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.
Brooks Anderson was raised in Plano, Texas, and significantly influenced by his French Grandmother who instilled in him a love of food, wine, literature, travel, and a deep sense of intellectual curiosity.
Brooks graduated from the University of Oklahoma. An involved student, his studies and experiences were wide-ranging. Brooks, several other students, and the late Professor J. Rufus Fears took 3-week driving tour of the American Civil War Battlefields in 1994. Also in 1994, Brooks delved into Journalism classes at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. In 1995, Brooks had the great fortune to study at the Sorbonne in Paris.
In 1995 Brooks commenced his studies at the University of Houston Law Center. In 1997, Brooks attended a Summer Study Program in the Greek Isles through Tulane University’s Law School, with Justice Antonin Scalia as a course professor. In 1998, Brooks graduated with a JD from the University of Houston Law Center. After his extensive studies and travels, both through school and with his brother Bradley, Brooks practiced law for 9 years. Most of this time was spent at Anderson & Anderson, LLP, the law firm he founded with his brother Bradley in October, 2002, which still operates today. He met his beautiful and amazingly talented wife Kate in court. She was opposing counsel. Brooks was smitten. In 2008, life presented Brooks and Bradley the opportunity to sign a lease for a small wine bar they named Veritas Wine Room. Brooks left the practice of law to run Veritas’s day-to-day operations. Veritas opened to a deafening silence and for several years the business itself was day-to-day. However, persistence prevailed and Veritas developed a loyal following. Veritas Wine Room has won many national, state, and local awards including Best Wine Bar in Dallas from D Magazine for the years 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015; Top 25 Wine Bars in America from Travel + Leisure; Ultimate Best Wine Bar in Dallas from Pegasus News; Best Wine List in Dallas 2009 and 2010 from the Dallas Observer; Top 10 Wine Bars in the US 2012 from Gayot. In 2012, Brooks opened Boulevardier with his brother Bradley and their Chef Partners Nathan Tate and Randall Copeland. Boulevardier opened to great critical acclaim and fanfare. Boulevardier has won many national, state, and local awards including the following from D Magazine alone: Best Burgers 2015; 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas 2013; Best French Restaurant Readers’ Choice 2015; Best Bartender in Dallas Readers’ Choice 2015; Best French Restaurant in Dallas 2014 Editors’ Pick and Readers’ Choice; Best French Restaurant in Dallas 2013; Best Brunch in Dallas 2013; and Top 10 Best New Restaurants 2012. In addition, Texas Monthly listed Boulevardier as a Top 10 Best New Restaurant 2012 in the State of Texas and Dallas Observer listed Boulevardier as having one of the Top 10 Best Wine Lists in Dallas. Boulevardier has also been written up in the New York Times, Town & Country Magazine and many other publications too numerous to name here. In 2015, Brooks opened Rapscallion with his brother Bradley and their Chef Partner Nathan Tate. Rapscallion opened to great critical acclaim and fanfare. Rapscallion has won many national, state, and local awards including Top 10 Best New Restaurants 2015 in the State of Texas by Texas Monthly; Top 10 Best New Restaurants in Dallas by D Magazine; Top 50 Best Restaurants in Dallas 2016 by D Magazine; Top 10 Best Wine Lists in Dallas by the Dallas Observer; Best Hot Chicken in the US from Food Republic; and many, many others. Brooks has had the great pleasure and distinct honor to spend thousands of hours drinking and learning from the greatest minds and palates in the international world of wine. Brooks’s extensive wine travels have taken him to Alsace, the Loire, Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy, the Northern Rhone, the Southern Rhone, Costières de Nîmes, Provence, the Willamette and its sub-appellations, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Barbara, California’s Central Valley, and Texas Wine Country. Brooks’s food travels extend quite a bit further than his wine travels. Brooks hopes to continue his career in Food and Wine and really hopes he does not ever again have to practice law.
Clayton Bahr is a Certified Specialist of Wine and a Certified Sommelier. He is the host of the local radio show, B Sides, aired every Sunday at 10pm on KOSU and The Spy FM. He is the founder of Turning the Table on Hunger and Turkey Tango. He currently works for Artisan Fine Wine and Spirits and loves travel, music and cigars.
Wine buyer turned wine seller turned wine educator. WSET Level 3, CSW, Certified Sommelier. Just trying to make a difference in the wine world, one consumer at a time.
Sandra Ban is an academic-turned-sommelier based in Chicago. From a family with a long tradition of wine making and drinking, she feels privileged to use her passion for wine and hospitality in the service of making guests happy and helping others learn. Through the Court of Master Sommeliers and WSET, she continues to develop professionally and indulge her curiosity.
Todd is the Wine Director at The Capital Grille in Chicago, where he has performed in many roles over the years. He has also worked as a Captain and Floor Sommelier at Everest Restaurant, a Michelin-starred and Relais & Châteaux property, under the talents of Sommeliers Anthony Minne, Alex Diaz and Yooie Chang.
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”.
Aaron Benson has been an active part of the Dallas-Fort Worth wine community since taking in his first wine director position in 2011 at Stephan Pyles. In the years since, he has overseen highly recognized programs at Wayward Sons, Sixty Vines and Fauna, and has recently joined the team at the storied French Room at the Adolphus Hotel, which is undergoing a concept relaunch. He is both a Certified Sommelier and Certified Cicerone. Aaron holds high the value of experience and has traveled extensively through the wine regions of the American west coast as well as France, Switzerland and Chile. This is Aaron’s second year behind the scenes at TIWA.
Alisha Blackwell-Calvert is the current Sommelier for Elaia and Olio in St. Louis, MO. She began working in restaurants in 2004 after studying Equestrian Science and Biology at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. 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 Advanced Sommelier Andrey Ivanov. Wine Enthusiast Magazine has awarded Reeds American Table for Top 100 Wine Restaurants three years in a row. Feast Magazine has named her a “Raising 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 Reeds 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. In her free time, Alisha enjoys working with draft horses.
John Blazon MS is Vice President of Sales for the Spire Collection since February 2010. The Spire Collection is a luxury driven division representing the artisan brands from the Jackson Family. As its educational and sales brand ambassador, John travels the US to work with a talented team of sommeliers in key markets focusing on collector and AAA accounts to build and strengthen equity for a unique selection of handpicked brands. A 35-year veteran within the Hospitality/Beverage industry, John is perhaps most noted as a former wine director for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. During his tenure, Blazon was responsible for the development of wine concepts and standards, including product selection, service and training for 55 restaurants, 20 lounges, 18 resorts,and 3 theme parks which also included Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. John received his master sommelier diploma from the International Court of Master Sommeliers, during a fall 2004 exam in London, England and became the 59th MS for the American Chapter. In 2003, Blazon’s efforts were applauded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), which awarded its “America’s Best Wine Lists Special Innovation” honor to Walt Disney World Resort at the Monterey Wine Festival. In addition, Santé magazine named Blazon its 2003 “Wine Professional of the Year. John continued to develop educational courses for Disney’s food and beverage team which included the Disney sommelier certificate program in partnership with the Court of Master Sommeliers. More than 750 cast members passed the introductory certificate level since the training began in 2000, which is a greater number than any food and beverage organization in the world. In 2006, Blazon was recognized by The STARWINE International Wine Competition as their “Sommelier of the Year.” In 2008 and 2013, John was elected to serve two terms on the board for the Court of Master Sommeliers and was appointed as an inaugural board member to the Guild of Sommeliers.
Erin Booke is the food and garden editor at The Dallas Morning News, where she covers cooking, wine and sustainable agriculture in North Texas. She has worked in both news and features journalism for 20 years and has a passion for all things food and drink, especially food systems, sourcing, and the local food movement. She lives in Plano with her husband, son and a multitude of unfinished gardening projects.
Lana Bortolot is a New York based journalist and editor, who has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, La Cucina Italiana and numerous magazines in the wine trade. She is a candidate for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma, with anticipated completion in 2020.
Justyna got into wine through the Texas Wine School, fell in love, and never looked back. She left her job as a high school art teacher, to pursue her passion for hospitality and beverage industry. Upon passing WSET 3 and her Certified Sommelier with the Court, she joined Goodnight Hospitality at Rosie Cannonball in Houston, TX. She is still a permanent fixture at the Art of Cellaring.
Jacob Brown is on the Sommelier Team at Lazy Bear in San Francisco. Jacob has lived and worked in Texas and Utah continuing to hone his skills as a hospitalian. He participated in the 2017 and 2018 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, the Cochon 555, and was a finalist for the Star Chefs 2017 Rising Star of the Year award. Jacob started his career in the beverage world as a ski bum bartender at a peanut bar in Utah. Jacob. In November of 2015, Jacob passed the Certified Sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is working towards the next level.
Board member and treasurer of Second City Sommeliers Tasting group in Chicago, Jim is a Master Sommelier and National Wine Director for the Hogsalt restaurant group. Formerly the Director of Education for Heritage Wine Cellars in IL, Jim focuses heavily on mentorship in the Chicago wine community when not cooking or trying to make the perfect canelé. Jim was the 2016 National TopSomm second place finisher and 2017 Guildsomm Online Competition winner.
Dilek Caner currently is the Director of Tasting World/Dallas Wine Center, an organization that educates the wine trade and the consumer since 2005. Prior to the formation of Tasting World, Dilek taught at other organizations such as Institute of Culinary Education and American Sommelier Association. Earlier in her career, she has worked at Wine & Spirits Magazine and has been a sommelière at Restaurants Bruno Jamais and Alain Ducasse. Dilek is a Master of Wine, a title which has been earned only by 312 people in the world to date. She also holds a Ph.D. in Economics from New York University.
Tina Caputo is a Northern California-based writer and editor who covers wine, food, beer, and travel. Formerly the editor-in-chief of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, SevenFifty Daily, Spirited, Visit California, Sonoma magazine, Eating Well, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications. She also produces the podcast “Winemakers Drinking Beer.”
Jason started his career at the storied West Texas winery Llano Estacado in 2005 as a lab tech coming fresh out of college with a biochemistry degree from the University of Houston. After working eleven harvests in Texas, one in California, and one south of the equator in New Zealand, Jason earned the title of Winemaker for Texas’ second largest and second oldest winery at the completion of the 2015 vintage. Jason loves the opportunity to work with Texas wine growers to produce unique wines. His passion for showcasing value priced Texas wines to the public means he spends more time at every stage of winemaking to personally support and shape each wine to its fullest potential through his postmodern winemaking practices he provides for Llano Estacado. Although maintaining Llano’s vast portfolio of wines has provided ample experience with multiple varietals, Jason’s inspiration continues to come from Italian, Spanish, and Southern French wines such as Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Rhône blends like Marsanne/Roussane.
Jason Charles began his career during high school in his hometown of Moore, OK. Starting out washing dishes and eventually moving to the front of house where his love of hospitality began. Continuing in server roles that let to fine dining restaurants and his passion for wine was finally realized. Shortly after moving to Dallas in 2002, Jason secured his first role managing a beverage program and has never looked back. This is when Jason began studying viticulture and enology as well as discovering the Court of Master Sommeliers program. After his love of wine and education founded a consulting company and took him to roles in restaurants, retail and distribution, Jason found the ideal fit for his combined experience and everything he has come to love about the beverage industry. Now with the Hilton Anatole, Jason has the opportunity to manage multiple types of beverage programs, develop vendor partnerships, entertain guests and mentor colleagues off all levels of knowledge.
Alexandra Cherniavsky began her career in restaurants in her early teens working for her parents in their family-owned restaurant in Oxford, Pennsylvania. She discovered an interest in wine as a career while working at Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi restaurants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She returned home to Philadelphia in 2013 with stints as wine director at Le Bec Fin, avance, and Amada. Her current role as beverage manager at Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr’s The Love gave her the opportunity to write a fun, approachable wine list composed of several mini wine lists, each with their own perspective and each containing wines that are ready to drink now. The Love was named one of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants 2018 by Wine Enthusiast and one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants 2018. Alexandra is an Advanced Sommelier, as well as a Certified Specialist of Wine. She is currently studying for the Master Sommelier diploma.
Jeannie Cho Lee is the first Asian Master of Wine and an award-winning author, television host, editor, wine critic, judge and educator. Jeannie has been a professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) where she helped to launch the Master of Science (MSc) in International Wine Management program since 2012. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards and the Burgundy Chair for the Decanter World Wine Awards. She is also a Wine Consultant for Singapore Airlines since 2008 and is the former Publisher and CEO of Le Pan, a wine lifestyle publication she launched in 2015. Jeannie is currently a monthly columnist for Robb Report China and writes for numerous international publications. She is a sought-after speaker, traveling the world giving seminars and masterclasses on wine, food pairing and the quickly evolving Asian wine market. Jeannie has co-hosted a weekly wine program In Vino Veritas, for three years on TVB Pearl, Hong Kong’s leading English-language TV broadcaster. Recognized for her contributions to the food and drinks industry, Jeannie was selected as one of the top 100 most influential people in Hong Kong by the South China Morning Post and Debrett’s in November 2015. She was named the 25th most powerful person in wine by Decanter magazine (UK) and was listed among the top 60 most influential people in wine by La Revue du Vin (France) in 2015 and won the International Vinitaly Award (Italy) in 2009.
