Originally from Argentina, Julieta discovered her calling in sommellerie while attending winemaking school. She has worked in acclaimed restaurants, hotels, and wineries in Mendoza, where she conducted award-winning beverage programs. She moved to the United States in 2017, and since then, has discovered a new passion in retail and education. Julieta is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds a Level 3 award in Wines with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and is currently deep diving into the world of whisky. She firmly believes that hospitality is a way of life, and that the discovery of wine and spirits should be a journey of celebration and enjoyment.
I was born and raised in West Texas where I also received a degree in Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management from Texas Tech University. While studying at Texas Tech, I started a job as a server at a local country club and in the tasting room of Pheasant Ridge Winery, one of the oldest wineries of the Texas High Plains. The strong West Texas winds then blew me across the Atlantic to work at the historic Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames in England. While at Leander, I was able to sample many great wines and foods that I had never been exposed to in Texas.
After the Leander Club, I came back to Texas, working as a Banquet Manager for Lubbock Country Club. The winds then blew me away to the Grand Hyatt Kauai where I was able to work at one of the top resorts in the world.
From there Hyatt took me to San Antonio then to Austin and then back full circle to Lubbock to work at the 4-Diamond Overton Hotel and Conference Center where I developed the wine program from scratch to the pages of Wine Spectator with an Award of Excellence.
After a few years back home, I moved on to Dallas to be the Catering Director at Royal Oaks where I am able to work closely with another sommelier, Zsolt Varga on the wine lists for Catering and Dining. While working at Royal Oaks, I received my Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and both my Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 2 and Level 3 awards and am currently studying for the Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine certificate.
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 .
I began working in the hospitality industry during college in 1999. The restaurant schedule worked around my college pre-med courses, and I worked my way from the host stand to the server floor to behind the bar, and eventually, to management. My first job at Char Restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, formed the basis of my wine knowledge. Training classes and coworkers pushed me to dive into our wine lists and really learn the foundation of the wine world. Soon, a desire to start a family and focus on them instead of my studies led me to change college majors, which allowed me more hours in the restaurant.
After the birth of my daughter, instead of jumping back into the professional public relations world that I now had a degree in, I fell in love with the industry that had supported me for the past seven years. I became a full-time hospitality industry employee. I moved from Char Restaurant to Tico’s Steakhouse as a bartender where the world of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon was prominent. I soon moved to Table 100 in Flowood, Mississippi, which was owned and operated by my former Char Restaurant bosses. As first a bartender and then a floor manager, I fell even more deeply in love with wine and how it was constantly changing and could transform a dinner. I sat for my Introductory Sommelier Exam with the Court of Master Sommelier in 2015 and passed.
I became wine director for Table 100 and implemented a Cruvinet by-the-glass system, wine dinners, and featured pairings. In October of 2018, I made the move to The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen in Jackson, MS. I have enjoyed the support of owners Steven O’Neill and James Beard nominee Alex Eaton. They have allowed me full control of the wine program. I carried over my wine dinners, tasting, and employee classes. While at The Manship, we have received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2019 and the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence in 2020.
Next week I will sit for my Certified Specialist of Wine exam with the Society of Wine Educators and hope to take my certified exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers when they reopen testing after the Covid-19 shutdowns. I continually look for ways to further my wine knowledge and education and share that with my guests and community in Mississippi. I am thankful to TEXSOM for giving me the opportunity to continue this education.
Jodi Bronchtein’s sommelier career began in 2011 at the legendary McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. At lineup, a 2001 Chateau Musar was blind tasted by the staff with a lamb dish Chef Sean Brock prepared and that was it. Jodi has worked as a sommelier in Boston, Fiji, and Napa Valley. She is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Sommeliers. She is currently employed as a sommelier for Master the World in Healdsburg, California.
