The 2023 Naples Winter Wine Festival is pleased to have featured 18 talented sommeliers.
The sommeliers shared their wine passion and expertise at Vintner Dinners and on Auction Day.
To read about the 2023 Sommeliers, click their names.
The sommeliers shared their wine passion and expertise at Vintner Dinners and on Auction Day.
To read about the 2023 Sommeliers, click their names.
Born in a small city in Canada, Thatcher Baker-Briggs knew from the age of 10 that restaurants were going to be his passion. His professional trajectory boasts key positions in kitchens and dining rooms of some of the most influential restaurants in the world including then three-Michelin starred Saison under Chef Joshua Skenes (2014-2017), the highly regarded Takazawa in Tokyo, and at two-Michelin starred COI in San Francisco. After working with the leadership team to oversee the opening of ANGLER in San Francisco, Thatcher decided to go off on his own and founded Thatcher’s Wine Consulting in 2019, where clients are leaders in a wide range of industries including technology, publishing, finance and politics. In 2021, Thatcher launched Thatcher’s Wine and Thatcher’s Imports. Thatcher’s Wine is an online bottle shop and importer featuring wines from some of the world’s most dynamic domaines and emerging winemakers. From exceptional everyday bottles to rarified finds, our highly curated cellar focuses on honest expressions of climate and terroir from across Europe. Thatcher has been named one of Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Future 40 and FSR 2022 Rising Stars, and featured in Robb Report, Eater, Esquire, and The Manual, to name a few.
Treasury Wine Estates
Gillian Ballance MS, DWS has spent the last 20 years working in the best fine dining restaurants, hotels and resorts in the United States.
Ms Ballance began her career at The Rainbow Room, one of the most beloved restaurants in New York City, and worked under Andrea Immer Robinson. While there, Ballance’s thirst for knowledge and passion for wine became evident, so when Andrea became the Beverage Director at the Windows of the World Restaurant, she took Gillian with her.
Exposed to a cellar with over 100,000 bottles was the best education a passionate wine enthusiast could have and Ballance’s career soared. Her career includes opening up Cello in NYC, Wine and Beverage Director at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, Plumpjack Group’s Wine Director, Wine Consultant and Sommelier for Bottega Restaurant in Napa Valley, Wine Director at the luxurious Cavallo Point. Currently Ballance is the National Education Manager at Treasury Wine Estates.
Ballance has been featured in numerous publications like Wine Spectator, Food and Wine Magazine and an abundance of Trade publications. She has also judged at several wine competitions and conducts wine seminars and lectures across the United States.
In 2012 Ballance passed the esteemed Master Sommelier Diploma Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers, representing one of 30 women in the world. She received her Higher Certificate of Distinction as well as her Diploma in Wines & Spirits from the British Wine and Spirits Education Trust. In 2016, Ballance became an Approved Education Provider for the WSET Wine and Spirit courses. This year, Ballance was appointed to sit on the James Beard Foundation Beverage Advisory Board.
High Road Wine & Spirits
Fernando Beteta learned food & wine in his parent’s restaurants in La Antigua Guatemala, ranked one of the top in the country. He then attending the Hotel Management School in Lausanne Switzerland and continued to work in international hotels in Rome, Florence, Sardinia, Koh Samui, Thailand and has overseen wine programs at various award-winning restaurants including the Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton Chicago and NoMI at the Park Hyatt Chicago, where he oversaw the wine cellar that contained over 10,000 bottles of wine. There he became the 99th Master Sommelier in North American and the first Guatemalan in the world to earn the honor. He competed and placed second for The Best Sommelier in America in 2009 and was ranked 4th for Best Sommeliers in the Americas, after Canada and Brasil.
Named one of America’s Best New Sommeliers by Wine & Spirits magazine and featured on both Crain’ s Chicago Business and Wine Enthusiast list of “40 under 40”; Beteta shares his passion for wine and education on a weekly basis. Follow Fernando on Instagram @fernandobetetams and his website www.popsomm.com
Pablo Braida is a consulting Sommelier working for Monarch Restaurant in Dallas. He grew up in the small town of Cordoba, Argentina, and after a brief career in accounting he decided he wanted to see the world. Work in hospitality led him to London, where he first discovered the world of fine wine. In 2015 he moved to Napa Valley and immediately began his path into the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2022 he passed the Master Sommelier examination, becoming the first Argentinian, and second South American, to achieve the title of Master Sommelier.
At the helm of the Food and Beverage programs for Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain, Andy Chabot focuses on creating experiences of taste like no other. As the Food and Beverage Director since 2007, Andy has overseen the growth of Blackberry’s legendary wine program and led the opening of multiple restaurants and concepts. In 2014 The Barn at Blackberry Farm, under Andy’s direction, received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program. Andy’s features include Imbibe Magazine, Wine Spectator Magazine, Food and Wine Magazine, The TODAY Show and more.
Andy has exceeded the advanced level of the Court of Master Sommeliers Exam, received the Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Today, Andy is responsible for all aspects of managing Blackberry’s award winning wine program and the Food and Beverage programs of both Blackberry Mountain and Blackberry Farm.
