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.
Based in the Finger Lakes, Christopher is a Master Sommelier and Owner/Operator of F.L.X. Hospitality, Element Winery and F.L.X. Culture House. Christopher teaches about booze for the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Culinary Center.
Originally trained as a geologist, Wayne Belding found his way from the oil fields to the vineyards. He began in the retail wine business, became an award-winning sommelier in Denver, and in 1990 became the 13th American to pass the Master Sommelier examination. He was also awarded the prestigious Krug Cup for passing all three parts of the examination on his first attempt. He has served as Education Chairman and Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas. He has been a wine teacher and competition judge both nationally and internationally for over 30 years. From 1986 – 2010, he was an owner of The Boulder Wine Merchant. He is the author of the recently-published book for wine consumers entitled “Diving Into Wine”.
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.
A Master of Wine and wine industry consultant with international experience in nearly every side of the wine business, from Sommelier roles in Vancouver, Canada to retail management in Nova Scotia, to importing, national sales and wine education roles in Melbourne, Australia. Bree has traveled extensively to wine regions around the world for harvest, as well as to write and present. She currently resides in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and is the Consulting Education Manager to the Oregon Wine Board.
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.
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.
Based in Sonoma, California, Elaine Chukan Brown travels extensively keeping up with developments in wine, particularly in the United States. She serves as the American Specialist for JancisRobinson.com, is a contributing writer to Wine & Spirits, and a columnist for Wine Business Monthly. Her work has also been featured in The World of Fine Wine, MensHealth.com, San Francisco Magazine, among others, and appears on her own website, WakawakaWineReviews.com. Elaine is known for having created illustrated tasting notes, which have been described by @KermitLynchWine as “a new standard in wine reviews.” Prior to her career in wine, Elaine served as a philosophy professor at Northern Arizona University. She was Dartmouth College’s Charles A. Eastman Fellow, and a Tomlinson Fellow at McGill University, where she did her doctoral work. Prior to her career in philosophy, Elaine was a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where the rest of her family still operate their 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.
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.
Ian D’Agata has been speaking and writing about wine for over thirty years. An award-winning writer, his Native Wine Grapes of Italy (Ed. University of California Press) was recently named 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year, the first time an Italian wine writer has ever won the award. Amongst his many other awards, Ian has been named numerous times Italy’s best wine writer and his contributions to the world of wine have been recognized not just in Italy. In 2016 he was nominated by French wine producers and winemakers one of the world’s eight best international wine writers (Les Plumes d’Or awards); in 2017, he was awarded the 2017 Cuvée Award of Excellence in Canada for his support and forwarding awareness at the international level of the quality wines of Canada, a recognition that was renewed when in 2018 he was awarded the VQA Promoter Award, “Out of Ontario” section. Ian is the Senior Editor of VINOUS (USA), where he writes mainly on the wines of Italy, France and Canada, as well as restaurant reviews. He is the the Creative director of Collisioni’s Wine & Food Project, Italy’s largest music, literature and enogastronomy festival held annually in Barolo (www.collisioni.com) and the director of Indigena, an annual festival entirely dedicated to Italian native grapes and wines made from them. Most importantly, he is the director of 3iC (Italian International Indigenous Center for Wine and Food Studies) a wine and food school that is located in Barolo, Italy. A trained medical doctor, Ian’s scientific background characterizes his work in the field of wine. His research interest focuses on native wine grapes and he is actively involved in resurrecting forgotten old native wine grapes of Italy and having wine made from them again. He has been a Research Professor in Oenology at the University of New Mexico (USA), and has lectured on wine culture, history and tasting in NYU’s Master’s Program in Food Sciences and in numerous Italian universities.
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.
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.
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.
Based in New York, Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW is wine consultant, educator and wine judge. Since 2014, she has worked as the Bordeaux Wine Council’s Market Adviser for North America, where she leads its marketing and education programs focused on growing the North American Market for Bordeaux wines. Mary became a Master of Wine in 2011, a distinguished title held only by 370 people worldwide. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L’Ordre des Côteaux de Champagne. In 2012 Mary joined the IMW’s Global Education Committee, which manages the Institute’s academic program, including the annual residential seminars and course days. She also serves as a mentor to MW students. Since 2003 Mary has been teaching Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) programs. She is a regular wine judge and seminar speaker at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards and TEXSOM Conference, and has also judged at the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Ultimate Wine Challenge. Mary served on the board of the Society of Wine Educator’s (2012-2014) and is a regular speaker at its annual conference. She is a founding advisory board member of SommCon Wine Conference and Winebow’s annual Women in Wine Leadership Symposium
Owner/Partner – Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco, CA
Owner/Partner – Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant, Napa
In his more than 40 years in the wine business, Master Sommelier Peter Granoff has worn many hats. From schlepping boxes and busing tables to receiving the “Sommelier of the Year” award from the James Beard Foundation and launching Virtual Vineyards (the first U.S. entity to sell wine on the internet), Peter has traveled the world to immerse himself in almost all facets of the wine industry. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers~Americas, and is internationally known as a speaker, wine educator, wine competition judge, and provider of free wine insulting. His goofy sense of humor and unconventional approach to the business of wine bring a refreshing change of pace to the partnership’s San Francisco and Napa wine shops.