She is a Certified Wine Educator with both the UK’s Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the US Society of Wine Educators. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College as well as a Master’s degree from Harvard University. Jeannie has lived in Hong Kong with her family since 1994. More details and high resolution photos can be found on her website: www.JeannieChoLee.com.
Moving from her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida to pursue an advanced degree in Paleontology, sommelier Krista Church received an accidental education in wine. Krista is the current wine director at Eberly, a farm-to-table contemporary American concept in downtown Austin, TX. Krista has been a voice in the Austin wine community for almost a decade, running beverage programs for Parkside Projects and Eleven Plates & Wine before joining the Eberly family in April of 2018. She has participated in the Ruinart Challenge, TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, Cochon 555, and has been published in SommJournal. A Certified Sommelier, she is currently studying for her Advanced exam in the Court of Master Sommeliers. When she’s not working the floor, you can find her drinking Champagne and watching Antiques Roadshow.
Leon Cikota has been in the industry for over 30 years. His qualifications include owning and operating a fine dining restaurant along with a catering company. He started an international wine and spirits importing company partnership that was represented in over 20 states.
Leon was the President of the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival and was awarded Who’s Who in Food and Wine for the Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas Monthly.
He is the appointed invigilator for The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) for Republic National Distributing Company holding the Advanced Certificate and is recognized by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
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.
Shana Clarke is a freelance journalist, copy editor, and content creator based in New York City. Her work regularly appears in a variety of consumer and trade publications, including Wine Enthusiast, Fortune, Hemispheres, and SevenFifty Daily, among others. Shana holds a Level 3 Advanced Certification from Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is a Certified Sake Sommelier.
Follow her on Instagram at @ShanaSpeaksWine and see more of her work on www.shanaspeakswine.com.
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.
Christopher started as a food runner in a fine dining, wine-centric restaurant to help a friend, who was the manager and without a competent food runner. His appreciation for wine became a love and finally a passion with each wine class and bottle that he tasted; two years later he became the sommelier.
Christopher spent 9 years as the sommelier building the 300-bottle all American wine list; yearly trips to Napa, Sonoma, Oregon and Washington State as well as wineries in Virginia and Maryland helped build his knowledge of American wines. He then embarked on a few new restaurants including Bryan Voltaggio’s Aggio in Baltimore and their Champagne/Italian focused wine list.
He was challenged with multiple pairing menus, honing his skills not only with wine and food but with teaching. He began teaching a weekly class for the restaurant staff focused on Italy and its twenty wine regions, which led to teaching about regions throughout the world. This education prepared them for the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Exam, and prepared him for the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Course and Exam.
In 2017 he joined Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons Washington DC. The comprehensive nine hundred bottle wine list introduced him to new wine regions. The Bourbon Steak won the Washington DC Restaurant Association Award (Rammy) for best wine program and a nomination for a James Beard Award for the wine program. Christopher continue to mentor service staff through the Court of Master Sommelier Exams and is looking forward to new adventures and successes in the years to come.
Alysia fell in love with cooking starting at 5 years old and as the years passed, it grew to become a huge passion in her life. She studied Culinary Arts and Food Service Management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. While she studied there not only did her love for food grow but she also discovered the world of wine through beverage classes. After completing her Culinary internship at Walt Disney World, she decided to start pursing a Sommelier minor as part of her degree. That is when wine became her new passion. It was the mixture of learning about the stories of the wine makers and the continuous learning that is a part of studying wine. During college she traveled abroad to Koblenz, Germany to study at a German Wine Sommelier School. Within the program she spent a week in France visiting the world’s most famous regions. After graduation, Alysia came back to Dallas and started her Food & Beverage Management career. Some years passed and she realized she wanted to pursue a career in wine. In 2018, Alysia became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Shortly after, she began her wine journey as the Sommelier for the restaurant.
Patrick Comiskey is a Senior Correspondent and domestic critic for Wine & Spirits Magazine, and served for more than a decade as the chief wine writer for the Los Angeles Times. His book American Rhône: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink was published in October, 2016.
Born and educated in Sydney, Australia, his wine career began in 1994, where he worked as a sales representative for a subsidiary of Marie Brizzard.
After a two-year stint, Miles left Australia and traveled to Yorkshire, England to fulfill a short-term contract to play professional cricket. Whilst in the UK the diversity of the wine offering and the opportunity to learn via WSET proved enticing and after a brief return to Australia, Miles moved to England to further a career in wine.
Whilst in the UK, and following a vintage at Tyrrells in 2001, Miles continued to travel back to the Hunter Valley (Australia) on a regular basis to work as an assistant winemaker. His passion for winemaking along with the generous assistance from family, friends and colleagues, enabled him to fulfill one of his dreams and become a wine brand owner.
Success at WSET Diploma, winning the Champagne Academy Golden Magnum award for best student, along with support from his partner Emma and two sons, proved sufficient encouragement to pursue a long-held ambition to study for the Master of Wine. Happily, this was successfully completed in 2015.
Eric S. Crane, a Georgia native, is the Director of Training and Business Development for Empire Distributors, Inc. based in Atlanta. His career with wine started over 20 years ago and has taken him around the world. He has achieved the title of Certified Wine Educator from the Society of Wine Educators and the title of Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. As Empire’s Director of Training, he regularly teaches classes on wine and spirits to his company and customers. Eric regularly works with Sommeliers and has been a judge in previous wine competitions and speaks at National Wine Festivals. It’s been said he likes to talk about wine too much and loves the sound of his own voice. So there’s that. His spare time finds him enjoying his family and with his nose in either a book or a glass of wine.
Matthew Crawford is a native of Greenville, South Carolina and has 19 years of experience in the restaurant industry in Greenville, Atlanta, and now Houston. This experience paired with an authentic passion for all things wine and his natural ease and competency in guest relations, makes him a perfect fit for General Manager and Sommelier at Chef Ford Fry’s Houston restaurants, State of Grace and most recently La Lucha & Superica. “I believe in the story of a wine, and supporting wine makers that not only have a deep commitment to producing great wine that shows a sense of place, but also understand the importance of personal relationships and how that translates tableside,” he says.
Crawford continues to seek and further his knowledge of wine and hospitality through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently seeking the Master Sommelier Diploma.
Founder of WineAlpha, a fine- and rare-wine advisory serving private, trade and institutional clients. Author of The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy and columnist for the Chinese version of La Revue du Vin de France and other magazines. Former Head of Wine (Asia and the Americas), Christie’s and former Director of Wine and Spirit Education, Moet Hennessy USA. Board member, Institute of Masters of Wine, North America.
Dame’s ability to transmit his passionate interest in wine make him a natural teacher. One of just seventy-three Americans at the time, to have passed the Master Sommelier Examination, Dame was the first to successfully pass all three parts in a single year. This feat and his high score won him the coveted Krug Cup of the British Guild of Sommeliers in 1984. Dame founded the American Branch of The Court of Master Sommeliers in 1986 and has played an active role in the expansion of the Master Sommelier program throughout America since that time.
As Cellarmaster of The Sardine Factory in Monterey, California for twelve years, Dame created a wine list which won the Wine Spectator Grand Award. With the many wine events held in the brick and wine lined Wine Cellar, Dame turned The Sardine Factory into a wine destination restaurant of world renown. He is also active in the culinary arts serving as an Honorary Trustee of The American Academy of Chefs, the honor society of The American Culinary Federation. He was awarded the Antonin Careme Medal and was made a Supreme Knight of the Knights of the Vine in 2000. He was elected to the prestigious National Restaurant Association College of Diplomates in 2004. In 2006 he received Sante Magazine’s Wine Professional of the Year as well as Starwine’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010 he was elected to the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame.
A sixth generation Californian, Dame graduated from Washington and Lee University with a degree in journalism and communications. A European trip after high school piqued his curiosity about wine and food. Since then, he has applied his considerable persuasive skills to the service and appreciation of fine wine.
Tina Danze is a freelance writer and editor who writes regularly about wine and spirits for The Dallas Morning News. For twelve years, she has headed The Dallas Morning News Wine Panel, a group of sommeliers and food professionals that explore wine and food pairings.
Born in London, raised in Sydney Mark has over 35 years of experience in the hotel, restaurant and wine business, fifteen of those as a Sommelier.
In 2001 he was name Sommelier of the Year at the Vancouver Wine Festival and also won the Spirited Industry Professional in 2014. As a Department Head and instructor with the International Sommelier Guild he was instrumental in the on-going development of the curriculum and has taught classes in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Mark is an annual judge at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, Sunset Magazine and LA International wine competitions. In addition, he developed a wine education and restaurant etiquette course for Simon Fraser University Global Asset and Wealth Management MBA program. Mark is currently Head of Education for Wine Australia in North America.
Nick Davis is a Master Sommelier and founder of two companies. With his first venture Medium Plus, Nick selects fine wine for private clients, and hosts educational events for industry students and enthusiasts. His second project is Unicorn Imports, offering Champagne and other fine wines from around the world to the Seattle restaurant and retail market. During his down-time, Nick enjoys language learning, jazz music, and visiting Red Pandas at the local zoo.
Angela is a sommelier and manager at a new multi-level French concept, ONE65, in San Francisco that includes a patisserie, bistro, upscale bar and lounge and fine dining restaurant. Angela’s varied experience in the beverage industry over the last 5 years has included working in restaurants behind the bar and as a sommelier, wine retail, import and distribution, as well as production in harvest in Germany. When she was first offered a position as a wine steward she was intrigued and excited about a world in which she had such limited knowledge about. It was the first time (after 5 years of college) that she felt truly excited to learn, and she felt motivated to excel in such a complex subject. Having the resources from the WSET, CWE & CMS programs have allowed her to find an incredible community to share her passion with and move forward in her career. She recently passed the Court of Master Sommelier Advanced Sommelier Exam in St. Louis and is thrilled to continue to prepare for the Master Sommelier Diploma. Throughout this process and her experience in the wine industry the most amazing accomplishment she has achieved is the network of talented and passionate individuals that she has been surrounded by. Angela looks forward to growing that network and being part of others’ growth in this industry.
David Donalson found wine later in life when his wife informed him that they needed to become more cultured and took a wine appreciation class on their honeymoon. Almost immediately the wine bug set in, leading down the path that would eventually lead to him leaving a career as a school teacher in 2011 to help open a new arm of a local retail chain as the wine buyer. During his tenure there managing over 3,000 different wines, he stood on the podium of the TexSom Best Sommelier Competition from 2015-2017 before earning his Advanced Sommelier certification in 2018. David now works for Classified Wines as a marketing manager for Dallas/Fort Worth representing some of the best wines in the world.
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.
Dawnine Dyer, a California native with a degree in Biology from UC Santa Cruz began her career in the Wine Industry in 1974 at the Robert Mondavi Winery. In 1976 she was hired by the start up Domaine Chandon where she worked closely with the French winemaking team from Moet & Chandon to develop the styles and winemaking techniques that have led to respect for the category of California Sparkling Wines. As VP, Winemaker, Dyer was responsible for all winemaking at the 400,000 case winery. During her 24 years at Domaine Chandon, Dyer spent considerable time in France, was involved in the 1986 founding of a sister winery, Domaine Chandon in Australia’s Yarra Valley and traveled frequently to Chandon’s facility in Argentina to oversee export products. In 1993 Dawnine and her husband Bill planted a small Cabernet vineyard in the prestigious Diamond Mountain district of the Napa Valley and began making wine from the estate vineyard in 1996. In 2000 after 25 harvests with Chandon, Dyer left to devote more time to Dyer Vineyard. They now produce and market wine from their vineyard under the Dyer label. During her career Dawnine Dyer has served as president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, president of Napa Valley Wine Technical Group and was a member of the founding board of Women for WineSense. Through her work with the NVV, Dawnine became a recognized voice for the importance of Geographic Indications and Appellations of Origin to the Napa Valley and has been invited to speak on the issue in Geneva, Switzerland, Beijing, China, Lima, Peru, and Bordeaux, France. She has lectured for the annual Wine Industry Executive program at the UC Davis Graduate School of Business, is on the board of Frog’s Leap Winery, and is a judge for several professional wine competitions. In addition to Dyer Vineyard, Dawnine consults on winemaking and is a partner in Meteor Vineyard.
