Raised in Dallas, hospitality and cuisine surrounded Robert from a young age with his family’s business in the Food and Beverage industry. Robert went on to study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Hotel Administration and pursued the fields of Economics and Philosophy while working at boutique restaurants before earning a position at Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. There he worked for James Beard award-winning chef Julian Serrano. In February, 2004 Robert was one of three (out of 41) to pass the Master Sommelier diploma examination held in San Francisco. One of 149 total Master Sommeliers in the United States, Robert has dedicated his life to wine education, travel and cuisine.
Through his career as Master Sommelier at Picasso, Robert played a key role in building the restaurant’s renowned cellar which boasts 1,500 selections from the finest vineyards in Europe. Robert’s expertise earned Picasso the Wine Spectator Grand Award every year from 2003 – 2016, Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in 2015, SANTÉ Restaurant Award’s Excellence in Wine Hospitality in 2007, and a Five Time James Beard Finalist position for Outstanding Wine Service. Robert began working for Foley Family Wines as Factotum in the summer of 2016 where his wine expertise is cultivated in many aspects of the business. The diversified Foley Family portfolio of resorts, restaurants and wineries highlights Robert’s background in fine wine, food and hospitality.
Before they started to make wine, they were passionate wine consumers, spending many of their weekends exploring small wineries all over California and further afield in France, Switzerland and New Zealand. After absorbing themselves in lots of wine literature, they went from being street-smart about wines to being book-smart.
Starting around 2000, Waits and Mast continued this pursuit of knowledge by attending the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival as consumers and learned more about the winemaking process during the annual festival's technical conference. That conference, along with the warm and welcoming wine community of Anderson Valley, prompted them to take their love for pinot noir to a new level. In 2005 they crafted their first barrel of Pinot Noir. Pleased with the results, they continued the following year. By 2007 they launched Waits-Mast Family Cellars as a small, yet focused commercial brand that cemented their shift from wine geeks to winemakers.
While some sommeliers enter the restaurant world later in life, after catching the wine bug, Martin Sheehan-Stross has been working in restaurants nonstop since he was 15, growing up on the Peninsula, south of San Francisco. He’s an anomaly in his family: No one else worked in restaurants, but he was attracted to the kinetic energy of working the floor. He liked it so much, in fact, that he majored in hospitality and tourism management at UC–San Diego.
Sheehan-Stross began to explore the nuances of wine service when he landed an internship at Amaya in San Diego’s Grand Del Mar resort, “which has an amazing wine collection,” he points out. Jesse Rodriguez was the hotel’s wine director at the time—fresh off a stint as the head sommelier at The French Laundry.
After college, Sheehan-Stross moved back to San Francisco, working his way up to a sommelier position at Spruce in Laurel Heights—a destination for San Franciscans looking to delve into a cellar filled with rarities like grand cru Burgundy, old German riesling and seriously old Madeira. He later worked at Gary Danko, another powerhouse restaurant known for its deep wine list and impeccable service.
In 2013, he earned the Rudd Scholarship for the top score on the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced exam, and earlier this year won the national TopNewSomm championship from the Guild of Sommeliers and Best Young Sommelier in the World from the Chaine des Rotisseurs.
He’s now the Lead Sommelier at Michael Mina San Francisco. As a lifelong restaurant pro, service is front and center for Sheehan-Stross. Ask him about his vision of being a sommelier, and he won’t list all of the cool wines and old vintages he’s been drinking this month—though no doubt he’s had a few. Instead, he’ll talk about bussing tables.
She is now a wine-passionate Sommelier who just took the rigorous Advanced Exam in in July and passed! Her sights are set beyond that towards the coveted Master Sommelier Diploma. As if this wasn’t enough, she also earned degrees in both Chemistry and Biochemistry, and a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering focusing on solar energy while simultaneously earning her Sommelier Certification.
