WSET® Diploma Holder Profiles
Since 1996, when the first two International Wine Center students earned the WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits, more than 285 students have successfully completed all units of WSET’s Level 4, Diploma.
At the time of their earning the WSET Diploma, we invite graduates to tell us about their work, their interests, and what earning the WSET Diploma has meant to them. Several dozen profiles of WSET graduates are available for viewing on this page.
A full list of IWC students who have passed the WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits is available for viewing here.
- Justen Lenig
- Jaclyn Stuart
- Carolyn Kapuvari
- Erik Strait
- Alex Alan
- Brad Ball
- Anne Hay
- Amy Hawley
- Alexis Brock
- Nicholas Jackson
- Laura Corrigan
- Vanessa Price
- Maureen Sossi
- Robert Engel
- Tony Ambrosini
- Travis Glohs
- Samantha Rouff
- Sean Razee
- Sarah Malik
- Mary Margaret McCamic
- David Moore
- Rebecca Mills
- Steve Small
- François Steichen
- Kerstin Krall Walz
- Emily Mackay
- Steve Fahy
- Ivonne Nill
- Kirstin Ohrt
- Kingsley Martin
- Patrick McAteer
- Cathrine Todd
- Raj Vaidya
- Kate Webber
- José Moreno-Lacalle
- Keri Kunzle Jackson
- Uwe Kristen
- Kevin Cleary
- Shannon Brock
- Rebecca Banks
- Nicholas Poletto
- Rik Pike
- Danica Stitz
- Jesse Webster
- Scott Rosenbaum
- Susan Hesleitner
- Joshua Hakimi
- R. Veronique Fitzgerald
- Jennifer Desmond
- Marisa D’Vari
- Rodolphe Boulanger
- Jessica Bell
- Mary John Baumann
- John Bandman
- Michael Reilly
- Dini Rao
- Melissa Monti Saunders
- Sharon Sevrens
- Tamara Lover
- Jim Kuhner
- Michael Kirstein
- Tracy Ellen Kamens
- Susannah Gold
- Sunny Hjorthol Gandara
- Eileen Duffy
- Nicole Drummer
- Michael Cooperman
- Jason Carey
- Michele Anderson
- Vanessa Conlin
(July, 2016) Justen Lenig graduated from Dickinson College and moved to New York with dreams of Law School and the reality of restaurants. It was this reality that stoked a fascination and love of wine that has grown through his illustrious career.
Now a sales representative for Vinifera Imports, a specialist Italian fine wine Importer, Lenig quickly rose up the ranks of the restaurant industry working for such icons as Todd English, Graham Elliot and Jean Georges. His fascination with wine led him to a more structured education at International Wine Center, culminating in achieving his WSET Diploma in 2016. “It was not easy, but 100% worth it” Lenig says of his experience. “Don’t be shy, study and taste with anybody and everybody you can!”
Lenig aspires to apply to Institute of Masters of Wine, and when not studying and tasting, can be found gardening and hiking at home in Connecticut.
(July, 2016) Jaclyn Stuart caught the wine bug early in life, while studying Hospitality and Management at San Jose Sate, in California. “I found myself in Napa, Sonoma, the Santa Cruz mountains or Monterey on the weekends”, says Stuart, “I became enamored with wine!”.
Using her new found knowledge and enthusiasm for wine, Stuart landed a job a Sommelier at the American Club Resort in Kohler, WI. This led her to seek certification from both the Court of Master Sommeliers and WSET via International Wine Center, as an online student.
“The Investment you make in the WSET will come back to you in increased opportunities, recognition and knowledge”, she explains.
Stuart has also held the position of Wine Director for a growing restaurant group in Milwaukee and Chicago and is the co-author of The complete Idiot’s guide to Wine & Food Pairing.
She is now the owner and operator of Vintage Elkhart Lake, a boutique wine, craft beer and fine foods shop in Wisconsin. “Being one of only 3 people in Wisconsin holding the WSET Diploma has really put me a notch above others in the industry. It has given me the tools to answer customer’s questions without hesitation and taste wines with a discerning palate”.
(July, 2014) Carolyn Kapuvari works with U.S. importer Palm Bay International in Port Washington, NY. She oversees brand development and marketing for a diverse portfolio of premium wines from Germany, France, New Zealand, Chile and the U.S.
Prior to joining Palm Bay, Kapuvari had an expansive career in technology publishing. But her love of wine led her to a sales position with a small French wine importer and this catapulted her into the beverage industry, initiating what she’s embraced as her “lifelong journey in wine.”
Kapuvari holds a Certified Specialist of Wine certificate from the Society of Wine Educators, a Sommelier Certificate from the Sommelier Society of America and was inducted into the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. She completed her WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits in 2014.
When not promoting, tasting or studying wine, Kapuvari can be found on Long Island where she lives with her husband and two children. She plays tennis, studies karate, practices Reiki and loves to travel.
(July, 2014) Erik Strait is a wine consultant at Empire Wine and Liquor Outlet in Albany, NY. Before joining the team at Empire, he worked in restaurants for 13 years, highlights of which include helping Apiary open in August 2008 as one of their sommeliers, and serving as beverage program director and sommelier at 508 Restaurant and Bar.
Prior to working in the hospitality industry, Strait attended Villanova University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. However, after spending a summer in New York City working in restaurants, he caught the wine bug, and a bottle of 1997 Domaine Dujac ‘Clos de la Roche’convinced him to pursue it as a life-long career.“The WSET has been an invaluable tool for learning about and tasting wine in an objective manner,” says Strait. “My appreciation for wine and spirits grew exponentially while working my way through the Diploma program.”
In addition to earning the WSET Diploma in 2014, Strait also passed the Certified Sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and counts triathlon and alpine skiing among his favorite things to do outside of work. He plans to continue his wine studies and pursue the next level with the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as the Masters of Wine program.
(July, 2011) Originally from Chicago, Alex Alan now lives in Brooklyn, (via Baltimore, Washington DC and Barcelona). He’s a writer, a traveler, and a Cork Dork (translation: wine anti-critic); he often combines these three talents by writing about his wine-filled travels/experiences on his blog The Cork Dork Report (corkdorknyc.tumblr.com). He has published articles in the trade publication Sommelier Journal and the Mario Batali publication Viaggio.
Alan is also a sommelier at Bar Jamon in New York and a wine buyer for Hotel Delmano i Brooklyn. Although he works with wine from all regions, his passion for Spanish wine, especially Sherry, has been the most enduring. This has led to many visits to Spain over the past 10 years and in 2009 he worked as a winemaker’s assistant at Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce, a practicing-biodynamic producer in Manchuela, Spain. Most recently he was asked to be a guest speaker at the 2011 New York trade and press tasting for D.O. Manchuela.
(July, 2009) Brad Ball is the proprietor of Social, a wine bar and restaurant located in Charleston, SC. Growing up in the food and beverage industry, Ball developed his passion for wine in his early twenties while working in restaurants during college. After graduating with a degree in philosophy, he moved to New York where he worked as a cook at Momofuku and then as a sommelier at Aquavit.
Unfortunately, New York took a toll on his credit card and he returned home to save money and eventually opened Social. Ball is also a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and is finishing his MBA with a wine industry focus through BEM in Bordeaux. Next year, Ball plans on sitting the Advanced Sommelier exam through CMS and eventually pursuing Master of Wine. In addition, he is launching an importing and branding project based out of Argentina.
(July 2010) Anne has been in the wine business over 14 years, gaining a diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, a Certified Wine Educator from the Society of Wine Educators, and an MBA. Having worked in every facet of the business from retail and restaurants, to distribution and then finally to supplier positions, both regionally and nationally, she was ready fro the next step. Anne sold her 401l and with help from a couple of her friends, started her own importer. Now living in the NYC metro region, her company, Snarky and Spirited LLC imports wines from all over the world.
