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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sheri Morano MW found her interest in wine initially sparked during a trip to Italy when she was 17. She began her formal wine education at the International Wine Center in New York City in 1997 following graduation from Duke University. In November 2003, Sheri earned the esteemed title Master of Wine.
With a background anchored in interdisciplinary studies, Sheri enjoys working in a variety of capacities within the wine industry. She is a senior partner at Wine Ring, the market leader in consumer preference technology, consults for a number of wine companies and also judges at wine competitions around the world. She resides in NC with her husband, son, and an assortment of pets. In her spare time she enjoys running, gardening, traveling, cooking and yoga.
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.
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.
Bree Stock, a Master of Wine since 2016, has worked in many roles in the wine industry from sommelier and wine director roles, importing and sales, teaching, and production. She is currently the Education Director at the Oregon Wine Board and Director and winemaker of Constant Crush wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
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.
Debbie Zachareas is the Proprietor and Managing Partner at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s restored Ferry Building, the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in downtown Napa, and Mission Bay Wine & Cheese in San Francisco. She is the consulting wine buyer for Boulibar in the Ferry Building and the consulting wine director to the Warriors at the new Chase Center. Most recently she has taken on the role as wine consultant to the two Izzy’s Steak Houses in the Bay Area. Zachareas will be spearheading another new project this year: Mission Bay Wine Bar at Thrive City. She is also a well-known wine judge, lecturer, sommelier, and guest speaker throughout the country.
Zachareas has served as a trustee for the French American International School and International High School, as well as Family House, San Francisco. She chairs and volunteers for a number of fundraisers close to her heart, including Make a Wish, and the Food Bank, just to name a few.
Zachareas’s past include developing some of the most innovative wine programs that have helped to shape the city’s wine culture. She was the founder of one of San Francisco’s most extensive wine programs at bacar restaurant, the wine buyer for the Ashbury Market, EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar, the opening sommelier at Rubicon Restaurant, and the opening wine director at Vertigo in the TransAmerica Building. She won the innagural Wine Director of the year award for San Francisco Magazine and was the only sommelier ever to have won the award twice. Nationally recognized by Food and Wine Magazine, Market Watch, Wine Spectator and Saveur Magazines, Bloomberg, Women in Wine Leadership, The California Wine Institute and she remains a renowned international wine judge and brings a passion and expertise wine to her profession.