An internationally-renowned sommelier, wine journalist, wine judge, consultant, and public speaker, Christopher Sawyer travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a judge in international wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide array of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CNN, Redbook, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, Esquire and The Hollywood Reporter.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Sawyer was named the Best Sommelier of Sonoma County by Bohemian Magazine, and is the recipient of many more prestigious awards and industry honors. In addition to serving as the Head Sommelier at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, Sawyer worked as Wine Director for both Flavor! Napa Valley and the Telluride Wine Festival in 2016.
He also writes for a variety of journals including industry magazines; Tasting Panel, Wine Business Monthly, Vineyard & Winery Management; as well as The Clever Root and Napa Sonoma Magazine.
Henry Escobar has been in the hospitality industry for 37 years, working mainly in fine dining establishments.
His first introduction to wines was while working at the famous Windows on the World restaurant in Manhattan NY in 1978, under the direction of Kevin Zraly who not only was a teacher, but a mentor earning a sommelier Diploma. Then in 1979 went to SSA, in New York City, for the three month program, earning a sommelier certificate.
After moving to Florida in 1987, while working at an Italian restaurant called Roberto (Delray Bch), took part as the creator of the wine list that gave the restaurant the recognition of one of the 10 best wine list in the Wine Spectator. Throughout the years he has taken multiple wine courses and seminars, built wine cellars for private residences, done tastings for wine importers, and wine shops at homes.
Kirsta Grauberger is part of the dynamic brother & sister team of Sommeliers that own and operate Market 17 and Day Market Kitchen. Both restaurants focus on creative and fun farm to table cuisine. They opened Market 17 in 2010. Day Market Kitchen was launched in the spring of 2015. Market 17 offers an extensive wine program focusing on everything from classic selections to eclectic corners of the wine world with it’s 600 international selections and serves around 40 wines by the glass. Prior to opening Market 17, Grauberger consulted and held Wine Director and Sommelier positions in acclaimed local restaurants like the Sundy House and Johnny V in South Florida. Ocean Drive Magazine named her one of the Top Five Female Sommeliers, she has been featured on the GuildSomm Spotlight series for Miami and has won Sommelier Competitions including Wine Bar Wars and the Cochon 555 SommSmackdown. She enjoys the being part of lively South Florida wine community is currently studying for her advanced exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Ellen Landis, CS, CSW
Ellen is a published Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, Wine Educator and Professional Wine Judge. She is the author of the blogEllenOnWine.comand writesfor the AWS Wine Journalamong other publications.
Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintner’s Holidays annual event at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For the past sixteen plus years, she and husband Ken co-owned award winning Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn where Ellen served as Wine Director and Sommelier. They recently sold their Inn to devote more time to the world of wine. Ellen was also a Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton for several years. Ellen has traveled many wine regions throughout North America including California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, New Mexico, Arizona, New York and Canada, and several international wine regions including Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone, Tuscany, and wine regions throughout Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
In addition to an MBA, Ellen’s wine education includes UC Davis viticulture course work, CSW certification from the Society of Wine Educators program, and holds the credential of Certified Sommelier (CS) from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Scott Caruso grew up in an Italian American family that has been making wine for over 50 years. With over 20 years experience in the food and beverage industry, Scott has spent the last decade as Head Sommelier and Wine Director of Cafe Martorano. He holds certificates from International Sommelier, WSET and Court of Master Sommeliers
Randy Caparoso is a multi-award winning wine journalist who lives in Lodi, California. He is Editor-at-Large and the Bottom Line columnist for The SOMM Journal, and currently blogs and does social media work for Lodi Winegrape Commission’s lodiwine.com. He also pens wine columns and contributes editorial to The Tasting Panel magazine; and in the past, he has bylined a biweekly wine column for his hometown newspaper (The Honolulu Advertiser, from 1981 to 2002). In a prior incarnation (1988 to 2001), he was a founding partner of the Roy’s family of restaurants, where he was VP/Corporate Wine Director, opening 28 restaurants from Hawai`i to New York. As a restaurateur, he was named Santé’s first Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year (1988) and Restaurant Wine’s Wine Marketer of the Year (1992 and 1998). You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a young girl growing up in West Virginia, Krystal Kinney learned southern hospitality and an appreciation of spirits from a wine-loving Aunt. It was no surprise when she pursued degrees in culinary arts and hospitality in Southern Florida. As a young, vivacious woman she managed entertainment venues including Club Cinema in Pompano Beach, FL. It was at Club Cinema that she discovered her passion for wine. The owner of Club Cinema sampled expensive French Bordeaux and Krystal swirled glasses with a host of celebrities including Blondie, Johnny Depp, Cirque du Soleil, and the Rolling Stones.