Molly Brooks is embarking upon a position as Wine Buyer & Director of Events at Meritage Wine Market in San Diego, California. Previously, she worked in distribution as San Diego Sales Representative for Epic Wines & Spirits, and as National Account Manager & wine shop manager for Truly Fine Wine, an importer and distributor of German wine (among others). She teaches for SDSU’s Certificate of Wine Program. She is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is WSET Level III Certified, in addition to being a French Wine Scholar, Spanish Wine Scholar, and Certified Cicerone. Prior to working in wine sales and distribution, Molly curated wine programs at Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant in San Diego and The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo. She also assists with restaurant wine programs, private tastings, and other wine-focused events through BarWeThereYet Wine Consulting. She holds a Master’s degree in history from San Diego State University and a BA in history from Pitzer College in Los Angeles. She’s always in pursuit of life’s gastronomic and intellectual pleasures!
Bobbie Burgess, became the Wine Director and Social Media Marketer for EAT LOCAL STARKVILLE three short years ago, after working as a bartender at Restaurant Tyler and The Guest Room in Starkville, Mississippi. She currently runs four very different and unique wine programs, does restaurant consulting, and is the host of UnCorked with WCBI which currently airs on local news channels in parts of three states.
In 2018 she was named Starkville, Mississippi’s Rising Star Under 35. She passed her Certified Sommelier exam on February 27th, 2020. On March 30th, 2021 Bobbie became a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. She is currently studying for her Certified Wine Educator exam through the Society of Wine Educators and her Advanced Sommelier Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers of America. She has also built a virtual tasting group with sommeliers studying across the south and is dedicated to expanding resources for sommeliers studying in desolate regions across the US.
I entered the wine industry about three years ago as a part time bar associate with the Texas winery Messina Hof. My full time gig at the time was in academia, and I found that I loved going to the winery so much it sometimes didn’t even full like work. During my tenure with them, I transitioned to full time and was promoted to tasting room/bar manager within less than a year.
I dove into wine study and completed the WSET Level 2 in Wine and Spirits, and not far after passed the WSET Level 3 Award in Wine with Merit. Post the shutdowns in 2020, I transitioned into a new role as the Wine Steward with Market Street. Prior to the wine industry, I worked in administrative and customer service roles in different industries as varied as a jewelry store, a mortgage company, and Space Camp.
I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of North Texas, and a Master’s in Archaeology from the University of Liverpool, and my ongoing mission is to find new ways to combine my interest in wine and history.
My name is LeAnn Calhoun. I became interested in wine my senior year of college, mostly to help increase my sales/tips at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse. I graduated from UCO with a Dietetic, Nutrition, & Food Management degree then became a Certified Sommelier in early 2017. From then I have been a manager at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse and created the wine list for Grey Sweater. Since then, I have focused on wine and food together. I currently work at Edmond Wine Shop and am pursing my second degree at the University of Central Oklahoma to get a bachelor’s in chemistry. My hope is to become a winemaker, master distiller, or if those fail, then go back to school to be a chemical engineer. My favorite thing about the wine world is sharing wine with friends, teaching wine to novice wine lovers, and, of course, furthering my education. Let’s all grab a glass of wine and cheers!
I am the Beverage Director at Elvie’s in Jackson, MS. I have been studying wine for just over three years, am currently studying for the CSW exam and passed the intro CMS exam in 2019. I love wine; especially wine with a story – small production, anything on the natural end of the spectrum, interesting varietals and fermentation styles.
Over the course of 2021 I will be transitioning Elvie’s entire wine program to be all sustainable, organic, and biodynamic. When I started curating our list prior to opening I always gravitated to wine with the best tech sheets, because I had no idea where to even start. The producers with the most information were always small production and most were natural.
After looking more into what that means for the quality of the fruit and thus the quality of the wine, I couldn’t get enough. There is something about the passion from people producing wine in this style. Each wine always has a story and those stories always help our guests open up a bit to trying something new. Passion is contagious.
Tricia Conover, DipWSET, CSS, AWE, CWP is Wine Wanderings, on Substack newletter editor. She is also the Contributing Wine and Travel Writer for LuxeGetaways and PRiMEWomen Magazines. Tricia is a contributing writer for the SommJournal, Signature Bride, FWT Magazine, The Clever Root, and JustLuxe.com magazines. Tricia’s travel articles have included many wine regions including: Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Greece, Priorat and Penedes Spain, Tuscany, Piedmont, Italy and the Texas Hill Country.