She has found the rich history surrounding wine as fascinatingly captivating as their aromas and flavors. Sharing these with others has become her passion. Having spent 14 years working for the Disneyland Resort, last year she joined the Marina Kitchen at the Marriott Marquis in San Diego as their Wine Director. She was a recipient of the Guild of Sommeliers “Napa Valley Enrichment Scholarship” and is on the Board of Advisors for SommCon. She is currently the Food & Beverage Director and Sommelier of St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
Award-winning speaker, consultant, and television host, Leslie Sbrocco is known for her entertaining approach to wine and food, as well as inspiring others to live a life of passion. Voted as one of the Top 100 most influential people in the American wine business, Sbrocco's engaging personality, humor, and ability to connect with the audience - whether on screen or on stage - are her trademarks.
Sbrocco’s first book, Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine (William Morrow), has been excerpted by two national magazines, Redbook and Family Circle, and won the coveted Georges Duboeuf Best Wine Book of the Year award. Her second book, The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide (William Morrow), was released to wide acclaim, and she is currently at work on two new books entitled 100 Days…100 Drinks, Dishes & Destinations and Drinking for a Living: How One Woman Created Her Dream Job and So Can YOU.
As host of the PBS restaurant review series Check Please! Sbrocco has won a coveted James Beard award, three Taste Awards, and three Emmy awards in the span of 10 seasons on air. Sbrocco was a featured judge on the PBS national series, The Winemakers, and created wine content for the hit TBS show, Cougartown. She appears frequently on national television outlets including CNN, The Hallmark Channel’s Better TV, QVC, and is a regular guest on NBC’s Today Show. Her work has been published in outlets such as People Style Watch magazine, Epicurious.com, O the Oprah magazine, Coastal Living, Woman’s Day, Health, Good Housekeeping and Glamour among others. Prior to completing Wine for Women, Leslie was a columnist forThe New York Times online and General Manager of WineToday.com, a site of The New York Times Company. She is also the founder of the multi-media company, Thirsty Girl LLC.
Through her social media, print, online outlets and television appearances, Leslie reaches millions of consumers. Sbrocco is one of the country’s most sought-after wine speakers and an emerging talent speaking to groups on how to turn their passions into their careers. She has showcased her energetic style at hundreds of events including O Magazine's Hi Gorgeous tour with Oprah Winfrey, and the Women of the Vine, and Women in Insurance Leadership Symposiums.
Her portfolio of corporate clients lists Liberty Mutual Insurance, The Wall Street Journal, Mercer, Cisco Systems, RedPrairie, and AON to name a few. Within the culinary industry, Sbrocco has appeared on stage with a roster of celebrity chefs including Marcus Samuelsson, Carla Hall, and Jacques Pépin.
She has been keynote speaker at high-profile events including Food and Wine Magazine’s Aspen Classic, the Boston Wine Expo, Pinot Noir New Zealand, Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, the Boardwalk Wine Promenade, Tulalip Resort’s Taste of Tulalip, and SF Chefs.
Leslie has built programs for and consulted with companies such as Target, Harry & David, and Kimpton Hotels. Her educational and event clients include The Atlantic City Alliance, Wines from Spain, Trentino Wines, G7 Wines of Portugal, Crystal Cruises, and Holland America Cruise Lines. Sbrocco is member of the philanthropic society Les Dames d’Escoffier and a respected judge at global wine competitions including the Concours Mondial, The Argentina Wine Awards, Sunset Magazine’s International Wine Competition, Critics Challenge, and the San Francisco International Wine & Spirits Competition.
Diana Kelley holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Engineering by the Monterrey Institute of Superior Studies ITESM (Monterrey, Mexico) and a Master of Science in Viticulture, Enology and Terroir management by ESA École Supérieure d´Agriculture (Angers, France). She also completed the level 3 certification by the WSET Wines and Spirits Education Trust (New York, USA).