(July, 2010) Amy E. Hawley, a commissioning editor of English language teaching materials at Cambridge University Press, fell in love with wine 16 years ago in Lyon, France. On her first day there, her host opened a bottle of red wine from the family’s dusty, old cellar. To this day, she still remembers how divine that wine tasted. From that summer, she vowed to learn all she could about wine.
Hawley’s dream is to teach wine classes. She earned her Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® in 2010. She is currently a member of the Society of Wine Educators and is studying for the Certified Wine Educator exam. She also volunteers at a wine store in Forest Hills, NY where she enjoys getting to know the business and the community. “It is a great way to learn about people and their tastes,” she says.
Hawley also credits her wine studies for allowing her to connect with people on a different level. As part of her job as Commissioning Editor, Hawley travels a great deal and finds her new credential a great icebreaker. “Once people know you have a Diploma in Wine and Spirits, it is amazing the conversations that result,” she explains.
(July, 2008) Alexis Brock was one of the hottest names in Australian wine circles this year. As Head Sommelier at Melbourne’s Circa, the Prince – one of the country’s most highly acclaimed restaurants – she was named one of Australia’s leading sommeliers in Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s “Best of the Best” edition. Supporting that title, her beverage menu received The Age Good Food Guide’s “Wine List of the Year Award” and was a finalist for Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s “Australian Wine List of the Year 2008.”
Alexis started her restaurant career in 2000 as a chef at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern, moving up the ranks to become a captain. With then Beverage Director Paul Grieco’s encouragement, she began formal studies with WSET at IWC and went on to hold sommelier positions at L’Atelier in The Ritz-Carlton, Central Park and Alto. After three years in Australia, Alexis returned to the U.S. in June and is currently working the harvest with Littorai Winery on the Sonoma Coast.
(July, 2014) Nicholas Jackson’s interest in wine was piqued while studying for his doctorate in theology and literature at the University of Cambridge. There he became a member of the university’s wine team, which annually challenges Oxford to a blind wine tasting of 12 wines. “We won in my year! And we went on to compete in various blind tasting competitions in France,” says Jackson.
This great success of the taste buds led Jackson to enroll in the WSET® Level 3 (Advanced) Course, which he managed to complete while also finishing his Ph.D. After graduation, he started his career as an auction specialist in wine at Sotheby’s in London, and began his WSET Diploma studies around the same time. After his first year at Sotheby’s, Jackson was transferred to New York to work on Sotheby’s new wine retail business. “Although I miss the proximity to France,” says Jackson, “New York is a great place to be in the wine business.”
Jackson went on to complete his WSET Diploma studies in 2014 at IWC and is currently the wine buyer for Sotheby’s Wine.
(July, 2014) Laura Corrigan is a Texan living in New York City. She has worked in several different aspects of the wine industry over the past decade, from a small boutique distributor specializing in iconic fine wines to retail consulting for Zachys in Scarsdale. She has also worked for several winery groups from Chile and Australia.
Currently, Corrigan is the North Region Manager for Paul Hobbs Imports, the international branch of California winemaker Paul Hobbs specializing in South American wines. She is the recipient of a 2011 Les Dames d’Escoffier New York Scholarship, awarded annually to women enrolled in wine and culinary education programs, and she received her WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in the summer of 2014.
Corrigan is a writer and produces a wine blog called Laura’s Libations – Your Everyday Sommelier. She loves to explore wine regions established and emerging, and recently visited Cahors, Southern Rhone, Provence, Mendoza, Maipo, Niagara on the Lake, and the Finger Lakes.
(July, 2014) Currently the Metro New York District Manager for Maisons Marques & Domaines/Champagne Louis Roederer, Vanessa Price’s passion for wine began in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Starting her career at the local fine-dining restaurant Steam, Fire & Ice and quickly landing work at Louisville’s Old 52 Winery, which makes wine exclusively from Kentucky grapes grown in the Ohio River Valley Appellation, Vanessa became fascinated with the impact of local terroir on viticulture.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Louisville, Price traded in Plato for Pinot as she moved to New York to open Balon, a wine bar/bistro focusing on esoteric appellations of the world. There Price managed the bar’s wine program of over 40 wines by the glass.
Her next stop was The American Sommelier Association, where she ran the day-to-day operations and worked with Andrew Bell, ASA President, to update the course textbooks and class structure. Price eventually went on to become an instructor at ASA, teaching both the Foundation and Viticulture & Vinification courses.
A few years ago, Price moved to the distributor level, taking a position in sales at Empire Merchants. Managing a territory that focused on influential wine programs in NY, her passion grew as she connected some of the city’s most impressive sommeliers with some of the world’s most reputable wine producers.
Price has also taken on various freelance and consulting projects from casual, high-volume bistro beverage programs to well-known New York institutions with multi-million dollar cellars. Training staff to be impassioned and helping businesses find new and exciting avenues to reach their customers is where she finds joy, she says. Price earned the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® Advanced Certificate in 2010 and the WSET® Diploma in 2014 through International Wine Center.
(July, 2013) Maureen Sossi was a recent college grad with her sights on a modern dance career when wine stepped in. Working in restaurants to pay the bills that dance couldn’t, Sossi found herself growing extremely curious about wine.
“I was selling high-end wines with names like Pouilly-Fuissé and Pouilly-Fumé, and it annoyed me I didn’t know what I was serving,” she said. She started talking with the sommelier, who explained the menu’s wines and what sommeliers do. “From that moment on, I was intrigued,” Sossi says, “I wanted to study wine.” She chose the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® because of its reputation and greater focus on theoretical study.
Today Sossi is a sales rep of six years covering restaurants on Long Island for distributor Empire Merchants. She loves that her days are spent talking about her favorite subject: “Coming from a restaurant background, I know what they’re dealing with, how to talk with them. And I’m such a geek, I love to tell the stories behind the labels.” Sossi completed her WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits in 2013. She continues to study independently and hopes to apply to the Master of Wine program in the near future. In the last year she’s visited wineries in Tuscany and New Zealand, and has her eyes on South Africa next.
“You can spend your entire life studying wine and visiting regions and you’ll never get through all of it. I love that about wine,” she says. To those just starting the journey, she recommends aiming for the WSET® Diploma. “It takes self-motivation, that is the underlying key word. You have to be disciplined and organized, she says. “But even if you get discouraged, you have to remember what the reward is going to be… It’s about being as knowledgeable as you can be, being the best you can be so if someone asks you a question, you can have that discussion.”
(July, 2013) Robert Engel is the independent monitor for WineCare Storage in Chelsea. He observes and reports on the company’s ongoing efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy.
In the storm’s aftermath, WineCare saved 27,000 cases of some of the world’s finest wines from looming destruction. The staff is piecing together the storm-ravaged inventory data and has begun processing service requests from grateful (and other) clients. Engel has been a freelance wine class instructor and has worked the holiday sales floor at Sherry Lehmann. For three years, he was cellar master for Minetta Tavern and Morandi and started in the wine profession as a cellar rat for Balthazar. Before all that, he worked as a history museum director and curator.
Engel describes his bottles and life as “wandering a scale between ill-mannered infancy, youthful vitality, noble maturity and rank decrepitude.” His professional ambition in wine’s newest grand epoch is to encourage one’s capacity to explore. His favorite wine terms are rain shadow, retronasal olfaction and MOG, which he learned on his journey to achieve the WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits. Goal accomplished in 2013.
(July, 2013) A tech salesperson turned stay-at-home dad turned wine student and marketer, Tony Ambrosini is now enjoying the rewards of four years of intensive WSET® wine studies.