Tricia, holds a WSET® Diploma of Wine, Level 4 certification. She also holds a CSS, Certified Spirits Specialist, Society of Wine Educators, AWE – American Wine Expert, and (C.W.P.) from the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. Tricia holds B.S. Biochemistry/Microbiology, from Purdue University. Tricia has earned two fellowship awards for the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, Napa Valley. She served as a wine judge at the IWC, London, England – International Wine Challenge in 2016.
Etinosa Emokpae is a wine professional based in Philadelphia, PA. She has over 10 years of experience in hospitality in renowned restaurants in New York and Philadelphia.
She served as Beverage Director at Walnut Street Café and most recently as the Wine Director of Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia. Etinosa was named one of SevenFifty’s Rising Stars in Philadelphia for 2019. Currently, she is a WSET diploma candidate and transitioning into wine sales for Skurnik Wine & Spirits.
Discovered my love for wine working in a family owned Italian restaurant in my hometown of Saratoga Springs NY my last year of high school. I began to self study the world of wine by picking the brains of the professionals around me., I then attended the International Culinary Center, 2016 in Manhattan where I passed my Certified exam.
In 2017 relocated to Dallas to work with HARWOOD Hospitality Group as a Wine Director, curating wine programs for multiple new concepts. In 2019 I began to study with WSET, in January of 2020 I received my WSET 3 Certification in Wine and became a certified educator through the WSET organization. In November 2020, I was blessed with the opportunity to switch gears and begin working in retail as the General Manager/Sommelier at Pogo’s Wine & Spirits where I continue to study with both CMS and WSET organizations.
Jhea Fulgaro is a Certified Sommelier and a true master at the art of hospitality. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she is able to capture guests needs for the perfect bottle. She is both warm and inviting and makes you feel at ease with wine right away. She loves learning and teaching about wine through a hands-on approach.
Jhea is studying for her Advanced Certificate through the Court of Masters Sommeliers. And is getting ready to take on The WSET Diploma program.
She lives in Chicago and works in distribution sales as a Sommelier to other great Chicago Sommeliers.
Mark is a Certified Sommelier who worked in the restaurant industry for close to 25 years. He is now on the retail side of beer and wine. He’s also been doing video wine shows since 2009 now called Wine World TV. He’s been a volunteer at Texsom & TIWA multiple times.
Sandeep went to UIUC and split his focus on Philosophy and Science, The benefit of going to school in the middle of cornfields is that the local culture of food and wine was passionate, engaged and close knit. After working at restaurants and wine bars in college, Sandeep worked for distributors until in 2009 when he opened Vinic Wine. Sandeep continues his wine studies as a second stage student with the Institute of Masters of Wine, and has received his Advanced with the CMS.
Johnna’s wine journey started with stories of her great grandfather importing a wine press from Alsace in the 1900’s to make table wine in Ohio. After studying chemistry and biology in college, she ventured on to harvest positions with Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley followed by Two Hands Wines in the Barossa Valley. Her drive for hospitality led her back to the Napa Valley working as an estate host and wine educator for Stony Hill and Orin Swift. When she moved to Dallas for graduate school, her interest in wine blossomed. She continued to expand her hospitality skills and wine education through passing her certified sommelier exam during her time at Sixty Vines. Now, she works with the sommelier driven team at Trova Wine + Market and is a member of the Dallas Sommelier Society (along with her day job as a dietitian). Her favorite wines now? Syrah and Champagne of course.
Hi guys, I’ve been in the scene since 2001. I started as the youngest captain at Nana Restaurant as the youngest 5 star Captain in Dallas, Texas. I left to become cellarmaster/manager at Steel Restaurant where I grew out list to over 1300 selections with Bordeaux back to the 1945 Mouton, Année de la Victoire…I went full on Steakhouse from there, Capitol Grill, Fleming’s, Ocean Prime, then landed at Pappas Bros Steakhouse as a sommelier under Barbara Werley, MS. I did a brief stint with Harwood Hospitality in Dallas, after which I landed at Dallas Oishii Restaurant as General Manager and Sommelier.