Krystal did a blind tasting and discovered she had a refined palette; Even without training, she could pick up on the subtleties of the wines, their earthiness, and Old World flavors. She decided to go back to school at Le Cordon Bleu, USSA. From there, she set out to further her palate, traveling through France, Napa Valley, Greece and other famous wine regions.
Upon returning to the states, Krystal progressed her training, becoming an advanced, level three sommelier and is now the Sommelier at the Royal Blue Hotel in Deerfield Beach, FL.
Judges for 2015 American Fine Wine Competition
Chief Judge and Judging Coordinator for the 2014 American Fine Wine Competition, Monty Preiser is a former wine writer for the Boca Raton News and wine evaluator for Boca Raton Magazine. He co-owns a company which instructs professionals about wine, is the principal wine writer for a large Internet Website, has judged competitions nationwide, and publishes The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, Napaʼs only comprehensive guide to wines and restaurants.
Sara Preiser splits her time between South Florida and Napa, CA where she and husband Monty publish The Preiser Key to Napa & The Preiser Key to Sonoma, the only comprehensive guides to wineries and dining in Northern CA. Sara has written wine related articles for various periodicals nationwide and is currently a columnist for several magazines. Co-founder of the AFWC, she has judged numerous wine competitions across the country.
Candace Proctor’s knowledge of fine wines comes from educational trips to Sonoma, Napa, and other west coast growing regions. She’s traveled to the wine regions of France, Italy, Germany and Australia and is certified by the US Sommelier Association. She is proprietor of 33rd Street Wine Bar in Ft. Lauderdale and entertains guests with live music, local art, 200+ fine wines and wine-related events.
Charlie Arturaola has dedicated his life’s work to serving, informing, educating, and entertaining people around the world about wine, becoming an internationally renowned sommelier. This rare gift has guided Arturaola’s almost 30 year in his wine career. Arturaola has communicated about wine in all ways imaginable, from sommelier, corporate wine director to teacher, mentor, appraiser, contestant judge, actor, and president of his own wine consulting and appraising firm, Grappolo Blu Inc. based in Miami Beach, Florida. Arturaola has also molded the next generation of sommeliers and wine lovers by mentoring students pursuing Masters degrees in hospitality at Johnson & Wales and Lynn Universities in Florida. At the moment, he is working on his second film with movie director Nicolas Carreras, The Duel of Wine in Europe. Arturaola was named a Chevalier by the Ordre des Coteau de Champagnes, Wine Communicator of the Year at the IWSC, UK by VINITALY, Confraria dos Vinhos do Porto lately.
Professor “Chip” Cassidy has served as head sommelier for the prestigious Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, and as the wine buyer for a major chain of wine stores, Crown Wine and Spirits. Chip now teaches full time at FIU, and has developed a Wine Certificate Program offered to professionals already working in the wine or related fields.
Italian born Roberto Colombi relocated to England in 2003 to learn English and work for Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London. While working for Gordon Ramsay, Colombi completed the Wine & spirits education trust in 2004, and the Certified level of the Court of Master Sommelier in 2006. In 2005 he was promoted to Assistant Head Sommelier, and in 2007 he left England for a Head Sommelier position at Cielo in the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida, where he remains today. In 2008, Colombi was awarded Rising Star Sommelier of South Florida by Starchefs.com.
Delius Shirley, proprietor of Ortanique in Miami and the Cayman Islands, has been a restaurateur and consultant for more than 20 years, consistently collecting accolades from his peers for his ability to create wine lists of distinction nationwide. He is driven by a passion for an evolving wine industry and its opportunity for education. he is also the F&B Director at the Dunmore Beach Hotel, Harbour Island, Bahamas
Peg San Felippo, has been writing about wine and wine related issues for the last decade. A past chair of The American Institute of Wine and Food – Wisconsin Chapter, Peg is also a former wine columnist for The Palm Beach Post, and has written for numerous publications across the country including Wine Business Monthly and Wine Business Insider.
Dr. Barry H. Gump is the first holder of the Harvey R. Chaplin Eminent Scholarʼs Chair in Beverage Management at Florida International Universityʼs School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Dr. Gump is a noted wine author, and has been a professional wine judge for many years at a number of major wine competitions.
Minwoo Kwon– Minwoo is a sommelier at Jean-Georges in New York and is currently preparing for the Master Sommelier examination. A Maryland native, he recently returned to the east coast after three years at Benu in San Francisco.
Veronica Litton has worked in the wine business in South Florida for over 20 years. In 1996 she founded The South Florida Womenʼs Wine Association. Veronica acquired her CSW from the Society of Wine Educators in 2005. In her current capacity as the Wine Buyer for Crown Wine and Spirits, her responsibilities include managing a multimillion dollar inventory year round with over 1400 selections from around the world.
