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SUBMISSION PERIOD
Through December 31, 2017
LATE SUBMISSION PERIOD
January 1 to 31, 2018
JUDGING
February 12 to 14, 2018
SCOTT TYREE

SCOTT TYREE

  • Freeport, ME

Scott Tyree is a Maine-based sommelier and wine 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 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 Best Sommelier 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 has passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Exam and is a currently a candidate for the Master Sommelier exam in 2018. He resides in Freeport, Maine where he is currently conducting research on the historical role of the sommelier for an upcoming book.

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BLAKE KNEPPER

BLAKE KNEPPER

  • Wine Direcctor, Town Hearth
  • Dallas, TX

Blake has been a sommelier for close to five years. He passed his Certified Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2013 and has been feverishly working for his Advanced Sommelier certification.

Blake's experience includes acting as a floor sommelier at Bob’s Steak and Chop House for three years. Currently Blake is the Wine Director at Town Hearth, located in the Design District of Dallas, Texas. The past few years have been a whirlwind working with multimillion dollar wine programs, all while continuing to further his education in the wine world. Blake hopes to one day reach the high achievement of Master Sommelier.

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LANA BORTOLOT – EDITOR

LANA BORTOLOT – EDITOR

Lana Bortolot has written on food and wine for Dow Jones, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, and other magazines of the wine and spirits trade. As an urban affairs journalist, she reported on community development and arts and culture for the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and amNewYork. She holds the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Level 3 Advanced Certification and is two exams away from the Level 4 Diploma. Having covered most European wine regions and a few in South America, she is always looking to add a new wine-stained stamp to her passport.

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ANTHONY SCHLOTZHAUER

ANTHONY SCHLOTZHAUER

  • Captain/Sommelier, Jeffrey's
  • Austin, TX

Captain / Sommelier at Jeffrey's, Austin, TX Court of Master Sommeliers certified; 2015 with Clore scholarship Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced course; 2017 Competed in the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition; 2017 TEXSOM Conference volunteer 2016 and 2017 Texas Rare & Fine wine auction volunteer; 2017 Texas Food & Wine Foundation Hill Country showcase volunteer; 2017

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JEFFREY BENCUS

JEFFREY BENCUS

  • Lead Sommelier, LAGO by Julian Serrano, Bellagio Resort and Casino
  • Las Vegas, NV

A serendipitous encounter in college was the start of a wine career for Jeffrey Bencus. This first glimpse into the world of wine at a retail store in Rochester, NY awakened a passion which continued to grow as he eventually became Whitehouse Wine & Liquor's General Manager.

The years spent in retail afforded numerous international buying trips and opened the door to working the floor at some of the best restaurants in Rochester. Finally, in early 2007 Jeffrey moved full time to the restaurant side of wine when he was hired as a sommelier by Chef David Burke to open his first Las Vegas restaurant.

In late 2009, Jeffrey signed on as the lead for Chef Michael Mina in opening American Fish in the new Aria Tower at City Center, Las Vegas. In 2011, he took over the Spanish wine list at Julian Serrano Tapas and in the spring of 2015 he opened Chef Serrano’s latest enterprise, LAGO on the Bellagio fountains where he is currently running the wine program.

Jeffrey is an Advanced Sommelier who has individually passed all three portions of the Master Sommelier Exam. He has been a Ruinart Challenge winner and in 2013 was awarded second place in the national finals of the Top Somm competition. In 2018, Jeffrey will continue in his attempt of achieving the title of Master Sommelier.

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ANDREA HILLSEY

ANDREA HILLSEY

  • Owner/Operator, Square Wine Co.
  • Madison, WI

Andrea opened Square Wine Company, a retail shoppe in Madison, WI in 2012. Previously, she worked harvest at Chehalem in the Willamette Valley and worked at Wolfe's Wine Shoppe in Miami, FL.

A native of White Lake, MI, she graduated from Purdue University in 2005 in Movement and Sport Science and earned a Master's degree from Florida International in Hospitality Management in 2010.

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TREVIN HOFFMAN

TREVIN HOFFMAN

  • Assistant General Manager/Beverage Director, The Summit Club
  • Tulsa, OK

I have worked in hospitality for over 12 years now. In this time, I have acquired a great deal of respect and passion for the wine industry. As the Assistant General Manager and Beverage Director of the Summit Club, I not only oversee all service in the dining rooms but also am allowed the freedom to purchase, sell, and educate both members of the club and my staff. I take great pride in education and enjoy providing an experience and story with everyone I encounter whether that be about food or beverage. I am currently studying to take my Advanced Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers which I hope to sit for in 2019. I am also studying for my CSW and Certified Club Manager (CCM) through the CMAA.

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DEVON BROGLIE MS

DEVON BROGLIE MS

Master Sommelier Devon Broglie attended Duke University on an ambitious academic track, pursuing degrees in both psychology and economics; in his senior year he scored an internship with a prestigious consulting firm. But Broglie’s side job in a restaurant ended up being the catalyst that sparked his impressive career in the wine and spirits industry, leading to his current position as one of the top two global beverage buyers at grocery giant Whole Foods Market.

After graduating from Duke, Broglie spent four years in the restaurant industry, as well as a grape harvest season in Spain, before joining the Whole Foods team in 2001. In his current position, he is in charge of purchasing and programming for the chain’s 320-plus U.S. stores that sell alcohol. Broglie also provides guidance and support for buyers across 11 regions and each store or metropolitan area’s beverage team.

Broglie earned his Master Sommelier certification in 2011, and while that was certainly a career highlight, he describes his stint in Spain—in 2000 he moved to the Priorat region in Catalonia to work a harvest at a prominent winery—as instrumental in cultivating his passion for wine.

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JOSH NADEL MS

JOSH NADEL MS

  • Beverage Director, NoHo Hospitality Group
  • New York, NY

Josh Nadel currently serves as Beverage Director for the NoHo Hospitality Group. In 2008, he co-founded the Oregon based winery, Gothic Wines.