Master Sommelier & Winemaker/Founder, Gramercy Cellars in Walla Walla, WA. Former Chair, Court of Master Sommeliers–Americas. Formerly ran wine programs for Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, and BR Guest Restaurants. Accolades include “Best New Winemaker in Washington” and “Best New Winery” for Gramercy, by Seattle Magazine.
Chief Executive of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. He has had a lifelong career in the wine and spirit industry since leaving London University with a French degree in 1977. Having left school with the intention of becoming a teacher, he decided – following a year spent in Bordeaux – that the wine and spirit industry “seemed more fun than teaching”. He started working for Christopher & Co, and its parent company Waverley Vintners, where he was their first Wine Development Manager, designing – and running – sales courses for the salesforce. Ten years later, in 1987, he joined Seagram UK. His career in sales and marketing included a 2 year posting in 1993 as Global Marketing Manager for Martell, based in Cognac, France.He returned to UK in 1995 as Marketing Director, then Commercial Director for Seagram UK, also assuming General Management responsibility for the Nordic markets.Upon the takeover of Seagram in 2002, Ian joined the Wine & Spirit Education Trust as Chief Executive, where he has overseen the ten-fold growth of WSET since joining as Chief Executive in 2002! The business has grown five-fold in twelve years, and this year (2017/18) nearly 95,000 students took a WSET qualification across 75 countries. Ian is married with 2 children, and holds the WSET Diploma. He also occasionally goes back to his first love – teaching – particularly on the WSET’s Business course.
Director of Trade Sales, Chappellet Winery. Chairman, SommFoundation (The Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation). Formerly member of executive team and VP of Fine Wine for Southern Wine & Spirits–NV. Developed the Bellagio Hotel’s first wine program, which he led to become the most successful in the world.
Founder, Masterful Wine Events. Has traveled to more than 60 wine regions across four continents. Formerly ran purchasing operations for prestigious retailers Morrell & Co in Manhattan and JJ Buckley in California. Works as a professional skydiver on weekends, having completed over 1000 jumps.
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.
Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth is the president of GuildSomm, an international membership organization for wine professionals. He hosts the popular GuildSomm podcast and contributes to wide-ranging content. Geoff also travels and speaks extensively, promoting GuildSomm, wine education, and the sommelier profession.
Ernst Loosen was born into a great tradition of German winemaking. The Dr. Loosen estate on the Mosel River has been in his family for over 200 years, so you’d think it only natural for him to take up the family legacy as a profession. The truth is, though, that as a youngster Ernst was more fascinated by the numerous Roman ruins in the area than by the family vineyards. So he went off to college to study archaeology. In the mid-1980s after his father fell ill, Ernst agreed to take on the estate and finally found his true calling among the broken slate of his family’s vineyards rather than the hewn stones of an old Roman ruin. Since Ernst took over, Dr. Loosen wines have received countless awards and glowing reviews in the press. The estate has become a member of the prestigious VDP, Germany’s association of top-rated wine estates, and has been named one of the 10 best estates in Germany by nearly every wine publication worldwide. Ernst was named Germany’s Winemaker of the Year in the 2001 edition of Gault Millau’s Weinguide Deutschland and Decanter magazine’s Man of the Year in 2005. In addition to his passion for Riesling, Ernst is a lifelong Pinot Noir fanatic, a variety that he has produced in the Pfalz since 1996. After numerous visits to Oregon over the years, he found a kindred spirit in winemaker Jay Somers, founder of J. Christopher Wines. They formed a partnership in 2010, built a new J. Christopher winery and are establishing a new vineyard in the northern Willamette Valley.