Jonathan is a nerd living the dream — a neuroscientist and historian turned sommelier after a summer whispering sweet nothings to cheese in the caves of Murray’s. Since graduating Colby College, Jonathan is based out of New York City where he spends his time at The Modern and the No Ceilings Pop-Up. Jonathan was named 2019 Best Young Sommelier in America and placed second in the International Competition. He is an Advanced Sommelier, a Certified Cicerone and an aficionado of New York hip hop.
Bill Elsey is currently the Wine Director for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Downtown Houston. In this role, he has had the privilege of shaping the wine program from the ground up, which now offers more than 2,500 wine selections, highlighting the greatest wines from around the globe. Winner of the Texas Best Sommelier Competition in 2011, he is also a proud member of the TEXSOM volunteer team. Being a part of such an educational and influential conference is something he looks forward to every year.
Sarah Jane is Co-Chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards, the world’s largest wine awards, and joint Vice-Chairman of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards. She travels widely to speak at conferences, consult for wineries, judge at wine shows, and to research material for her journalism. She became a Master of Wine in 2006, winning the Robert Mondavi Winery prize for the highest marks in the theory and dissertation. She was Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine 2014-16. In 2018 she was awarded the WSET’s Outstanding Alumni Award.
She has a longstanding affection for Spain, ever since living there pre-university. She is Vice-Chairman of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino, and has been made a Dama de Albariño, and a Dama de Solear. Her MW dissertation was on the Almacenista producers of Jerez, and she is a Certified Sherry Educator. Her first book on Spain was Seville, and her latest is The Wines of Northern Spain. She is currently researching The Wines of Mediterranean and Southern Spain. She also writes the Spain and Sherry entries for the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book every year.
With James Tidwell MS and Richard Mayson she is a Series Editor of the Classic Wine Library.
In her other lives, she is a founder member of the Academy of Chocolate, which promotes fine chocolate, and the author of Chocolate Unwrapped. She was President of the Guild of Food Writers in the UK, and was Associate Editor of the BBC’s Good Food magazine for over a decade. The first part of her degree at Cambridge University was in Classics, and when she is not thinking about wines from Spain and Spanish-speaking countries, and the world’s great fortifieds and sweet wines, then she has a special place in her heart for Greece and its exciting wines.
Nora Z. Favelukes is a pioneer of marketing and sales of premium South American wines in the United States.
A an influencer, skilled spokesperson, moderator, negotiator, speaker and a natural diplomat with years of international experience, Ms. Favelukes understands the inner workings and complexities of the US, South American and European wine markets.
She is also a noted speaker specialized in European and South American wines and the US Wine Market.
Ganna Fedorova started her world tour as a child, moving with her family from Arkhangelsk, a city in Northern Russia where she was born, to a small coal-mining town in Eastern Ukraine, where she grew up deeply immersed in the atlases and books of her parents’ library. She explored the space within ourselves and our relationship to the universe while studying philosophy at the University of Kyiv. Ganna holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophical ethics.
In her early twenties, she crossed the ocean, moved to New York and discovered a passion for hospitality and service. She started as a server and quickly worked her way up to management while learning all aspects of the job as a barback, host and maître d’. On her days off, she learned the back of the house operations by prepping for service with the kitchen team, working the line and volunteering as a prep cook at a local homeless shelter. She honed her skills managing fine-dining restaurants in Albany and Saratoga Springs, New York. Her means of exploration found a new form, discovering far-off lands and stories captured in time capsules: bottles of fine wine. A Certified Sommelier, Ganna joined City Winery New York as a beverage director in July 2017. She became National Beverage Director in October 2018, now overseeing ten beverage programs at all City Winery’s properties across seven states.
Margie is a Professor at the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. She is a certified wine educator (CWE), a certified sommelier (CS) and the The WSET® Level 3 Award in Wines. Margie has enjoyed judging at several international wine competition and is the steward to the Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
Jameson Fink is a writer, editor, and consultant who has worked for Wine Enthusiast, msn.com, and Grape Collective. His eponymous blog is a two-time finalist for a Saveur Blog Award. After many years as a wine buyer in Seattle for shops massive and small, he moved to New York in 2015. You might know him as somewhat of a pariah for his unwavering defense of the Champagne flute. He will die on this island.
While growing up in Orlando, Florida, Jenica Flippo’s interests and passions varied and her love for education deepened. This lead her to obtain a few degrees: her bachelor’s in Music Education from the University of Central Florida, her master’s in Youth and Family Counseling from John Brown University. She found her home in hospitality, finding passion and excitement working in kitchens. She then obtained a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University in Denver. During her final leg of culinary school in 2011, Flippo joined a study abroad program in Koblenz, Germany, where she enrolled in wine education courses. Upon her return to Denver, Flippo continued to work her in kitchens until 2013, when she decided to pursue front of house opportunities. She worked her way from server, assistant general manager to general manager turned Wine Director within the Half Eaten Cookie Hospitality group.
In 2017, Flippo was asked to join the team at the group’s latest venture, Corrida, where she built the restaurant’s 100%-Spanish wine list, while maintaining the selections at both OAK at Fourteenth and Acorn. In June 2019 she joined the team at Arcana restaurant located in Boulder, CO as assistant wine buyer and sommelier. Flippo received her Advanced Sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently preparing to sit for the Master Sommelier exam in 2021. In her spare time she enjoys running, hiking and all other outdoor activities that come with living in Colorado.
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.
Judd has spent over 30 years in the restaurant & wine business, crafting a respected and well-rounded perspective in the industry. Prior to joining Front Burner Restaurants, Judd’s skills were honed over a 17-year career with Pappas Restaurants, Inc., including nearly a decade serving as General Manager/Steakhouse Concept Leader for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas. During his tenure with Pappas, Judd helped the brand amass a Wine Spectator Grand award-winning wine list & collection. Judd is also former owner of Fruia’s Tre Amici Steak and Seafood Restaurant.
As a member and supporter of the Court of Sommeliers Wine program, Judd has led his restaurants in cultivating award-winning wine lists and beverage programs. Throughout his career, Judd has been fortunate to travel and experience some of the finest wines from all over the World, while working alongside some of the most renowned wine experts in the industry. These experiences have led him to be a great supporter and staff promoter of wines worldwide, as well as a consummate champion of bringing innovation in the wine industry to his restaurants to educate and elevate his guests’ dining experiences. Judd is also annual attendant and supporter of The James Beard Awards and tastings in New York. His belief in the refine pairing of food and wine, leads to the ultimate enhancement of the guest’s experience.
Judd’s unmatched energy and operational expertise has been instrumental in inspiring a like-minded team in the constant pursuit of the ultimate hospitality experience. A true Texas man, Judd has lived and worked in every major city in Texas. Not only an avid wine lover, Judd is also a connoisseur of single malt scotch, bourbon and cigars.
Christy Fuhrman developed an early affinity to the culture surrounding food, wine, and the arts as a native of New Orleans. A childhood surrounded by art, easily lead Christy to art school at Columbia College, where Chicago quickly became home. Christy followed a path, as many students do in a thriving metropolis, and began to bartend to supplement a degree in the arts. The beverage world struck a cord with Christy, as her career has been fueled by a need to learn and grow. The hunger for continual career evolution in the beverage world lead Christy to retail. After learning the ropes in retail, connecting books to bottles, Christy set out to hone her skills in the restaurant world, taking a job on the service and wine team at the iconic Charlie Trotter’s. It was on the small stretch of Armitage Ave. working with Chef Trotter where Christy took her love of the arts and learned fine dining, as well as the importance of food and wine at the table, alongside genuine service. After leaving Charlie Trotter’s Christy worked at many highly regarded restaurants in Chicago and New York. Christy currently holds her WSET diploma and is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as a Certified Sake Professional.
The wine bug didn’t bite Mark until relatively late in life (mid-30s). While his restaurant career started in 1985 as a Blackjack Dealer at Dave & Buster’s in Houston, it wasn’t until 1998 that he transitioned to being a server then quickly to Manager for D&B in Cincinnati. He eventually moved to Chicago with D&B in 2001. All the while wine was barely an afterthought to occasionally have with a meal.
During his time in Chicago, he was at one of his regular after work spots when he asked the bartender to pair a wine with his pasta dish. That wine, Ravenswood Zinfandel, was the first time something clicked. Mark moved on to ESPNZone in Chicago and that is where he learned about the Court of Master Sommeliers. The interim GM at the time gave him some guidance on how to start. However, being in a casual sports-oriented environment meant that there wasn’t a great deal of opportunity to hone his early wine knowledge and studies went very slowly.
In 2008 Mark moved back to San Antonio to be with family. About a year later the urge to study seriously came back and he started a video wine podcast as a video diary of his studies. For several years Mark continued to work in casual dining, but the podcast encouraged him to study each wine and the region it came from.
In 2010, he took and passed the Certified Specialist of Wine and the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Exam. The Intro exam was also his first introduction to Texsom, and he’s been there every year since except for 2018; first as an attendee, and then as a volunteer beginning in 2014. In 2013 he passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Exam. That next year he worked in his first sommelier position at Morton’s The Steakhouse.
In 2018, after a brief stint at The Plaza Club as their F&B Director, Mark transitioned to the Retail side of things with Central Market, which is an upscale supermarket focusing on unique, specialty food, and fine wine and beer. He enjoys fulfilling the same role as a sommelier with more opportunities to impact his customer’s food & wine pairing than ever before. And his podcast recently celebrated 10 years and 500 episodes.
Born and raised in Napa Valley Keith is one of the world’s youngest Master Sommeliers and proud recipient of the illustrious Krug Cup trophy. He has more than 20 years of experience ranging from bussing & waiting tables, to writing award-winning wine lists, consulting, training and lecturing for prestigious and renowned restaurants, hotels, cruise lines & wineries including; Domaine Chandon, Masa’s, Spago, Picasso, Aureole and Crystal Cruises.
Mary Gorman-McAdams is a Master of Wine, wine educator, wine judge and wine business strategist. Since May 2019 she is the Director at International Wine Center, New York City, the First WSET School in the Americas.
Between 2014 and 2019, she was the North American Market Adviser for the Bordeaux Wine Council, where she led its marketing and educational programs focused on growing the market for Bordeaux wines. During her tenure the United States moved from being the fourth most important market by value to the second most important market by value at the end of 2018, where volumes imported were the highest in 35 years
Since 2012 Mary has also served on the Institute of Masters of Wine Global Education team, which manages the Institute’s academic program around the world.
Mary became a Master of Wine in 2011, also winning the Viña Errázuriz Award for the highest marks in the Business of Wine paper.
When not talking and tasting wine, Mary can be found on the sidelines of a soccer field with husband Joe McAdams, cheering on their 16 year old son Luca.
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.
Ashley Hausman is Colorado’s first Master of Wine and is currently the Education Director for GuildSomm. She is also an adjunct professor of Enology at Metro State University in Denver. She is an advocate for Colorado’s budding wine industry and actively involved in the local community. Ashley also holds a Master of Arts in English and American literature from New York University.
Rich Higgins is all things beer: brewmaster, beer travel operator, author, public speaker, and a consultant to breweries and restaurants. He is one of 19 Master Cicerones in the world, and additionally is a Certified Sommelier. He runs Beer Immersions educational beer tourism trips to Belgium and Germany. To offer an organized approach to blind beer tasting, he is the author and developer of the Deductive Beer Tasting Method.
He teaches public classes, industry trainings, video beer courses online, and is a public speaker and coordinator of events around the world. He spent over a decade as a professional brewer and brewmaster, is a past president of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, and served as Event Director of San Francisco Beer Week.
Contact him at www.richhiggins.com.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Jason has been in Texas since 2007. He is a graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas and began his career at Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Jason has participated in the TEXSOM Conference and Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition since 2007. Jason is the Texas State Portfolio Manager for Republic National Distributing Company. His past experience includes Pappas Bros. Steakhouse which promotes a wine list of over 35,000 bottles and 2,500 premium selections, and was named Best Steakhouse in Texas, by Texas Monthly Magazine.
Natasha Hughes MW graduated as a Master of Wine in 2014, winning four out of the seven prizes awarded that year, including the Outstanding Achievement Award.
Natasha began her wine trade career as deputy editor for Decanter’s website, but left in 2001 to begin freelancing as a journalist, specialising in wine and food. Since then she has written for numerous publications, including Decanter, Club Oenologique, Square Meal, Imbibe and Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine. Her online work has been published by the Academie du Vin Library’s online magazine, Vinosity; jancisrobinson.com, timatkin.com and wine-pages.com, among others.