Josh served as a Head Sommelier at Veritas & Cru restaurants in NYC from 2001-2009, a tenure during which these wine programs received nine consecutive Wine Spectator Grand Awards. In 2004, he earned the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service. Josh passed the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination in fall 2017, becoming one of only 165 people in the US to have achieved this distinction.

In 2009, Nadel joined Chef Andrew Carmellini and his partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom to engineer a beverage program for their award-winning Locanda Verde restaurant in The Greenwich Hotel based on accessible, traditional Italian wines and spirits. They hit the mark again in 2011 with the opening of The Dutch in SoHo, where Nadel assembled a wide-ranging beverage program to accompany Carmellini’s roots-inspired American menu. He did the same for their outpost of The Dutch in Miami Beach’s W South Beach, subsequently creating the beverage programs at Lafayette, Joe’s Pub and The Library at The Public Theater, Bar Primi, Little Park, Westlight, Leuca as well as Rye Street Tavern, Rec Pier Chop House and The Cannon Room in Baltimore.

Nadel is regularly featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wines & Spirits Magazine. Josh created the opening beverage program at The Lakehouse Restaurant in Bay Shore, NY, enthusiastically reviewed as one of Long Island’s best restaurants. Later, he developed the wine program at Freemans on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He currently serves as Chef Sommelier at Antonio Galloni’s Festa del Barolo alongside Wine Director Jeff Porter.

Josh received a B.F.A in Lithography & Drawing from S.U.N.Y Purchase. When not scuba diving, he resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Jo and their Labrador mix, Domino, eagerly awaiting the first New York Rangers Stanley Cup since 1994.

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REBECCA FINEMAN MS

REBECCA FINEMAN MS

  • Sommelier, High Treason
  • San Francisco, CA

Rebecca always had an interest in food and wine, but she never thought that interest would lead to anything other than dinners out with friends. Through her early and mid 20s her focus remained purely academic: she studied Music and Anthropology at Pomona College in Clarement, California, which was followed by a Fulbright year in South Korea. In Graduate School she combined these interests and studied Ethnomusicology at the University of Hawaii—Manoa. This background in liberal arts brought her home to New York City in her late 20s, where she began to work in various facets of publishing during the day; at night she got a job in a restaurant to help subsidize her rent. Her interest was piqued.

Rebecca quickly abandoned the literary pursuits and enveloped herself in a world of food and wine. She rose quickly through the ranks from a Server to a Captain to a Wine Director. When a mentor suggested she get her Sommelier certification she relied on her academic background to propel her through the ranks. By 2012--in a mere 5 months-- she went from having no certification to being an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She continued to push herself and succeeded at passing the Master Sommelier exam in 2017.

She is currently a Sommelier at High Treason, a wine bar in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. Previously she has held the posts of Sommelier at Restaurant Gary Danko; Sommelier at Michael Mina; and Wine Director at Ame, a Michelin starred restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco.

Rebecca is a Master Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, becoming the 25th woman in the USA to hold the coveted title. She and her husband--who is also a sommelier—are working towards opening their own wine-focused restaurant, Ungrafted, which is slated to open in July 2018.

She currently resides in San Francisco with her husband, Chris Gaither, and their baby, Edith Louisa.

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DANIEL TORAL

DANIEL TORAL

  • Wine Director, 50 Eggs Inc.
  • Miami, FL

Daniel Toral grew up in Caracas, Venezuela in a home where life revolved around the kitchen. His Hungarian grandmother made everything from scratch; there was never anything ‘store-bought’ at any of his family’s gatherings. That culinary mentality stuck with Daniel throughout his life and inspired him to become a chef. After high school, Daniel left Venezuela to pursue a culinary career at The Culinary Institute of America in the Hudson Valley.

After obtaining his degree in Culinary Arts, Daniel worked as a line cook at Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park, where he realized that his true calling was in the front of the house. He then worked as part of the opening team of Thomas Keller’s celebrated Per Se. Soon after, Daniel relocated to Miami to obtain a degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University.

He cemented his passion for wine and culture while working the harvest season in Burgundy, France where he immersed himself in the daily life of the vigneron. Toral completed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced certification in 2013. He has held positions as beverage director and sommelier in several top restaurants in South Florida, including The Setai Hotel and Sustain Restaurant.

Now at 50 Eggs, Toral oversees wine lists for Yardbird (Miami, Las Vegas, Singapore, and Los Angeles), Swine, and their newest concept Chica, he is very involved in the South Florida sommelier community and has been a speaker for multiple organizations including Wines from Spain, New Zealand Wine Growers and Wines from Germany, he was among The Miami Herald’s “South Florida Food 50” in 2015. Toral won StarChefs 6th Annual Somm Slam in New York. And in 2016, Toral was named a StarChefs Rising Star Sommelier for South Florida.

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CAITLIN BALL

CAITLIN BALL

  • Sommelier/Beverage Manager, Winewood Grill
  • Grapevine
  • TX

It was in college studying history and Spanish, working for a local restaurant in Virginia, The Neighbors Place, where Caitlin caught the wine bug. At present, Caitlin is the sommelier and beverage manager at Winewood Grill in Grapevine,Texas and is working towards her Advanced with the Court of Master Sommeliers.

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JACOB BROWN

JACOB BROWN

  • Beverage Director, Counter 3. Five. VII.
  • Austin, TX

Jacob Brown is the Beverage Director of Counter 3. FIVE. VII, a modern American tasting menu restaurant in the heart of downtown Austin Texas. Jacob moved to Texas from Park City Utah in 2016 in pursuits of furthering his career in the hospitality industry. Working closely with Chef’s at Counter 3. FIVE. VII Jacob pursues pairing non-traditional cuisines and making the world of wine approachable.

