Each month we'll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!
Award-winning Sommelier and vintner Michael Kennedy got his start in the wine industry at an early age when he was just 21. After working for a winery, he eventually became the Sommelier for Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Washington DC before moving on to the Cayman Islands to assume the role of Head Sommelier and directing the wine program for famed chef Eric Ripert. After this, Michael and his wife Rachel moved back to the U.S., where Michael launched Vin Fraîche Wine Group and distinct wineries in Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and Oregon. Throughout his years in the wine industry, Michael has always dreamed of creating his own intimate wine experience through a bottle of wine. Michael's drive to produce wines of freshness, vibrancy, and life has made a thread of commonality in the wines throughout his brands. His passion for wines that are complex, long-lived, and built for food has driven him to assemble a team of winemakers and friends that help create wines of substance. In 2017, Kennedy was named Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 list for his work in the wine industry. He has been called a "Rising Star" by Food & Wine Magazine, "Super-Somm" by Bloomberg's Elin McCoy, and a "Top Young Entrepreneur in America" by Business Insider. He splits his time between Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and his hometown, St. Louis.
Stay tuned- Michael Kennedy will be featured on The Somm Set throughout September 2021!
Shakera Jones is the voice behind the lifestyle brand, blog, and social media space BlackGirlsDineToo, which serves as a guide to the wonderful world of high-end food and wine. Her welcoming teaching style and warm personality allow people to learn about wine and cuisine no matter their knowledge or experience. Shakera is initially from Belize, where the country is a melting pot of just about everything. Her childhood was centered around food. Her father was an adventurous eater and would always take Shakera and her family to different ethnic restaurants to "try something new." To this day, Shakera has never lost that culinary curiosity. Currently, she is a tech professional by day and a wine student by night. She is currently studying to obtain certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Wine Scholar Guild. Shakera is also a media personality on the SOMM TV streaming network and is part of the cast of the soon-to-be-released film SOMM 4. She is a wine writer with articles featured in Food & Wine and SevenFifty Daily and was recently recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine. She recently launched her new podcast, A Glass for Every Palate. Shakera aims to promote and support diversity and inclusion efforts for women and other underrepresented groups in the culinary and fine wine industries.
Stay tuned- Shakera Jones will be featured on The Somm Set throughout August 2021!
New Orleans native Liz Dowty Mitchell began her hospitality and wine career at The Wine Loft and the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. She has devoted the last 15 years to learning everything she can about wine, traveling to all major wine-producing regions, and working in all aspects of the industry, including wine bars, wine shops, restaurants, wine distributors, and importers. Throughout her professional career, she has remained active in the sommelier community, completing all three portions of the Master Sommelier Diploma. Liz has also competed in and won various national sommelier competitions over the years and been a judge, speaker, and participant in many of the premier wine festivals throughout the country. When Liz is not “working,” you can find her spending time with her 3-year-old-son, Alexander, and husband John Mitchell. Today, she runs her own company Mitchell Somm Selections and is the Global Wine Trader for Vino Vest.
Stay tuned- Liz Dowty Mitchell will be featured on The Somm Set throughout July 2021!
California native Garth Hodgdon began his hospitality career in his hometown of Sacramento. After his career in Sacramento, he moved to the Napa Valley, where he spent five years with Chef Thomas Keller working as a Sommelier for Bouchon, The French Laundry, and Per Se. During this time, he passed his Advanced Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Then in 2010, he was honored by Wine & Spirits Magazine as one of the "Best New Sommeliers in America." In 2014, he joined the Krug team as the US Ambassador, where he discovered his deep love for Champagne. Today, you can find Garth and his business partner and friend, Chris Nicola, running their new ventures, Champagne Camp, and their Import and Distribution operation, The Alchemists Imports.
Stay tuned- Garth Hodgdon will be featured on The Somm Set throughout June 2021!