I’ve since opened two restaurants for our group and have two more to open this year. I look at wine as adding to the beauty in the world we live, and find my passion exposing people to the amazing dedication my contemporaries and peers have provided over the last fifty years. It’s our job to educate, but also to continue our unwavering passion for service, wine, food, and a joie de vivre that our community continues to exude and define. We’re barely beginning. I’m honored to be selected for this incredible group. Let’s share some wine already! I’ve sat the Advanced Course with the CMS Americas and intend on finishing my WSET 3 this fall. The learning never stops.
Lea Anne started with wine in 2009. She worked for Bravo, Brio Restaurant group and wanted to be the wine buyer. She moved on to Max’s Wine Dive in Fort Worth where she started really studying wine. She is currently the wine director for Reata Restaurant in downtown Fort Worth. She is also working on her level two certification as well as CMS and WSET certifications. This will be her first time at the Retreat but she has volunteered with TEXSOM before.
I am an Asian American business woman, in the food and beverage industry for 15 years. Up to this point, I never felt the need to labeled myself. I am first and foremost known as, “Mrs V” to my team and my patrons, and just “ V” to my colleagues. I have three loves & three passions in my life. The love for our industry, food & family. Wine, travel and golf are my three passions. Wine more than the others. I am on a mission to learn and aspire to be the best wine professional possible.
In 2014, I was awarded Business Woman of the Year by N.A.W.B.O (National Association of Women Business Owner) Tucson chapter for my restaurant , V Modern Thai. In 2011, the Thai Authority of Tourism, awarded me with a trip to Thailand, for cultural and culinary education. The trip to Thailand consisted of 50 Thai restaurant owners, educators, & the press. It was an incredible, life changing trip, that I will forever cherish. I got to taste Thai wine for the first time, from Monsoon Valley Winery, ride the elephant at Mae Rim Elephant Sanctuary, and attended the Chiangmai Culinary Festival, which was amazing. Upon my return from the trip, I added Monsoon Valley Wine to our restaurant’s wine list. We were progressive at the time, pairing wine with Thai food. To learn more about wine, I enrolled in the introductory class with the Court of Master sommelier.
I closed my restaurant after receiving the NAWBO award and worked for various companies as food & beverage manager, and general manager, running their fine dining restaurants and overseeing their wine lists. I worked for the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV. After the Greenbrier , I worked at Nemacolin Woodlands resort, in Farmington, Pennsylvania. Overseeing their Italian Restaurant was a great opportunity for me to learn Italian wine. Both resorts, catering to affluent clientele. I also had the privilege of working for three tribal casinos, in Arizona and Durant Oklahoma. Overseeing the daily operations of their food & beverage department. I learn, adapt, and quickly embrace the gaming hospitality, which is an entirely different business model, from their corporate structure, to their clientele.
In all of my career, wine has been my constant companion, and I realized that I need to study wine in order to continue feeding my soul. So here I go, the Greenbrier invested in my WSET level 2, the SommFoundation invested in my current WSET 3 study, and thank you to TEXSOM Retreat, selected me to participate again. I am grateful and proud to represent the Asian American business women in our industry.
These educations & scholarships are valuable to my wine training, and I will continue to push myself towards achieving that goal and represent our industry with integrity, passion and care.
I feel it’s my responsibility as a leader in our community to speak out and be proactive in combatting the cultural challenges that we are facing as a nation; racism, sexism, and social injustice. I am now empower to examine my reality, be the change in the conversation, educate, and share our story. I am ready to be an advocate for positive change, starting with the unifying beauty of wine culture. Thank you for the opportunity to share my voice. I am so looking forward to seeing everyone.
Michaela comes by way of Chicago where she fell in love with wine while bartending at Roister (part of the Alinea Group). After deciding to pursue her wine education, she transitioned to the Sommelier team at Alinea, where she worked up until July 2020. Her long-term goal was always to move to the Napa Valley. When the city shut down due to COVID-19, and an opportunity to do a harvest internship at Schramsberg came up, her plans were accelerated. Michaela joined the sommelier team at PRESS last year part-time, while also joining the education team at the The Napa Valley Reserve as an educator until March 2021. Now she is officially the Assistant General Manager at PRESS!