This month, Ambrosini will embark on a week-long scholarship experience awarded by the Republic National Distributing Company for achieving high marks on the WSET® Diploma in 2013. Ambrosini will spend half the week with RNDC executives on the business side, and half with winemakers in Napa and Sonoma on the production side. Ambrosini traveled to London in January to accept the award and participate in WSET® graduation ceremonies.
“My goal was to earn the Diploma,” said Ambrosini. “Winning the RNDC award and shaking Jancis Robinson’s hand in London exceeded any expectation I had.”
When he’s at home in Connecticut, Ambrosini develops communications and promotions for the Divine Wine Emporium, a retailer in Niantic, and leads tasting events at their store. Additionally, he has designed and presented monthly wine dinners and Scotch whisky events at the Thames Club in New London, a private social club with over 100 members.
Ambrosini also is a Brand Manager with WineTwits, a Twitter community. He has moderated discussions of virtual tasting events such as the Wine Industry Technology Symposium tastings, and blind tastings with Georges Duboeuf and Barone Fini.
Before transitioning to the wine industry, Ambrosini spent nine years in technical sales and support for electronics distribution and rep organizations. His experience with the WSET® Online Classroom was so positive that he now looks to assist upcoming students.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with and humbled by my experience with the WSET® and International Wine Center,” he said. But he also gives a big thanks to loved ones. “None of this happens without the support of my family.”
(July, 2012) Raised by a father who was a professional chef and a mother who worked in tourism, Travis Glohs naturally gravitated toward food and travel pursuits as a young man. But on a trip to France after high school, it was wine that sparked his curiosity. After receiving a degree in History and Economics from the University of Vermont, Glohs decided to formalize his wine interest and enrolled in WSET® classes at International Wine Center. He continued his studies at the Wine Center, earning his WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2012.
During his time at the Wine Center, Glohs worked at retailer Amanti Vino for three years and then moved on to wine wholesale with Polaner Selections. Today, Glohs is a sales representative with importer/distributor Michael Skurnik Wines. “I attribute my Wine Center studies as the foundation of my wine knowledge,” Glohs says. “I truly feel privileged to have been lucky enough to make a career out of this passion.”
In his free time, Glohs still enjoys food and travel and has added the arts, surfing and snowboarding to his pastimes.
(July, 2010) Samantha Rouff is Director of Sales and Client Relations at WineCare Storage in New York City where she oversees the care of tens of thousands of cases for hundreds of private collectors. She is a specialist in fine and rare wine management with strengths in wine appraisal and reporting on the trends of fine wine markets.
Rouff’s interest in wine started with tasting wine at the dinner table and managing her family’s home cellars in France and Italy. She turned this childhood curiosity into the professional study of client relations at hotel management school in Glion, Switzerland. Fluent in four languages, Rouff has visited most of the major wine regions of Australia, Chile, France, Italy, Spain and the United States and has over eight years of international wine experience including assisting in wine production in Switzerland, sourcing fine wines for the travel retail market, running tastings and promotions for Tribeca Wine Merchants and most recently working with Christie’s Wine Department in New York. Rouff completed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® Diploma program in 2010.
(July, 2011) Sean Razee began his wine studies while living in Southern California, making frequent visits to Santa Barbara and the Napa Valley. After finishing his bachelor of science in food science, he moved to the mountains of Colorado and worked as a beverage director from 2002 to 2010, developing and managing wine and spirits programs for The Ritz-Carlton and Wolfgang Puck.
Razee now works as American Fine Wine specialist for the fine wine division of Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado, selling a world-class portfolio of international and domestic wines to elite accounts in Colorado’s mountain resorts.In addition to earning his diploma with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Razee has also obtained the prestigious title of Master Sommelier.
When not reading, traveling or learning about wine, Razee enjoys speaking and writing; he is a monthly wine columnist and participates in food and wine festivals as presenter and wine expert.
(July,2011) Sarah Malik is currently a professor at Johnson and Wales University, having joined the faculty in 1995. In 2003 she was honored as Teacher of the Year, has been featured on television and holds several wine credentials.
Prior to joining Johnson and Wales, Malik worked for Bass Charrington Breweries in the United Kingdom before joining Hilton International and Queens Moat Houses as a food and beverage manager. She eventually moved to Switzerland where she taught for five years in Hotelconsult, Le Bouveret and DCT in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Malik’s focus is on wine education. She received a Diploma from the International Sommelier Guild, and has also completed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® Advanced Certificate with Distinction and the WSET® Diploma with Merit. She is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and has been featured on WBTV television.
Malik lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and two daughters Tara, 12, and Mira, 10; she enjoys cooking, tennis and travel.
Mary Margaret McCamic
(July, 2011) Mary Margaret McCamic is an instructor at The Chef’s Academy, an accredited culinary school in Morrisville, North Carolina, where she teaches wine, writing and communication courses. She also teaches classes for consumers at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She holds the WSET® Advanced Certificate with Distinction and earned the WSET® Diploma in 2011.
McCamic has a master of arts in teaching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; she holds a bachelor’s degree, also from UNC-Chapel Hill, in English and creative writing. Her interest for wine developed while she was a high school English teacher. Interest quickly became passion, and it led her to New York City where she worked in restaurants, retail and wholesale. Most notably, she managed the cellars at Balthazar and later worked for Wineberry, a Manhattan-based importer and distributor.
Despite the charms of New York, the call of the Carolina blue skies proved stronger; Mary Margaret now lives in Chapel Hill where she combines her two great loves in life: education and wine.
(July, 2011) David Moore’s intrigue with wine started when he was a child. Almost every summer, he was taken on expedition with his father to scour the natural sand dunes of northern Indiana in search of the small and elusive native “possum grapes,” as they were affectionately called by his father. With great hopes of a good batch of hootch every year, Dad would usually throw the stuff out after two weeks of fermenting frustration, and mumble something like … “just should have made jelly.”
Later in Moore’s career as an art director and creative director, he decided to do something different in contrast to being wired to a computer all day, and enrolled in IWC classes with hopes of finishing the diploma. “The discipline cleared my mind, and although home study was difficult at times, I kept remembering how Dad never gave up on his pursuit of doing something difficult – his annual attempts of trying to make good wine from possum grapes.”
Moore plans to apply his wine knowledge to the business of international wine marketing and branding. He currently works as a consultant for a South African wine importer in Florida and as a creative developer for an e-learning company in Tallahassee.
(July, 2011) Rebecca Mills teaches WSET® Foundation Certificate courses at the International Wine Center. She also works as a sommelier for Swirl Events and Pour, a wine shop on the Upper West Side.
For Swirl Events, she coordinates and leads private in-home tastings and large corporate events. At Pour she teaches in-store classes, and is their “Sommelier for an Evening” for private clients, educating them about wine, tasting and pairing.Mills is a professional actress working in theater, television and film, and a finance manager for private clients.
In 2008, she decided to pursue other interests including her passion for wine. Curiosity about the world of wine and the love of a good challenge inspired her. As a former novice, she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others who have a similar passion.Mills is also a writer, currently working on her first collection of comedic essays. She earned her WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2011.
(July, 2011) Steve Small is the general manager of Yankee Wine and Stop & Save Liquors in Newtown, Conn. He contributes wine columns to The Newtown Bee and is a member of the Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel. Small has also participated as a judge for Wine Maker magazine’s annual competition.
In his “spare” time, he has visited wine regions around the world. Some of the highlights include a Grange tasting at Penfolds, Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape, and Pesquera in Ribera del Duero.Small would like to thank his family for relinquishing the dining room table to a variety of open bottles while studying for his WSET exams.