As a second-generation Sommelier and restaurateur, Philippe André has been a leader in the wine and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Philippe first developed a passion for hospitality and wine education growing up in the fine dining restaurant business. Philippe is now a Senior Business Development Manager at FOLIO Fine Wine Partners, where he continues to build the momentum of Charles Heidsieck, Rare Champagne, and the luxury portfolio of family-owned fine wines. Philippe and his wife Paige reside in Chicago’s South Loop but can often be found visiting family and friends in their “second home” of New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to his Champagne travels, Philippe serves on the board of The United Sommeliers Foundation.
You can follow Philippe and his love of vintage cars, Champagne, and Cuban cigars at @niquesomm on Instagram, where he frequently hosts a live interview series called “Charlie Chat.”
Stay tuned- Philippe André will be featured on The Somm Set throughout May 2021!
Napa Valley native and world-renowned Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson is the "go-to" expert for all things wine. She is one of only 26 female Master Sommeliers globally with a strong culinary pedigree as a graduate and former Dean of the French Culinary Institute. Andrea takes the seemingly daunting subject of wine and food and brings it down to earth for all to understand and enjoy. Throughout her career, she has been featured across leading national television networks and publications, the winner of three James Beard awards, and was the first woman ever named "Best Sommelier in the United States" by the Sommelier Society of America. Click here to learn more about Andrea Robinson.
Stay tuned- Andrea Robinson will be featured on The Somm Set throughout April 2021!
Paul Grieco was practically born in a restaurant, where he was introduced into the world of service and hospitality at a very young age. Upon returning from a 28 day trip to Italy, Paul's wine knowledge transformed to nearly expert level. He spent the next six years working with his father and grandfather at La Scala, overseeing the beverage program, and managing the front-of-the-house staff. In 2004, Grieco and chef-partner Marco Canora opened Hearth in the East Village. In 2008 Grieco opened the first of two wine bars, Terroir, which many wine lovers seek to experience unique wines found among the fringes. A lover of grape juice, Paul's philosophy and wine preferences push the limits and pay homage to the alternative side of the wine industry!
Stay tuned- Paul Grieco will be featured on The Somm Set throughout March 2021!
Sommelier Jon McDaniel is the founder and CEO of Second City Soil, a Chicago-based wine consultancy. He works with wineries, suppliers, distributors, and various global marketing agencies on growth and brand strategy in the Chicagoland area, United States, and globally. Jon is recognized as one of America's top wine professionals and is one of the most awarded Sommeliers. He has done a little bit of everything in the wine business, from his own California wine label - Amos Cellars to being a founding member of the United Sommelier's Foundation and his newest endeavor, The Vine Hive. When he's not tasting wines for his business, you can find Jon drinking drinks that only an 85-year-old Italian Nonno would appreciate.
Stay tuned- Jon McDaniel will be featured on The Somm Set throughout February 2021!
Chris Blanchard is part of the small group of just over 200 individuals in the world to pass the Master Sommelier exam. He is currently the National Sales Director for VHR Vine Hill Ranch, the acclaimed Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from the historic Napa Valley vineyard, and also a founder of the United Sommeliers Foundation.
With over 30 years in the wine business, he has opened and created wine programs for numerous prestigious Michelin starred restaurants across the country and has represented some of the Napa Valley's most exclusive wineries, including Far Niente, Etude, and Chappellet.
His restaurant experience includes many years as the Wine Director and Sommelier for REDD Restaurant, where San Francisco Magazine named Chris as the "Critic's Choice Best Wine Director," naming him as one of the "4 Stars" in the entire San Francisco Bay Area food scene. Forbes Magazine named his wine list at REDD as one of the "Top Wine Lists in the World," and he has been featured in numerous Food & Wine Magazine articles. He served as consulting Wine & Beverage director for Hollywood's famed Chateau Marmont, as well as opening the Solage & Bardessono resorts in Napa Valley, as a sommelier at Auberge du Soleil, and as a mentor and trainer for many aspiring sommeliers around the country.