Mary Margaret is one of only 41 Masters of Wine in the U.S. She was the recipient of two awards for her performance on the MW exam, earning the Bollinger Medal as best taster as well as the overall top-scorer on all parts of the exam in 2016. Mary Margaret has worked in retail, restaurants, and wholesale in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area. She happily keeps one foot in Napa and the other in Burgundy, holding positions as both the Sales Manager at Screaming Eagle and General Manager for Karolus Wine Imports, which represents the wines of Bonneau du Martray in the U.S.
Vice President of Wine Development, Breakthru Beverage Group. Oversees the Luxury team and Augustan Wine Imports in Florida. Chairman Emeritus, Court of Master Sommeliers–Americas. Krug Cup winner. Prior to Breakthru Beverage, Andy was a member of the sommelier team at the Breakers.
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.
Sheri Sauter Morano is a Master of Wine and an independent wine consultant, educator, writer and judge. She also works for Strategic Insights, a full-service marketing research firm where she specializes in handling the firm’s food and beverage research. Since 2004 Sheri has worked with Sopexa on the Wines of France campaign educating American consumers about French wines. She is in the process of establishing the Triangle Wine School in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area which will offer the Wine and Spirits Education Trust certifications to local trade professionals. An experienced wine judge, Sheri has judged at competitions in the US, the UK and Argentina. Sheri resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband, son, and an assortment of cats and dogs. In her spare time she enjoys running, gardening, traveling and cooking.
Director of Strategic Planning, Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Author, “Wines and Spirits: Looking Behind the Label,” available in 17 languages. Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) Education Committee member. In his spare time he is optimistically attempting to learn ‘the’ Piano Sonata in B minor by Franz Liszt, hoping to reach the last page by 2023.
Nicholas Paris is the Director of Global Sourcing for the E. & J. Gallo Winery, and holds the title of Master of Wine from London’s Institute of Masters of Wine. Additionally, Nicholas has been recognized as an Advanced Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, and Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits by the Society of Wine Educators.
Nicholas began his career as a fine wine retailer at Zachys in Scarsdale, New York, later assuming the role of auction coordinator for Zachys and wine specialist at its partner, Christie’s. Charged with bringing fine wines to auction, Nicholas sampled many of the finest and rarest wines in the world, some of which dated to the 19th century. It was an experience which piqued his interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the complexities of wine and eventually led him to pursue in-depth wine studies.
“I had the opportunity to regularly taste extraordinary wines,” said Nicholas. “Seeing how much there was to know, I was inspired to dedicate myself to learning more.”
In 2005, Nicholas became a distributor sales representative with Premier and later a manager at Peerless, today part of Empire Merchants, in New York. Two years later, he joined E&J Gallo Winery as an on-premise field marketing manager in the northeast, focusing on fine dining, and was soon promoted to manager of fine wine retail and later public relations for the region. Nicholas also continued his studies, along the way sharing his growing knowledge with audiences including distributors, retailers, restaurant staff and winery colleagues. Ultimately, after achieving success in numerous fields—from retail to auction to sales and PR—Nicholas found his niche in education.
In 2014 Nicholas’ dedication to his ongoing studies paid off when he became America’s 34th Master of Wine. As an influential educator for E&J Gallo Winery, Nicholas shares his knowledge with students from a variety of backgrounds and organizations. “While my early experience in the wine industry revolved around a very exclusive and rare set of fine wines, at Gallo I have the opportunity to distill what I’ve learned about a broad spectrum of wine for students of every knowledge level,” he said. “I really enjoy being a part of others’ ongoing wine journeys.”
Beyond these pursuits, Nicholas judges at prestigious regional and international wine competitions and travels widely to continue learning about the world’s classic and emerging wine regions.
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.
Thomas Price has been in the hospitality industry for his entire adult life. His first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at a diner in Juneau, Alaska, at the age of 14. By 18, he was the day lead cook at an upscale burger house called Harry’s in Anchorage. He moved into the front of the house as a server and bartender upon turning 21. His passion for wine was instantaneous, and was fueled by stints at Zeppo’s, an Anchorage wine bar, and its parent restaurant, The Marx Brothers Cafe. Thomas and his wife Jessica operated their own restaurant, Luau Polynesian Lounge, in Seattle, between 1997 and 2004. Following that, Thomas took a positon at Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill and began to pursue Master Sommelier certification. He achieved Basic certification in September 2004; Certified Sommelier certification in 2006; Advanced Sommelier certification in 2007 (passing on the first try); and Master Sommelier certification in May 2012. During those years, he was promoted to Sommelier/Captain at Metropolitan Grill; moved to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where he was Wine Director for its Seattle and Bellevue locations; and returned to the Metropolitan Grill in 2007, where he served as Head Sommelier. He is currently the National Director of Wine Education for Jackson Family Fine Wines.
