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.
Originally trained as a geologist, Wayne Belding found his way from the oil fields to the vineyards. He began in the retail wine business, became an award-winning sommelier in Denver, and in 1990 became the 13th American to pass the Master Sommelier examination. He was also awarded the prestigious Krug Cup for passing all three parts of the examination on his first attempt. He has served as Education Chairman and Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas. He has been a wine teacher and competition judge both nationally and internationally for over 30 years. From 1986 – 2010, he was an owner of The Boulder Wine Merchant. He is the author of the recently-published book for wine consumers entitled “Diving Into Wine”.
John Blazon MS is Vice President of Sales for the Spire Collection since February 2010. The Spire Collection is a luxury driven division representing the artisan brands from the Jackson Family. As its educational and sales brand ambassador, John travels the US to work with a talented team of sommeliers in key markets focusing on collector and AAA accounts to build and strengthen equity for a unique selection of handpicked brands. A 35-year veteran within the Hospitality/Beverage industry, John is perhaps most noted as a former wine director for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. During his tenure, Blazon was responsible for the development of wine concepts and standards, including product selection, service and training for 55 restaurants, 20 lounges, 18 resorts,and 3 theme parks which also included Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. John received his master sommelier diploma from the International Court of Master Sommeliers, during a fall 2004 exam in London, England and became the 59th MS for the American Chapter. In 2003, Blazon’s efforts were applauded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), which awarded its “America’s Best Wine Lists Special Innovation” honor to Walt Disney World Resort at the Monterey Wine Festival. In addition, Santé magazine named Blazon its 2003 “Wine Professional of the Year. John continued to develop educational courses for Disney’s food and beverage team which included the Disney sommelier certificate program in partnership with the Court of Master Sommeliers. More than 750 cast members passed the introductory certificate level since the training began in 2000, which is a greater number than any food and beverage organization in the world. In 2006, Blazon was recognized by The STARWINE International Wine Competition as their “Sommelier of the Year.” In 2008 and 2013, John was elected to serve two terms on the board for the Court of Master Sommeliers and was appointed as an inaugural board member to the Guild of Sommeliers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Justin Vineyards and Winery. Former Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers–Americas. Awarded “Best Sommelier in the World in French Wines and Spirits.” Has worked principally as a sommelier since 1979, with stints in wine retail, wholesale, and importing. Avid reader and award-winning writer.
Guy is one of only 274 Master Sommeliers (MS) in the world. He is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE), Certified Spirits Specialist (CSS), Certified Bordeaux Wine Educator, and previous board member & past President of the Society of Wine Educators. Guy has also served on the Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, and has been recognized as a Houston icon for his contribution to the wine and food industry of Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Houston Hilton School for Hotel Restaurant Management. He is the Texas Director of Wine Education for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits Company. Guy has been the featured “wine expert” on the PBS cooking series Cucina Amore with Damian Mandola and Johnny Carrabba, the founders of Carrabba’s Restaurants. He has also appeared on a number of radio and television talk shows covering wine and food. He was a featured speaker at the Smithsonian Institute Folk Life Festival in Washington D.C. lecturing on the Texas wine industry. He is a member of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and owned and farmed Stout Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country AVA, producing Syrah and Tempranillo grapes for the pasted 20 years. He is an active wine judge for a variety of national competitions; including the TexSomm International Wine Awards, California State Fair, Jefferson Cup, Missouri Grape Growers, Indiana State Wine Competition, and the Houston Rodeo Wine Competition. Guy is also a member of the Houston Food and Beverage Managers Association and founder of the Houston Caesar Salad Competition for Charity.He is an active spokesman for the adult beverage industry.
Dr. Liz Thach, MW (pronounced “tosh”) is 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.