After years of training under Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, David set off on his own and is now wine director of Shanahan’s Steakhouse in the Denver Tech Center. He plans to sit for the Advanced Exam in Spring of 2019 and continue his journey to become a Master Sommelier.
I fell in love with wine while working as a beverage manager in downtown Chicago at Bar Toma, one of Tony Mantuano’s restaurants. I left that job to allow the time to study for the Certified Sommelier Exam. While studying, I applied for internships to work harvest, which lead me to pack my life up with one week’s notice to move to Portland. I landed at Pamplin Family Winery in 2015 and worked harvest as a vineyard intern. In 2017, I was a cellar intern. Previously, I managed bars and restaurants in Chicago, including a venue in Wrigley Field. In the Portland metro area, I have managed beverage programs for multiple restaurants. Currently, I am part of the wine team and oversee bar operations as the assistant general manager at Nostrana & Enoteca Nostrana. I am a Certified Sommelier pursuing the Advanced Sommelier Certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Brandon Ford is one of 600 Advanced Sommeliers in the world. He’s run many award-winning beverage programs including multiple Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning wine programs. He has extensive experience in both teaching and training consumers as well as hospitality professionals. He believes classics are classics for a reason and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; the devil’s in the details and the details are what matters. He has an innate ability to take a complex topic and break it down with such an infectious enthusiasm that even his four-year-old son can understand it. After visiting many wine regions including Burgundy, Napa, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Sonoma, Hacienda Patron, Bourbon County, and others, he realizes that it is people that make the beverage world go ‘round and wants to share his love and knowledge for this amazing industry.
A native of Annapolis, Maryland, Michelle Richards’ passion lies in the world of fine wine and craft cocktails. Being a long time student of Italian wine and cuisine, she began her career at Alleia Restaurant. There, under James Beard-nominated Chef Daniel Lindley, she developed her expertise in the wine industry. In 2012, eager to expand beyond Italian wine, Michelle sought out work under Josh Carter, wine director at Wine Spectator Award-winning Saint John’s Restaurant. In that same year, she also earned her sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers. After years of hard work and dedication, she went on to lead the staff as general manager. Richards’ strives each night to provide remarkable service to her guests, doing so with her utmost attention to detail and honest intentionality.
Sandra Ban is an academic-turned-sommelier based in Chicago. From a family with a long tradition of wine making and drinking, she began her wine career in the winery at City Winery Chicago, where she is now lead sommelier, and where she occasionally has the opportunity to use her French. She feels privileged to use her passion for wine and hospitality in the service of making guests happy and helping others learn about the wide world of libations. Through the Court of Master Sommeliers and WSET, she continues to develop professionally and indulge her curiosity.
Rebecca Miles-Steiner graduated from Wells College, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, with a degree in theatre. While working as a stage manager in Chicago, her college-sparked love of riesling and a Jancis Robinson book set her on a path to a career in wine and spirits. She helped to open, and then managed, a boutique wine and spirits store in Lincoln Park; worked as a wine and spirit buyer for a Whole Foods store in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood; and has recently made the shift to on-premise. She is currently a server and wine captain at City Winery Chicago. She is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, a French Wine Scholar, and is currently making her way through the WSET Diploma program. In her spare time, she practices barrow archery, reads wine books, and plans her next wine adventure.
My humble beginnings in the wine business began when I won a servers’ contest for selling the most Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet at the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center while attending Auburn University and studying finance. The prize was a weekend at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. It really opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know but wanted to know. I have been involved in all facets of the wine business from running restaurant wine programs to buying and selling wine for retail wine programs in the resort community of Steamboat Springs. In 2003, I took my experience from wholesale and started a distribution business with three partners called Baroness Wines. We sold the business in 2014 to Empire Distributing. I then started my own import/brokerage business called SAmandla Wine Imports that currently operates in 15 markets. I am currently sitting for the theory portion of the Master Sommelier Exam. I live in Denver, Colorado, where I am extremely active in the restaurant scene, both here and in the mountain areas. I enjoy the active lifestyle of Colorado, including skiing in the winter and biking in the summer.