(July, 2011) François Steichen’s interest in wine took off seven years ago, when he started helping customers navigate the sea of varietals on offer at Danbury Discount Liquors, as well as lugging cases for the weekend crowd going to Candlewood Lake. He then worked at Harry’s in Fairfield, Conn. and at Acker, Merrall & Condit, where he became the go-to salesman for many regulars on the Upper West Side.
Steichen specializes in the wines of Luxembourg, a country with 2,000 years of winemaking history and whose national anthem begins as an ode to the vines along its side of the Moselle River. He writes a bi-weekly column for his hometown newspaper, the Greenwich Citizen. Steichen joined Vinifera, a boutique wine shop in Mamaroneck, New York, as store manager about a year ago. “New York offers more variety and value than any other wine market on earth. I really enjoy being based here.”
Kerstin Krall Walz
(July,2011) Kerstin Krall Walz’s goal is to combine the wine knowledge she gained at IWC with her marketing experience. She is working with Stark Wine in Healdsburg, Sonoma, to launch a new wine brand in May 2012. Recently, Walz became the proud owner of four tons of Alexander Valley chardonnay grapes!
Walz has spent the last 14 years working in advertising in New York City at Madison Avenue flagships that include Young & Rubicam and Saatchi & Saatchi. She’s gained marketing experience across many categories working with brands such as Diageo, I Love New York tourism, The Olympics, Campbell’s Soup Company, Lufthansa and The Star Alliance Network.
(July, 2011) Emily Mackay’s love of wine was discovered during a year abroad in France at the age of 18. She returned home to pursue degrees in international business, French and Spanish from the University of Colorado. With a passion for marketing and international studies, she began a multi-cultural career in account services working for Fortune 500 clients such as Coors, MasterCard, Kraft and Wendy’s. In 2006 she joined Sopexa–a company that specializes in marketing French food and wine–and realized she could marry her professional skills with her love of France and French wine.
As a senior account services manager, she was responsible for new brand strategies, which included sales promotion, public relations and advertising (TV, radio, print, online). Her main clients were regional wine bureaus (Beaujolais, Languedoc and Inter Oc) and private brands (Val d’Orbieu and Gerard Bertrand). After giving birth to her first child Ethan in late 2010, Emily has taken on the role of full-time mother. In the fall of 2011, she and her family are planning a move to California where she will be closer to the heartland of this country’s wine production.
(July, 2011) Stephen C. Fahy first discovered his palate was different from most in college, when one night he said his iced tea tasted a lot like firewood. Little did he realize the taste came from a cigarette extinguished by one of his friends five minutes prior.
Several months later, Fahy was handed a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at a dinner party; before he could ask any questions, he was hooked.
That was all it took: a voracious appetite for wine spawned years of classes with Tasters Guild New York, road trips to the Boston Wine Expo, wine-centered vacations throughout Europe, and ultimately his arrival at the International Wine Center, where he formalized his knowledge.Fahy is the wine director at Shoppers Vineyard, a nationally recognized wine, spirit and beer merchant in northern New Jersey. He has proven to be a specialist in discovering, championing and selling the world’s most innovative and exciting wine producers and properties to an ever-growing local and national audience. Prior to this, Fahy serviced and sold to some of Manhattan’s top restaurants and retailers while a wine and spirits consultant for importer/distributer Winebow. Fahy also managed the purchasing, operations and portfolio for two wine and spirits retailers in Manhattan. Fahy is passionate about direct-to-consumer wine education, service and sales. His privately run tastings, seminars, events and consulting services have earned him a cult-like following.
Fahy earned his master of science from Columbia University and his bachelor of science from Fordham University. He lives in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, with his wife, Rosanna, his twin pre-teen daughters Gemma and Michela, and Simona, his 4-year-old who believes she’s 16.
(July 2010) Ivonne Nill grew up in Paraguay, and discovered wine while on a field trip to Burgundy with her hotel management school. She went on to obtain degrees in food science – her bachelor’s from Virginia Tech and her master’s from North Carolina State – and spent the better part of a decade as an accomplished research and development scientist at M&M Mars working on the Snickers™ bar.
But Nill’s passion for wine never subsided, and she took on a part-time position at a wine store in 2004. By 2008, she decided to dedicate herself fully to the wine industry after an exhilarating harvest internship at Domaine Plageoles in Gaillac. Nill is now a sales person and wine educator at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.
Her passion for teaching inspired her to create a wine education program at Gary’s, as well as for adult schools. She earned the WSET® Diploma in 2010, holds the Certified Specialist of Wine Certificate from the Society of Wine Educators, and was awarded a Les Dames d’Escoffier scholarship in 2009. In 2011 Nill participated as a Junior Judge at the 42-year-old International Wine & Spirit Competition in England in the Spanish wine category. She enjoys using her four languages while traveling around wine regions and looks forward to applying for the Masters of Wine program in 2011.
(July, 2010) Kirstin Ohrt tested a variety of occupations including art consulting, academics, cruise directing and cosmetics PR on her way to the wine industry. Beginning with a temp job at the importing firm Kobrand Wine & Spirits in 2003, she soon found herself in the captivating career of wine marketing.
In the company of some truly legendary wines and talented colleagues and mentors, she felt compelled to study the complex topic. As she completed WSET courses one after another, she found her knowledge branching from flavor and facts into culture, agriculture, chemistry, the endless wonders of the nose, the culinary arts and more, and her interest in wine truly growing into a passion. “Attaining the WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits, once a distant goal, now feels like a small step on a path that thankfully has no end.” Kirstin is currently the Manager of Content Development, Promotions and Research for Kobrand.
(July, 2010) A native of Zimbabwe, Kingsley Martin was educated in South Africa at the University of Cape Town with degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and a master’s degree in business administration. The Cape wine country became his favorite destination and there his interest in wine was initiated. He returns to the area often to visit his in-laws who grow wine grapes for the biggest co-operative in South Africa.
Martin followed a career in the chemical industry, specifically the nylon polymer business, and owned his own company for 20 years. He emigrated in 1985 from South Africa to South Carolina. In 2005 he followed his bliss and become a student of wine, starting with the distance learning courses from University of California, Davis and following with the WSET® Diploma program, earning his WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits in 2010. Martin hopes to continue his studies with the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Today, Martin promotes sales for Vidalco International and Magnolia Spirits – both importers and distributors of wine from 12 different countries. He is a certified wine judge through the American Wine Society and also writes a monthly wine article for the Charleston Mercury newspaper. One of his more recent articles was on the wines of the Republic of Georgia; the picture featured here was taken at a winery in Napareuli, Kakheti, Georgia.
(July,2010) Patrick McAteer earned his bachelorï¿½s in geology from University of Texas, but after a short stint cooking at a high-end restaurant in Austin, his curiosity shifted to wine. In 2003 McAteer began his wine career as an on-premise sales representative for Block Distribution and seven years later is now the On-Premise District Manager for Republic National Distributing in Austin.
McAteer holds Republicï¿½s Graduate Level Certificate, the companyï¿½s highest internal education certification and earned his WSETï¿½ Advanced Certificate in 2006. In 2010 he completed his WSETï¿½ Diploma in Wine & Spirits, and was soon thereafter accepted into the Master of Wine program. Although McAteer loves wine from all regions, he has a particular affinity for the wines of Piedmont, the Rhone and Burgundy. In addition to drinking and studying wine, McAteer also enjoys cooking, entertaining, swimming and spending time with his wife and 2-year-old son.
(July, 2010) Cathrine Todd is a New York City sales representative for Bonhomie, an importer of artisanal wines from France and Italy. Todd’s pursuit of wine, as a means of forming connection, parallels her employer’s, as defined in their mission statement: It is the stories that we tell one another that connect us and enhance our life’s experiences, never forgetting that passion for food and wine exists to be shared, contemplated, discussed and enjoyed together.