Prior to her career in the wine trade, Natasha ran a catering company part-time while at university, and this experience led to her becoming an acknowledged expert on the on-trade and on the relationship between wine and food. She was a section editor for Square Meal’s annual restaurant guide for many years, worked with Wine Magazine to develop the magazine’s Sommelier Challenge and was a long-term panel chair at Imbibe’s Sommelier Wine Awards until 2017. Natasha has written extensively about food and wine pairing, and was a finalist in the Pio Cesare Food and Wine Writer awards in both 2015 and 2017.
Natasha consults for restaurants, private clients, wine producers and generic bodies. She is a panel chair at the International Wine Challenge (UK) and has also chaired the judging at Georgia’s National Wine Competition. She has been a member of judging panels in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, China, Australia, Mexico and the Czech Republic.
In addition, Natasha hosts wine events, seminars and tutored tastings for both consumers and members of the wine trade, teaches tasting and theory to Master of Wine students and leads trips to wine regions for private clients. She is also currently the coordinator of the Institute of Masters of Wine education tasting programme and a member of the Institute’s Council.
MJ grew up in Concepción, near the Itata valley in Chile. She fell in love with wine after having moved halfway around the world to beautiful Nelson, British Columbia, Canada with her husband. She attended Selkirk College’s Ski Resort Operation and Management program. Soon after MJ completed the WSET Wine level 3, WSET Spirits and Sake level 1 and Court of Master Sommeliers certificate.
After finishing her college degree, she moved to Whistler, B.C. where she had an opportunity to work in Food and Beverage and Customer Service.
She and her husband recently moved back to Chile, where she enrolled in Escuela de Sommelier de Chile, completing all three courses in order to become a professional sommelier, as well as their professional bartender course. During her final semester she placed first in the Best Young Sommelier Chile 2018 competition.
After graduating, MJ quickly began teaching a few classes at Escuela de Sommelier de Chile, and was employed there soon after as their Academic Assistant. She is currently working on her BSc in International Business at DUOC, which she plans on using together with her background in wine in order to help share with the wine world at large some of the lesser-known gems that her beautiful home country has to offer.
A native of Yakutsk, in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in northeastern Siberia, Andrey immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1992. He earned his Bachelor of Science in International Business, Economics, and Russian Studies from St. Louis University. His sommelier career began and continued in St. Louis with stints as Beverage Director/General Manager for a number of highly acclaimed restaurants in town. Currently, Andrey is based in San Francisco where he is the National Wholesale Manager for his company, Bliss Wine Imports. He also works full time on the restaurant floor alongside his good friend Matt Dulle at Lazy Bear, a one-of-a-kind Michelin dining experience by Chef David Barzelay. Andrey has been recognized as one of the top sommeliers in the U. S. by Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, and Food and Wine Magazine. He won the 2015 Chaine des Rotisseurs’ Best Young Sommelier Competition for the U. S. In 2018, he achieved his long-term professional goal of passing the Master Sommelier exam, becoming one of only 274 people in the world to have done so.
Nick Jackson is a Master of Wine from New York. He runs his own business, Vintage Variation LLC, which advises private clients, retailers and others on all aspects of fine wine. He previously worked at Sotheby’s Wine for seven years, in London and New York, culminating in five years spent as the buyer for the US retail business. He published his first wine book, Beyond Flavour, in 2020.
A native of Brazil, Jardim’s first memories of wine come from the leisurely Sunday brunches when his father would serve the slightly chilled Chianti “in fiasco” to offset the tropical heat. Wine took a more serious turn for him while, after he graduated from college with a degree in communications. working in public relations for Number One Restaurant Group Jardim moved to San Francisco in 1988 and worked at several of the best restaurants in the city. While an assistant wine buyer at the legendary Ashbury Market, he successfully completed the Foundation and Advanced Courses at Sterling’s School of Service and Hospitality in Napa Valley. He then passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course with a special commendation for one of the highest scores. Opening Eos Restaurant and Wine Bar in San Francisco in 1995, he teamed with Debbie Zachareas, to co-create one of the most cutting-edge wine programs in the country. He was sole wine director from 1999 until 2001. From 2001 to 2013, Jardim was the wine director at Jardinière, then a partnership between Chef Traci Des Jardins, twice a James Beard Award winner and restaurant designer Pat Kuleto. At Jardinière, he and his team earned the highest four-star rating for service from the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2010, Sunset Magazine named Jardim Sommelier of The Year. He has established many critically acclaimed wine programs for restaurants in San Francisco and beyond, including: Chef Loretta Keller’s Coco 500, SF Magazine’s Rising Star Chef Jessica Boncutter’s Bar Jules, Chef Elizabeth Faulkner’s Citizen Cake and Orson, Chef Traci Des Jardins’ Manzanita at the Ritz-Carlton Highlands Resort in Tahoe and, most recently, Black Cat Restaurant and Jazz Club. Jardim has been featured in numerous wine publications, is a frequent guest speaker at wine events, and has served as a judge in many prestigious wine competitions nationally and internationally. He appeared in the PBS weekly television series “Joanne Weir Cooking Class,” as the show’s wine expert. Currently, as an Independent Wine Consultant, Sommelier and Wine Educator, he conducts high-profile, private and corporate wines classes, seminars and tastings, in the US and Brazil, while acting as the Brand Ambassador for Ernest Vineyards, a boutique Sonoma Coast producer. In January 2014, Jardim became a partner of Esprit de Champagne, a small import company dedicated to bringing the finest Grower Champagnes to the U.S. market. In 2015, he was selected to become the first Wines of Portugal US Ambassador overseeing and supporting Portugal’s education and marketing initiatives in the USA. He is also the acting Director of Wine Studies at the San Francisco Cooking School and an Adjunct Professor at the CIA Greystone Napa Valley (Culinary Institute of America).
Vila is the General Manager at 1832 Steakhouse, Choctaw Casino & Resort, in Durant Oklahoma. She is proud to represent the Choctaw Nation in Indian Country. Vila is a student of wine, and aspires to achieve the highest level in wine education. She considers the TEXSOM Sommelier Retreat to be a big step towards that education.
Robert learned about wine and wine service in his parent’s hotel in the UK. He then spent 5 years in Burgundy, starving, teaching English and exploring terroir and winemaking,
Next came around two decades of writing award winning words for the SundayTelegraph Newspaper, WINE Intl magazine and in over 25 books, including the annual Robert Joseph Good Wine Guide, the Complete Encyclopedia of Wine, the Art of the Wine Label and Bordeaux and its Wines. His French Wines has been published in French, Russian, Chinese, Italian and Polish.
In 1984, he launched the International Wine Challenge and built it to become the world’s biggest wine competition, with regional competitions breing held in China, Japan, Russia, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailannd, Vietnam and Poland. He was also chairman of the Adelaide Hills Wine Show, the Swiss Intl Competition in S Africa and the Tri Nations Wine Competition in Sydney, Australia. He is now on the board of Mundus Vini in Germany.
Since 2005, Robert has focused on producing his own wines – 3.5m bottles of le Grand Noir, sold in 50 countries, Greener Planet and now a new project in Gergia – and on consultancy for a wide range of companies and regions, ranging from Chateau Brane Cantenac and Torres to Accolade Wines and the Republic of Moldova.
His often controversial weekly thoughts on wine are published on drinks-today.com and in Meininger’s Wine Business Intl, of which he is Editoral Consultant. A podcast will be launched, and a book – The Future of Wine has Changed –published this year.
While studying history at the University of Montana, Max Kast supported himself by working in restaurants and wine bars. With a pocketful of tip money he purchased a bottle of 1991 Chateau Musar Rouge and fell completely in love with wine. After graduating with a B.A., he decided to forego the world of academia for a full time career in the world of food and wine when he realized he spent more time reading Michael Broadbent, Kermit Lynch, and Jancis Robinson than applying to grad school. Max was the wine director at the Relais & Chateaux property Triple Creek Ranch in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana before he moved to Chapel Hill, N. C. where he spent ten years as wine director of the Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux Fearrington House Restaurant. During his time at the Fearrington House, he helped the property earn the coveted Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux and Forbes Five-Star designations. In 2018, after over a decade of traveling, tasting, studying and more studying, Max earned the coveted designation of Master Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Max is one of only 274 Master Sommeliers in the world. Since 2016 Max has worked for Broadbent Selections, where he passionately promotes their diverse portfolio of family-owned global boutique wineries from around the world including the wine that set him on his path, Chateau Musar.
Master Sommelier David Keck discovered his love for wine while pursuing a career — and traveling the world — as an opera singer. David passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2016, making him the 149th American Master Sommelier and the 233rd in the world. Shortly after, David co-founded Goodnight Hospitality in Houston. His first project, the honky-tonk Goodnight Charlie’s, opened at the end of 2017, and several more projects are planned for 2019. Previously, David ran Camerata at Paulie’s wine bar for three years, which rose to national acclaim under his leadership. David was named one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2016. He has a Master of Music Degree from Rice University, an undergraduate degree in English from Columbia University and attended Juilliard for opera performance.
Michaela is a Sommelier at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. The team of four is vastly different and strong in so many unique ways. She is constantly learning from her teammates. Michaela’s goals are to continuously hone in on the craft as a wine service professional with the target of someday becoming the Director of Hospitality/Education for a winemaker she is passionate about.
Colleen fell in love with wine while working as a Beverage Manager in downtown Chicago at Bar Toma, one of Tony Mantuano’s restaurants. She left that job to allow the time to study for the Certified Sommelier Exam. While studying, she applied for internships to work harvest. This lead her to packing her life up with one week’s notice to move to Portland. She landed at Pamplin Family Winery, in 2015, and worked harvest as a vineyard intern and in 2017 she was a cellar intern. Previously, Colleen managed bars and restaurants in Chicago, including a venue in Wrigley Field. In the Portland metro area, she has managed beverage programs for multiple restaurants. Currently, she is part of the wine team and oversees bar operations as the Assistant General Manager & Bar Director at Nostrana & Enoteca Nostrana.
Seasoned wine, beer, spirits, and hospitality management professional
Beverage program development
Extensive work within the hotel, restaurant, and retail industries
Sales and Marketing, Revenue management, Corporate client development
Certified Sommelier (CMS)
Certified BJCP Judge
Certified Specialist Of Wine (CSW)
Passion for travel, good food, nature, and beverages
Analytical skill set and leader of hospitality teams
Available for consulting and private wine and food events in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest
Geoff Labitzke is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Kistler Vineyards. Kistler Vineyards is an artisan winery dedicated to producing world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using old world Burgundian techniques. Kistler has consistently produced some of the best California examples of these varieties for over 30 years.
Geoff began his career as a retailer in Southern California in 1978. Early on Geoff was a guest speaker conducting wine classes at Saddleback College and Orange Coast College. In the early 1980’s Geoff developed a wine appreciation course geared toward restaurant servers. In 1989, he achieved the Certified Wine Educator credential from the Society of Wine Educators. Geoff would later serve on the Society’s board of directors and was chairman of the annual conference held in Sonoma.
Geoff has spent 22 years in wholesale representing some of the finest wines in the world. He has personally visited top wine estates in Austria, France, Germany, Italy Spain, Australia and New Zealand. In 2006, Geoff was one of two Americans to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination. Currently there are only 30 Masters of Wine in the United States.
Phil Laramore got the wine bug while working at restaurant sin Auburn Alabama while earning his Finance Degree. In 1991 Phil Laramore graduated and set sail for Colorado to continue working in restaurants and retail. Phil Laramore was a Sommelier and Wine Steward in Steamboat Springs through the 90’s . In 2000 Phil moved to Denver and took a position as French Wine Specialist a wholesaler. After 4 years Phil became a partner in Baroness Wines in Denver to grow the business. In 2014 we sold the business to Empire Distributors and Phil Started his own import company called SAmandla Wine Imports. Phil Laramore has passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Exam and is currently sitting Tasting and Practical portions of the Master Sommelier Exam.
Justin graduated from Texas A&M in the middle of the recession in 2009 and took the first job available and ran with it- commercial roofing sales. It took him seven years to get bit by the wine bug and realize this was his future and not roofing. Justin took several classes and certifications to try and get up to speed in the industry, and was fortunate enough to land a position working the floor at Spec’s for a little while before moving over to River Oaks Country Club. After a few years, he switched things up and went to the distribution side where he is still employed with Victory Wine Group as a sales rep in Houston.
Over the past 30 years, Shelley Lindgren has channeled her deep-seated appreciation for Italy into an award-winning career in wine. She earned her sommelier’s certificate while working at San Francisco’s iconic restaurant Fleur de Lys, went on to earn a culinary certificate at the Tante Marie Cooking School and became a wine instructor for 12 years.