She started her career in the wine industry in 2008 with Pernod Ricard Mexico before moving to Europe to continue her wine studies. In 2011 she began working for Vins du Monde (Lavinia Group) in Paris, Tempos Vega Sicilia´s distributor in France, where she was purchasing and portfolio manager for the past three years.
Since April 2016, Diana is Tempos Vega Sicilia´s Regional Manager for America, leading the markets in North, Central, and South America.
Suzanne Hoffman is an attorney and freelance journalist born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She grew up in Thibodaux, in the heart of Louisiana’s bayou country, and now resides in the central Colorado Rockies near Vail.
Thanks to the influences of her Sicilian grandmother and mother, Suzanne developed a rabid wanderlust and passion for the cucina at an early age. She became a daydreamer who pondered trips to distant shores and lives in close-knit families steeped in culture. Suzanne fell in love with Europe, particularly Switzerland and Italy. She studied Biomedical Engineering at Tulane University and later law at South Texas College of Law in Houston.
After she finished law school, Suzanne, her husband, Dani, and their two miniature Schnauzers, Otis and Ludwig, moved from their home in Houston, Texas, to Switzerland where she worked as an attorney in the financial services and aviation industries. It was during her years of expatriate alpine living that Suzanne discovered Piemonte. The region, particularly its people and their heritage, bewitched her.
Shortly after repatriating to America in 2007, Suzanne began to find her writing voice. She worked as a freelance writer exploring the behind the scenes world of Colorado’s hospitality industry through first hand work experiences she shared in her weekly “Behind the Scenes” column in the Vail Daily. In March 2013, Suzanne embarked upon a labor of love exploring the wine families of Piemonte through the eyes of its women. Her voice became their collective voice and, on June 2, 2016, after hundreds of hours of research and interviews, Suzanne launched her first book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, in Piemonte at the Barbaresco winery Cà del Baio.
Suzanne holds a Federal import license and has represented several Piemonte wine families in Colorado. She recently completed 10 years of service to Chaîne des Rotîsseurs as Bailli in Vail and now serves the Southwest Region as Chambellan Provincial. When not immersed in her labor of love at the keyboard, Suzanne enjoys alpine skiing, snowshoeing, biking, hiking, and exploring the world of wine with her husband, Dani.
Suzanne is pictured above, left, with Anna Abbona (Marchesi di Barolo) at an event at the Castello di Monticello.
Danae McLaughlin is a Certified Executive Chef with The American Culinary Federation. Beginning as the owner/operator of a neighborhood restaurant, she has expanded her role in the culinary community as a competition chef winning numerous medals including a Gold Medal at the San Diego Fancy Food Competition. She joined the Harker School, and as the Executive Sous Chef she was responsible for the overall operation and management of six kitchens on four campuses serving a total of 3000 meals a day. Now serving as Director of Special Events, she is in charge of creative concepts, logistics, food and beverage, and operations for all major events including the annual Gala, The Harvest Festival and The Concert Series.
Chef Danae's Creations
Christophe has a vast network of personal relationships with the best winemakers in the Rhône Valley, grown from his many years living in the region. Christophe completed his sommelier diploma from the Universite du Vin, the Rhône Valley’s professional wine university. He won the title of 2nd Best Young French Sommelier in 1988, Best Sommelier “South of France” in 1992 and became in 2000 Master Sommelier UDSF. In 2004 he was rewarded with the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France - Sommelier, France’s highest sommelier distinction.
San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival
Eat Drink Films
Bubblyfest by the Sea
Society of Wine Educators Conference
Eat Drink SF
National Restaurant Association Show
Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo
Golden Gate Restaurant Association Industry Days
French Wine Society's 10th Anniversary Symposium
Naoussa Trade Tasting
Rally for Riekes
San Diego Food & Wine Festival
Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s EatDrink SF
Uncorked Wine Festival
Somm Sake Smackdown 2013 & 2014
Alberto Antonini graduated with a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Florence with a thesis on vines in virtual extinction in Tuscany. He later attended oenological courses at Bordeaux university and Davis in California. After graduating, in 1986 Alberto started to work as assistant oenologist with Frescobaldi; later he was Technical Director at Col D’Orcia in Montalcino and then moved onto Antinori as Head of Oenology through to 1996. Alberto has also spent time working short stints at Robert Mondavi winery, Au Bon Climat and Qupe. Today Alberto consults in many countries around the world: Italy, Argentina, Chile, California, Uruguay, Canada, Armenia and Australia. Alberto lives in Tuscany together with his wife Alessandra and their children Angelica, Margherita and Carlo.