Kelsey has a penchant for the classical sweet wines of the world and for collecting information and new experiences. After a childhood of avid reading she went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting, and was soon after exposed to the world of wine through the hospitality industry. For over ten years she has represented San Antonio establishments such as the La Cantera Resort, Cappy’s Restaurant, High Street Wine Co, and Takashi in Chicago, Illinois. Kelsey is ever seeking opportunities within the wine industry that merge the passion for beverage with the art of performance, and currently, is immersed in the emerging fine wine region of Texas at William Chris Vineyards where she has the pleasure to assist in building both the education and private virtual tasting programs.
Certified Sommelier and Beverage Director at Detroit’s Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, Catherine loves championing her home city and working to elevate the restaurant community that has supported her over the past 15 years. Through running tasting and study groups, she has helped individuals achieve certifications, professional confidence and helped foster close friendships between former strangers. Continued education and exploration are central to her passions; and are the driving force behind her travels abroad and to wine country in France, Greece, and Oregon.
Volunteering both at home and at TEXSOM has been not only a source of joy but has also served as inspiration to find innovative ways to help engagement grow between different areas of the hospitality community through partnerships with local farms, restaurants, and producers
Starting washing dishes at the country club her father ran at 12, Morgan grew up in the industry. Working in restaurants while she pursued a double major in Art and Art History, she eventually decided hospitality was home. Morgan’s career has lead her through restaurants in Park City, Utah, Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Maine, always with the question of what next? That was answered upon taking her first Beverage Manager position and catching the wine bug in 2016. In 2019, Morgan became Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and was accepted to the much delayed Advanced Course of 2020. She also holds WSET Level 3, as well as Level 1 Sake. Morgan is currently the Assistant Beverage Manager and Sommelier at Twin Farms, a Relais & Chateau/Forbes 5 Star property in Vermont.
Kat Long is the service manager and wine buyer for farm-to-table restaurant Odd Duck in Austin, Texas. Approaching wine ethos the way Chef Gilmore approaches food, Kat aims to curate a small, eclectic and dynamic list, featuring producers favoring low-intervention farming and wine making techniques. With seasonality is at the heart of the restaurant, Kat works with the chefs to rotate bottle features that further highlight and enhance the quirky foods the restaurant is known for. Staff education also falls on Kat’s shoulders, leading employees through training on new selections, and blind tasting exercises to develop taste memory and vocabulary to help servers make thoughtful recommendations to guests.
Outside of the restaurant, wine still plays a huge role in Kat’s life. Over the summer of 2020, Kat joined the Austin Winery team for harvest, going out to vineyards in the Texas Hill Country to hand pick, crush, destem and press grape bunches, and monitor fermentation of their boutique line of low-intervention wines. The Austin Winery also allotted a small amount of High Plains tempranillo fruit, for Kat to experiment with, resulting in six cases of her first ros‰é. Kat continues to work with the winery, with plans to join the team in the vineyard and winery once more in 2021. Kat also works part-time for the Zagat publication The Infatuation as a Happy Hour Hotline beverage professional, communicating with members through a portal to answer any of their questions about wine and cocktails, and help members craft cocktails with ingredients they already have in their homes.
Having a background in psychology and sociology, and a passion for culinary arts, wine felt like the perfect meshing of these worlds. The cultural and historical influences that contribute to the final product in the glass are of deep interest to Kat, teasing out the factors that led to the cultivation of the vine in different societies. With a deep love and appreciation for food and hospitality at the root, Kat has been known to throw small pairing dinners for friends, cooking family style meals and opening up bottles from the region the food traditionally hails from.
Kat completed the CMS Introductory Sommelier Course in 2019. Plans to take the certified exam were put on hold when the global pandemic hit, and energy had to be redirected to keeping the restaurant alive. Kat looks forward to diving back deeper into studies, and continuing to explore the vast world of wine.