“My husband and I host a tasting group at our apartment almost every Thursday. We are committed to constantly learning in a group environment, and most importantly, to keep the main purpose of wine alive in our lives: bringing people together,” Todd says. Todd also works as a wine educator for Vinum Xtremus, a cellar consulting company that has acquired some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Her role is helping to educate their clientele on the art of tasting wine.
Todd earned her WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2010, and is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, a Spanish Wine Educator through The Wine Academy of Spain, and keeps up to date with the world of French wines with workshops offered by the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin and the French Wine Society. Todd is also a Masters of Wine candidate.
(July, 2010) Raj Vaidya, head sommelier for the three-star Michelin restaurant DANIEL, attributes his early passion for fine cuisine to his family’s obsession with food and drink. Growing up in Bombay, he began learning about wine well before he would have been legally permitted to drink in this country. He refined his knowledge at what he calls his first serious restaurant job working at New Jersey’s Ryeland Inn with a chef who had a natural affinity for pairing food and wine.
That early experience evolved into a particular love of Burgundy and the Rhône Valley for Vaidya, making him right at home working with Daniel Boulud, a Rhône Valley native with a love of that region’s wines. Vaidya joined DANIEL in the spring of 2009 with a history of experience in restaurants that boast some of the country’s most celebrated wine lists and wine service. His resume includes positions at such establishments as Cru and Per Se in New York City, Gary Danko in San Francisco and Seeger’s in Atlanta. Vaidya also spent time in California working with Robert Sinskey Vineyards, a biodynamic estate in Napa.
(July, 2010) Kate Webber is the wine director for the Webber Restaurant Group in Massachusetts, a group representing five restaurants and bars including Gibbet Hill Grill, The Barn at Gibbet Hill, Scarlet Oak Tavern, Fireside Catering and the Estate at Moraine Farm. She earned her Wine & Spirit Education Trust® Diploma through International Wine Center in 2010, and holds several other wine credentials.
In addition to being an Associate Member of the Institute of Wine and Spirits, Webber is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild, as well as a Certified Specialist of Wine and a Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators. She is currently a panel judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition where she was the Associate Judge of the Year in 2009. Webber is Vice-Chair and one of the founding members of the Boston Sommelier Society, an organization comprised of 150 members throughout New England.
In her previous life, Webber worked in professional theatre and independent film before earning a master’s of fine arts in creative writing at the University of Virginia.
(July, 2010) José Moreno-Lacalle is the proprietor of Translation International, established in 1969 as a translation/interpreting service and expanded over the years to include computer consulting, academic and wine education, and lecturing on topics as varied as archaeology, art history, and wine.
Moreno-Lacalle has taught history, art history, and Spanish in private schools in the city, and also worked as a programmer/analyst for Sotheby’s information technology department. He is the author of two books, the textbook “Roots of Western Civilization,” and “The Royal Cookbook” and first wrote about wine as a columnist for Abel Magazine and Park West in 1970-71.Moreno-Lacalle earned a master’s degree in art history from Hunter College and his WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2010. He currently writes about wine on the blog, Wine Seriously, at blogwine.riversrunby.net
Keri Kunzle Jackson
(July, 2010) Keri Kunzle Jackson was first attracted to the romance and culture of wine as a teenager on a trip to Paris. Following a successful career in technology (working for Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America), and a few more trips to wine regions (Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Spain), not to mention a lot of studying and tasting, she translated her passion for wine into something concrete, namely Maslow 6.
Maslow 6 is in Tribeca and is a wine shop and community. Our goal is to bring together like-minded people who love wine and to provide that community with the chance to learn, discover, and acquire wine. Our philosophy is that the wine itself, along with the context in which it is enjoyed, does much to affect all aspects of the experience. With that in mind, we provide several avenues to join others to talk about, learn, and simply enjoy wine. These include seminars, classes, winemaker tastings and private events.
(July, 2010) Uwe Kristen A trip to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York piqued Uwe Kristen’s interest in wine. Or maybe it was destiny that took him down the vinous path: his name looks and sounds very similar to the word “uva,” which is “grape” in Italian. Regardless of the cause, Kristen embraced the attraction.
After four years in the publishing industry in Germany, Kristen studied literature and philosophy at universities in Munich, Berlin and finally Glasgow, where he graduated with a Masters degree in Scottish Literature in 1996. He has worked as a web developer in New York City since 1997.Kristen started studying wine at International Wine Center in 2005, and while pursuing his WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits, worked in the wine department of Balthazar restaurant and at Appellation Wines & Spirits, a west-side retailer that focuses on organic and biodynamic wines. Kristen now writes primarily about Riesling on his bi-lingual website DerKellermeister.com and contributes to various other wine-related websites such as Haidu and Snooth. Kristen admits openly that he loves residual sugar. He earned his WSET® Diploma in 2010.
(July, 2010) Kevin Cleary’s introduction to wine came while working as sous chef for restaurant Il Capriccio outside of Boston in 1997. Italian wine expert and co-owner Jeanne Rogers introduced Cleary to some of the best wines of Italy and later that year held a wine dinner honoring Angelo Gaja in promotion of his book, “The Making of a Great Wine: Gaja and Sori San Lorenzo.”
“Tasting Gaja’s older vintages and then crafting a menu to match was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Cleary, “and the start of my love affair with wine, particularly Italian wine.” After attending the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, Cleary worked as a line chef for a year in Boston and then earned his Italian cooking stripes in the kitchens of San Domenico in Imola and Osteria di Rendola in the Chianti hills.
Upon returning to the states Cleary landed the sous chef position at IL Capriccio and two years later opened L’Amante Ristorante in Gloucester, MA with his wife Kathi. The couple has since moved the restaurant to Burlington, VT, where they continue to concentrate on regional Italian cuisine and a 130-label wine list that features northern Italy.
Cleary holds a BA in Communications from SUNY Geneseo. He earned the Wine and Spirits Education Trust® Advanced Certificate in 2004 and the WSET® Diploma in 2010 through IWC. His next challenge is the Master of Wine program, which he plans to apply for in 2011.
(July, 2010) Shannon Brock coordinates and teaches wine, beer, spirits, and pairing classes, including WSET® courses, for the general public, private groups and the trade at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY. She earned the WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2010 through International Wine Center, and her Wine Judge Certification through the American Wine Society.
Brock has worked at wineries in both New Zealand and the Finger Lakes, writes wine articles for local publications such as Edible Finger Lakes and The Finger Lakes Times and serves as a wine judge in many competitions. She has a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University and a Master of Education from University of Virginia. Brock’s areas of particular interest include pairing New York wines with local foods, improving the quality of people’s wine experiences in tasting rooms and restaurants and understanding New York wines in a global context. Her primary job these days is as a mother to two young children.
(July, 2010) Rebecca Banks is the wine director for the Keith McNally restaurants Balthazar and Schiller’s Liquor Bar in Manhattan. She holds the Wine and Spirit Education Trust® Advanced Certificate and completed the Diploma program in 2010. Banks also teaches wine education classes, including “Fundamentals of Wine” and “Wine and Food Pairing” at the French Culinary Institute, from which she holds the Grand Diploma in Culinary Arts.
Banks is a regular member on the tasting panel at Wine and Spirits Magazine and wrote for the wine cellaring company Vintrust and their magazine Somm Selections, participating as a guest sommelier for their events in California and New York as well. An active member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), she has also served as a guest sommelier for the organization’s scholarship events.Banks lives in Brooklyn with her husband, 3-month-old son and two crazy cats. A bottle of French wine is usually open on the counter.