Fadi graduated with a degree in Viticulture and Winemaking from the University Degli Studi Di Udine, Italy in 2012. His thesis was about the genetic identification of local grape varieties in Palestine. During his time in Italy, he worked at several wineries including Mezzocorona Winery, San Michele Winery, Falesco Winery, Cervetery Winery, and Endirizzi Winery. After graduation he began working at the Cremisan Wine Estate in Palestine as an assistant winemaker and agronomist, alongside one of the most famous winemakers in Italy, Dr. Riccardo Cotarella.
Fadi has held his position of Manager of the Agronomical Sector of the Cremisan Wine Estate since 2013. He said that it's an honor for him to be part of the only existing winery in Palestine that helps the local farmers as well as the Salesian cause while still maintaining tradition by using local grape experience while working as a consultant for a local family (through the Tent of Nations Initiative) during which he established for them a small winery with 0.5 ha vineyard.
Born in Alhambra, California, Bob was raised in South Pasadena, California, and graduated from South Pasadena High School. He attended both California State University of Los Angeles and UCLA and graduated with degrees in Business Administration and Finance.
Bob is a 42 year veteran of the wine and spirits business, encompassing Retail, Wholesale-Distribution, Importing, Exporting, National Sales and Marketing, Winery Operations, and Wine Cellar Design and Acquisition. He was most recently Director for the Hearst Ranch Winery, a partnership between Stephen Hearst, 4th generation of California’s famous Hearst Family (Hearst Publication and Media, Hearst Ranch, Hearst Castle), and Jim Saunders of Paso Robles-San Simeon, California.
Previous to this, he was Managing Director of Maddalena Brands-San Antonio Winery of Los Angeles, California, and with this company for 26 years. During this time, from 1984 to 2005, he was also Vice President-Partner of Dreyfus, Ashby & Company, a national wine importer and marketing company based in New York, New York.
Previous to this he was Vice-President General Manager-Wine Division of Young’s Market Company, Los Angeles, California. Currently, Bob is Managing Director for LAC Products of Glendale, California, an importer of middle-eastern based wine and spirits, and Partner-COO for Choctal LLC, a producer of single-origin, chocolate and vanilla premium ice creams. In addition, he is a limited partner in the Smith Brothers’ Restaurant Chain of Pasadena, California.
Bob sits on the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Symphony and POPS and holds the position of Vice-President Finance-Treasurer and on the Board of Directors of the Huntington Hospital-Parkway Grill Fall Food and Wine Festival and is Chair of its Wine & Spirits Committee. Bob, his wife Kim, and his sixteen year old daughter, Darcy, reside in Altadena, California.
As one of the first two resident American Masters of Wine (1990), Joel Butler, MW has had a long and varied career in the wine industry.
Joel Butler graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in History, also attending university in Florence, Italy. In fall, 1972, he returned to Europe to learn the wine business spending many months visiting wine-producing regions, participating in the harvest in Burgundy, and gathering information. He has never ceased his involvement in the wine industry over the last 44 years. Later, he also received a Masters Degree in European History from the University of Colorado (1975).
His first book with Dr Randall Heskett: Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age was published by MacMillan Palgrave in November 2012. It has received positive reviews and was voted by Gourmand International UK best wine book of 2012.
In 2014, Butler contributed to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol, a three volume academic resource publication, writing on several topics, including the entry on the Roman Empire.