Rebecca Miles-Steiner graduated from Wells College, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, with a degree in Theatre. While working as a Stage Manager in Chicago, her college-sparked love of Riesling and a library borrowed Jancis Robinson book set her on the wine and spirits path. She helped to open, and subsequently managed a boutique wine and spirit store in Lincoln Park, worked as a wine and spirit buyer for Whole Foods, pre-pandemic was a wine captain and event lead at City Winery Chicago, and is currently the spirits buyer for Plum Market’s Old Town Chicago location. She is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine, and is currently making her way through the WSET Diploma program. In her spare time she practices barebow archery, reads wine books, and plans her next wine adventure.
Sabrina’s interest in wine originally started with her family, her father is from Mexico and immigrated to the USA when he was young and used to work with his family in vineyards and other forms of agriculture. As she grew older she decided to work in restaurants and fell in love with wine. It wasn’t until she met her current wine director at Maverick Texas Brasserie a few years ago and he inspired her to get more educated and certified with CMSA which happened in 2018.
After applying for and getting her first sommelier job at Signature Restaurant in 2019 her husband also got a job promotion at the same time which lead her family to move to the Boulder Colorado area. She worked polishing glasses and running food at Frasca Food and Wine for a period of time. Ultimately, she ended up back in her hometown of San Antonio and after this rough period of shutdowns, job losses because of Covid she hopes to get back to her wine education plans.
She is due to take her Advanced Course this summer and continue to study to take her Advanced exam when time allows. For the future she hopes to keep progressing through the court and help/mentor others who have an interest in wine. She also has interest in learning more about the retail side of wine and has interest in owning her own business.
Chuck Nix is a Sommelier and beverage manager for Table 100 in Flowood, MS. Chuck has been with L&R Restaurant Group for approximately five years, and in the hospitality industry for nineteen years. His start came with the Hillstone Restaurant Group at Houston’s Restaurant in Memphis, TN. His continued experience steered him to working with James Beard Award winning and nominated chefs from the American south. His ambition to become the best sommelier he could be, was inspired by this tenure of experience.
He is the senior board member and co-founder of the Southern Sommelier Collective, a burgeoning initiative to unite professionals and enthusiasts in the southern U.S. to advance hospitality and wine culture in the region. In addition he hosts weekly virtual wine education classes geared towards the eager enthusiast and the studious professional.
His dining room floor experience in the southern U.S. has helped him to navigate underserved communities and develop a sense of empathy, a trait all but lost in the “everyday hustle” of the hospitality profession. There is a desire to create and cultivate centered on the dining room floor and expanded to the community. Chuck has a defined desire to not just be nice, but kind to the people he comes in contact with.
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!
Peter Plaehn has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, with experience in restaurant operations, multi-unit management, corporate training & development, education and wholesale distribution. He has trained and opened nearly a dozen restaurants across the country in a variety of categories and dining styles, and his work experience includes Michelin-starred restaurants and James Beard Best Wine Program nominees. He was the first sommelier ever in Minnesota to pass the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced exam and was invited to attend the prestigious Rudd Foundation Master’s Roundtable. He is currently the GM/Owner of two retail shops in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and is studying for the Master Sommelier diploma.
Kaysie Rogers came into the wine world after a successful career as a pastry chef. While traveling around the world to give master classes and compete on Food Network Challenge shows she would make excursions to nearby wine regions where she caught the wine bug. Considering wine as another adventure and career, she returned to Seattle, passed the CMS Intro, Certified, and Advanced exams in short order, and began the WSET Diploma program. First working as a sommelier at Wild Ginger and The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle, she recently joined the wine team at HMF – The Breakers in West Palm Beach working with their Grand Award-winning list. Looking to the future, she hopes to run a wine program and pursue her Master Sommelier accreditation.
Ray Sholes is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He has a discerning palate and is a passionate wine lover. He is known not only for his incredible tasting abilities and vast knowledge but also for his friendly, relaxed and professional approach to wine education. Growing up in Compton, California Ray admits, “I come from a world where an education in fine wines, sake, craft brews, and spirits did not exist.” His fascination for wine took off after graduation from Johnson & Wales University where he earned his Bachelor of Food Service Management.