He has participated in the 2017 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, Cochon 555, and was a finalist for 2017 Rising Star of the year from Star Chef’s.

Jacob started his career in the beverage world as a Ski Bum Bartender at a peanut bar in Utah. Although still a Ski Bum, the lack of mountains and snow in Texas prove this pursuit difficult. In November of 2015 Jacob passed the Certified Sommeliers Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is working towards the next level.

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MANDI NELSON

MANDI NELSON

  • Beverage Director, New Waterloo
  • Austin, TX

Mandi’s journey into the world of wine and cuisine began when she was 16, working for various restaurants and country clubs in her native Dallas. After graduating from the University of Texas, Mandi moved to Austin and held various Wine Manager positions before joining the New Waterloo team in 2016. As Beverage Director of New Waterloo and Certified Wine Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommelier, Mandi leverages her knowledge of wine and spirits to provide quality beverage programs at New Waterloo properties. In her free time, Mandi enjoys running (through vineyards, if possible) and sipping champagne. Her spirit food is uni, or sea urchin.

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JUSTIN VANN

JUSTIN VANN

  • Owner/Beverage Director, Public Services Bar
  • Houston, TX

Justin Vann is the wine buyer for Public Services Bar, Theodore Rex, Better Luck Tomorrow, Mala Sichuan Restaurants, and the OKRA Charity Bar. He also likes to drink it.

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ANDRES BLANCO

ANDRES BLANCO

  • Sommelier, Caracol Mexican Restaurant
  • Houston, TX

Andres Blanco described his background: “My father in his 30’s worked as a waiter in fine dining restaurants back in Mexico. He still had time to play me Beatles’ songs with his guitar after work (and let me sip some of his Modelo Especial). That made it clear to what I wanted to be when I grew up (I also learned to play guitar). I learned my father’s people skills, while my mother taught me her entrepreneur spirit and selling skills through her cosmetics business. Since I was already a world history fanatic myself, it was only a matter of time before I would get sucked into the wine world." I have always worked in restaurants since I was 18, but starting in 2008 I entered the fine dining scene. With zero wine knowledge, my friend Dario Najera provided me the chance to meet the manager and train as a server at a prestigious Italian restaurant in Houston called Arcodoro. If I passed the two week training, I would get the job which I miraculously did. A great customer saw my curiosity as I saw him swirling the glass and he poured me my first sip of great wine, a 1996 Barolo Riserva. That same night I read all about it and never stopped. I’m still in touch with that same customer (Mr. Magee). After a couple years there, I was the ‘unofficial’ sommelier of the restaurant. I passed the CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) Introductory Exam in August 2011, and two months later, I passed the Certified Sommelier exam in October. Blanco worked at other restaurants with different cuisines in following years, as a part time sommelier at a Spanish wine bar Convivio and La Fisheria. Andres has been part of a study group with his close friends and sommeliers to help other Latinos through the CMS. Their study group is called “MexSom” in honor of their first TEXSOM attendance years back and his intention with educating a larger audience in wine education in the Spanish language. His Mentor James Deleon offers wine education in Houston, and he is a Master candidate and he is looking at his attempt at the Master Theory Exam next year. Recently winner of the 2017 TEXSOM Best Sommelier and 2017 Houston Iron Sommelier Competition. Andres has taken the Advanced Sommelier exam in March 2017 and he is looking to get accepted again in 2018 for his second attempt.

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PETER PLAEHN

PETER PLAEHN

  • Imports Portfolio Director/Wine Educator, Négoce
  • Minneapolis, MN

Peter Plaehn is a 20+ year veteran of the hospitality industry with experience in restaurant operations, corporate training & development, education and wholesale distribution. He has opened nearly a dozen restaurants across the West Coast for concepts such as California Pizza Kitchen, Starbucks Coffee Company and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

Upon returning to the Midwest, he focused on wine and beverage and has held positions as General Manager and Sommelier for the award-winning Nicollet Island Inn, Luxury/Craft Specialist for Wirtz Beverage Group and Beverage Director for the JW Marriott Minneapolis, Minnesota’s top luxury hotel. In addition, he has competed in the Ruinart Challenge, Top SOMM, and attended the Somm Foundation Rudd Master’s Roundtable.

Plaehn is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and in 2016 became the first sommelier in Minnesota ever to achieve the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Sommelier certificate. He is currently the Import Portfolio Director and Wine Specialist with Négoce, a new mid-size wholesaler.

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NICK DAVIS

NICK DAVIS

  • Sommelier, Medium Plus
  • Seattle
  • WA

Nick Davis is the founder of Medium Plus, a beverage events education venture based in Seattle. The company hosts a myriad of wine and cocktail offerings, from small group tastings to Champagne-gilded film premieres. Before the start of M+ in 2015, Nick gained experience on the floor and behind the bar, at venues including Canlis and RN74. During his down-time, Nick enjoys sport climbing, jazz music and visiting Red Pandas at the local zoo.

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MIA VAN DE WATER

MIA VAN DE WATER

  • Sommelier, Eleven Madison Park
  • New York, NY

Mia Van de Water is a recovering actress and career oenophile based in New York City. Mia's wine career began at Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group as the sommelier and then Beverage Director of North End Grill in Battery Park City, where she was named one of Food & Wine's Sommeliers of the Year (2016). She passed the Court of Master Sommelier's Advanced Exam in 2014 as a Rudd Scholar and the Johnston Medalist. Mia is currently part of the sommelier team at Eleven Madison Park

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KENNETH FREEMAN

KENNETH FREEMAN

  • Sommelier
  • Dallas, TX

Ken was born on Hilton Head Island in the lowcountry of South Carolina. After graduating from Clemson University in 2010, Ken made his way out west to Colorado. There he found his love for wine and food working in local vineyards and restaurants. Over the last 3 years, Ken has been the beverage manager of Italic in Downton Austin curating an all Italian wine list with craft Italian beer. New Year's Resolution: Push for that green pin, read more Huxley

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JILL ZIMORSKI

JILL ZIMORSKI

  • Champagne Specialist, Strategic Group
  • Chicago, IL

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 & José Andrés. After two years at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill, Zimorski left to work as a Sommelier for Andrés at his Penn Quarter restaurant, Café Atlantico, ultimately becoming the first beverage director for his company, ThinkFoodGroup. As Beverage Director, 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 and 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 moved to Aspen, Colorado in the fall of 2012, assuming the role of Wine Director at the newly renovated Hotel Jerome (an Auberge Resort). Zimorski relocated to Chicago, Illinois in 2015, taking a position as Sommelier at Alinea Restaurant, one of twelve Michelin Three Star restaurants in the United States at the time. 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 Moët Hennessy portfolio (Krug, Ruinart, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot & Moët & 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, Zimorski enjoys baking, gardening and entertaining and is pursuing her Master Sommelier Diploma.

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DAVID DONALSON

DAVID DONALSON

  • Wine Marketing Manager, Classified Wines
  • Dallas, TX

David Donalson found wine later in life when his wife informed him 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 was also able to attain the title of Certified Sommelier in 2013 and stood on the podium of the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition the last 3 years running. David now works for Classified Wines as a marketing manager for Dallas/Fort Worth representing some of the best wines in the world.

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AUSTIN TABBONE

AUSTIN TABBONE

  • Beverage Leader, High Street Wine Co.
  • San Antonio, TX

Taking care of others and creating memorable guest experiences will always be what drives Austin. A native Texan born and raised in San Antonio, Austin has found his niche as one of the Beverage Leaders at High Street Wine Co. Upholding High Street’s mantra of “Hospitality First”, Austin is able to combine his love of caring for others with his passion for the world of beverage. As a TEXSOM Top Sommelier Competitor, Certified Sommelier, Certified Beer Server, and wine community volunteer, Austin has been able to combine his interest in the beverage world with the knowledge he has gained to create the best possible experience for every guest he encounters. From education and geeky chitchat to an incredibly genuine ceremony of service, Austin sets out to make your day a little bit better than the way he found it, and if he’s lucky it’ll be a lot better!

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ANDREW RASTELLO

ANDREW RASTELLO

  • Sommelier, Eleven Madison Park
  • New York, NY

Andrew Rastello is a wine professional with a career spanning 23 years and experience from distribution to the restaurant floor. He is currently on the sommelier team at Eleven Madison Park.

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ALAN DENNIS

ALAN DENNIS

  • Spec's Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods
  • Houston, TX

  I've been with Spec's since 2010 and had no wine knowledge prior to taking this job; in the subsequent years, wine has become something I get great enjoyment from being able to work with for a living. I have been very fortunate to get to travel and visit some amazing places through my job, and I constantly look forward to New and exciting opportunities such as this to further extend my knowledge.

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JAMES WATKINS

JAMES WATKINS

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.

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ADAM TOON

ADAM TOON

Adam Toon is honored to be participating in the Texsom International Wine Awards. Formerly a floor Sommelier and member of a hardscrabble team at a Houston wine bar he is currently cutting his teeth in distribution to better understand the business of wine.

A competitor in the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition for the last two years and a regional finalist in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Best Young Sommelier competition, Adam is passionate about education and spreading his love for wine with his colleagues in the Houston Sommelier Association.

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RYAN TEDDER

RYAN TEDDER

  • Fine Wine Specialist, Pogo's Wine and Spirits
  • Dallas, TX

Ryan Tedder joined Pogo’s Wine & Spirits at the start of the year after developing two wine concepts over the last year for the Front Burner Restaurant Group. He developed a Parisian inspired Natural Wine Bar concept at Legacy Food Hall called Détour and manicured and developed the 40+ sommelier curated mini-flights at 60 Vines restaurant, both in Plano, Texas. Ryan always tries to present and drink the best wines in the world in a comfortable, unpretentious environment full of discovery, fun and comradery.

Before that Ryan was the Email Marketing & Sales Manager and Private Club Sommelier at Graileys Fine Wines in Dallas, Texas. Before wine Ryan had brief careers in European Marina Sales in Germany and Finance in NW Arkansas. In 2005 Ryan moved to Dallas and discovered wine full time. He was the sommelier at Dallas’ Stephan Pyles, Fort Worth’s Grace Restaurant, and most recently DFW’s Best Restaurant 2012 & 2013 and 5-star rated FT-33. At Graileys, Ryan managed a direct to wine collector email and marketing business with fellow sommeliers as well as a small private wine country club outside of downtown Dallas. At the club Ryan hosted deep educational and themed tastings and dinners with some of the best wines, wineries and winemakers in the world.

Tedder has earned praise from Wine Spectator receiving the “Best of Award of Excellence” in 2011-2012. In 2012 he won TexSom’s “Texas’ Best Sommelier 2012” award and his wine list at FT33 earned a "Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America" nod in 2013 from Wine Enthusiast. Ryan earned his Advanced Sommelier designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2013 and has been a Certified Specialist of Wine since 2008. He is currently pursuing his Master Sommelier designation with wine lovers new and old and hopes to sit again for the coveted Master Sommelier Theory Exam this upcoming Summer.

Ryan is married to a fellow sommelier, Jennifer Tedder, and they have a son named Greyson. They are expecting another son March 1st. Tedder specializes in what he loves to drink: Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, Germany, California and Pacific Northwest wines. He lives in Fort Worth and likes to bicycle, eat at BYOB restaurants, travel the world and spend time with his family.

Ryan can be contacted at teddersomm@gmail.com.

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DAWN SMITH

DAWN SMITH

As professionally trained chef, Dawn’s passion for wine emerged as a direct result of her experiences in the kitchen. The daughter of a chef mother, Dawn grew up in the restaurant business. While working as an instructor at a culinary college, she was given the opportunity to take wine classes and one class just led to another, and then another…Dawn has earned certifications from the International Sommelier Guild, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.

She has worked as Assistant Wine Director at Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, Wine Director of three restaurants for the Heavy Restaurant Group in Bellevue, the Wine Director and General Manager at Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, Lead Sommelier at Stoneburner Restaurant in Ballard, and as a Sommelier at John Howie Steak Restaurant. Having recently moved from Seattle to Whidbey Island, Dawn is excited to have joined the restaurant team at The Inn at Langley as their Sommelier and wine buyer.

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JUNE RODIL MS

JUNE RODIL MS

  • Beverage Director, McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group
  • Austin, TX

June Rodil is the Beverage Director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group. June comes from a wine background and has had the pleasure and honor of being the Director of Operations of Top Chef and James Beard Award winner, Paul Qui's flagship restaurant, Qui, and the mutli-location casual concept, East Side King. In addition, June has been the Beverage Director for the acclaimed Uchi Restaurant Group as well as Congress Austin. She relishes the perfect pairing and believes that this can be accomplished when a chef and sommelier have mutual respect for each other and have the same goal: happy guests. June's accolades include: Texas Best Sommelier 2009, Wine & Spirits Magazine Best New Sommelier 2011, Star Chef's Rising Star Sommelier 2012 and was most recently named one of Food & Wine Magazine's Sommeliers of the Year 2014. She is an Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and remains diligent in her studies as she prepares for the last level of examination.

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NATHAN PRATER

NATHAN PRATER

  • Educator
  • Austin, TX

Past: former Director of Beverage and Service, AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center Present: Teacher – Mentor – ‘Bull Elephant’ – Senpai Future: The Everyday Sommelier Beverage Consulting Services as: Red or White ... take a sip! | Frost Classic Cocktails | "These 10 Things!" Interests: The Gin Martini – Pedagogy – Las Vegas – CMS

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KIM PIERCE

KIM PIERCE

  • Freelance Writer
  • Dallas, TX

For 25 years, Kim Pierce was on staff at The Dallas Morning News, variously as writer, editor and restaurant critic, specializing in food, wine and nutrition. She remains a frequent freelance contributor to The News, especially keeping an eye on the locavore scene and Texas wines. In addition, she is the senior editor at Edible Dallas & Fort Worth and has written for Sommelier Journal, Spirit, Wines and Vines, Modern Luxury, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America and The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. She earned a fellowship to the 2008 Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa, and her writing has been recognized by groups as diverse as the Association of Food Journalists and the Texas Dietetic Association.

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JOSH ORR

JOSH ORR

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 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 holds the Advanced Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and was awarded the Rudd Scholarship for top honors in the class. 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, 2014 & 2015. In 2014, Josh was awarded one of the most prestigious Sommelier awards in the nation at the Guild of Sommeliers’ Top|Somm National Competition. During the fifth annual US Championship, Orr stood alone as the winner, taking home the Rodney Strong top trophy. Marina Kitchen, under Orr’s program, is also lauded as one of the best restaurant wine collections in the city honored as a recipient of the Best of Award of Excellence in Wine Spectator’s highly regarded restaurant awards. One of only 6 in all of San Diego to achieve this second tier award from Wine Spectator. He is currently working in Fine Wine Sales for Epic Wines & Spirits a California based Distributor.

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PATRICK OLDS

PATRICK OLDS

Patrick currently works at Louie's Wine Dive in St.Louis as Corporate Wine Director. This is a Midwestern family of restaurants in multiple states that has the challenging task of making fine wines accessible and available through hospitality and education in non-traditional wine markets. They continue to grow locations and have gained steady recognition for items they are able to pour by the glass and the fun fact that they will open any bottle on their list to pour by-the-glass. Eight locations and counting and the company is gaining a lot of momentum for fine wine and hospitality. Patrick began his hospitality career with the Four Seasons and grew from a busser into a sommelier in his span of six years that he spent with the luxury hotel king. In his time there he qualified for two TopSomm Regionals through Guildsomm. In addition to competitions, Patrick passed his Advanced Sommelier Certification in 2017 and intends on taking his Master Theory in 2018.

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CAT NGUYEN

CAT NGUYEN

  • Republic National Distributing Company
  • Houston, TX

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.

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MELISSA MONOSOFF MS

MELISSA MONOSOFF MS

Ms. Monosoff is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has honed her skills at the top restaurants in Philadelphia as a cook, sommelier, bartender and beverage director. These restaurants include the finest such as the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel and The Striped Bass. Currently she is the Sommelier and Beverage Manager for Savona Restaurant in Gulph Mills, PA and is the consulting Sommelier to the Pennsylvania LCB. Monosoff earned her Master Sommelier Diploma in February of 2010, she is the first in Pennsylvania and 17th woman in the world to hold this title. Her passion for all things wine and beer related, have earned her several accolades. In 2009 and 2010 both Philadelphia Magazine and Main Line Magazine named her “Best Sommelier.” Wine & Spirits Magazine recognized her as one of America’s “Best Young Sommeliers” in 2004. In addition she was awarded the Bronze Medal in the national Jeune Sommeliers competition sponsored by the Chaine des Rotisseurs. In addition to her wine knowledge Monosoff is becoming a recognized name in the Philadelphia beer community. From the opening of Maia in Villanova with a well received 200 bottle list and a recent award from Philadelphia Magazine for best Beer Education at Savona in their May, 2010 issue.

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MARTIN KORSON

MARTIN KORSON

  • Houston, TX

Martin Korson is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and recipient of a Wine Spectator scholarship. Graduating first in his class, he received top honors for his successful studies in the food service and hospitality industry. He started in the business in Houston as the first Wine Director at Brennan's, where he was known as “The Wine Guy”. He turned Brennan's into a wine lovers destination by dramatically improving the breathed and depth of the wine program and teaching to hundreds of guests. So much so that Food and Wine Magazine called Brennan's the "Best Place to Take a Wine Snob". After six years at Brennan’s he moved on to Central Market in Houston as the Resident Wino. Although he was a buyer, he also augmented his skills as a wine educator, teaching classes to hundreds of Central Market patrons, both loyal “regulars” and new curious clients. In addition he also became a Celebrity Sommelier for Continental Airlines, advising them on purchasing wines for international first class flights, as well as training new flight attendants on wine and wine service at 35,000 feet high. For his next adventure he accepted a position with Wine Australia, where he was responsible for not only marketing Australian wines, but educating as well. He traveled Mid-America teaching sommeliers and buyers the wonders of Australian wines and also had the opportunity to lead groups down under to visit wineries. Martin is one of a few advanced-certificated sommeliers in Texas from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In addition, he is a member of the Society of Wine Educators, an organization dedicated to advancing wine education through specialized development and certification. He is also proud to be a member of Slow Food, a group devoted to preserving traditional food-ways and educating people about food as a center of community.

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DAVID KECK MS

DAVID KECK MS

David began his career in the service industry at the age of 18 in his home state of Vermont, bartending and waiting tables in an Irish Pub. From Vermont, David moved to New York to pursue his Undergraduate studies at Columbia University in English, then Diploma studies at Juilliard in Opera Performance, and after singing professionally for a few years and receiving his Master of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, he moved from one itinerant career to another. Following his passion for fine wine, he worked as a wine buyer for several different establishments in Houston, then for a short stint in wine distribution with Prestige Wine Cellars, and most recently was the Beverage Director for the prestigious Uchi Restaurant Group.

In July of 2013, David opened a wine bar in Houston called The Camerata at Paulie’s with Paul Petronella of Paulie’s Restaurant. Camerata has quickly risen to local as well as national recognition.

David achieved his Advanced Sommelier certification in October of 2012, in which he also won the Rudd Scholarship for top honors. He is continuing to pursue wine certifications with the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2012 he was first runner up in the TEXSOM Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition, and in 2013 he won Third Place in the national finals of the Guild of Sommeliers’ TOP|SOMM competition.

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JASON HISAW

JASON HISAW

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 On Premise Sales with the Combo Division of 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.

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AMY HENDRICKSON

AMY HENDRICKSON

Amie entered the wine world like many professionals do, by accident of course. She knew from an early age that she wanted to teach but never dreamed her passion would lead her into the world of adult beverages. During winter break from university she took a temporary holiday position at Edmond Wine Shop.

Over the next 19 years Amie learned the craft of retail from one of Oklahoma’s most respected industry professionals, Vance Gregory. Throughout her career her love of learning inspired her to study the disciplines offered by the Society of Wine Educators and the Court of Master Sommeliers.

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NICOLE HAKLI

NICOLE HAKLI

  • Beverage Manager, Momofuku Ssam Bar
  • New York, NY

Nicole Hakli is the Beverage Manager of Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York City. Nicole discovered her love for wine the "old school" way: working in hospitality and living among the vines in Yountville, Napa Valley. Moving to New York City later gave her the opportunity to polish her wine skills and learn the fundamentals of fine dining at one of the best restaurants in the world: Eleven Madison Park. She pursued her wine education as a sommelier at The Nomad under mentor, Thomas Pastuszak.

2016 was an important year for Nicole when she accepted her first Wine Director position and was awarded “Best New Sommelier” by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Later that year, Nicole also passed her Advanced Court of Master Sommeliers Exam in St. Louis as the Rudd Scholar. Most recently, Nicole had the honor of presenting at TEXSOM 2017 on her passion project: Wines of Turkey.

She continues to stay involved in wine in all aspects of her life while studying for the final Court of Masters Sommeliers Masters exam.

Photo cred: Briana Balducci

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JULIE GARTON

JULIE GARTON

I am both a passionate wine enthusiast and a profession with a Sommelier Certification through both the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as The Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, and I am currently in pursuit of my CMS Advanced designation.

I am employed as the Wine Director for Broadcloth Hospitality in Toronto, Ontario where I manage the wine programs for The Oxley, The Queen & Beaver, The Wickson Social, and our newest property, which opened the fall of 2017, Mad Crush Wine Bar. I have taught wine education for George Brown College as part of their Wine Specialist Certificate, and am actively involved in mentor-ship programs within the Toronto Wine Community.

I put my skills to the test as a competitor in The Best Somm in Ontario Competition in 2014, and 2017, and I have been an apprentice judge for The All Canadian Wine Award, and Wine Align World Wine Awards. This year I will tackling the Italian Wine Ambassador program with the Vin Italy Academy, in Verona, in the spring.

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CHRIS GAITHER

CHRIS GAITHER

As with many wine professionals, Chris walked a somewhat circuitous route to get where he is now. His first restaurant job was merely a means to pay bills while he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. There, he studied Spanish Language with the goal of ending up in education. After graduation, however, he realized that he felt most at home in the restaurant business, and decided to stay in it for a little longer. He accepted a server position at another Atlanta restaurant, One Midtown Kitchen, from where he would develop a keen interest in wine. He naturally began to study towards gaining certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers, quickly passing his Introductory and Certified exams. Chris continued to look for ways to expand his knowledge of food and wine, which led him to Restaurant Eugene, a fine dining restaurant with a focus on tasting menus and wine pairings. His hard work paid off when he was offered a coveted wine internship at The French Laundry; under the direction of Dennis Kelly, MS, Chris learned stellar cellar management along with the importance of the small details in elevating a dining experience. When a full-time sommelier position opened at Spruce, in San Francisco, he jumped at the chance to work with the extensive, Burgundy-heavy wine list, under the tutelage of Wine Director Andrew Green, and eventually became Lead Sommelier. In 2013 he got the chance to run his own program when he became the Wine Director at Restaurant Gary Danko, another in a long line of prestigious restaurants in his history. Now Chris is studying hard for his Master Sommelier diploma, and has left Gary Danko’s for Sociale, a cozy restaurant in Laurel Heights. Chris’s accolades are numerous but include: 2012 Best New Sommeliers (Wine and Spirits Magazine); 2013 Top New Somm Competition Winner (Guild of Sommeliers); 2013 Zagat 30 Under 30. Chris is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and he will be sitting for the Master Sommelier exam in 2016. He also holds a WSET Advanced Level Certification.

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MICHAEL FRANZ PH.D., EDITOR

MICHAEL FRANZ PH.D., EDITOR

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.

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CHRISTY FRANK

CHRISTY FRANK

Christy Frank’s official interest in wine began at Cornell University, as one of 500 eager students in the school’s Introduction to Wines course. Several years later, living in Boston in the mid-90s and determined to learn more about wine (without spending any more money on wine tasting events,) she took on a part-time job at the wine shop around the corner. In addition to the expected “educational” benefits, the job proved to be the initial bite of the wine retail bug.

However, to say she never looked back isn’t quite accurate. Before opening her first wine shop, there was an MBA from Columbia Business School and seven years working at Moët Hennessy USA, the wine and spirits division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. After visiting countless (well, maybe just a couple hundred) wine stores and bars across the country, she finally succumbed to the retail bug and opened Frankly Wines in 2007 (and sold it in 2017) and Copake Wine Works in 2015.

Christy has served on the New York Times "Wine of the Times" Tasting Panel (the rare retailer to hold this distinction), Wine & Spirits tasting panels and is one of Food & Wine's Top Wine Experts to follow on Twitter. Her shops have been recognized by publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times, Grub Street, and Food & Wine. She is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds various WSET certifications and has traveled extensively to wine regions throughout the world.

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JOHN FILKINS CSW

JOHN FILKINS CSW

John Filkins is the Wine Director of Masseria, a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in Washington, DC. He graduated with a degree in Finance from Loyola University with Honors. While pursuing his degree, John began gaining an interest in wine while working at a local bistro just down the street from his grandparent’s home. It was this initial experience that ignited a spark within John for making people happy and a passion for the history, culture, and production of wine and spirits.

John has garnered multiple national awards while working with the wine and bar programs for multiple restaurants, including the Four Seasons Baltimore, Wit and Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina, Fiola Ristorante, Fiola Mare, and Rosewood DC. His additional experience of working in both retail and on the import/distribution side has helped to strengthen and shape his style as a Sommelier.

A natural competitor, John has won awards both locally and nationally in Sommelier competitions and is the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Best Sommelier in the Mid-Atlantic and finished 3rd nationally at both the 2014 and 2015 Best Sommelier Competition, sponsored by the Chaine des Rotisseurs. John is an Advanced Sommelier and has passed the Theory portion of the Master Sommelier exam. He is currently preparing for the last two portions (Service and Tasting) of the Master Sommelier exam in 2018.

When not selling, drinking, studying, or thinking about wine and spirits, you can usually find John on the trails around DC training for his next Ultra, Endurance, or Obstacle Course race.

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JESSICA DUPUY, EDITOR

JESSICA DUPUY, EDITOR

Jessica Dupuy is a freelance writer with writing credits for National Geographic Traveler, Imbibe, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, Fodor’s Travel Publications, and numerous Austin publications. She has also written Uchi: The Cookbook, in conjunction with James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Tyson Cole; The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love on the iconic Texas barbecue restaurant; and Jack Allen's Kitchen Cookbook about real cooking in Central Texas. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Dupuy’s favorite writing pursuits include: food, wine, and travel.

Among the things she enjoys most are cooking with her son, Gus, sharing great wine with friends, and fly fishing with her husband.

Her passion for wine has led her to achieve the level of Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators. She is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier–Austin and on the Advisory board for the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.

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MICHAEL DESCAMPS

MICHAEL DESCAMPS

Michael (Mick) Descamps has spent about 20 years working in food and beverage---all of that time spent in restaurants and retailers in the Metro Detroit area. For many years, he worked alongside his mentor and friend Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon in the (former) Matt Prentice Group restaurants as sommelier at multiple restaurants. After a several year stint there, he joined the Michael Mina Restaurant Group where he served faithfully as Sommelier and Beverage Director for the (now defunct) Bourbon Steak and SaltWater restaurants located at MGM Grand Detroit. For the sake of family, he left the restaurant business behind and joined the retail side of the wine business. For a little more than 2 years, Mick served as sommelier for Plum Market of Michigan, before joining the Farida family as wine director for southeastern Michigan’s Red Wagon Wine Shoppes. An ardent student in beverage, Mick is an Advanced Level Sommelier (through the Court of Master Sommeliers) and is a Certified Beer Server (through the Cicerone program).

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JAIME DELEON

JAIME DELEON

Jaime Deleon is currently the Adult Beverage Manager in Houston, Texas for the Kroger company, the largest traditional grocery chain in the U.S. Jaime has been with the Kroger company since 1987 and currently oversees the top wine (in sales) department in the nation. He developed an interest in wine while attending a portfolio trade wine tasting and ever since then, Jaime continues to further his wine education. Jaime has landed coverage in print and broadcast including the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, KHOU, and CW39. Jaime passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier Exam in April, 2015, and holds the Certified Specialist of Wine certification from the Society of Wine Educators. Jaime currently mentors a local study group called "AweSomm-Houston" while pursuing the Master Sommelier Diploma.