In 1977, Butler started writing professionally on wine for VINTAGE magazine. Subsequently, he wrote for FRIENDS OF WINE, THE INTERNATIONAL WINE CELLAR, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, the LA TIMES, and a regular column in the CONTRA COSTA TIMES, among others. Currently he is a Contributing Editor for the INTERNATIONAL WINE REVIEW (I-winereview.com), wineandspirits.com and his blog, WineKnowLog (www.mywineknow.com/blog).
Over the decades, Butler has been a retail and restaurant wine buyer/manager, an importer/distributor for a small San Francisco wholesaler, the National Manager and Director of Education for Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines and Ste Michelle Wine Estates respectively, and a partner in WineKnow LLC in Redmond, WA. WineKnow teaches WSET courses and counsels importers, retailers and producers, as well as writing the website’s blog; WineKnowLog. Over the years he has spoken at many conferences, including Society of Wine Educators and the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Izmir, Turkey and Montreux, Switzerland.
From January 1, 2015, He and WineKnow partner Karen Graf own World of Wines in Redmond, WA, a fine wine retail store with wine bar, featuring top wines made around the world, focusing on Northwest wines, the Mediterranean regions and older vintages.
Joel has been a highly regarded wine judge, for decades globally, most recently as a Senior Judge at the International Wine Challenge, and Decanter World Wine Awards in London, along with the Dallas Morning News Competition and the Seattle Wine Awards. He began making wine (non-commercially) in 1980, producing many award-winning wines at the California State Fair and Orange County Fair.
He is a member of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Board Vice-president for the North American IMW organization, and an associate member of ASOR.
Jeff Berlin has been the General Manager and Wine and Spirits Buyer at A Cote Restaurant in Oakland, California since it's conception in the year 2000. Together with Chef Matthew Colgan, Jeff helped create A Cote's long-standing reputation for exceptional European-influenced cuisine, service, wine, and spirits. Jeff's love and passion for old-world wine evolved alongside the modern renaissance of the European wine industry, as long dormant wine production in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus regions came back to life. Working closely with a few pioneering Bay Area importers, Jeff has played an important part in generating interest in and a growing market for the lesser known rare grapes, regions and producers of Europe. In addition to exposing A Cote's clientele to a broader selection of wine, Jeff has traveled extensively throughout Europe, experiencing firsthand the effect that traditional grape growing and wine-making has had on the preservation and promotion of culture. A Cote has in turn hosted many glorious events with the wine-makers and their families that Jeff has met while traveling, further cultivating a growing appreciation for old world wines and the artisans who make them by American diners.
Dr. Patrick Hunt has been teaching in Humanities at Stanford University for the past 24 years. His Ph.D. is from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, University of London in 1991. He is a National Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America since 2009 and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society since 1989. National Geographic Expedition Council has sponsored some of his archaeology fieldwork. He appears frequently on National Geographic, PBS, NOVA and History Channel broadcasts.
Hunt has taught postgraduate courses on History of Wine at Stanford and elsewhere and has lectured at wineries and related venues around the world, including for the Napa Valley Vintners Association at Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, Napa Valley, Carmel-Monterey vintners / wine merchants and the Institute of Masters of Wine. Among over 100 published articles, he has also written on global wine history and wine mythology as well as written and published eighteen books. His wine journeys have been across five continents and he annually spends time in viticultural regions in France, Italy and the Rhine as well as California. Having studied the cultivation and multiple purposes of wine and grapes and early agriculture since the Neolithic, he is also a Research Associate in Archeoethnobotany at the Institute for EthnoMedicine. His book Wine Journeys: Myth and History was published in 2013.