In 2004, Shelley and co-founders opened A16, a San Francisco restaurant inspired by the cooking of Campania, with an emphasis on certified VPN Neapolitan pizza. In 2015, Shelley received the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Program” for the wine list she curated that went well beyond well-known Barolos and Brunellos and reflected her extensive research of grape varieties and small family-run wineries in Southern Italy.
Shelley is a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier and serves as a board member of Guild of Sommeliers and Marin’s Slide Ranch. She is co-author of A16 Food + Wine which, won “Cookbook of the Year” and “First Book/The Julia Child Award” at the 2009 IACP Cookbook Awards. In 2012, she co-authored her second book, SPQR: Modern Italian Food & Wine. Her third book, The New Italian Wine, co-authored with Kathy Leahy, will be released Spring 2021. Her reputation as an industry pioneer and advocate for the wines of Italy was recognized in 2019, when she knighted by the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco receiving the “Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella Italia” recognition. Also recognized as a Culinary Institute of America ambassador, Shelley was named “Best New Sommelier” by Wine & Spirits magazine; “Best Wine Director” by San Francisco magazine; and received Gourmet magazine’s Wine Educator Award and the Golden Goblet Award by the Association of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. Shelley resides in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.
Guess Who? Fine Wine, Spirits, & Beer- Sales and Instructor of Wine 101 course
Sassafras Springs Vineyard and Winery- Winery and Events Intern
WSET Level 3 Student
WSET Level 2
The Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course
Italian International Wine Studies at Florence University of the Arts- Summer 2019
Peter Marks, Master of Wine, is the Vice President of Education and a Partner of the Napa Valley Wine Academy in Napa, California. Peter is an internationally respected wine industry consultant and educator with 39 years of industry experience. Marks is one of only 52 Masters of Wine residing in the United States and one of 389 in the world. The prestigious Master of Wine (MW) title is bestowed by the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) in London. Marks received his MW designation in 1995 when he became the 10th American to pass. That year he also became the first American to receive the Madame Bollinger Foundation Award, which is bestowed annually to the MW candidate with the highest blind tasting score.
From 2008 to 2019 Marks was Vice President of Education for Constellation Brands, overseeing programs such as the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) for employees and customers. He implemented a diverse education curriculum delivered both in-person and online.
Before joining Constellation Wines, he was the Senior Vice President of Wine at COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa, where he was responsible for all wine sales and education programs.
Previous to working at COPIA, Marks was the Chief Wine Merchant at Wine.com, a wine Internet retailer serving more than 40 states. For 15 years prior, Marks was Director of Wine for the upscale Draeger’s Supermarkets located in Northern California.
Marks graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1976 with a B.S. degree with highest honors in Food Service Management. His personal interest in wine led him to the wine trade in 1981.
Marks is on the Education and Exam Board of the Institute of Masters of Wine. He is the Panel Chair of the Practical (Tasting) Exam for the Institute of Masters of Wine and he judges many international wine competitions. He is also a member of the Society of Wine Educators and assists with many charitable fundraisers throughout the year. Marks enjoys riding his bike in the Napa Valley, especially up Mt. Veeder and through the beautiful vineyards.
Keith I. Marton, MD, is a seasoned internist and physician executive, but his friends and family know him as a wine geek. Whenever possible he has combined his love of medicine with his love of wine. In medical school his most frequent day trips were to the Napa valley wineries, where he began his education in all aspects of wine.
Over the last 45 years he has done almost everything involving wine except make money. He has been an avid winemaker and collector for 40 years, has regularly led wine tastings and has lectured extensively on the health effects of moderate wine consumption. He has been a leader of several physician based wine and health organizations and represented the US in an international organization (OIV) that develops standards for viticulture and winemaking. He has judged wine professionally for over 20 years and successfully passed the theory exam as a candidate the Master of Wine degree.
Patrick is a wine industry veteran, spending all 15 years working in the wholesale trade for Republic National Distributing Company in both on and off premise capacities. Currently, Patrick manages the retail chain business for RNDC’s two fine wine divisions in the state of Texas. In addition to coordinating the retail business of RNDC’s importers and suppliers with the top retailers in the state, Patrick has pioneered RNDC’s education initiative as a WSET Accredited Program Provider. In the last seven years, RNDC, under Patrick’s instruction, has certified over 1000 people in WSET programs. Patrick holds a degree in Geology from the University of Texas as well as the WSET Diploma. When he is not working, teaching or studying wine, Patrick enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, swimming, cooking and playing the occasional game of chess.
Originally hailing from “the Garden State,” New Jersey, Advanced Sommelier Melissa J. McAvoy has been an Orlando local since 1998. With a degree from the University of Central Florida in business administration and a minor in horticulture, she is a well-rounded passionate woman who started mentoring in the hospitality industry at the age of 14. She worked at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort for 18 years. In 2013, the summer of wine began with her induction to the Court of Master Sommeliers. She became a Certified Sommelier in spring 2014 and was invited to take her Advanced Course in spring 2015. Melissa is an active member in her community mentoring sommeliers and created a tasting group to further their knowledge. She is currently a co-owner of Swirlery, a wine tasting shop where she has involved the Orlando community with all things wine since 2015.
Sharron McCarthy, VP of Wine Education at Banfi Vintners and Past President of the U.S. Society of Wine Educators, is a wine industry legend. Affectionately known as “America’s First Lady of Wine Ed,” Sharron has played an instrumental role in introducing Americans from all walks of life to an appreciation for the fruit of the vine. Over the past three decades, this lively, engaging, articulate woman has traveled the world, sharing with others her boundless knowledge and enthusiasm for the joy of wine. From wine clubs and consumer groups, to law firms and Fortune 500 companies, to hospitality and grad students at some of America’s most prestigious centers of learning, to floor staff at wine stores and restaurants, and to frequent appearances on radio and TV, Sharron is in constant demand as one of the wine industry’s most popular and effective guest speakers. At the heart of her success is a refreshingly unpretentious, progressive approach, firmly aimed at demystifying wine. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Sharron McCarthy’s wine business career began in 1978 when she joined the Consumer Affairs Department at Banfi Vintners, one of America’s premier names in imported fine wines. Her ability to master the intricacies of wine and communicate that knowledge to others swiftly became apparent. Within a short space of time, she was promoted to Executive Director for Riunite wines, helping to create an array of innovative sales and marketing strategies that propelled Riunite into becoming America’s most popular wine. In 1986, Sharron went on to form her own consulting agency. A partnership with the Italian Trade Commission in New York is widely credited with playing a pivotal part in advancing Italy to its current status as America’s leading source of imported wines. Sharron subsequently returned to Banfi Vintners in the mid-1990s, to pursue a new and—for the industry at the time – pioneering role focused exclusively on developing wine education. Sharron served a three-year term as president of the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) from 2007-2010. With over 2,000 members, the Society is North America’s foremost source of wine education, offering workshops and seminars for industry professionals and consumers alike. SWE also confers two levels of professional credentials, the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and Certified Wine Educator (CWE). Both programs entail a rigorous course of study. Sharron is a CSW and was elected Director Emeritus of SWE in 2012. In February 2015, Sharron was recognized by the Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Consul General of Italy for her efforts, service, and visionary approach toward Italian wines and her decades long efforts to promote Italian wines in the United States. Sharron was inducted into the Wines of Italy Hall of Fame to honor her as a goodwill ambassador for Italian wines and for her dedication to the country of Italy and to the Italian way of life. Other of Sharron’s many accolades include that she is a sommelier, certified by the original Sommelier Society of America and has been honored by the American Wine Society with its prestigious Award of Merit. Sharron is a member of a number of organizations including New York Women’s Culinary Alliance and Women of the Vine. Though a hectic travel schedule allows for little time for extra-curricular activities, she does enjoy cooking and entertaining with friends.
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.
The McPhersons have been a pioneering family in grape growing and wine making in Texas for over 50 years. The family patriarch, Dr. Clinton A. “Doc” McPherson, was one of the “Fathers” of the modern Texas wine industry. In 1976 “Doc,” a Chemistry professor and Bob Reed, a Horticulture professor at Texas Tech University founded Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, the first post-Prohibition Texas winery. Until his passing in January, 2014, “Doc” remained one of the state’s prime grape growers and was the first in Texas to plant Sangiovese in his Sagmor Vineyard. Kim’s mother, Clara, while a professor in Texas Tech’s Department of Food Nutrition Science, established the university’s Hotel Restaurant Management degree program. His younger brother, Jon, has been a winemaker in Temecula near San Diego, CA, for over twenty years and has twice won the prestigious “Golden Bear” award for the most medals won in a single year in CA. Kim graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in Food Nutrition Science and then completed the Enology and Viticulture program at the University of California at Davis. He worked at Trefethen in Napa Valley before returning to Lubbock as winemaker for Llano Estacado from 1979 until 1985 and for Cap*Rock Winery from 1990 until 2007 where he also made McPherson Cellars. Kim and Jon produced wines together in California under several labels including Il Fratello and Cucamonga Cellars. Kim’s Texas wines have won over 500 medals in state, national and international wine competitions including several Double Gold Medals at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition and numerous Best of Class awards. Kim and “Doc” were inducted into the Who’s Who in Food and Wine in Texas Hall of Fame in 1999 and Kim created the McPherson Cellars label in 2000 to honor his father. He converted the historic 1930’s era Coca Cola bottling plant in downtown Lubbock into a winery and McPherson Cellars opened in the fall of 2008. It is one of the most beautiful, modern and efficient wine facilities in Texas and one of the most unique wineries in the country. In 2013 Kim was ranked # 20 on a list of the Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers and McPherson Cellars was # 87 on the Top 101 Wineries for 2014 and moved up to # 83 in 2015. He continues to play an innovative and dynamic role in the development of the Texas wine industry.
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 Jancis Robinson book set her on a path to a career in wine and spirits. Among many industry positions, she opened and managed a boutique wine and spirit store in Lincoln Park and worked as a wine and spirit buyer for a Whole Foods store in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. She is currently a sommelier at City Winery Chicago as well as working in the wine department at Plum Market Old Town. She is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is currently making her way through the WSET Diploma program.
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.
Kathryn Morgan is the Director of Wine Education for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of New York. Based in Manhattan, she designs wine seminars, oversees nationally recognized wine certification programs, and creates light-bulb moments for employees in six selling divisions from Montauk to Niagara Falls. She is known for her effective and engaging teaching style, dynamic PowerPoint slides, and the use of unexpected pop-culture references.
Before moving to New York, Kathy Morgan began her wine career as a sommelier in Washington, DC. She has over 15 years of restaurant experience, having gained a diverse scope of talent in establishments such as Bryan Voltaggio’s RANGE, Michel Richard’s Citronelle, 2941, and Ristorante Tosca. In 2010, Kathy passed the rigorous Master Sommelier examination, becoming the 106th person in North America to earn that distinction.
Kathy actively teaches with other organizations as well. She is an adjunct instructor for the sommelier program at New York’s International Culinary Center and is involved in lectures and examinations for the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is certified to teach WSET Wine and Sake courses through level 3.
Kathryn is enjoying the distribution side of the wine business and has finally fulfilled her lifelong dream of living in the East Village.
Qualifications Director, Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Manages the teams responsible for WSET’s examinations and education materials. Oversaw the development of WSET’s Awards in Sake, and in 2014 was inaugurated as a Sake Samurai by the Sake and Shochu Makers Association in recognition of this work.
Josh Nadel is currently the Beverage Director for the NoHo Hospitality Group in New York City for top restaurants such as The Dutch (SoHo & Miami), Lafayette, Joe’s Pub & The Library @ The Public Theater of New York, Bar Primi and Little Park. Previously, he served as the Head Sommelier at Veritas and Cru, where he was the recipient of nine consecutive Wine Spectator Grand Awards. He also earned the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service.
Josh is regularly featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wine & Spirits Magazine and is on Esquire’s TV show “Uncorked,” about sommeliers attempting the Master Sommelier certification.
Josh created and launched Gothic Wines, a boutique winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon in 2009.
Josh will be presenting the Alsace Rocks: Exploring the Region’s Grand Crus seminar on Friday, November 18th from 1:45pm – 3:15pm. Josh is a huge fan of Alsace wines, especially appreciating their complexity, aromatics and ability to age.
Peter Neptune is a 30-year veteran of the wine business, beginning as a sommelier in New York City, where he trained and worked for 10 years. Upon returning to his native California, Peter entered into the wholesale wine trade. For seventeen years he has been at California’s leading fine wine wholesaler, The Henry Wine Group, where he is Senior Vice President of Corporate Training & Wine Education.