(July, 2009) Born in England to Italian parents, Nicholas Poletto moved to the United States at a young age. And it seems the Italian passion for food and wine moved with him: “It has always been in my blood,” he says.
Carrying that passion into adulthood, Poletto entered the wine trade eight years ago and has never looked back. Most of his experience comes from working at the distributor level in New York where he enjoyed the excitement of new product launches, wine dinners and sales. After five years though, he was ready for a new challenge. He moved to Martinborough, New Zealand for the harvest and stayed on for six months, describing it as “one of the best experiences of my life.”
Poletto has since returned to the U.S. and is Kobrand’s District Manager of Massachusetts as well as a WSET instructor in Boston. “Wine has taken me on a wonderful journey through life,” Poletto says. “One which I hope will continue for many more years.”
(July, 2009) Rik Pike has devoted a good portion of his career to the Wine Department of Christie’s, the international auction house. Currently an Associate Specialist for Christie’s New York, he also worked for seven years in Public Relations at Christie’s in London and New York, serving as the International Public Relations Manager for the Wine Department.
Rik first joined Christie’s in 1997 as a porter and was promoted to Junior Wine Specialist at Christie’s London in 1998. He left the company in 1999, returning in 2001, and during the time away helped produce a vintage at the Charles Melton winery in the Barossa Valley in 2000.Rik received a M.A. degree in Art History in 1997 from St. Andrews University in Scotland. He holds the Intermediate Certificate and Advanced Certificates from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® (WSET), and earned his WSET® Diploma in 2009. His first love is for the wines of Bordeaux, and during a decade at Christie’s has worked on many prestigious wine sales, including offerings from Château Latour in Europe, the first Evening Sales in the United States, and the re-launch of wine auctions in Asia.
(July, 2009) Danica Stitz is a Wine Consultant at VOS Selections, an importer and distributor of premium wines, spirits and sakes. Prior to VOS, she was for six years Wine Educator at Winebow, focusing on training the wholesale salesforce. She started her career in the wine industry at wine retailer Best Cellars where she loved helping customers find the perfect wine and food pairing or discover new grape varieties.
Prior to her employment in the industry, she specialized in Greek and Roman Archaeology (MA, Institute of Fine Arts; BA, UC Berkeley). She led an excavation at Tel Dor for four seasons and spent one additional in Turkey where she uncovered a life-size statue of Zeus. Her specializations (an early call to the wine industry, perhaps?)included Greek drinking vessels and frescoes of Roman drinking parties in Pompeii.
The combination of historical context and the character of wine in all its wonderful dimensions— scientific, sensual and cultural – is a continuing passion. She found the WSET program to be an invaluable tool to her professional development. Along with the DWS and the Professional Certification in Spirits, Stitz holds the Certified Specialist of Wine credential from the Society of Wine Educators.
(July, 2009) Jesse Webster has worked in the restaurant business for almost 20 years and in the last five has focused increasingly on the industry’s wine and beverage component. An expat Kiwi, Jesse is frequently involved in promoting New Zealand wines in the US market. He was NYC “restaurant ambassador” for New Zealand Winegrowers, the international marketing arm of the NZ wine industry, and continues to promote NZ wine wherever he can. In his position at PUBLIC, a restaurant in NY’s NoLita neighborhood, he oversees an international wine list, which at its center focuses on the wines of New Zealand and Australia.
Currently general manager at PUBLIC, Webster is also beverage director for the AvroKO Restaurant Group, in which capacity he manages the wine and spirits program for PUBLIC and its adjacent wine bar, The Monday Room, as well as the more recent additions Double Crown & Madam Geneva, a restaurant and bar on Manhattan’s historic Bowery. He loves to travel and has a long list of wine destinations he looks forward to visiting.
(July, 2009) While an undergraduate at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, Scott discovered wine in Linda Lawry’s Beverages 101 class. Shortly thereafter, he worked a brief stint in retail at Sutton Wine Shop followed by Eli Zabar’s W.I.N.E. Scott earned his baccalaureate in 2005 with his thesis on the epistemology of wine. That same year he began working at the International Wine Center as Director of Operations, while pursuing his M.A. in Food Studies at NYU.In 2007, Scott took on the position of Wine Buyer for DrinkUpNY.com, while continuing his role at IWC. He completed his Master’s degree as well as his WSET® Diploma in 2009.
Since then he has started teaching the WSET® Foundation and Intermediate Certificate courses. He has most recently accepted the position of Director of Portfolio Development at Vino where he’ll oversee the expansion of the store’s inventory.
Scott resides in Jersey City, NJ with his books. He will be missed greatly at IWC; we wish him the best of luck.
(July, 2009) Susan M. Hesleitner is a Wine Specialist for Big Value Wine and Liquors in Vails Gate, NY. A five-year veteran of the trade, she started as a tour guide for Millbrook Winery and Vineyards in the Hudson Valley where she conducted tours and tastings and explained the process of fermentation and vineyard management to visitors.
Hesleitner also worked as a Wine Associate for Vino Volo, the wine bar at John F. Kennedy International airport in Queens, NY. “I loved meeting people from around the world who were passionate about wine,” she says. Growing up in a family that drank wine with special dinners, Hesleitner has always considered wine her go-to beverage. She also found it the perfect writer’s block remedy when struggling with terms papers senior year of college. Maybe it was this harmonious marriage of wine with study that led Hesleitner to pursue wine education. She completed all four levels of Wine and Spirit Education Trust® Certificates at International Wine Center and earned her WSET® Diploma in 2009.
(July, 2009) Joshua Hakimi is a native New Yorker and has worked in the food and wine industries since he was 16. He has seen much of the world and both U.S. coasts as a chef, cooking in New York, California, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, Turkey and Italy. He was also a master bread baker’s apprentice for two years while pursuing an art career in Berlin.
Joshua holds the Certified Specialist in Wine certificate from the Society of Wine Educators and earned the WSET® Diploma in Wine and Spirits through the International Wine Center in 2009. He currently curates the 5,000-bottle wine collection at New York’s Wined Up wine bar and Punch restaurant. You can find him there nightly, leading tastings or instructing informal classes on the joys of the vine.
R. Veronique Fitzgerald
(July, 2009) Driving to work one morning on the M6 in New Zealand, R. Veronique Fitzgerald turned a corner – literally and figuratively – to enter the South Island’s Gibbston Valley and laid eyes on the sun-drenched vineyards of Chard Farm Winery; it was then that she knew what she wanted to do with her life.
“A good reason to raise a glass,” she says.
Fitzgerald developed her passion for wine through travel and living abroad in the UK and New Zealand for three years with her husband, chef Shehu Fitzgerald. She has led seminars on various topics at wine events in New York City and around the Northeast as well as participated in Women for WineSense events on both coasts.
Fitzgerald lives in Staten Island where she is opening wineLife, a retail store and wine consultancy in the Stapleton neighborhood, and serves as President of the New York City chapter of Women for WineSense. Fitzgerald completed the Wine & Spirit Education® Trust Diploma program in 2009, and is currently working toward her Master of Wine. She is also the proud mother of 18-month-old Ché Elizabeth.
(July, 2009) Jennifer Desmond, National Sales Manager for Cliff Lede Vineyards, has worked in the wine industry on the producer or importer side for 12 years. A native of Northern California, she discovered the trade serendipitously while waiting tables one summer in Calistoga and has never looked back.