Stay tuned- Chris Blanchard will be featured on The Somm Set throughout January 2021!
Sommelier and Wine Director, Tonya Pitts, has been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. She is known globally as a multi-talented wine professional, an industry changemaker, and a compassionate role model. Her career began in St. Louis, Missouri as a host during college. Eventually, her fine art studies relocated her to San Francisco, taking her first job with Chef Judy Rodgers at Zuni Cafe and Chef Jeremiah Tower at Stars Restaurant. Soon after, Tonya was running the wine program for Loretta Keller at Bizou Restaurant. It was with Loretta Keller that Tonya realized her true passion for wine. She has been featured in and a judge for Wine & Spirits magazine, Tasting Panel, and numerous news and industry publications throughout her career. Additionally, Tonya judges for the San Francisco International Wine Competition and continues her wine studies with the Court of Master Sommeliers. You can find Tonya working the dining room floor most nights at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco.
Stay tuned- Tonya Pitts will be featured on The Somm Set throughout December 2020!
Doug Frost is a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier as well as an author and wine consultant based in Kansas City, MO. In 1991 he passed the rigorous Master Sommelier examination and two years later became America’s 8th Master of Wine. He was the second person in history to complete both exams and more than a quarter century later he is still one of only three people in the world to have achieved both these remarkable distinctions. He consults with many retailers, restaurateurs, wineries and distillers in marketing, merchandising, sales, education and sensory perception.
Most recently, Doug and business partner Brad Bergman celebrated their first release of wine from their winery, Echolands, out of the Walla Walla Valley. We chatted with him on his excitement to be making wine in a style that not many people are making right now, a style he thinks is worth making! Taste along with us on Nov 19th for an epic Raid Y(our) Cellar installment featuring the Spanish “First Growth,” Vega Sicilia, the most powerful producer hailing from the Ribera del Duero. Doug will be live, giving his insight on these high scoring stunners!
Stay tuned- Doug Frost will be featured on The Somm Set throughout November/December 2020!
DLynn Proctor has been a leading figure in the wine industry for 20 years.
His many accomplishments include working alongside Michelin chefs, and features in TV series and films—including the internationally acclaimed wine documentary series, SOMM and work as Associate Producer in Netflix’s featured film, Uncorked—have earned him recognition as “Somm to the Stars” in popular culture. DLynn is the Director of Fantesca Estate & Winery on Spring Mountain, with wines made by Heidi Barrett.
As a leader in the beverage industry, DLynn has spent the last decade in global leadership roles with Penfolds Winery and Fantesca Estate & Winery, focusing on import/export, sales, marketing, strategy, and consumer relations. The previous decade of his career, DLynn was instrumental in building restaurant and training programs, private client and retail wine lists, and expanding new venue operations, while garnering accolades as an accomplished sommelier. Most recently Mr. Proctor co-founded the non-profit Wine Unify, which has been recognised by Wine Business Monthly as a Wine Industry Leader for 2020, honoring changemakers who shape the way the wine industry operates and how consumers drink wine.
Jodi Bronchtein, Advanced Sommelier's journey began somewhere between figuring out how wine worked with food while working at fine dining restaurant, McCrady's in Charleston, SC, and a magical aha-moment with a bottle of 2001 Chateau Musar. Nowadays, Jodi spends her time exploring Napa's best wineries (120 and counting) and working the floor at PRESS Napa Valley! Follow along with us as we feature Jodi throughout September & October 2020.
Alexander LaPratt MS fell in love with wine at a young age while working for Madeline Triffon MS. His passion has taken him around the country where he has worked the floor for some of the world's finest restaurants, including Michael Mina, The French Laundry, Daniel, Atera, Le Bernardin, and Jean-Georges. In 2013 opened his own restaurant, Atrium DUMBO, in the posh neighborhood of DUMBO Brooklyn. Featured the month of August 2020, Alexander gave us the inside scoop on all of his favorites- from Champagne to BOND Estates!