Peter has become well-known national figure for his wine program consultation for a variety of hotels and restaurants nationwide.
In addition to his MS Diploma, Peter holds the title of Certified Wine Educator with the Society of Wine Educators (for which he was recognized with the Banfi Award for Excellence in 2003), is a French Wine Scholar with Highest Honors, and holds a Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London.
Peter is one of the teaching Masters at the Court of Master Sommelier Intro and Advanced Courses, and is an examiner at the Certified, Advanced, and Master Sommelier Examinations.
In 2003 Peter began the first WSET School in Southern California. Currently, Neptune School of Wine teaches and administers the WSET Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced and Diploma Certification programs, run by the Neptune School of Wine. To date he has successfully graduated over 450 students from various levels of the WSET program.
Cat Nguyen fell in love with wine at an early age. She inherited her first wine program when she was only twenty-one years old. Over the next ten years, she ran successful wine programs from casual to fine dining restaurants all over Houston, Texas. In 2015, Cat left the restaurant floor to pursue a career in distribution as a Vanguard representative for Republic National Distributing Company. She holds an Advanced Certification with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is continuing her studies in the future to advance to the next levels with the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
Kyle O’Neill is the general manager of Fox Creek Liquors, a wine and spirits retailer based in Longmont, Colorado. He has previous experience at restaurants such as Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, 9th Door Capital Hill in Denver, Colorado and Martini’s Bistro in Longmont, Colorado. He often offers educational beverage and service seminars to those interested, as he really enjoys teaching. In his free time, Kyle reads books, keeps multiple journals on various subjects including wine, bullet journaling, thoughts, goals, and loves to swim when the weather is good. His goals in the wine industry involve education, writing, speaking, and continued leadership and restaurant experience.
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Joshua Orr got his start in the wine industry while attending Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California. He worked for Breakaway Wine Tours as well as at Taste Wine Bar, a tasting bar for the Edna Valley Vintners Association.
Following graduation from Cal Poly, he lived and worked for a year in the famed Burgundy wine region of France. Upon returning from France, Orr moved directly to Las Vegas to begin work as a sommelier at B&B Ristorante in the Venetian Hotel and then at Fiamma Trattoria in the MGM Grand Hotel, as well as passing the first two certifications in the Court of Master Sommeliers. Before joining Marina Kitchen as the Director of Beverage, Orr was the wine director for Vineagogo, a wine company in San Diego.
Orr is one of the newest Master Sommeliers for the Court of Master Sommeliers, having passed the exam this year. He is one of only 171 people in the United States and 262 worldwide to have passed the incredibly difficult Master Sommelier exam. He was awarded the Rudd Scholarship for top honors in his class when he passed the advanced exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is also certified as a specialist of Sake from the Sake Education Council and holds a bartender’s certification through Pernod Ricard’s Bar Smarts program. Orr was also named Ranch and Coast’s Best Sommelier in San Diego in 2012 and 2014.
In 2014, Josh was awarded one of the most prestigious Sommelier awards in the nation at the Guild of Sommeliers’ Top|Somm Competition. During the Fifth annual US Championship, Orr stood alone as the winner, taking home the Rodney Strong top trophy.
Joshua currently lives with his wife and two sons in San Diego and works Broadbent Selections managing their sales for Southern California and Southern Nevada.
Formerly a head chef, Christine Parkinson is today one of London’s best-known buyers, having joined the opening team at Hakassan in 2001 and creating its first wine list. She is now heads the group’s wine and sake operations worldwide, having also created one of London’s first major sake lists at Sake No Hana. Sharing her love for both wine and Sake, Parkinson is a WSET Certified Educator, and has run wine and sake courses for Hakkasan staff across three continents, leading Hakkasan Group to win WSET Educator of the Year. She has been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by wine guru Jancis Robinson, and is frequently called upon to share her insights on the industry as a guest speaker at beverage conferences worldwide, all while writing numerous articles for trade and consumer press. Here, she looks back on her career, recalling an encounter with Elvis Costello, a run in with a meat cleaver-wielding head waiter and reveals why she could have ended up an astrophysicist.
Having worked in the restaurant industry since the age of sixteen, Aaron discovered early on his passion for restaurants. This passion led him to attend and graduate from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. While working for an Italian restaurant, his interest was sparked by the Wine Director recounting the state of the Champagne region in the 1800’s and the innovations that grew the industry. His love of history with his newly found love of wine made it an easy decision for a life long passion, and career, in wine. In October of 2017, his wine goal was achieved when he became one of the 247 people to pass the Master Sommelier Exam. After nearly twenty years in the restaurant industry he joined a Family owned Distributor, Young’s Market Company, and ran the Fine Wine Market Team as the Director Fine Wine. His team excelled in growing market share in some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area. Then, after nearly ten years in San Francisco, company and family values drew him to Dallas where he is the Director of Business Development for Republic National Distribution Company.
Bob became a Master of Wine in 2002 and, in doing so, broke a four-year span in which no North American had passed the exam. He’s currently one of about 45 Masters of Wine in North America and 375 worldwide.
Now in his thirty-eighth year in the wine industry, he’s held a number of key leadership roles; currently, as Founder of Stellar Bottles and Moxie Wine Consulting, both based in Northern California. Previously, Bob headed up Exclusive Brands for Coles Liquor Group, based in Melbourne, Australia. Before that, he was Senior Vice President of Wine for BevMo Stores based in Concord, California. Prior to moving to the west coast, he was Director of Wine, Spirits, and Beer for about 1000 stores under the various banners of Southeastern Grocers based in Jacksonville, FL. His first role in the corporate world was as a category lead over wine, spirits, and beer for Sam’s Club US in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Bob’s career in wine started with twenty years in retail stores, including sixteen years of owning a specialty wine retail business in Traverse City, Michigan. The business was sold in 2002. Before starting his own business, he worked as a clerk and a truck driver for a Detroit area wine retailer, later becoming the store manager.
Throughout his career, Bob has worked harvests, pruned vines, pumped over tanks and spent countless hours in winery labs creating blends. He’s also judged at many of the major competitions throughout the US, Europe, South America, and Australia. This is his fourteenth year as a judge at The TEXSOM International Wine Awards.
To contact Bob about services, reach out to [email protected] or to his mobile at 669.287.1784
After university, I lived in Spain for 2 years where I learned Spanish and became interested in food and wine. Returning to the US, I took wine classes at a community college in Seattle, worked a harvest at a small winery and then got a busser job. In 2016, I passed Introductory and 6 months later passed Certified with the highest score in both exams and took a sommelier job at John Howie Steak. Two years later, I was promoted to Wine Director of a $450,000 program. I am preparing for the Advanced exam, having taken the course last year.
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.
Rod Phillips is a wine historian, writer, and author based in Ottawa, Canada. He first encountered wine as a teenager in New Zealand and began to read about and collect wine. His friends helped him drink his small cellar (mostly Australian reds from the 1950s and early 1960s, but also some Bordeaux Crus Classés) when he emigrated to Canada at the age of 19. He started writing about wine with A Short History of Wine (UK: Penguin, 2000; US: HarperCollins, 2001; six translations). His most recent books are: Wine: A Cultural and Social History of the Drink that Changed our Lives (Oxford: Infinite Ideas Books, 2018); The Wines of Canada (Oxford: Infinite Ideas “Classic Wine Library,” 2017); 9000 Years of Wine: A World History (Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2017); French Wine: A History (University of California Press 2016); and Alcohol: A History (University of North Carolina Press, 2014). He is currently writing two books: The Wines of South-west France (for the Classic Wine Library) and a book on Cabernet Franc, worldwide. He also writes for the wine media and has published in Vines Magazine (Canada), Wine Spectator(US), and The World of Fine Wine (UK), on guildsommm.com (US), and elsewhere. He wrote a weekly wine column for the main Ottawa daily newspaper for 15 years and currently writes the wine features for NUVO, Canada’s leading luxury lifestyle magazine. He has judged in wine competitions in Canada, the U.S., France, Italy, Chile, and New Zealand, and he regularly travels to wine regions throughout the world.
Michael Pickering grew up in Redlands California before traveling the country with stops in Greenville, South Carolina where he first started to take his service industry career more seriously, and Chicago where he began his Sommelier studies. While in Chicago, Michael oversaw the wine program at The Langham – Chicago, including their restaurant Travelle’s 1,800 label list. Now back in Southern California, Michael has made his home in San Diego. Currently he is General Manager and Sommelier at Stake Chophouse & Bar in Coronado while studying for his Advance Sommelier Exam, which he hopes to take in 2020.
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.
Sean Razee MS, one of only 274 wine professionals in the world to have achieved the title of Master Sommelier, began his wine career in 2002. Since then he has developed award-winning wine and spirits programs for The Ritz-Carlton and Wolfgang Puck, as well as consulted on numerous esteemed beverage programs. Sean served as Corporate Beverage Director for Vail Resorts, overseeing world-class beverage programs at all 11 of the company’s domestic ski resorts. Recently he was tapped to build and manage a premium wine distribution branch of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Colorado, where he served as general manager. Sean currently holds the position of Director of Fine Wine, working with the company’s domestic and international portfolio of world-class producers. When not lecturing, conducting staff trainings, or working with aspiring students, Sean also works as an instructor and examiner for the Court of Master Sommeliers.
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 and Certified exams in short order, and began the WSET Diploma program. Now working as a sommelier at Wild Ginger and The Metropolitan Grill with their Grand Award-winning list she sees herself just at the beginning of her career in wine. Looking to the future, she hopes to run a wine program and continue her wine education.
Jackson is a born and bred native of Seattle, Washington. A year abroad in Italy during college opened his eyes to the world of food and wine. While finishing his Creative Writing degree at the University of Washington, Jackson began his career at Seattle’s esteemed Canlis restaurant. For a decade he worked as a barista, bartender, kitchen server, lead server, and sommelier, eventually becoming the Assistant Wine Director under Nelson Daquip. He passed his Advanced Sommelier exam with the highest score in 2012, earning the Rudd Scholarship and the Jeffrey H. Johnston Medal in the process.
Jackson passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2017, joining the ranks of only 244 worldwide to attain the honor. 2019 saw the launch of Jackson’s new wine venture, Crunchy Red Fruit, which connects subscribers with boxes of sommelier-curated wines from across the globe. Jackson’s passion is to see wine break barriers down and bring people together. In Jackson’s free time he enjoys remodeling his old house, playing guitar, and spending time with his wife and kids.
In a career that has spanned over 30 years, Jasper has worked in virtually every aspect of the wine trade, including Restaurant (Ratcliffe’s), Sommelier (San Simeon, Atlantic Cafe), Retail (Marty’s, Sigel’s), Wholesale (Republic Beverage) and Importer (Wilson Daniels). Having traveled extensively throughout France, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Burgundy and is happy to answer any questions you might have. As the Director of Wine Marketing for Sigel’s Jasper works to find the best wines and the best values to bring to our customers. Follow Jasper on Twitter and Facebook as sigelswinebuyer.
Lars Ryssdal uses his deep background as a wine educator and twice- certified sommelier as Co-Publisher of Art Culinaire Magazine, the hard-bound document to modern cooking for over 31 years. Among his many roles previous to publishing, he served as General Manager of Napa Valley’s Ackerman Family Vineyards, Brand Manager for Corliss Wine Estates and as a working sommelier for Seastar Restaurant, The Herbfarm, and Cascadia in and around Seattle. Lars was the training manager for Young’s Market in Washington and Oregon.
Lars takes pride in his 10-year stint as Chef Sommelier for the Children’s Hospital Auction of Washington Wines, and as Service Director for Taste Washington. He proudly earned the appointment by the Washington Wine Commission as the state’s first and only “Ambassador of Wine.” Recently Lars has taken the volunteer position of Chef Sommelier of the San Francisco Chapter of Meals on Wheels for their annual gala.
Lars has helped facilitate the careers of many aspiring sommeliers with his heartfelt involvement in the Court of Master Sommeliers and Society of Wine Educators. Before wine, Lars hustled records in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years. Gaining airplay for the early Huey Lewis and the News albums (among many others), Lars brought the first Hip Hop records to the West coast. You can occasionally hear him humming “hotel… motel…. Holiday Inn…” Lars held positions as a promotion manager with Motown and as a regional promotion manager with Elektra Records. Lars chaired the Strategic Partner Committee and is on the Marketing & Promotions team for Napa Valley Vintners. He still listens to a lot of music.
Monica Samuels is the Director of Sake and Spirits for Vine Connections. The portfolio consists of sakes from 16 artisanal breweries throughout Japan and is curated in collaboration with John Gauntner, the world’s leading non-Japanese sake educator. Monica manages the sales of the Vine Connections sake portfolio through the 50 states of America and several provinces of Canada.