His thirst for wine has taken him across the globe to vineyards where he learned and improved his skills beyond textbooks. He has spent over 10 years in the restaurant and hospitality industry where he has wine list creation, dynamic staff training and restaurant management under his belt. When he isn’t hosting tasting events, he works as the Beverage Account Manager, in the sales division, of a Miami based duty free supplier company. Ray Sholes is also the Founder and Content Creator for “The Black-Owned Wine Review” series on YouTube producing content that promotes, amplifies, and perpetuates Black-Owned wine brands!
Patricia Smith has worked nearly 20 years in the service industry, building a career that has incorporated practically every position to be found in a restaurant’s front of house. Most recently, she has added Oklahoma City’s only “cidertender” to her resumé by joining OK Cider Co- a fledgling cidery in her hometown. Before the switch to cider, most of her resumé was built in steakhouses and fine dining rooms from OKC to NYC. As a lifelong lover of food (and a nerdy collector of etiquette books), she found the hospitality industry to be a natural fit where she could marry her interests.
With a thirst for knowledge, Patricia has happily taken every available opportunity for education. She is active in her local chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild, has successfully completed the Introductory course & examination of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and volunteered for Texsom in 2019. Though, if asked, she’ll say her proudest educational achievement is being an excellent self taught cook.
Outside of the industry, her time is spent at home perfecting her knowledge of Golden Girls trivia with her rescue dog, Ladybug.
Collin started his career in wine at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Seattle, WA working as Cellar Master and Sommelier. After working a harvest internship at Belle Pente Vineyard & Winery in Carlton, OR in the fall of 2020 he decided to move to Palm Beach, FL where he is currently working at Virginia Philip Wine Spirits & Academy as a wine buyer. He is currently working towards his Advanced Certification in the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Matt is a Colorado native with over a decade of experience in restaurants, hospitality, and the performing arts. As Service & Sales Manager/Sommelier at Bigsby’s Folly Craft Winery & Restaurant in Denver, Colorado, he oversees front-of-house staff training programs, customer service, the IT elements of the organization, and the bar & cocktail program. He also coordinates the monthly wine dinner, wine blending sessions, wine experiences/classes, tastings, tours, and represents the winery in the community.
Matt holds a BA from Colorado State University and completed his graduate work in Geographic Information Science at the University of Denver. Recognized by the Court of Master Sommeliers as a Certified Sommelier, Matt enjoys sharing his love and passion for wine in a straightforward, approachable manner. Matt’s Denver work experience includes ChoLon Restaurant Concepts (upscale causal) and Beckon | Call (fine-dining).
Tiffany Tobey graduated from Texas Tech University with dual Bachelor’s degrees from Texas Tech University in Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management (RHIM) and English. After spending summers studying Wine Tourism in some of the world’s best, growing regions abroad, Tiffany discovered her love of wine. This discovery spurred her to return home and earn her place with The Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild.
She comes to the Fort Worth world of hospitality after working as the wine director at SER Steak + Spirits at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, TX. At SER, Tiffany built an award-winning wine program and collection. She has previously focused on education, tastings, and world-class pairing dinners.
Previously Tiffany has judged at the Sommeliers Choice Awards in San Francisco, the Seattle Wine and Spirits Awards in Washington, the Somm Journal Wine Competition in Las Vegas, and most recently the Texas International Wine Competition in Grapevine, Texas. She has consulted for multiple publications such as Business Insider, Food & Wine Magazine, The SommJournal, and The Tasting Panel Magazine. She is currently continuing her education through Texas Tech University, where she is pursuing her Graduate Degree in Viticulture. The wine connoisseur dreams of starting a vineyard and making her own wine someday!
Recently, Tiffany was tapped by the 2012 Netflix Documentary: ‘SOMM’ creators (Jason Wise, Christina Wise, Jackson Myers, Diane Carpenter, and Brian Reshefsky) as a contributor to their latest project — SOMM TV, a food and wine streaming network. She will serve as the Texas Representative on an upcoming series titled “SommTV The History of Wine”.