Wes Hagen is the Consulting Winemaker and Brand Ambassador for J. Wilkes Wines in the Santa Maria Valley, California. In 2013, Michael Cervin (Wall Street Journal, Decanter) rated Wes as one of the 100 Most Influential Winemakers in the Unites States (#68). Wes worked as Vineyard Manager and Winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyards and Estate Wines in the Sta Rita Hills for 21 years and is considered an industry leader in Santa Barbara Wine, having served for more than a decade on the Board of Directors for both Santa Barbara County Vintners and Santa Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. Wes is also an accomplished wine writer, researcher and lecturer. Wes researched, wrote and had approved the last three AVA’s in Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon. He has written for the L.A Times Magazine, Sommelier Journal, Burgundy Report and has appeared and been featured/ quoted numerous times in the Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast. Wes taught the Food and Wine Pairing program at Allan Hancock College for four years and has lectured on the History of Wine and Santa Barbara Wine at Cornell University, CalTech and many, many other prestigious institutions. He has also been nominated for a TED-talk on the History of Wine. Wes has an active and impressive social media following on Facebook (Wes Hagen), Twitter, Instagram and Delectable (@weshagen).
He was a catalyst in the re-evaluation and renaissance of zinfandel and other wine varieties grown in the Sierra foothills of California. He has been a leader in advocating wider use of Italian varieties of grapes in California.
Mr. Corti is widely consulted by experts in the wine and food industry for his opinions on wines and food: i.e., olive oil, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, with notable quotes in recent editions of New York Times and Fortune Magazine. He has been a contributing Editor of Saveur Magazine.
Mr. Corti sits on several tasting panels for regional, state, national, and foreign wine competitions, and is a member of several wine and food societies, notably American Society of Enologists and Medical Friends of Wine.
Among his many honors are Bacco d'Oro awarded by the Italian Government Institute of Foreign Trade in recognition for his work promoting quality Italian wines; Who's Who of Cooking honoring leaders of America's Culinary industry. WAFIF awarded from the American Institute of Wine and Food; Cavaliere (Knighthood) in the Ordine al Meriot della Republica Italiano awarded by the President of the Italian Republic, a Culinary Institute of America Vintner’s Hall of Fame inductee Class of 2008, and a 2009 inductee into the Italian Trade Commission’s Hall of Fame, just to mention a few of his numerous recognitions.
During recent years Mr. Corti has been a guide for the Smithsonian tours to Italy, and over the past 20 years has been an escort for wine, food, and olive oil tours to Italy, Spain. France, Greece, Portugal, Chile, and Argentina. He has recently been named to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's "Kitchen Cabinet" for their American Food History Project.
Mr. Corti is fluent in several languages with a degree in Spanish and Italian from St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. He also studied a year at the University of Madrid in Spain.
Bartholomew Broadbent is the owner of Broadbent Selections, est. 1996, one of America’s finest wine importing companies. He also produces Broadbent Madeira, Vinho Verde and Port. In 1989, having moved to America four years earlier to develop the Port market, Bartholomew helped reintroduce Madeira to the USA, as it had never recovered from Prohibition's destructive effect. "He has expanded from his pivotal role in the breathtaking growth of Port and Madeira to exert a profound influence on the US wine market” wrote Decanter magazine in 1997 who named him one of the “fifty most influential in the wine world…the faces to watch in the new millennium”.
Profiled by Wine Spectator , Market Watch “The Pioneer of Port”  and Forbes.com , the son of Michael Broadbent MW, Bartholomew was also named by Wine&Spirits in 2008 as one of ten in the world to be “driving the most revolutionary changes in wine” for his work producing Chinese wine. Broadbent Selections continues to build the Madeira revival but now also represents famous wines from most wine producing countries including Chateau Musar, Ferreira, Spy Valley, Tyrrell’s, Elderton and many of the most cutting edge wineries in South Africa. Bartholomew was with his father at the Bristol Wine Fair in 1979 when they discovered Chateau Musar, the focus wine in his Origins of Wine Civilization talk, and he has subsequently been involved with Chateau Musar representing it professionally on and off since 1982. He lived in San Francisco for 21 years but moved to Richmond, Virginia 8 years ago.