Stu Nudelman, Stu the Wine Guru, can be heard as host of his successful global radio podcast, Wine Talk with Stu The Wine Guru, now going on its 4th year of broadcasting, also read in his insightful wine articles in Simply The Best Magazine, Hollywood Circle Magazine, and all over the Internet. You will also spot Stu on NBC, CNBC World, PBS, and other Network TV shows talking about wine. He is a “Wine Edu-tainer”
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 26 women out of 206 professionals worldwide). She has won the title of “Best Sommelier of the United States from the American Sommelier Association for 2002-2006. With continuing acknowledgment of her skill, the eminent James Beard Foundation nominated Philip for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional 2012. On May 23, 2015, Virginia was bestowed with one of the highest honors of “Honorary Doctorate Degree of Oenology” from her alma mater Johnson & Wales.
Master Chef Angelo Romano, owner of Lake Worth, Floridaʼs Paradiso Risorante, honed his culinary skills at establishments located in a wide range of luxurious resort towns on the Italian Riviera and the Isle of Capri, as well as in Bermuda and Palm Beach. This international background serves Angelo well in his selection and evaluation of wines.
Wendy Rosano has over 25 years in the restaurant business. From her roots in New York, she has owned and operated over half a dozen restaurants and was directly responsible for the wine list in each establishment. She has received honorable mention for her wine lists. Wendy also currently works as a consultant for the hospitality industry. She holds her intermediate certification in wine and spirits from WSET (The Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London) and has participated in hundreds of formal and informal industry tastings. She is currently operating Terra Fiamma at the Delray Marketplace and is responsible for the wine program which currently offers more than 40 wines by the glass.
A wine journalist, consultant, and educator, Patrick Sullivan is the wine & spirits editor for DINE Magazine in Florida. He has been involved in many aspects of the wine business for over twenty years – writing and conducting seminars and classes, as well as working in the retail and wholesale segments of the industry.
Advanced Sommelier Richard Paladino is enjoying “a first” in his long career in the wine industry. In 2011 he teamed up with his former colleague Virginia Philip, MS, to serve as the Resident Sommelier & Instructor in West Palm Beach.
Paladino, from Long Island, New York, moved to Miami to attend FIU, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management in 1995. Then he headed north to The Breakers, Palm Beach, where he settled into a long and rewarding career at the luxury resort.
During his tenure at the luxury resort, he took first place in the Best Young Sommelier Completion’s Southeastern Regional event in 2004. The ten regional winners competed in national finals, where Paladino won the second place medal. The next year Paladino passed the third level course – out of four- through the Court of Master Sommeliers to obtain his Advanced Sommelier Diploma.
Daniel Toral, from Caracas, Venezuela his home life revolved around the kitchen. His Hungarian grandmother made everything from scratch; there was never anything ‘store-bought’. After high school, Daniel left Venezuela to pursue a culinary career at The CIA in the Hudson Valley.
Daniel worked as a line cook at Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park, then moved to Thomas Keller’s celebrated Per Se, where he realized that his true calling. Soon after, Daniel relocated to Miami to obtain a degree in Hospitality Management from FIU. Toral completed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced certification in 2013.
Now at 50 Eggs, Toral oversees wine lists for Yardbird, Swine, and Chica. He was among The Miami Herald’s “South Florida Food 50” in 2015. In addition to representing Miami in the U.S. Guild of Sommeliers’ Top Somm competition, Toral won StarChefs 6th Annual Somm Slam in New York. And in 2016, Toral was named a StarChefs Rising Star Sommelier for South Florida.
Sommelier and manager for Council Oak Steaks & Seafood, Juan Horta elevates guests’ dining experience with his knowledge and passion for wine. He maintains the restaurant’s wine inventory featuring nearly 400 selections from more than a dozen countries. Prior to joining Seminole Hard Rock, Horta served as manager and sommelier in Park City, Utah establishments, including Talisker on Main, The Sky Lounge and Waldorf Astoria.
Horta holds an associate’s degree in business administration and management from Keiser University. He earned both the Intermediate Sommelier in 2012 and Advanced Sommelier in 2013 from the USSA, where he completed coursework in restaurant and hospitality operations. He also holds a Champagne Certification from Reims, France, in 2015.
Dr. Terry Lease joined Florida International University as Associate Dean of Academics for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management in January, 2015. In January, 2018, he moved into a faculty position and teaches online while based in Sonoma County, California. He came to FIU from Sonoma State University, where he was department chair for the Department of Business Administration for seven years and was actively involved with its Wine Business Institute.
Dr. Lease holds the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Diploma certificate and is currently an MW student. He passed WSET Level 2 and Level 3 certificates with distinction and has passed the Introductory Course from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Dr. Lease holds a BSBA from Wake Forest University, a Master of Taxation degree from Baylor University, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a major in Accounting from the University of Southern California. He has held CPA licenses in Texas, Florida, and California.