Monica has over a decade of experience in the sake industry, including 6 years as the Sake Ambassador for Southern Wine & Spirits in New York. She was also the Corporate Sake Sommelier for SUSHISAMBA, an international restaurant group fusing the flavors of Japan, Peru, and Brazil. She has been recognized for her efforts in sales and education in Wine Spectator’s “Sake’s True Believers (2013),” Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Tastemakers Under 40 (2014),” as a recipient of the prestigious “Sake Samurai” recognition (2017), and most recently as part of the IWSC and WSET’s “Future 50 Awards (2019).” Monica’s education in sake includes studying under John Gauntner and his Sake Education Council, where she received both Certified and Advanced Sake Professional distinctions; she is also a WSET certified Educator for the Level 3 Award in Sake. She has assessed sake for different competitions internationally and is currently a Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge sake category.
Monica was born in Los Angeles and spent summers in Tokyo at her grandmother’s house growing up. As a bilingual individual with a unique perspective on two very different cultures, she has been particularly successful in demystifying sake for the US audience. Her years in the hospitality business and ingrained passion for the restaurant industry have given her an exceptional understanding of pairing sake with food, particularly outside of the traditional Japanese setting.
Ronan was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire and has been involved in the wine business for nearly 25 years. His previous experience includes Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Pied à Terre and wine merchant OW Loeb. He worked for the Gordon Ramsay group as Executive Head Sommelier for eight years, mainly in the three-Michelin star Royal Hospital Road plus created the wine lists and trained wine service teams for Claridge’s, the Connaught, the Savoy, Boxwood Café, Maze and several overseas operations. He was also at the Greenhouse restaurant (which had the U.K.’s most substantial wines list of 3,400 bins) and the Director of Wines and Spirits for the Hotel du Vin group (14 hotels). Also as the Head of Wines for the prestigious Dorchester Collection UK that consists of the Dorchester, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane (with the three-Michelin starred Alain Ducasse restaurant and Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Cut). Currently, he runs his own consultancy and wine training company, The RS Wine Academy, specializing in managing private portfolios, wine training to the trade and public and wine events. He also acts as the CEO for the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe which currently runs courses and examinations in Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Austria, Greece, and the UK. Ronan is also Head of Wines for 67 Pall Mall; a private members’ club for wine lovers with sites in Londons St James and soon to be Singapore. The club has over 17 full-time sommeliers on the team with a wine list of more than 6,000 bottles and 800 by the glass. He is also a Master Sommelier, a previous winner of the UK Sommelier of the Year competition and has competed twice representing the UK in the European Sommelier Competition. When not drinking wine Ronan runs marathons and can be found deep diving shipwrecks from the south coast of England.
Annette Scarfe MW was awarded the prestigious Master of Wine (MW) title in 2012, winning the Noval Award for her dissertation on Ribera del Duero. She is one of 10 MW’s living and working in Asia. She is an active member of the Institute of Masters of Wine, sitting on two committees: Events and Education. Annette is a wine consultant for generic and trade bodies and regularly conducts Masterclasses throughout Asia. She is also a restaurant consultant curating and buying for restaurants in Asia and London. She is well known as a judge of two of Asia’s premier sommelier competitions (Sopexa Asia Best Sommelier in French Wines, Singapore National Sommelier Competition). Annette is a WSET and Bordeaux educator and runs tastings and masterclasses for media, trade and consumers internationally. Additionally, Annette judges extensively at wine competitions across 3 continents including Panel Chair at the International Wine Challenge. She is based in Singapore where she has lived for over 20 years.
Courtney Schiessl is a Brooklyn-based wine journalist, educator, and consultant who has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir. She is currently the senior editor for inHouse and a contributing editor for SevenFifty Daily, and she regularly writes for publications like Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Beverage Media, Wine-Searcher.com, and ESPN The Magazine. Courtney also conducts private wine education seminars for both trade members and consumers, and she consults with wine regions and wineries around the world. Courtney is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and she is currently pursuing the WSET Diploma in Wines.
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is the fourth woman and among only 50 people in the US to attain the international title of Master of Wine (MW). She has trained thousands in the industry, judged international wine and spirits competitions, and been honored with an international tasting trophy for her palate. She holds an additional five leading wine and spirits certifications. As founder of MasterWineOnline.com, Jennifer helps wine students get their wine credentials and where they want to be in their wine careers faster with less effort and better results through online courses, programs, and webinars. Jennifer is a renowned author of several books on wine including The One Minute Wine Master, Pairing with the Masters: A Definitive Guide To Food & Wine Pairing and Rosé Wine: A Guide To Drinking Pink. She is also a professor with five courses on wine and spirits for The Great Courses and one of the rare female members of the Chevalier du Tastevin, Commanderie de Bordeaux as well as a member of The Board of Directors at The American Friends of La Cité du Vin. Jennifer is also a partner in preference AI technology firm Wing Ring.In addition to being a TEDx Speaker with over a hundred thousand views, Jennifer is a frequent guest on national television including NBC’s Today Show, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox & Friends, CNN/Money, CBS, Anderson Cooper, Bloomberg TV among others. She has also been featured in world-class publications such as The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Gotham, O The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, Shape, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, and many more. With an energetic, dynamic personality, Jennifer has also hosted seminars with Food Network Stars such as Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, and Jacques Pépin.
Thomas Simons is currently the Head Sommelier at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, in Cambridge, Ontario. He was adwarded the advanced sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers in October 2016. Thomas has been working in the wine and restaurant trade in Ontario for a decade, having been a cook, server, bar manager, wine agent, and sommelier. Thomas is also a certified Cicerone, having attained that designation in 2019.
Jason Smith is the Wine Director at Wild Ginger Seattle, a Wine Spectator Grand Award recipient in Seattle, Washington. Before making a decisive career switch to wine, Jason worked in film, photography, social services, theater production, fine art, and many restaurant kitchens. His passion for wine began innocently when, disappointed by a hastily purchased bottle leftover from a recipe calling for a single cup, Jason picked up a wine book. A few cautious pages in, rabid curiosity and an obsessive nature took over. Jason has been gleefully volunteering for TEXSOM since 2016.
Greg Spalding caught the wine bug when his then girlfriend, now wife, suggested he drink a glass of wine instead of a beer with dinner. An epiphany was had and since then he has devoted his time and energy trying to recreate that feeling for others about wine through education and hospitality. Greg is an Advanced Sommelier through The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. He is seeking the MS certification and is highly active in the sommelier community in Chicago. He currently is a Wine Specialist at Vin Chicago and sits on the board of the Second City Sommeliers, a group dedicated to mentorship of wine professionals in tasting, service, and beverage knowledge.
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.
Daniel began his wine journey working for a small, family run wine shop in Columbus, Ohio, as a means to broaden his beverage horizons while finishing his Bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University. After passing the CMS Intro exam, Daniel wanted to move to a larger market where he could be fully immersed and surrounded by like-minded individuals who were also pursuing further certifications through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Daniel moved to Houston, Texas to work at Camerata at Paulie’s where he passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified exam. Daniel received an opportunity to take part in opening The Post Oak Hotel and Mastro’s where he is currently employed as a Sommelier.
Collin Stewart started working in the hospitality industry at the age of 16 in restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His interest in wine began to manifest while working in a French restaurant in Des Moines, IA. Collin moved to Seattle, WA in 2017 and started working at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar joining their wine team and eventually earning the title of Cellar Master. In addition to pursuing advancement in the Court of Master Sommeliers and volunteering at wine events around the country, he is also active in the sommelier and bartender communities around Seattle.
Originally from Rochester, New York but now a proud Texan. After studying music at the Eastman School and Rice University, Rick found his home in the wine world, tending to the wine collections of Coppa Osteria, Triniti Restaurant, Del Frisco’s, Mastro’s and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouses as well as occasional guest appearances behind the bars of some of Houston’s geekier wine-heavy watering holes.
Dylan was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by his mother who always had a love for wine. From his very first restaurant job at age 14 – he had a love for the industry. Through the years Dylan worked at several establishments in Santa Fe, all with a different style, from café-style to upscale Italian dining. Dylan moved to Albuquerque for school in 2000 and worked at several restaurants with good programs, and later managed bars and promoted live music.
In 2008, Dylan came across his current employer, Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm. He started as a server but quickly climbed the ladder to management. First with management of private events, then two years later with the restaurant. During this time, he also had an opportunity to own the wine program in 2013. Since 2013, a one page list has methodically turned into over two hundred selections. Dylan now oversee the wine & spirits programs for the restaurant & bar, private events, boutique inn and retail outlet. He is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and has attempted the Advanced Exam; he hopes to pass on his next attempt. Dylan’s goal is to achieve the Master Sommelier Diploma in the next five years. This year he plans to take the Certified Specialist of Spirits Exam, as well as work towards the Certified Wine Educator credential.
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 the Distinguished Professor of Wine and a Professor of Management at Sonoma State University where she teaches in both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 50 countries. In addition, she is an award winning author who has published over 140 articles and 8 wine books, including Call of the Vine, Best Practices in Global Wine Tourism 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.
Kat Thomas joined the Hakkasan Group family in 2016 as a sommelier for their Las Vegas restaurant. Her happy and outgoing personality and energetic, fun demeanor quickly gained traction with guests, peers, and company leaders. Kat’s passion for wine is contagious and she has shared it with her colleagues throughout the United States after being promoted in October 2017 to the role of National Training Manager, Wine for the Hakkasan Group. Kat has been a fixture in the Las Vegas service industry with tenures at ARIA, Bellagio and Cosmopolitan. Her peers refer to her as the “Wine Goddess” (or perhaps it’s self-dubbed), and she usually carries a small saber with her just in case there is a bottle of Champagne that needs opening.
Madeline Triffon joined Plum Market in 2011 as the in-house Master Sommelier. Plum Market is a full-service grocery retailer with stores in Southeastern Michigan and Metro Chicago. Madeline directs wine tasting events, hand selects wines for in-store and online retail sales, and serves as a corporate wine educator. Madeline is one of 182 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier as part of the American chapter; of these 29 are woman. There are 274 people worldwide people who have passed the exam since its inception. Madeline was the second woman in the world to pass the M.S. exam. She is a Chairman Emeritus of the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers and has also served as Scholarship Chair. For over 30 years, Madeline has directed wine programs & events in the Metro Detroit area. She has mentored dozens of service professionals and enjoys nothing more than watching them grow and excel. Santé Magazine named Madeline Triffon Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year for 1999. Restaurant Hospitality awarded her their Vanguard Award in 2002 for industry leadership and vision. In 2008, WCR (Women Chefs and Restaurateurs) awarded her their Golden Goblet Award for “Women Who Inspire”. Cheers Magazine gave Madeline their Award for Beverage Excellence in 2011. In 2012, Champagne Krug awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award for exceptional achievement in wine service, education and hospitality.
Master Sommelier Scott Tyree is a Freeport, Maine-based wine and hospitality consultant. A 25-year veteran of the wine industry, Tyree started his career at Chicago’s bustling Shaw’s Crab House before being offered the position of Wine Director at Restaurant Tru alongside James Beard Award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. During his 8-year tenure at Tru, he received many accolades including being twice chosen as Best Sommelier by the Jean Banchet Awards (a peer-given award by Chicago restaurant industry members); a James Beard Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Wine Service in 2004; Wine Spectator’s Grand Award 2004; and Best New Wine List from Food and Wine in 2001. In 2007, Tyree joined Hart Davis Hart, an internationally recognized fine wine auction house, as a wine buyer and marketing specialist. In 2009, after a return to the restaurant floor as the Wine Director of Michelin-starred Sepia Restaurant in Chicago, Tyree was once again chosen as Best Sommelier by the Jean Banchet Awards for an unprecedented third time. As a sommelier and consultant, Tyree has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator. He is currently wine director of Michelin-starred Chef Ryan McCaskey’s Acadia House Provisions in Stonington, Maine. In April of 2019, he earned the Master Sommelier Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers becoming only the 256th person in the world to achieve the designation.
Certified Master Sake & Shochu Sommelier, Jizake Educator. Born in Japan where his family has grown Japanese wine grape, Koshu, for generations, Toshio grew up helping the business from a young age. Following his college education in the US and employment at an international trading company in Tokyo, Toshio joined Chateraise, a pastry and wine company as Director of Sales. There, he was put in charge of overseeing the personal wine collection of the company’s president, which intrigued him to enter the world of wine stewardship and research. Toshio joined Mutual Trading Company in 2002, where he is Director of Sake Specialist Division marketing Japanese foods, Sake, and Shochu to the mainstream American trade. With his passion and expertise in Sake, Shochu, and Wine, Toshio aims to further promote Japanese food and Sake cultures to new, international audiences. He has hosted “The Science of Sake” VIP Sake Pairing , “Mystery of Sake” VIP Sake Investigation Lecture, “LA Sake Festival” Sake Education Class, and “Japanese Food Festival” Sake Seminar in 2009. Since 2010, he has been Vice President & Executive Instructor at Sake School of America.