Prior to Cliff Lede Vineyards, Jennifer worked with noted personality and Burgundy importer Daniel Johnnes. She was a recipient of the Chamson Scholarship, which provided her the opportunity to study wine and French in Chambolle-Musigny, in 1999, and received a continuing wine education scholarship from Les Dames d’Escoffier in 2006. She is also involved with the Napa Valley Vintners, serving as an East Coast educational ambassador to the winery association.When not traveling the country for her job, Jennifer is a passionate activist for sustainability. She is actively involved with the Natural Resources Defense Council and her local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Quail Hill Farm, on Long Island. Jennifer says she found the WSET Diploma experience to be invaluable for filling in the gaps of her wine education. She also holds the Certified Specialist of Wine accreditation from the Society of Wine Educators and is an applicant to the 2010 Institute of Masters of Wine program.
(July, 2009) Marisa D’Vari is the publisher of the online magazine AWineStory.com and contributor to London’s FT, Robb Report, Quarterly Review of Wine, Sante, San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications. AWineStory.com tells the stories of the producers who make wine.
D’Vari’s syndicated wine column is published in a variety of magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and online websites throughout the world. D’Vari earned her WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2009. She also holds the Certified Specialist of Wine credential from Society of Wine Educators, the “Certified Sommelier” (second level) Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers, the diploma from the Sommelier Society of America, and is in possession of two diplomas (one of them blind tasting) from the American Sommelier Society.
(July, 2009) Rodolphe Boulanger is the president of The Wine Messenger, a leading catalog and internet wine retailer focused on wines from small producers. Boulanger grew up around wine thanks to his French father and wine-collecting American grandfather. He loves how wine combines so many of his passions: history, trade, agriculture, biochemistry, culture, cuisine, and even art.
Boulanger has spent most of the last decade working in the import, distribution and retail of European wines in New York City and beyond. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Swarthmore College, a master’s degree from Columbia Business School and conducted research at the Plant Science Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW), Certified Specialist in Spirits (CSS) and the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) certificates from the Society of Wine Educators and achieved his WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirts in 2009.
Boulanger has traveled extensively to all the major wine regions of France, Italy and California. He also enjoys regular visits behind the bar to apply his amateur mixology skills.
(July, 2009) Jessica Bell founded The Midwest Wine School in June 2007. Her academic credentials include a Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust® and a certificate in Viticulture and Vinification from the American Sommelier Association in New York City.
She was recently designated an Ambassador of Armagnac and an accredited instructor of several French wine-producing regions after extensive travels and passing Masters-level exams. Her Midwest Wine School is currently the only accredited provider of the French Wine Academy in the Midwest.
Bell received her bachelor’s degree in Economics and Spanish from Duke University. She worked for a winery in Spain and subsequently became an accredited Spanish Wine Educator. The Madrid Chamber of Commerce endorses her fluency in Spanish. Bell also worked as a Sommelier at The Modern Restaurant in New York City. She currently offers wine-related classes in Milwaukee and Chicago, consults for area restaurants and retailers and is the Beverage Expert on the television program “Wisconsin Foodie.” More information about Bell and the school can be found at www.midwestwineschool.com.
Mary John Baumann
(July, 2009) Mary John Baumann, a 2009 WSET® Diploma recipient, has transferred her olfactory skills in the fragrance world to the wine world. A marketing executive for Coty Inc., the world’s largest fragrance company, Baumann has long been a passionate wine enthusiast and upon completion of her WSET Advanced Certificate in 2005, continued with her wine studies in pursuit of the WSET® Diploma.
Baumann is currently employing her fragrance world knowledge to research the relationship of olfactive influence on the appreciation of wine. Her goal is to help wine students better appreciate the role that sense of smell plays in the evaluation and enjoyment of fine wines.In addition to collecting wines, Baumann regularly visits the vineyards of France. She plans to apply to the Master of Wine program in 2009.
(July, 2009) John Bandman, a native New Yorker, is an instructor of wine and culinary management at The Art Institute of New York City, where he created a table service training program for the school’s restaurant.
John has also taught in Singapore and Switzerland and regularly freelances for such leading culinary establishments as Feast & Fetes, a catering company co-owned by noted chef Daniel Boulud. John is an accomplished chef and former Maitre d’Hotel, which deepens his understanding of the relationship between wine and food.
John earned the WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits in 2009 and holds sommelier certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and Sommelier Society of America. He is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. John was recently selected by the French Wine Society to travel through Provence in a funded research project, and emerged from the experience a Master-Level Educator on “Vins de Provence.” He is pictured here in Provence.
(July, 2008) Michael Reilly, an air traffic controller at Newark International Airport, developed an interest in wine about 15 years ago. But the more he explored, the more frustrated he grew. “As my purchases increased, I started to question the sales pitch I would receive from many wine merchants,” he says.
This thirst for the truth led him to International Wine Center where he completed the WSET® Diploma Program in 2008. “I do believe knowledge is power and this program has been tremendous,” he says. “With retirement only a few years away, I hope to be able to take this knowledge into a new career where I never have to pay retail again.”
(July, 2008) Dini V. Rao is a member of the team that will launch AmazonWine.com. She holds the position of Senior Account Manager, Business Development with the on-line retailer. Dini has studied and worked with wine for 10 years including as a wine specialist at Christie’s auction house, a sommelier at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, a wine retail buyer and a student at International Wine Center.
At Christie’s Dini inspected, tasted and valuated wines from premier collections around the world, advised collectors on buying wine and led tastings for clients. She earned her WSET® Diploma in Wine and Spirits in 2008.
Melissa Monti Saunders
(July, 2008) Melissa Monti Saunders is the founder of Monti Wine Company, an importer of high quality New Zealand wines and a consultant for companies requiring expertise in wine business and law. Prior to her current position, Melissa practiced as an associate attorney at Buchman Law Firm in New York City, well recognized as a leading firm specializing in alcohol beverage law.
Melissa earned a BA in English Literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997 and in 2003 was admitted to the NYS Bar, after graduating from St. John’s University School of Law. She also held a position as the East Coast Account Manager for Chateau Montelena winery, located in Calistoga, California. Melissa is a member of the American Sommelier Society, and an applicant for the Master of Wine program.
(July, 2008) Sharon Sevrens is the proprietor of Amanti Vino, an artisanal wine shop in Montclair, NJ. Sevrens opened the store in October 2005 and expanded in June 2008 to feature approximately 900 wines. The store also includes a classroom where Sevrens and her staff teach regular wine classes.
Before pursuing her WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits, Sevrens worked on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch as an Investment Banker. She received her BS in Economics as well as her MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
She resides in Montclair, NJ with her husband, two sons and Rufus, her yellow Lab who camps out in the store with her. In addition to her WSET® Diploma, which she earned in 2008, Sharon also holds a certificate from the Sommelier Society of America.
(July, 2008) Tamara Lover, a New Yorker residing in London, is a freelance wine journalist and advertising executive for Arnold Worldwide. While she’ll jokingly claim she entered the wine industry to get paid to drink, her scenario is quite familiar to any proper wine geek.
While dinning at a restaurant in New York City, the sommelier recommended a wine that would forever change her life. One sip of the Burgundian Pinot Noir blew her away. By the end of the glass, Tamara knew how she wanted to spend every moment of her spare time – finding that next great bottle of wine. Being no more than an armchair enthusiast, Tamara enrolled at the WSET to begin developing her wine expertise to help in her quest to discover mind-blowing, palate-bursting wines. In 2004, she was hired as the weekly Wine Columnist for Gothamist.com, where she shared her latest wine discoveries with her fellow New York lushes. In 2008, Tamara moved to London as a Global Account Director to manage a pan-European launch and, frankly, to be closer to the wine regions that originally captured her heart. Her plans for the future include returning to New York in 2009 to continue writing about wine and hopefully embarking on a top-secret wine venture.
