While studying Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Catherine Fallis set out to explore the service industry in Europe. It was during these travels when she first experienced wine not as an elite beverage but as something interesting and accessible, and has maintained this approach to wine ever since.
After becoming Chef’s Apprentice at Chef Alain Sailhac’s famed Le Cirque Restaurant, she took a position with Leona Helmsley at the Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York City, where she managed the award-winning restaurant Villard House. Kevin Zraly became an important mentor to Catherine, instructing her to take certain wine courses and keeping a close eye on her progress, eventually naming her Wine School Coordinator and Cellar Master.
In Hawaii, she began pursuing the exclusive Court of Master Sommelier designation with passion. Her journey took her to California, where she worked as Los Angeles area manager for Seagram Classics, wine buyer at Beltramo’s Wines & Spirits, and later served as sommelier and wine director at Michael Mina’s renowned restaurant Aqua in San Francisco.
Catherine passed the Masters exam in 1997 and became the fifth woman in the world to earn the title of Master Sommelier. At the same time, she joined the Master of Wine program and is now a second year Master of Wine candidate. She earned the title of Advanced Certified Wine Professional (ACWP) from the Culinary Institute of America in 2009, where she was adjunct faculty for eleven years, and is the only person in the world to be both a Master Sommelier and an ACWP. In 2011 she became a French Wine Scholar and in 2012 a California Wine Appellation Specialist, and is adjunct faculty at the San Francisco Wine School.
Fallis is the author of the grape goddess® guides to good living series and she is the Master Sommelier at Planet Grape® LLC, a wine consulting firm providing content, reviews, corporate & private tastings, restaurant wine program development, and speaking services.
What is your favorite wine region to visit?
Italy, but not just for the wine.
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
I wanted to be able to bring people into wine in a fun, non-threatening, engaging and down-to-earth manner the way my former boss, Kevin Zraly does. Especially after sitting in so many boring, stuffy, and pretentious presentations.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Getting everything done for my various clients. Keeping up with the ongoing updates and changes and harvests around the wine world.
What other passions beside wine do you have?
Volunteering at my son’s school. Working towards having permanent traffic safety installations implemented there that will save lives long after I am gone.
Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.
2012 Fritz Willi Riesling Qualitatswein, Germany
2003 Krug Vintage Brut Champagne, France
2010 Vall Llach Porrera Vi de Vila DOQ Priorat, Spain
2011 Barrua Isola dei Nuraghi IGT Sardinia, Italy
2008 Donnafugata Mille e una Notte Contessa Entellina Rosso DOC Sicily, Italy
2012 Lodi Native Old Vine Single Vineyard Zinfandel Collection, Lodi, California
What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or region in the world?