Medal in the process.
Jackson passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2017, joining the ranks of only 244 worldwide to attain the honor. 2019 saw the launch of Jackson’s new wine venture, Crunchy Red Fruit, which connects subscribers with boxes of sommelier-curated wines from across the globe. Jackson’s passion is to see wine break barriers down and bring people together. In Jackson’s free time he enjoys remodeling his old house, playing guitar, and spending time with his wife and kids.
Courtney Schiessl is a Brooklyn-based wine journalist, educator, and consultant who has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir. She is currently the senior editor for inHouse and a contributing editor for SevenFifty Daily, and she regularly writes for publications like Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Beverage Media, Wine-Searcher.com, and ESPN The Magazine. Courtney also conducts private wine education seminars for both trade members and consumers, and she consults with wine regions and wineries around the world. Courtney is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and she is currently pursuing the WSET Diploma in Wines.
Justin Vineyards and Winery. Former Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers–Americas. Awarded “Best Sommelier in the World in French Wines and Spirits.” Has worked principally as a sommelier since 1979, with stints in wine retail, wholesale, and importing. Avid reader and award-winning writer.
Chris is a New Englander, having grown up throughout upstate New York, Amherst, Boston and Cape Cod. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY graduating in 2000 and has worked in restaurants across the country including Denver, Phoenix, Santa Barbara and Seattle.
His interest in wine first began while at the CIA under the tutelage of Stephen Kolpan and Michael Weiss but didn’t become the focus of his career until later as he was only 18. Pursuing the idea of owning a restaurant, Chris took additional classes in 2006 from the International Sommelier Guild to round out his cooking skillset. A newly minted Master Sommelier was his instructor, and Chris was immediately inspired to pursue the Court of Master Sommelier path. After seven years of hard work and study, Chris passed the Master Sommelier exam on his second attempt in 2013.
He has since worked not only in restaurants but also as a portfolio manager for an importer and distributor in Seattle where he managed relationships with over 300 producers. He also consults on beverage programs for new restaurants, judges for the Decanter World Wine Awards and speaks at numerous wine events throughout the year.
Currently Chris’ station is with Guildsomm as their Chief Instructor traveling all over North America teaching in-depth masterclasses on the world of wine. He also contributes to podcasts, videos and Guildsomm.com.
Master Sommelier Scott Tyree is a Freeport, Maine-based wine and hospitality consultant. A 25-year veteran of the wine industry, Tyree started his career at Chicago’s bustling Shaw’s Crab House before being offered the position of Wine Director at Restaurant Tru alongside James Beard Award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. During his 8-year tenure at Tru, he received many accolades including being twice chosen as Best Sommelier by the Jean Banchet Awards (a peer-given award by Chicago restaurant industry members); a James Beard Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Wine Service in 2004; Wine Spectator’s Grand Award 2004; and Best New Wine List from Food and Wine in 2001. In 2007, Tyree joined Hart Davis Hart, an internationally recognized fine wine auction house, as a wine buyer and marketing specialist. In 2009, after a return to the restaurant floor as the Wine Director of Michelin-starred Sepia Restaurant in Chicago, Tyree was once again chosen as Best Sommelier by the Jean Banchet Awards for an unprecedented third time. As a sommelier and consultant, Tyree has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator. He is currently wine director of Michelin-starred Chef Ryan McCaskey’s Acadia House Provisions in Stonington, Maine. In April of 2019, he earned the Master Sommelier Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers becoming only the 256th person in the world to achieve the designation.
Kelli White is the senior staff writer at GuildSomm, an international membership organization for wine professionals. Previously, she was a sommelier at Veritas in New York City and PRESS in Napa and a writer for Vinous. Kelli is the author of “Napa Valley, Then & Now” and recipient of the 2018 Roederer Chairman’s Award.
Nigel Wilkinson MS DipWSET is the Brand Ambassador & Senior Wine Educator for Boutinot (vineyard owners and wine producers in England, France, Italy & South Africa). Nigel passed the WSET Diploma in 1996, he became a Master Sommelier in 2005 and now teaches and examines for both the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Before entering the wine trade, he was named ‘UK Young Wine Server of the Year’ and was also twice runner-up in the ‘UK Sommelier of the Year Competition’. Nigel is regular judge for the Academy of Food & Wine Service UK based competitions, the Chaine des Rotisseurs Junior Sommelier Competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards, The International Wine & Spirit Challenge and TEXSOM. Nigel is a certified sherry educator, a graduate of the Ecole du Vin d’Alsace and is an academician of the Champagne Academy. He has been recognized and awarded by the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Bourgogne, is an Honorary Ambassador of the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux, an Honorary Fellow of the AFWS and is a Chaine des Rotisseurs Maitre Sommelier. Nigel has also worked during the harvest in wineries located in the Yarra Valley & Pipers River (Australia), Gevrey Chambertin (France) and East Sussex (England).
Born and raised in Charlottesville, VA, Jill Zimorski got her start in the hospitality industry while in studying sociology and biology at the University of Virginia. During this time, she worked at the Orient-Express-owned Keswick Hall Hotel. After graduating, she served in management roles in two local restaurants Metropolitan Restaurant and Mas, which earned the recognition as C-VILLE Weekly’s 2003 “Best New Restaurant” in Charlottesville.
Upon moving to Washington, D.C., in late 2003, Zimorski worked for several nationally-recognized chefs; notably Charlie Palmer & Jose Andres. After two years at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill, Zimorski left to work as a Sommelier for Jose Andres at his Penn Quarter restaurant, Café Atlantico, ultimately becoming the first beverage director for ThinkFoodGroup, where she oversaw the award-winning wine and cocktail programs at José Andrés’ popular Washington, D.C. restaurants, including Jaleo, minibar by José Andrés, Oyamel, Zaytinya, and Café Atlantico. Under her direction, Café Atlantico’s cocktail program was named one of the most innovative in the country by The New York Times.
After nearly a decade in the nation’s capital, Zimorski relocated to Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2012, assuming the role of Wine Director at the newly renovated Hotel Jerome, an Auberge Resort. Zimorski moved to Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2015 to assume a position as Sommelier at Alinea Restaurant, at the time one of twelve Michelin Three Star restaurants in the United States. Within six months, she was promoted to Wine Director of the Alinea Group (Alinea, Next, Aviary & Roister).
In late summer of 2016, Zimorski left the restaurant world to take the position of Champagne Specialist representing the Champagnes of the Moet Hennessy portfolio (Krug, Ruinart, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot & Moet & Chandon). In this education- focused role, Jill works with restaurants in the Chicago area: teaching, leading tastings, conducting staff trainings and organizing
events with the goal of increasing the awareness and enjoyment of Champagne.
Outside of work, Jill enjoys baking, gardening and entertaining and has completed 6 marathons. In September 2018, she passed the Master Sommelier Exam. Jill is one of 269 professionals in the world (and one of 26 women in the United States) to earn this prestigious accreditation.