(July, 2008) Jim Kuhner’s passion for handcrafted and artisanal wines led him to develop the concept for Vestry Wines, a retail store in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. As General Manager and Director of Operations, Kuhner’s top priority is sourcing the highest quality wines from around the world with an emphasis on small producers from California, France and Italy.
Kuhner, who started working in the wine industry in 2002, embraces the fact that education plays a big part in evolving the public’s tastes and perceptions about wine. At Vestry Wines, Kuhner always has bottles open at the tasting bar to introduce new producers, varietals and regions to his customers. Kuhner began his wine education in college and after many trips to California’s wine-producing regions decided that wine was more than a hobby. He studied at International Wine Center, earning the WSET® Diploma in 2008, and worked at an Italian wine store in Manhattan before opening Vestry.
(July, 2008) Michael Kirstein achieved his Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2008, not long after he earned an MBA in Marketing from EM Lyon Business School in Lyon, France. As part of his studies, he wrote a report on the US market for one of Champagne’s largest houses.
Michael has four years experience in the wine industry including positions with some of the top retailers and restaurants in New York City. In addition, he has eight years international business experience in operations, sales support, customer service, project management, management information systems and e-commerce. Michael is now pursuing a career in sales & marketing with Summergate, a large premium wine company in China.
Tracy Ellen Kamens
(July, 2008) A wine enthusiast who loves entertaining a class as much as a good vintage, Dr. Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D, DWS, has channeled her passions into a career as co-owner and Chief Education Officer of Grand Cru Classes wine school on Long Island. Along with the WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits, Tracy holds the Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Wine Educator credentials from Society of Wine Educators, the International Bordeaux Instructor title from L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, and has attended the Napa Valley Vintners Wine Educators Academy and the Wine Australia USA AusWISE program.Tracy has written for Wine Enthusiast, Long Island Wine Press, Long Island Wine Gazette and Wine Sediments, and is the author of a monthly educational newsletter, Grand Cru Grapevine, and the Grape Matter blog. An adjunct faculty member at New York University, Tracy has a Doctorate in Education from University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. degree from Cornell University.
(July, 2008) Susannah Gold is a communications professional with 13 years experience. Owner of the consulting company, Vigneto Communications, she brings to the business an extensive background not only in wine but also in food, finance, science and technology.
Along with holding the WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits, Susannah is one of only a handful of Americans in the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS). She also holds the Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW) and Certified Specialist in Spirits (CSS) certificates from the Society of Wine Educators.In addition to her public relations work, Susannah is a contributing writer to a number of food and wine publications and websites including Food & Beverage Business, the Italian magazine Business and Alta Cucina Inc. You can read her musings on wine under the blog name Avvinare at wordpress.org.
Sunny Hjorthol Gandara
(July, 2008) Sunny Hjorthol Gandara, a native of Norway, is Chief Education Officer and National Sales Director for Heavy Water, an ultra premium vodka brand from Scandinavia. She is also the owner of Fork and Glass, a New York-based company specializing in food and wine pairing, education and consulting.
Along with the DWS, Sunny holds the Certified Specialist of Wine credential and the Certified Specialist of Spirits title from the Society of Wine Educators. Additionally, she earned her Professional Culinary diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2006. Sunny has a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco and worked as a record label executive for a decade before entering the world of wine. She is a guest wine speaker at Rustico Cooking and has worked in retail for Best Cellars, both in NYC.
(July, 2008) Eileen Duffy is the sommelier at the Frisky Oyster restaurant in Greenport, New York and co-owner of Six Corners Wines & Liquors in Westhampton Beach. Eileen’s interest in wine started while waiting tables when she was a graduate student in English at NYU. The is certified as a Spanish Wine Educator by The Wine Academy of Spain.
Always led by her nose, Eileen is now happy to chronicle the Long Island wine industry and her wine education in magazines like Edible East End and Edible Manhattan. She also writes the wine blog cellarette.wordpress.com.
(July, 2008) Nicole Drummer is an associate editor at Wine & Spirits magazine, and manages tastings of all imported wines in the publication’s New York office. Her interest in wine stems from a 16-year upbringing in Zürich, Switzerland, where she tasted many wines from her family’s cellar and traveled to wine regions in Europe.
In 2004, Nicole received a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University, where she read intently about wine on the side. Since joining Wine & Spirits later that year, she worked a harvest in Chianti Classico and Montalcino, and completed the WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2008.
(July, 2008) Michael Cooperman is the Director of Education and Division Manager of Key Account Development with Southern Wine & Spirits of New Mexico. He has 10 years in the wine industry and has worked for restaurants, retailers and distributors. In New York City, Michael was the Beverage Director for Citarella, the Assistant to the Corporate Beverage Director at American Restaurant Group, and a Wine Consultant for the Burgundy Wine Company and Italian Wine Merchants.
In 2004 he moved back to New Mexico where he worked as a sales rep, manager and buyer for a local distributor and as the wine director for Scalo Northern Italian Grill before landing his current position. Michael also holds the Certified Specialist in Wine certificate from the Society of Wine Educators and the Certified Sommelier certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Michael earned the WSET® Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2008.
(July, 2008) A wine enthusiast for 20-plus years, Jason Carey recently decided to pursue his passion more seriously. Today he juggles several jobs and projects in the wine industry, including sales at Wine.com’s Berkeley, CA store, wine consultation for restaurants and video production for wine websites. Carey’s also writing a book on wine bars.
“Studying for the Diploma was a rigorous and very fulfilling experience,” says Carey, who says he may tackle the challenge of the Master of Wine program as soon as he recovers fully from Diploma. “Wine is something that you can spend a whole life exploring and yet will only scratch the surface.” Eventually Carey hopes to open a wine bar devoted to artisanal, organic wines.
(July, 2008) Michele Anderson, an Australian now residing in New York, is the General Manager for North America of Australian Vintage Ltd. She first ventured into the wine industry about 20 years ago as Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney (then the Regent) where she had the opportunity to buy and try wines for the largest wine cellar in the Southern Hemisphere.
After 10 years working with the firm Booz Allen advising Fortune 500 firms on marketing and distribution, she returned to her wine roots to launch her own companies, including: The Wine Angel, an import business of boutique Australian wines; the Australian wine brand Mirrabooka; and GreatAustralianWines.com, an on-line retailer of Australian wines. In 2007, she joined Australian Vintage Ltd., Australia’s second largest publicly-traded wine business, and brought Wine Angel in as its US fine wine distribution division. Since receiving her Diploma in Wine and Spirits, Michele is now a Master of Wine student. In her free time, the medal-winning windsurfer dusts off the board and heads to the beach.
(July, 2014) Vanessa Conlin is the director of sales and hospitality for Dana Estates winery in the Napa Valley. Originally from Amarillo, Texas, Conlin moved to New York City after high school to attend the Manhattan School of Music and pursue a career in opera. After earning a master’s degree in voice, Conlin performed as a professional opera singer in the United States and Europe and was an original cast member of the Tony Award-nominated Baz Luhrmann production of “La bohème” on Broadway.
The extensive travel required in opera provided the opportunity to visit numerous wine-growing regions, and Conlin soon discovered a true passion for studying wine, a passion that rivaled opera. Conlin earned her Sommelier Certification from The Sommelier Society of America before entering the WSET® program with International Wine Center, where she earned the WSET® Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits and completed her WSET® Diploma in Wines & Spirits in 2014. She also was the 2009 recipient of IWC’s Niki Singer Memorial Scholarship.
While in New York, Conlin was the manager and wine buyer for Pour Wines and Harlem Vintage, and the wine director for the wine bar Nectar. In 2010 she and her husband Curt made the exciting leap from New York to America’s most famous wine region, Napa Valley, where she loves being an integral part of a working winery every day.