Editor at Vinous, covering the wines of Spain, Australia, the Rhône Valley, Beaujolais, Oregon, Paso Robles, the Santa Lucia Highlands and Chile as well as pink wines from around the globe. Formerly Assistant Editor of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and, long ago, the National Sales Manager for Rosenthal Wine Merchant.
Laura’s career in wine started as a Sommelier in 2004. The early years were spent alongside the industry’s finest, including World Sommelier Champion Gérard Basset MS, MW.
In 2009 Laura won the prestigious “UK Sommelier of the Year” title and in 2010 achieved Master Sommelier status from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Laura’s time as a Sommelier saw her visit many of the world’s vineyards and head up wine teams for restaurants, including Gerard Basset’s Hotel TerraVina and Michelin-starred, award winning La Trompette.
Inspired by the passion of the English winemakers she met and excited by the quality of the wines she tasted, Laura continued her career at the pinnacle of the rapidly evolving English wine industry.
Laura joined Gusbourne in 2015, as Global Ambassador, where her role encompasses ambassadorial and development duties both in UK and internationally.
She also works closely with winemaker Charlie Holland and the winemaking and vineyard teams.
Based in London, Laura judges for Sommelier competitions as well as national and international wine competitions. She is an active member of the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe and a regular host of tastings, wine dinners and seminars.
Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. A certified sommelier, WSET diploma holder, French wine scholar and instructor, and Sherry instructor, she is based on Vancouver Island, Canada, though is most often found on a plane or in a vineyard.
After completing her Art History degree with Distinction from the University of Victoria and being exposed to the world of wine business at Christie’s in London, England, she switched gears, leaving the realm of art for the world of wine. Her work is regularly seen in numerous publications including Meininger’s Wine Business International, World of Fine Wine, Sommelier Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, Quench Magazine, WineAlign and Alchemist, and she is an executive editor at Gismondi on Wine, Scout Magazine, and SIP Northwest Magazine.
She tastes thousands of wines each year, and is an established wine judge in Canada, the UK, South Africa and the US. Though her travels take her all over the wine world, Treve has spent the last few years concentrating and researching sparkling wine globally.
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.
Guy is one of only 274 Master Sommeliers (MS) in the world. He is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE), Certified Spirits Specialist (CSS), Certified Bordeaux Wine Educator, and previous board member & past President of the Society of Wine Educators. Guy has also served on the Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and has been recognized as a Houston icon for his contribution to the wine and food industry of Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Houston Hilton School for Hotel Restaurant Management. He is the Texas Director of Wine Education for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits Company. Guy has been the featured “wine expert” on the PBS cooking series Cucina Amore with Damian Mandola and Johnny Carrabba, the founders of Carrabba’s Restaurants. He has also appeared on a number of radio and television talk shows covering wine and food. He was a featured speaker at the Smithsonian Institute Folk Life Festival in Washington D.C. lecturing on the Texas wine industry. He is a member of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and owned and farmed Stout Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country AVA, producing Syrah and Tempranillo grapes for the pasted 20 years. He is an active wine judge for a variety of national competitions; including the TexSomm International Wine Awards, California State Fair, Jefferson Cup, Missouri Grape Growers, Indiana State Wine Competition, and the Houston Rodeo Wine Competition. Guy is also a member of the Houston Food and Beverage Managers Association and founder of the Houston Caesar Salad Competition for Charity.He is an active spokesman for the adult beverage industry.
Dr. Liz Thach, MW (pronounced “tosh”) is a management and wine business professor at Sonoma State University in the Wine Business Institute where she teaches in both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. In addition, she has 10 years of executive and management level experience at Fortune 500 companies and has done consulting and research projects for more than 30 different wineries. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 30 countries. In addition, she is an awarding winning author and has published over 120 articles and 8 wine books, including Wine – A Global Business and Wine Marketing & Sales. A fifth generation Californian, Liz finished her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and now lives on Sonoma Mountain where she tends a small hobby vineyard and makes pinot noir wine. She also works as a wine judge in various competitions, and has served on many non-profit wine boards. Liz obtained the distinction of Master of Wine (MW) in May of 2011.