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.
Inspired by art in many forms – from music to creative writing to wine pairings, Sommelier Jennifer Wagoner brings an innovative point of view to Sepia and Proxi as Wine Director. Wagoner’s 20-year hospitality career includes experience in Manhattan and Miami. In 2017, the Midwesterner, who grew up in Indiana, returned to her roots to curate the eclectic, award-winning wine lists at two of Chicago’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Wagoner’s love of wine sparked in New York City, where she worked at B.R Guest’s Blue Water Grill while moonlighting as a part-time musician. She quickly developed an appreciation for collaborating with the kitchen to pair wines with food. Following her passion, Wagoner moved to Miami and joined Goldman Properties’ Wish restaurant in 2007 as managing sommelier, where she helped craft a wine list that received rave reviews. She then helped launch the group’s Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, earning a nod from the Miami New Times as Best New Bar of 2010.
In 2012, she left WKB to serve as Head Sommelier at the popular Zuma restaurant in downtown Miami. Then, in 2015, Wagoner joined the Fontainebleau Miami Beach as Lead Sommelier at Stripsteak by Michael Mina, where she oversaw a wine list of more than 1,000 selections.
Wagoner joined the Sepia and Proxi team in December 2017, bringing a fresh perspective to an
already highly regarded wine program. Michelin-starred Sepia has been recognized by Wine
Enthusiast as one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” and also was named a James Beard
Foundation finalist in the outstanding Wine Program category.
The 450-bottle list features selection from a wide variety of boutique winemakers and food-
driven wines that pair perfectly with Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s inventive, modern American
cuisine. Next door at younger sibling Proxi, the wine list follows a women-led theme
highlighting female voices from around the world. Like Chef Zimmerman’s globally inspired
dishes, the wines range in regions, flavors and styles. Both playful and serious, Wagoner’s wine
knowledge allows guests to take their own culinary journey at Proxi and Sepia.
A native of Houston, Texas, has spent the last 18 years working in hospitality in a multitude of capacities. An Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is avidly pursuing the Master Sommelier certification. A graduate of The University of Texas in 2005, he spends his free time keeping up with and attending major sporting events. As a long time restauranteur, he loves attending wine and hospitality conferences as well as Sommelier competitions. James is currently the Prestige Accounts Manager for Paul Hobbs wines, representing Pauls projects from across the globe.
Gregory is a service professional at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in Tampa, Florida. Gregory passed his Certified Sommelier exam in August 2018. He recently attempted the Advanced Sommelier application exam. Gregory plans to actively work the floor and strive to be the best employee possible, doing what ever it takes. He takes pride with doing everything he can to assist a co-worker or indulge a guest by providing a phenomenal guest experience.
Matt Wilkin Master Sommelier has travelled the globe for 30 years immersing himself in all facets of the wine industry; from humble beginnings in McLaren Vale South Australia, before venturing further afield to the UK in 1998 following a number of years working in hospitality & wineries throughout Australia and France.
Matt has held a variety of prestigious roles including Executive Sommelier with Chef Eric Chavot at Michelin two-starred Capital Hotel Group London, where he oversaw wine purchasing, staff training, private client tastings & cellar management for 6 operations. He now jointly owns London-based wine company H2Vin specialising in the Loire, Burgundy, Rhône, Spain & South Africa. Matt also consults several London restaurants, educates and adjudicates for the Court of Master Sommeliers’ worldwide, assists as a regular Judge for The UK Sommelier of the Year Competition, TEXSOM IWA and Decanter World Wine Awards.
His dedication has been recognised through a number of high profile Awards and Achievements: Champagne Trophée Ruinart UK Sommelier of the Year 2005, MS Diploma Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Diploma, Dom Perignon Award of Excellence 2004, Wine International Sommelier of the Year 2002, Harpers & Queen / Moët & Chandon UK Sommelier of the Year 2002, Hunters & Frankau 2002 Cigar Travel Award Scholarship, Gosset Champagne Trophée Cèlébris UK 2002 and Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK 2009.
Away from wine Matt is an avid Sports Motorcyclist, Skier, Canoeist, Mountain Climber, plays league Squash and league Cricket…
Nigel Wilkinson MS DipWSET is the Brand Ambassador & Senior Wine Educator for Boutinot (vineyard owners and wine producers in England, France, Italy & South Africa). Nigel passed the WSET Diploma in 1996, he became a Master Sommelier in 2005 and now teaches and examines for both the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Before entering the wine trade, he was named ‘UK Young Wine Server of the Year’ and was also twice runner-up in the ‘UK Sommelier of the Year Competition’. Nigel is regular judge for the Academy of Food & Wine Service UK based competitions, the Chaine des Rotisseurs Junior Sommelier Competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards, The International Wine & Spirit Challenge and TEXSOM. Nigel is a certified sherry educator, a graduate of the Ecole du Vin d’Alsace and is an academician of the Champagne Academy. He has been recognized and awarded by the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Bourgogne, is an Honorary Ambassador of the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux, an Honorary Fellow of the AFWS and is a Chaine des Rotisseurs Maitre Sommelier. Nigel has also worked during the harvest in wineries located in the Yarra Valley & Pipers River (Australia), Gevrey Chambertin (France) and East Sussex (England).
Stephanie Wills is a Floor Sommelier for the EnjoyAM Restaurant Group at both Catherine & Mary’s and Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis, Tennessee. Stephanie has worked in the restaurant industry since she was a teenager, and her passion for wine developed while attending weekly wine classes at The Majestic Grille in Memphis, Tennessee. From there, she strived to learn and grow as much as possible in the wine industry, finally starting at Catherine & Mary’s as a server. There, under the mentorship of wine director Ryan Radish, she took the Introductory Course through the Court of Master Sommeliers in June of 2018 and became a Certified Sommelier in April of 2019. The promotion to Floor Sommelier followed, making her the first in the company responsible for two restaurants and for assisting in training in all four restaurants within Memphis, Tennessee. Stephanie is currently working towards becoming an Advanced Sommelier, while mentoring others from Tennessee and Mississippi.
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, BS in Finance. Elisabeth began her finance career with two years of banking outside of Rhode Island, until a challenging position with FirstFed (now Webster Bank) opened up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. This led to a 20 year mortgage finance career. The intensity of a finance career, created the need to focus her energies into something totally different & the proximity to Johnson & Wales University allowed her the opportunity to pursue a wine education thru both night & weekend classes for WSET Levels 2/3, & The Society of Wine Educators’, Certified Specialist of Wine program.
Elisabeth’s wine career started as a part-time consultant at The Coast Guard House Restaurant in 2009, and eventually transitioned to full time Wine Director, in 2014. In January 2016 she traveled to London to receive her WSET diploma & passed the Level 2 Certified Sommelier Exam in February 2016. The WSET Diploma has opened many doors, including teaching as adjunct faculty at Johnson & Wales University, as a WSET Certified Educator, attending Napa Somm, IPNC & periodically contributing to the ‘Rhode Island Beverage Journal’. Her experiences have recently expanded to working harvest 2018 at Viader Vineyards & Winery in Napa, under winemaker Alan Viader & as a 2019 harvest intern at Kosta Browne in Sebastopol. It is with great honor that she was accepted into the IMW program this September 2019, and she is currently studying for the MW Student Stage One Assessment.
Sophie’s career in restaurants started when she was 19. She was employed in multiple entry-level positions including dishwasher which eventually led to a garde manger position, and upon turning 21 she was buying wine for a small program. Also, at 21 Sophie passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Intro Exam and went on to pass the Certified at 22 after participating in the International Culinary Center’s Intensive Sommelier Training program. Upon returning home from New York to Colorado Springs, Sophie became the wine and beverage director of a restaurant called The Blue Star. When she was 24 she moved on to a sommelier position at Summit At The Broadmoor, which at the time had a wine program led by Master Sommelier Brandon Tebbe. After Tebbe’s departure, she became the lead sommelier and buyer for the program. Sophie passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Exam on her first attempt at 26 years old and has had many opportunities to compete in Chaine des Rotisseurs competitions. Sophie is now studying for the Master Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
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.
Born and raised in Charlottesville, VA, Jill Zimorski got her start in the hospitality industry while in studying sociology and biology at the University of Virginia. During this time, she worked at the Orient-Express-owned Keswick Hall Hotel. After graduating, she served in management roles in two local restaurants Metropolitan Restaurant and Mas, which earned the recognition as C-VILLE Weekly’s 2003 “Best New Restaurant” in Charlottesville.
Upon moving to Washington, D.C., in late 2003, Zimorski worked for several nationally-recognized chefs; notably Charlie Palmer & Jose Andres. After two years at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill, Zimorski left to work as a Sommelier for Jose Andres at his Penn Quarter restaurant, Café Atlantico, ultimately becoming the first beverage director for ThinkFoodGroup, where she oversaw the award-winning wine and cocktail programs at José Andrés’ popular Washington, D.C. restaurants, including Jaleo, minibar by José Andrés, Oyamel, Zaytinya, and Café Atlantico. Under her direction, Café Atlantico’s cocktail program was named one of the most innovative in the country by The New York Times.
After nearly a decade in the nation’s capital, Zimorski relocated to Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2012, assuming the role of Wine Director at the newly renovated Hotel Jerome, an Auberge Resort. Zimorski moved to Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2015 to assume a position as Sommelier at Alinea Restaurant, at the time one of twelve Michelin Three Star restaurants in the United States. Within six months, she was promoted to Wine Director of the Alinea Group (Alinea, Next, Aviary & Roister).
In late summer of 2016, Zimorski left the restaurant world to take the position of Champagne Specialist representing the Champagnes of the Moet Hennessy portfolio (Krug, Ruinart, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot & Moet & Chandon). In this education- focused role, Jill works with restaurants in the Chicago area: teaching, leading tastings, conducting staff trainings and organizing
events with the goal of increasing the awareness and enjoyment of Champagne.
Outside of work, Jill enjoys baking, gardening and entertaining and has completed 6 marathons. In September 2018, she passed the Master Sommelier Exam. Jill is one of 269 professionals in the world (and one of 26 women in the United States) to earn this prestigious accreditation.
Together with fellow Master Sommelier Drew Hendricks, the two founded TEXSOM in 2005. The conference has become the premiere professional beverage education event in the country, attracting a prominent list of attendees, presenters, and sponsors from around the world. Tidwell is also Co-Owner and Producer of the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, formerly the Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM Wine Competition, one of the largest and most recognized wine competitions in the country. In addition to his work with TEXSOM, Tidwell is the Master Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Thanks in large part to Tidwell’s management, the hotel has been nominated five times for a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Beverage Program.
For nearly two decades, Drew Hendricks has been at the forefront of wine and spirits sales and education. His open nature and passionate drive for excellence is without equal. Time and again, throughout his career, he has demonstrated that he is one of the world’s best at his craft.
Master Sommelier, Drew Hendricks is currently Director of Business Development and Sales at Pioneer Wine Company in Texas. Service and education is what led him to partner with fellow Master Sommelier James Tidwell, in the creation of TEXSOM in 2005. The conference has become the premiere professional beverage education event in the country, attracting a prominent list of attendees, presenters, and sponsors from around the world. Prior to finding his path in the wine business, Hendricks served in the United States Army and put himself through culinary school at the end of his tour. Both experiences helped form his passion for wine and food, and helped form a foundational belief in the need for discipline and excellence in wine education and service.
Originally from Dallas, Donaji moved to Austin in 1992 to pursue a career in the high-tech arena. It wasn’t long before she found herself involved in numerous leadership positions in Austin’s non-profit community. It was her volunteer efforts that eventually led to a position as Director of The Rare & Fine Wine Auction in Austin. She has also has an extensive background in membership and sponsor relations. Donaji returned to Dallas in December of 2011 and is now the Events Manager for TEXSOM.
Amie Hendrickson joined the TEXSOM team as Operations Manager in January 2019 after 20 years as General Manager at Edmond Wine Shop, a fine wine and beverage retailer in Oklahoma. In addition to her duties at the shop Amie coordinated education for Wine Forum of Oklahoma at Oklahoma State University, a biennial education event that raises scholarships for the hospitality program. Her studies include the disciplines offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Society of Wine Educators, and WSET. Amie has been an active and enthusiastic volunteer at the TEXSOM Conference and contributor for the Sommelier Retreat at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards.