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SUBMISSION PERIOD
Through December 31, 2017
LATE SUBMISSION PERIOD
January 1 to 31, 2018
JUDGING
February 12 to 14, 2018
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 an enthusiastic young wine professional with a passion for wine and spirits. Having passed his Certified Sommelier exam in the summer of 2015 he is currently actively preparing for the Advanced Sommelier course. Considering himself very fortunate to work with an inspired Chef/Owner at Chester's Chophouse & Wine Bar, Adam takes great pleasure in creating new cocktail menus, educating staff with weekly "Sunday School" wine classes, and assisting guests of the restaurant discover new wines. Driven to increase appreciation of fine wines and spirits in the Great Plains, Adam looks forward to the future with unbridled optimism.

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RYAN TEDDER

RYAN TEDDER

Ryan Tedder came to Graileys Fine Wines from the restaurant and hospitality world of wine after a brief career in European Marina Sales and Finance. 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 manages a direct to wine collector email and marketing business with fellow sommeliers as well as a small private wine club in downtown Dallas. At the club Ryan hosts deep educational and themed tastings and dinners with some of the best wines, wineries and winemakers in the world. He tries to present and drink the best wines in the world in a comfortable, unpretentious environment full of fun and comradery. 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 brings a personal, consultative touch to Graileys whilst pursuing his Master Sommelier designation with wine lovers new and old. He sits again for the coveted Master Sommelier Exam this upcoming Summer. Ryan is married to a fellow sommelier, Jennifer Tedder, and they have a son named Greyson. Tedder specializes in what he loves to drink: Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, Germany, California and the 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.

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RACHEL SPECKAN

RACHEL SPECKAN

After ten years immersed in the industry of all things boozy, Rachel is thoroughly dedicated to being the ultimate wine geek. She has traveled extensively, collecting vineyard rocks, eating local specialties, and drinking wine around the world in all the places. And, Rachel grew up on a farm in Arkansas, with serious roots to the land and sense of place. With a special place in her heart for edgy California winemakers, dusty Italian reds, lush and stony Savennieres, and funky American microbrews, Rachel keeps the beverage list dynamic, delicious, and well balanced. Rachel is incessantly drinking wine, talking about drinking, encouraging others to drink, teaching about drinking, writing about drinking and eating adventures, drinking, tasting, researching, and talking about drinking. Beer and spirits are captivating subjects that Rachel likes to experiment with, but her true love is traditional and yet innovative wines with character. She is thrilled to work in a functional winery setting, but also teach courses and host wildly exciting, exclusive wine events at City Winery as the Wine Education Director and Beverage Director! She is deeply entrenched in research and training in the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as holding an Advanced Certificate from the WSET, and is also involved with the Cicerone Certification Program. Also a cultural anthropologist by educational training and curious by disposition, she is on a mission to research and taste all things fermented and, in turn, share the love and knowledge with fellow wine lovers.

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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, and the Lead Sommelier at Stoneburner Restaurant in Ballard. Dawn currently works as a Sommelier at John Howie Steak Restaurant in Bellevue.

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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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VIRGINIA PHILIP MS

VIRGINIA PHILIP MS

  • Wine Director, The Breakers
  • Palm Beach, FL

Master Sommelier Virginia Philip’s career includes a list of recognition spanning more than a decade. An expert among experts, her mastery and opinion is sought by journalists, colleagues and other sommeliers alike. In 2002 Philip became the 11th woman in the world to earn the extraordinary accreditation of Master Sommelier, the highest certification of international proficiency (today there are only 25 women out of 204 professionals worldwide). She has won the national title of “Best Sommelier of the United States” from the American Sommelier Association and sat on the Board of Directors for the Court of Master Sommeliers. With continuing acknowledgment of her skill, the eminent James Beard Foundation nominated Philip for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional 2012. Philip utilizes her profound understanding of wine and her adaptable approach across a gamut of outlets. As Master Sommelier for the iconic The Breakers Palm Beach, Philip leads the beverage department for nine restaurants and bars - including the newly launched and über popular HMF - 14 wine lists including the resort’s prized 1,600 - selection list, which has won Wine Spectator's Grand Award every year since its inception in 1981. In addition, working in tandem with the Domaine du Tariquet winemaking team in Gascony, France, Philip creates The Breakers’ house wine blend, a program she initiated and implemented in 2004. Philip is knowledgeable, yet approachable, current and well-connected to the industry. Emphasizing these traits, she fulfilled a lifetime dream when she opened the Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy off Clematis Street in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach. With approximately 450 personally-selected offerings, the boutique shop offers an outlet for her to share her extensive knowledge and generous demeanor with guests, often in a one-on-one basis. The Academy also satisfies Philip’s passion for teaching, and provides a space where she offers weekly wine education programs and guest appearances from national and international winemakers. The significance of her instruction may also be seen in her editorial contributions to Yachts International and Fisher Island Magazine. Every year since 2010 Philip is invited to judge the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, joining approximately 200 other Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wines and other well-known sommeliers, buyers and journalists from 25 countries. She is one of only about six Americans participating. Her efforts continue in hospitality as Wine Consultant for Stephane’s in Boca Raton, FL, a concept created by a French restaurateur who built Europe’s largest collection of brasseries. She was also selected as the first official wine critic for the premier launch of XIX by Keyshawn Johnson, the NFL great’s new super-premium label. Philip’s interest in wine began at an early age, studying the subject in college and working at a vineyard one summer. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1989 with a B.S. in hotel and restaurant management from Johnson & Wales University. Prior to her arrival at The Breakers Palm Beach, she worked at many accredited resorts and restaurants, most notably the Five Diamond/Five Star Award-winning resort The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado. Master Sommelier Virginia Philip has brought notoriety and attention to the outlets she supports with appearances on “The Today Show” and the Food Network and recognition in Food & Wine, Town & Country, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter. And her passion to taste and learn and, especially, to share her expertise on this subject will continue to grow and evolve with each new project.

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CAPPIE PEETE

CAPPIE PEETE

“I could not be more excited to work among people with such talent and passion,” says Cappie Peete of her position as Neighborhood Dining Group’s Director of Beverage and Education. Her words about her role at the venerable restaurant group echo her approach to her work: one that encompasses an insatiable curiosity about wine and a love for pairing it with Executive Chef Sean Brock’s food to create a memorable visit for every guest. A native of Greensboro, NC, Peete had always known she wanted to work in the service industry. While studying for her bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and tourism management at the University of South Carolina, she realized her passion for food and wine, in particular. “I took a wine and spirits course on a whim and fell in love with wine,” she recalls. Peete held a variety of front-of-the-house positions at restaurants in South Carolina and Georgia while she was still in school. After graduation, however, she began to follow her muse, studying wine through a Certified Sommelier program at the Professional Culinary Institute. She passed her certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers in December 2009 and joined McCrady’s in March 2010, initially working as a server while she continued her wine education and work under Sommelier Clint Sloan. In 2013, her studies paid off when she reached the advanced level, making her the youngest Advanced Sommelier in Charleston. Shortly after passing her exam, she was named an Eater Young Gun semi-finalist, solidifying her place as one of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the restaurant industry. In 2015, Peete was promoted to her current role partly in recognition of her commitment to education and staff development. She is responsible for overseeing and maintaining the extensive wine and beverage lists at all NDG restaurants and developing pairings, as well as many behind-the-scenes duties—from staff training and education to purchasing. When she’s not working, Peete continues to further her beverage knowledge through studying for the Master Sommelier certification. When her mind is not on wine, however, she enjoys downtime at the beaches near Charleston, cooking for friends, or eating throughout the Holy City.

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AARON PATRICK

AARON PATRICK

  • Beverage Director, the Club at Wingtip
  • San Francisco, California
  • www.wingtip.club

Having worked in the restaurant industry since the age of sixteen, Aaron discovered early on his passion for the business. This passion led him to attend and graduate from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. While working for an Italian restaurant, his interest was sparked by the Wine Director recounting the state of the Champagne region in the 1800’s. His love of history with his newly found love of wine made this an easy decision for a life long passion. He has worked east and west coasts and in between; and resides in San Francisco with his wife and son. Currently, he has passed the Theory and Blind Tasting portions of the Master Sommelier Exam, and is looking forward to passing Service in September. He currently works as the Beverage Director at the Club at Wingtip in San Francisco.

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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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PAT OLDS

PAT OLDS

Patrick currently works at Louie's Wine Dive in St.Louis as Beverage Director and General Manager. This is a small midwestern family of restaurants in multiple states that has a simple yet challenging task of making fine wines accessible and available through hospitality and education. 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 listing if a guest commits to two glasses. 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 has already tested once for his Advance Sommelier certification in 2016 and plans to test again in 2017.

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CAT NGUYEN

CAT NGUYEN

Cathy is driven by her fascination with good food, fine wines, and how together they can turn a meal into an experience to remember. Cat began working in the hospitality industry at age 17 waiting tables and bar tending. She developed her passion for food and wine not much later while working at a steakhouse where she was promoted to sommelier and wine buyer at age 21. After 2 years with Perry’s Steakhouse, she decided that she wanted to finish her degree at the Art Institute of Houston and left the Restaurant Group to work for a smaller, independent restaurant. At El Meson, Cat studied fine Spanish wines and worked hand in hand with Chef Pedro Garcia with wine dinners featuring wines, vintners and importers from all over the world. Armed and certified as a Spanish Wine Educator and as a Specialist in Sherry. Cat left El Meson after four years and is now at Mark’s American Cuisine. The wine program at Mark's, just like the food, is handcrafted with comparable attention to detail. Set in an old 1920’s Church, Mark’s was voted Most Romantic Restaurant in Houston and was also awarded the prestigious International 5 star Diamond award this year. Cat holds an Advanced Certification with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Masters. She plans on continuing her studies in the future and advancing to the next level with the Court and the WSET.

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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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LAUREN MCPHATE

LAUREN MCPHATE

Lauren McPhate is a Fine Wine Specialist with New York retailer Tribeca Wine Merchants. A recipient of a Wine Australia Award after completing her WSET 4 in 2015, Lauren is recently returned from an immersive trip across Australia. Currently she is in her first year of study for the Master of Wine designation. After a short stint in Finance, Lauren went on a journey East. She spent two years in Seoul before settling in Hong Kong, which she discovered was not only the finance center of the world, but the fine wine hub of the East. She couldn’t resist. While working in Hong Kong as Communication and Events Manager with Ginsberg+Chan Wine Merchants Asia, Lauren completed a vintage in Burgundy and her first En Primeur campaign. Last July, after 5 years in the Hong Kong wine game, Lauren returned to the US for a New York perspective. Lauren is just as enamored with the quirky as the classics, and can be found running or nose deep in a book on her time off.

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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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BRIAN HUYNH

BRIAN HUYNH

various dinner parties his parents would take him to. During studies in violin performance his passion for food and wine grew, leading him into the world of hospitality. He landed his first sommelier positon in 2009 with Bailey’s Prime Plus, where he oversaw a 600-label wine list, then worked for six years at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. In 2016 he took over the wine program at Gemma Restaurant, and was hailed as one of Dallas' most exciting and approachable young sommeliers. Gemma was named best wine program in Dallas by the Dallas Observer that year, and the Dallas Morning News picked it as No. 3 in the top 10 restaurants in Texas. Mr. Huynh is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and has been recently invited to sit for the Advanced Sommelier exam. Active in the Dallas wine community, he has served on the board of directors for the Dallas Sommelier Society, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering improvement in the wine community and offering educational guidance for local wine professionals. In the spring of 2017 he will join the Adolphus Hotel as wine director and sommelier of the newly renovated French Room Restaurant.

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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 18 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. In addition to her continuing education and management duties at the shop Amie serves as the 2017 Education Coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Wine Forum of Oklahoma, a biennial wine education event that raises scholarship funds for hospitality students in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration, as well as instructor at The Wine Barrel, a new beverage education project set to launch this spring.

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NICOLE HAKLI

NICOLE HAKLI

"Nicole Hakli is the Wine Director at ACME Restaurant 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 a big year for Nicole when she accepted her first and current Wine Director position and was awarded “Best New Sommelier 2016” by Wine & Spirits Magazine. She also contributed to last year’s TexSomm ‘Sommelier’ magazine, “When the Old World Meets New: Turkish Wines.” Most recently, Nicole passed her Advanced Court of Master Sommeliers Exam in St. Louis. She will continue to study for the Masters program." Below photo cred: Briana Balducci

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ANJOLEENA GRIFFIN-HOLST

ANJOLEENA GRIFFIN-HOLST

  • Corporate Beverage Director, Table 301
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • www.table301.com

Anjoleena Griffin-Holst is thrilled to be the newest addition to Table 301 in Greenville, South Carolina as Corporate Beverage Director. With a keen understanding that beverage is the most fun part of any successful dining program, she will oversee the beverage program for the entire restaurant group that includes seven unique concepts and a catering business. She will work closely with each restaurant to develop their offerings as well as further enhance the knowledge of the Table 301 staff. Her devotion to the sales and service of all things liquid is evident and she looks forward to enhancing the dining, retail and festival experiences for consumers in Greenville. Anjoleena comes to Table 301 after her recent adventure as owner of Liquid Side of Life, a company devoted to the exploration, training and development of beverage programs designed to enhance the guest experience. “My philosophy is simple,” she says. “Wine should be fun, not intimidating; upscale but also accessible.” Griffin-Holst is careful to ensure that each guest’s wine experience is memorable, whether they purchase a $30 or a $3,000 bottle of wine. She is pleased to have included The Plaza Hotel in New York City as one of her clients. The Food and Beverage program of this prestigious and historic property was reimagined by celebrated chef, author, television personality and lifestyle consultant Geoffrey Zakarian. Her innate talent for developing consumer events led Anjoleena to work with the Atlantic City Alliance Boardwalk Wine Promenade Festival where she helped acquire over 150 selections and educated attendees as they sipped by the seaside. Anjoleena was one of the only female Wine Directors of a casino in the world and held the prestigious position at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for eight years. During this time, the Eastern Sea board’s leading resort and dining destination gained an excellent reputation for its impressive wine program continually earning “Best of Excellence Awards” from Wine Spectator. In addition to heading up a large team of sommeliers and beverage managers, she oversaw the wine training of all service staff at the casual restaurants, bars, nightclubs and fine dining restaurants, which included Wolfgang Puck American Grille, Old Homestead and Bobby Flay Steakhouse. She conceptualized, curated and organized all wine selections for Borgata Food & Wine events. Her responsibilities expanded in the summer of 2011 with the opening of Vintage, A Wine Boutique where the consumer was encouraged to ‘sip before they shop’ from one of the 32 wines offered on the Enomatic Wine Serving Systems. With a vast knowledge of wines, beers and spirits and an enthusiasm for sharing it, Griffin-Holst was the author of a bi-monthly wine column and was heard on local NJ radio stations giving her tips, tricks and recommendations helping demystify wine for consumers. She is one of the select Sommeliers invited to participate in The Wine Spectator Grand Experience and La Paulée and has been a panelist at Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Anjoleena holds the Advanced level certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and continues her studies for the rigorous Master Sommelier Diploma.

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JULIE GARTON

JULIE GARTON

  • Manager and Head Sommelier, The Oxley Public House
  • Toronto, Canada
  • www.theoxley.com

I began my wine career at George Brown College in 2010 when I moved to Toronto after several years working in hospitality both in Canada and travelling abroad. I became a Certified Sommelier in 2013 through both The Canadian Association for Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) and the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). I am currently pursuing my Advanced Sommelier Diploma with CMS, I will be sitting the exam this July. I work as a Manager and Head Sommelier at The Oxley Public House in Toronto, Canada, where I am responsible for curating the wine program, staff training, pricing, and inventory. I also run the wine program for my companies two other restaurants, The Queen & Beaver, and The Wickson Social. I am responsible for all wine selections, pricing, and staff training at those locations as well. I have been teaching part time at George Brown College for the Wine Specialist Certificate program since 2015. I have also done some apprentice judging with the All Canadian Wine Awards 2013, and the Wine Align World Wine Awards 2015.

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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

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JOHN FILKINS CSW

JOHN FILKINS CSW

John Filkins is a passionate, Washington D.C. based sommelier, dedicated to excellence in customer service and to enhancing his own education in the pursuit of mastery. He holds a degree in finance from Loyola University, a program he graduated from with honors as he began pursuing his interests within the hospitality industry at a local bistro just down the street from his grandparent’s home. It was this initial experience that ignited a spark within John, as his thirst for knowledge and interest in the history of wine production and service became his passion. John first achieved the certified Sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and shortly after landed at the historic Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, as a captain, helping to manage one of the largest wine cellars on the East Coast with more than 2,600 selections and 19,000 bottles. He soon pursued a subsequent opportunity to oversee the wine program at Michael Mina's Wit and Wisdom, an experience he attributes to his firm life commitment to advancing industry practices. As wine buyer, John oversaw the wine and bar programs for multiple outlets and garnered multiple National awards. In April of 2013, he became the fourth individual in Maryland to pass the rigorous Advanced Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. After almost three years with The Mina Group, John decided to further his knowledge of the distribution side of the business and represented the Washington D.C. and Maryland markets for Potomac Selections, a boutique importer and distributor of fine wines. John is currently a Sommelier at Fiola Mare and michelin-starred Fiola Ristorante. 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. 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. In the March of 2016, he passed the Theory portion of the Master Sommelier exam and is currently preparing for the last two portions (Service and Tasting) of the Master Sommelier exam in September of 2017.

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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 spent many years working alongside his mentor and friend Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon in the (former) Matt Prentice Group restaurants working 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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RACHEL DELROCCO

RACHEL DELROCCO

  • Sommelier, Freelance Writer
  • Houston, TX

Rachel DelRocco is a New Jersey native who has gained 15 years in the hospitality industry in New York, Austin, and Houston, Texas as a manager, bartender, and sommelier. She has tended bars in Austin, Texas such as Midnight Cowboy, Contigo Austin, and Weather Up Austin and has also spent time working with Genuine Article, a bookkeeping and hospitality consulting business, and has written and copyedited press releases, proposals, and business plans for multiple up-and-coming bars and restaurants. In 2013, she took a job as a bartender on the opening staff of Paul Qui’s flagship restaurant, Qui. Her cocktails have been featured in the Austin-American Statesman, Tribeza, and Whole Food’s Dark Rye online magazine. She eventually became the beverage director in order to oversee the wine program, manage the bar, and curate wine pairings for all tasting menus. She earned a national Eater Young Gun award in 2015 for her program. In Houston, Rachel further advanced her wine education as a sommelier at Camerata in Houston and during her time there was a recipient of FSR magazine’s 40 Under 40 and one of Imbibe’s 75 for 2016. She is also received the title of 2016 Best Sommelier at this past year’s TexSom conference. She will be sitting for her Advanced Sommelier exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers in March and will be based out of Oaxaca, Mexico and is excited to turn her focus on her speaking and writing with a passion for agave spirits, advocacy, and wine.

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JAIME DELEON

JAIME DELEON

Jaime Deleon is currently the wine consultant/Sommelier 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 a 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 Advanced Sommelier Exam in April 2015 and holds the Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators. Jaime currently mentor's a local study group called "AweSomm-Houston" while pursuing the Master Sommelier Diploma.

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JULIE DALTON

JULIE DALTON

Julie picked up her passion for wine while waiting tables in college at Texas A&M University. While holding a full-time job in the Biotech industry, she continued to nurture this passion and took the time and effort to complete sommelier certifications up to the Advanced level through the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as her Certified Wine Educator credential through the Society of Wine Educators. She’s also in the process of completing her Diploma in Wine and Spirits through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. She moonlighted as a sommelier for 3 years until she decided to jump in full force. After a year of working on the supplier side of the wine business, she realized that hospitality is where she belonged and is now a sommelier at the new Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Michael Mina’s Wit & Wisdom is where you will find her happily creating synergy with food and wine with her guests. Most recently, she was runner-up in New York’s StarChefs SommSlam and she also won the Ruinart blind tasting challenge in Washington, DC. Her free time is spent studying for the Master Sommelier diploma and preparing wine seminars for her team at Wit & Wisdom.

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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

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, but still being unsatisfied, she moved 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. 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

Alexandra Cherniavsky began her career in restaurants in her early teens when her parents bought a restaurant. She discovered an interest in wine as a career in New Jersey in 2005 working with Francis Schott at Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi restaurants. She returned home to Philadelphia in 2013 with stints as wine director at Le Bec Fin, Avance, and Amada. Alexandra is currently the General Manager and Beverage Director at rarest., a new restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. Alexandra attained the level of Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers in September 2015 and holds the title of Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators. She is currently studying for the Master Sommelier diploma.

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ANDY CHABOT

ANDY CHABOT

Andy has always had an interest in how things taste. After working his way through local restaurants, Andy headed straight for the CIA to round out his education in the culinary arts and restaurant management. After a stint at Little Nell, Andy found his true interest in the front of house. He graduated from the CIA in 2001 and moved to Walland and began his career with Blackberry Farm in 2002. He soon became involved in the young wine program. In less than 6 years, Blackberry’s wine cellar grew from 17,000 bottles to 166,000. With Proprietor Sam Beall’s enthusiasm and passion and Andy Chabot’s talent on the floor, the wine program has become synonymous with the success of Blackberry Farm. In 2014, Andy and the wine program received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program. Andy has proceeded past the advanced level of the Court of Master Sommeliers Exam and was the recipient of the Michael Biccorsani Scholarship. Today, Andy is responsible for all aspects of managing Blackberry Farm’s Grand Award winning wine program.

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JIM BUBE

JIM BUBE

Jim Bube is currently the Director of Education for Heritage Wine Cellars a family-owned wholesaler in Chicago. In addition to selling to key on and off-premise accounts downtown, Jim focuses on exploiting his owner's cellar for the benefit of the Chicago buying populace and mentoring both customers and sales reps. He currently holds the Theory portion of the Master Sommelier certification.

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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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