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.
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.
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.
Jim Clarke is the U.S. Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa (WOSA), a levy-funded marketing body that promotes exports of South African wines. Prior to joining WOSA in 2013 Jim was the wine director at Armani Ristorante and Megu, both in New York City. He is also a writer, regularly contributing to a number of trade and consumer publications including Fortune, World of Fine Wine, Beverage Media, and Bloomberg.
In 2020 Jim received the International Louis Roederer Wine Writer Award for Feature Writing. In August 2020 Wine Business Monthly named Jim as a Wine Industry Leader of the Year.
Jim is the author of The Wines of South Africa, published by Infinite Ideas as part of the Classic Wine Library. The book was published in July 2020.
Shana Clarke is a wine, sake, and travel journalist for consumer and trade publications such as Fortune, CNN Travel, Wine Enthusiast, NPR, Hemispheres, and VinePair. She’s served as a judge and a writing mentor at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, holds a Level 3 Advanced certificate from Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and is a Certified Sake Sommelier. In addition, she is a contributing author to the book The Wine Lover’s Bucket List, which published in 2020 by Rizzoli. See her work at shanaspeakswine.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @shanaspeakswine
Follow her on Instagram at @ShanaSpeaksWine and see more of her work on www.shanaspeakswine.com.
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.
Rachel DelRocco Terrazas is a Tucson-based freelance writer and editor. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief at the Vintner Project, where she curates content for the website and two newsletters focused on wine writing and social impact issues in the beverage industry. Her writing can also be found in multiple publications writing about food, spirits, and wine. She has extensive experience in hospitality and beverage winning multiple awards and press while spending the rest of her time as a junkie for all things travel, food, art, wellness, and politics.
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.
Miranda Elliot is a sommelier with over 10 years of experience working for a wide range of Chicago restaurants, such as Moto Restaurant and Les Nomades, and also for wine distributors, including Connoisseur Wines and Martine’s Wines. She recently launched her own wine school, Elliot Wine School, which offers beverage classes and events, Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certifications, Sake Sommelier Association courses and certification, private events, and consulting. Her school aims to be a supportive and inclusive environment for all people to learn about wine, whether wine novices, wine professionals, or somewhere in between. In addition to beverage education courses, Miranda offers community-building events in which participants discuss how to create a more inclusive and equitable wine world. Through Elliot Wine School’s monthly LGBTQ+ Wine Brunch, LGBTQ+ wine professionals and LGBTQ+ people interested in joining the wine industry gather together virtually to share stories and lend support. Miranda has also hosted open discussions on topics including Wine Ethics and Interrogating Professionalism in the Wine Industry, in which participants challenged problematic ethical issues and professional standards that disadvantage and harm BIPOC, LGBTQ+, female, disabled, and other marginalized people within the wine industry.
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!
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.
Brian Freedman is a wine, spirits, travel, and food writer, restaurant and beverage consultant, wine and spirits educator, and event host and speaker. He writes the Wines of the Week column at Forbes.com and also covers spirits there, regularly contributes to Food & Wine digital and Departures online, has contributed to Travel + Leisure online, Whisky Advocate and Wine Enthusiast print and online, and more. He also hosted wine and spirit pairing segments on the CNN Airport Network. In 2019, Brian was awarded one of 30 fellowships to attend The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa Valley. He has traveled to more than 50 countries and territories around the world, and extensively throughout the United States, to experience the food, drink, and culture for his work. He has worked as a consulting sommelier for many restaurant projects and wine dinners, and has consulted on the wine lists for three meals at New York’s James Beard House. He also has had relationships with private collectors as a personal wine consultant, and consulted on the wine list at, among others, Top Chef Season Seven winner Kevin Sbraga’s former flagship Philadelphia restaurant Sbraga, Talula’s Daily, and Talula’s Garden, which was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in America 2011 by Bon Appetit Magazine and one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Brian also regularly hosts virtual tastings for corporate clients around the country.
Juliette Gust is the founder and president of Ethics Suite, a company that helps businesses identify, investigate and resolve alleged wrongdoing at their organization by providing a comprehensive solution for internal whistleblower reporting and tracking of workplace misconduct, fraud, or theft. Ethics Suite also provides expert support for internal investigations and ethics and compliance-related consulting services, and is the creator behind HotelEthics. com and RestaurantEthics.com.
Ms. Gust has personally conducted or led close to 2,000 investigations spanning 75 countries and has advised on more than 10,000 employee ethics line reports. She developed and was the Director of the Fraud & Investigations team for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide with 180,000 employees in more than 100 countries. She also served as the Project Manager and a core member of the company’s Anti-Corruption compliance program, leading the development of a best-in-class global anti-corruption risk assessment, audit plan, and third-party due diligence program.
Juliette has been a Certified Fraud Examiner since 2007, and was the 2003 recipient of the International Food & Beverage Forum’s Food & Wine Founder Michael Batterberry Award. She is also a former Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance Showcase of the Star’s “Star”, and the 2004 winner of the Wall Street Journal Award for Excellence in Accounting. She is fluent in Spanish.
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.
Native New Yorker Wanda Mann began writing about wine in 2008. She is the founder of the Wine With Wanda website, the East Coast Editor for The SOMM Journal, and the New York Editor for Tasting Panel. Wanda regularly hosts informative and often humorous Instagram Live interviews with winemakers and other industry professionals. She also hosts SOMM Talks with Wanda on Instagram for The SOMM Journal. The daughter of a professional chef, Wanda has always been captivated by the world of food & wine. During the two years she spent studying abroad in Spain, Wanda truly began to understand wine’s cultural significance. Since then, she has traveled to numerous new and old-world wine regions. In 2015, Wanda earned the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) credential from the Society of Wine Educators. Wanda graduated from Pomona College (Claremont, California) with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. Wanda serves on the board of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York.
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
In 2005, Scott Ota began his career in restaurants to help pay for college. It is now 2021 and he has never left ‘the business.’ From fine-dining, to hotels, to wine bars, sharing his love for wine and hospitality has been a mission for many years. As of 2016, he is now the General Manager & Beverage Director for High Street Wine Co in San Antonio, TX.
Scott’s accolades include the following: Somms Under Fire champion 2013, TEXSOM champion 2013, Rudd Scholar at his CMS advanced exam 2014, named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s ‘Best New Sommeliers’ 2014, TopSomm national finalist in 2016 and named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s ‘Tastemakers to Revolutionize the Business’ in 2018.
In 2021, Scott continues the mission to make High Street Wine Co a top wine experience in the country. His mantra: be humble, be hospitable, drink well, and have fun!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pauline Vicard co-founded and directs ARENI Global, a research and action institute dedicated to the future of Fine Wine, gathering top international experts in a think- tank format.
Growing up working hands-on in her family vineyard in Burgundy, Pauline broadened her vocational commitment to wine by joining the regional wine body and French Embassies in Cuba and Norway. She then created a successful corporate wine event and education company and was named France’s largest official on-trade union wine educator, before moving to London to lead ARENI.
She is currently studying to be a Master of Wine, an exam famously known as one of the most difficult globally, and a title only held by less than 400 people in the world.
Pauline is also a Wine and Spirit Education Trust-certified educator, mother of two little girls, and an Ultimate Frisbee champion.