Dirceu Vianna Junior, known to most as “Junior,” is originally from Brazil, where he studied forest engineering and law, before moving to the U.K. in 1989 and becoming involved in the wine trade the following year. For the most of his career, he has been a director at some of the most important wine distributors in the U.K. In 2008, he became the first South American male to obtain the title of Master of Wine and received the Viña Errazuriz Award for Excellence for the Business of Wine paper. After three decades of experience in different sectors of the wine industry, he founded Vianna Wine Resources, a company that consults to wine businesses across Europe, Africa and South America. He is also a judge at selected wine competitions, a wine educator and writer. He is a regular speaker at wine events around the world, as well as making appearances on radio and television.
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 became a Master Sommelier in 2005 and is now the Secretary for the Court of Master Sommeliers European Chapter. 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 and also the Decanter World Wine Awards. Nigel has also worked during the harvest in wineries located in the Yarra Valley & Pipers River (Australia) and Gevrey Chambertin (France).
As a teenager, Virginia saw the happiness and joy wine brought to her parents and their friends after a hard day’s work in their small vineyard. It was here she decided winemaking was going to be her career. “I loved the idea of growing fruit, and then turning it into something that could be more beautiful and would make people happy.”Virginia Willcock is now the Chief Winemaker behind some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed wines, at Margaret River’s founding wine estate, Vasse Felix. She joined as Chief Winemaker in October 2006.Virginia has an insatiable curiosity for the role microbiology plays in grapes and vineyards in making more environmentally expressive wines. This has driven the revolutionary development in winemaking style at Vasse Felix and served as inspiration for many other producers around Australia – in particular her work with wild-yeast fermentation in Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.Virginia is one of the most awarded female winemakers in Australia, having been named ‘Gourmet Traveller WINE Australian Winemaker of the Year’ in 2012 (she was also a finalist in 2010), ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by The West Australian Good Wine Guide 2013, and ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards. Virginia was also nominated as ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in Wine Enthusiast Magazine USA’s 2014 Wine Star Awards, and ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in the ASVO (Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology) Award for excellence 2016. A respected authority on Margaret River winemaking, Virginia has represented the region as presenter and panellist of numerous international media, trade conventions and masterclasses, in addition to being a sought-after regional wine show judge. She also served on the board of the Margaret River Wine Industry Association for several years. Virginia has completed 27 vintages in Margaret River, and worked international vintages in Albania, Italy in Trentino, Sicily and Abruzzo as well as New Zealand. Virginia’s Winemaking Philosophy:“Make the wines you love to drink. As winemakers we scour the world to find those rare and precious wines we will most love. So at Vasse Felix, with our pristine environment and historic vineyards, we must strive to make just that. To perfect a distinctive style that is unique and special, that people all over the world will recognie.”
David has been involved in professional education and qualifications in the field of wines and spirits for most of his career. He first got interested in training whilst working for what is now Diageo in the UK through the 1980s. A qualified teacher and a Master of Wine, he has worked for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in a variety of roles since 1990, including teaching and assessing at all levels, quality assurance and business development. He is now part of WSET’s Global Education team with particular responsibility for the delivery and assessment of its “train the trainer” program. Success in this Educator Training program is a critical element in any new application to offer WSET courses. Outside WSET, David is also a non-executive Director of the UK-based International Wine and Spirit Competition, and a regular judge in other wine competitions around the world. He is also a director and shareholder of a small nature reserve near his home in the countryside 50 miles north of London.
Debbie Zachareas is the proprietor and managing partner at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s restored Ferry Building and at the Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa. She is a luminary for IfOnly and the consulting wine buyer for Boulibar in the Ferry Building. She is a well-known wine judge, lecturer, sommelier, and guest speaker throughout the country.
In Zachareas’ career, she has developed some of the most innovative wine programs that have helped to shape the city’s wine culture. She was the founder of one of San Francisco’s most extensive wine programs at bacar restaurant, the wine buyer for the Ashbury Market, EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar, the opening sommelier at Rubicon Restaurant, and the opening wine director at Vertigo in the TransAmerica Building. She won the inaugural Wine Director of the year award for San Francisco Magazine and was the only sommelier ever to have won the award twice. Zachareas has been nationally recognized in many publications, including Food and Wine Magazine, Market Watch, Wine Spectator and Saveur magazines, Bloomberg, Women in Wine Leadership, The California Wine Institute, and was named a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She remains a renowned competition judge and brings passion and expertise wine to her profession.
Outside of the industry, Zachareas is a trustee for the French American International School and International High School, as well as Family House, San Francisco. She is involved in numerous fundraisers, including Family House, French American International, Make-a-Wish, and the Food Bank, just to name a few.