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JULIE M. DALTON CWE

JULIE M. DALTON CWE

Julie Dalton discovered her passion for wine while waiting tables during her undergrad days at Texas A&M University. Although her education is in the life sciences, wine was something that grabbed hold and would not let go. She studied wine on her own for twelve years while holding a full-time job in the Biotech industry and while getting her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. During this time she was also moonlighting as a sommelier at her neighborhood tapas and wine bistro, Ranazul, as well as Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt Restaurant in Frederick.

Before she left biotech to go into wine full time, she collected her Sommelier Certifications through the Court of Master Sommeliers up through the Advanced Level, as well as her Certified Wine Educator through the Society of Wine Educators. After a year representing Terry Theise for Skurnik Wine & Spirits, she realized hospitality was where she belonged so she returned to Baltimore in 2011 to open Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons Hotel. After six years, she headed back to Texas to join the team for Landry’s newest Mastro’s Steakhouse in Houston.

Julie was awarded ‘Best Sommelier’ for Baltimore Magazine in 2016 and her blind tasting group has been featured in the Baltimore Sun and in the ‘Master of Wine’ documentary on Curiosity Stream. She has been on the staff of TexSom Sommelier Conference and International Wine Awards since 2010, and has judged numerous wine competitions including Virginia and Maryland Governors Cups since 2012. She has presented at conferences for the Society of Wine Educators, StarChefs, Virginia Wine Summit and has presented at Atlanta Food & Wine since 2013.

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MATTHEW CRAWFORD

MATTHEW CRAWFORD

Matthew Crawford is a native of Greenville, South Carolina and has 16 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 first Houston restaurant, State of Grace. “I truly believe that the story of a wine has a unique ability to transform and enrich any experience. I also believe in supporting wine makers that not only have a deep commitment to producing great wines that show 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.

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ERIC CRANE CWE

ERIC CRANE CWE

  • Director of Training and Business Development, Empire Distributors, Inc.
  • Atlanta, GA
  • www.empiredist.com

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.

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WILL COSTELLO MS

WILL COSTELLO MS

Will Costello is a Master Sommelier by the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. He passed with Distinction the Advanced Certificate of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Costello has competed in numerous wine related competitions including The Court of Master Sommelier’s TOP|Somm, The Chaine de Rotisseurs “Young Somm Competition,” the Ruinart Champagne Challenge and was named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s “Top New Sommeliers 2013.” He is an educator for New Zealand Wines and educates at the Society or Wine Educators National Conference yearly. Costello is often included in The Somm Journal, Gourmet, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Eater National Publications.

Before joining the team at The Thornhill Companies and representing the Estate wines of Bien Nacido Vineyards and Solomon Hills Vineyard, he was the Wine Director at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas where he oversaw the entire wine program. This included TWIST by Pierre Gagnaire, the famous chef’s only American outpost. He was the Maître d’ of Addison restaurant at The Grand Del Mar in San Diego, CA from 2006 to 2012.

He is married to Yvette and currently resides in Las Vegas, NV with their 4 dogs. He has climbed some of the highest mountains in the world including Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Denali and Mt Aconcagua. He is a certified commercial pilot as well.

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ELLIE COHN

ELLIE COHN

  • Dallas, TX

<0>Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ellie moved to Dallas in 2009 pursuing the dream of a higher education in the World of Wine and the Hospitality Industry. At the time when she was almost finished with her Political Science Degree, she realized her true passion needed to be in touch with her senses and sensibility: Wine became the true path

Ellie took a two-year Sommelier training at a local school in BA, which inspired her profoundly. She then decided to move to the United States, which allowed her to really deepen her wine knowledge and redirect her professional career. Many internships and certifications after, Ellie became the General Manager and Wine Director at Veritas Wine Room, named one of Wine Enthusiast Top 20 Wine Bars in America, among other national and local awards. Always on the hunt for her next adventure, Ellie worked alongside Larry Stone, MS, at Lingua Franca in Willamette Valley, Oregon during the 2017 harvest.

Already a CMS Certified Sommelier and a candidate for the Court of Master Sommelier’s Advanced Certification later this year, the reverence and dedication to the land and viticulture awakened an exciting new chapter in her quest for knowledge, leading her to also enroll in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Level 4-Diploma Program this year. An avid traveler and researcher, Ellie defines her mission as “Cooperating to enhance the Wine and Hospitality Dallas’ Scene one trip at a time”.

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ALEXANDRA CHERNIAVSKY

ALEXANDRA CHERNIAVSKY

  • Beverage Manager, The Love
  • Philadelphia, PA

Alexandra Cherniavsky is the beverage manager at The Love in Philadelphia, PA. She has had the great fortune of running the wine program at Amada, avance, and Le Bec Fin, all in Philadelphia. She got her start in working in wine with Francis Schott at Stage Left Restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ. When she's not busy opening restaurants (The Love is her third in four years) Alexandra spends her time studying for the Master Sommelier Diploma.

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BRIAN CRONIN MS

BRIAN CRONIN MS

Master Sommelier Brian Cronin began his wine career in Raleigh, North Carolina. After studying biology in college, Brian realized that he wanted to make wine. However, it was his exposure in restaurants to wines from all over the world and his growing passion for wine that made him want to learn everything that he possibly could. Brian then went to work as sommelier in some of the top restaurants in the country. In Chicago he worked for Charlie Trotter as the assistant sommelier, under Master Sommelier Joe Spellman, and then worked his way up to head Sommelier. Since then, he has worked as an Educator for Southern Wine & Spirits in Hawaii, as well as the Sommelier at Gary Danko Restaurant in San Francisco. Finally realizing that a sommelier’s assistance should not just be available to people in restaurants, Brian’s philosophy has moved into the belief that wine should be a grocery item, not just a special occasion item. He has since spent time working for the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, in San Francisco, as well teaching classes for the public on how to buy great wine easily. He promotes that wine should be enjoyed to its fullest and is committed to sharing his knowledge about wine to others so they can enjoy it as much as he does. Wine is Humor- we all need it!

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