After falling head over heels for a bottle of 1967 Bertani Amarone while studying at Southwestern University, Chris McFall, now Advanced Sommelier and MS Candidate, dove head first into the world of wine. Managing and developing programs in Austin, Houston, and Chicago, Chris is a paradigm of hospitality. Chris is currently residing at Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Texas, working with an all-star cast while continuing his education and sharing his passion with guests and coworkers alike.
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 eight-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.
Jacob Brown is the beverage director at Italic, a rustic Italian restaurant in downtown Austin. Jacob moved to Texas from Park City, Utah in 2016 in pursuit of furthering his career in the hospitality industry. He participated in the 2017 and 2018 TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, the Cochon 555, and was a finalist for the Star Chefs 2017 Rising Star of the Year award. Jacob started his career in the beverage world as a ski bum bartender at a peanut bar in Utah. 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 Sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is working towards the next level.
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 a variety of concepts as a trainer and manager. 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 was the opening Beverage Director for the JW Marriott Minneapolis, Minnesota’s top luxury hotel, and Beverage Director for The Landing Hotel and Ninetwentyfive restaurant with 6-time JBF nominee Chef Lenny Russo. He is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and in 2016 became the first sommelier in Minnesota to achieve the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Sommelier certificate. In 2018 he relocated to Houston, Texas, to take a position with Grand Award-winning Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and prepare for the Master Sommelier diploma exam.
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. Nick also works on the floor, doing wine and cocktail service at Bateau Restaurant. During his down-time, Nick enjoys sport climbing, jazz music and visiting Red Pandas at the local zoo.
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.
Andrew Rastello is a wine professional with a career spanning 23 years and experience from distribution to the restaurant floor. He is currently Assistant Wine Director at Eleven Madison Park.
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.
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.
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.
Patrick is currently the Assistant Wine Director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality group based in Austin, Texas. His home base, currently, is Jeffrey's which is one of the signature wine restaurants of the group also including June's, Clark's Oyster Bar, Lambert's, and others. Patrick sat for Master Theory for the first time in 2018 and will attempt again in 2019. Patrick, formerly a wine professional at the Four Seasons St. Louis, has only lived in Texas for six months but has attended Texsom International Wine Awards and Texsom for the past four years.
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.
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.
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.
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, where he has overseen wine retail operations for the past 5 years. 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).
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 beer/wine department for the Kroger Company’s Houston Division. 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.
Matthew Crawford is a native of Greenville, South Carolina and has 17 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 made him a perfect fit for general manager and sommelier at Chef Ford Fry’s first Houston restaurant, State of Grace, and most recently, La Lucha, Fry’s second Houston restaurant. “I believe in the story of a wine and supporting winemakers that not only have a deep commitment to producing great wine that shows a sense of place, but also an understanding of the importance of personal relationships and how that translates tableside,” he said. Crawford continues to seek and further his knowledge of wine and hospitality through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently seeking the Master Sommelier Diploma.
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.
Alexandra Cherniavsky began her career in restaurants in her early teens working for her parents in their family-owned restaurant in Oxford, Pennsylvania. She discovered an interest in wine as a career while working at Stage Left and Catherine Lombardi restaurants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She returned home to Philadelphia in 2013 with stints as wine director at Le Bec Fin, avance, and Amada. Her current role as beverage manager at Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr’s The Love gave her the opportunity to write a fun, approachable wine list composed of several mini wine lists, each with their own perspective and each containing wines that are ready to drink now. The Love was named one of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants 2018 by Wine Enthusiast and one of Esquire's Best New Restaurants 2018. Alexandra is an Advanced Sommelier, as well as a Certified Specialist of Wine. She is currently studying for the Master Sommelier diploma.