The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston
Like many people, Julie Dalton got into wine by accident. She discovered her passion for wine while waiting tables during her undergrad days at Texas A&M University. A career in biotechnology took her to Maryland where she continued to study wine and work in wine bars and restaurants while completing a Biotechnology graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. When she finished grad school, a friend was opening a restaurant and wine bar on which she cut her teeth in the wine business by night while still working in the land of PCR and Western Blots by day. For four years she lived both lives and still achieved the Advanced Sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as the Certified Wine Educator through the Society of Wine Educators. She finally said goodbye to the biotech industry in 2010 when she joined the team at Skurnik Wine & Spirits to represent the Terry Theise portfolio, but hospitality is where her heart is so she came back to that world a year later at the Four Seasons in Baltimore working with Chef Michael Mina. Fast forward to 2017, Tilman Fertitta hired a team to build a Grand Award-winning wine list from the ground up with her friend and mentor, Keith Goldston, so she happily moved back to Houston. For four years she was the Lead Sommelier and Wine Director at Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak campus. This year, she transitioned to the 5-star 5-diamond Post Oak Hotel as their Chef Sommelier and Wine Director of the hotel’s newest addition – Stella’s Wine Bar – which still carries the same Grand Award-winning wine list. She passed her Master Sommelier Diploma in 2022.
Along the way, Julie has achieved an accolade here and there including Star Chef’s Rising Star Sommelier Washington, DC, Cochon 555 Somm Smackdown winner, Baltimore’s Best Sommelier by Baltimore Magazine and most recently, Julie was the first female sommelier to win Houston’s Iron Somm competition in 2018.
St. Helena, CADetails
Heitz Cellar Estate Director and Master Sommelier Erik Elliott grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and graduated from Temple University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration focusing on Marketing.
After falling in love with hospitality and wine while working at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Philadelphia, he sold everything he owned to move to Aspen, CO, to pursue his dream of becoming a Master Sommelier. Erik landed at The Little Nell, the world-renowned hotel and wine program at the base of Aspen Mountain. Erik Spent six years in the James Beard-nominated wine program and worked his way up to become the Lead Sommelier. When The Little Nell would close each off-season, Erik would spend his time visiting the most esteemed estates throughout France, Italy, and Spain, honing his knowledge and appreciation for wine.
After his colleague Carlton McCoy Jr. accepted a position at Heitz Cellar following Gaylon Lawrence, Jr.’s acquisition, Erik felt that he still had more to learn and traded the mountains of Aspen for Napa Valley’s vineyards. In 2019, he accepted a position as the Estate Director at Heitz Cellar.
With his background in hospitality and oversight of Heitz’s new Tasting Salon and Hospitality Center opening in 2022, Erik continually aims to reimagine luxury hospitality and the experience for guests of Heitz Cellar. “Our goal at Heitz Cellar is to move the wine industry forward by crafting the most elegant and balanced wines from sustainably-farmed vineyards while enriching the lives of our guests through hospitality and service. We always remain in the service of others” Erik says. In August of 2022, Erik’s dream was realized when he passed the Master Sommelier Exam on his second attempt.
New York, NYDetails
Frick honed her knowledge of Italian wine after gaining the notice of Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey. Hired at his Northern Italian restaurant Frasca in Boulder, CO, she worked her way from the back office and polishing room to the wine team while studying to earn the Advanced Sommelier credential through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She then joined Frasca’s sister restaurant Tavernetta, in Denver, as a member of its opening wine team, before becoming lead sommelier. There, she worked to foster a culture of wine education for the staff, with an all-Italian wine list. Returning home to New York City, she was the opening wine director for Michelin-starred Tribeca restaurant, One White Street. In May 2022 she became contributing editor for JebDunnuck.com, covering the regions of Sonoma, Oregon, Champagne, Brunello di Montalcino, and Piedmont.
Domaine & Estates
A 20-year veteran of the wine industry, Dana has served as a Sommelier and Beverage Director at top restaurants including Veritas, Estiatorio Milos and others in New York, Nantucket and California. He is currently working for the fine wine and craft spirits division of Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits, the largest wine and spirits distributor in the United States. Additionally, he runs Vitamin D Consulting, a food and beverage consulting and education company, with his wife.
After producing one of the top scores in the country on the Advanced Sommelier Exam and winning Top|Somm East Coast in 2013, Dana placed second at Top|Somm Nationals in 2015. In 2018, he passed the final section of the Master Sommeliers Diploma Exam…twice.
He splits his time between Brooklyn and the Connecticut shoreline with his wife and dog. He is a passionate amateur chef and a lover of the outdoors, from cycling and hiking to skiing and surfing.
San Francisco, CADetails
Master Sommelier Morgan Harris relocated to San Francisco after ten years working on all sides of New York City’s world-class restaurant scene. Morgan’s experience selling to a diverse, demanding clientele for over a decade grounds his tailored approach to shaping beverage narratives. He’s worked with major players in the digital beverage space, including Wine Folly, Vivino, Punch Drink, GuildSomm, and WineAccess. Morgan has also appeared as a presenter on NBC and the Esquire Network and as a principal character in 2018’s NYT nonfiction best-seller Cork Dork. In addition to his work in marketing, he still works several dinner shifts a week at acclaimed Italian restaurant, Cotogona.
Fresh City Farms
Jennifer’s love affair and studies started in her early twenties with taking an interest course at George Brown college in wine. From there, she immediately leapt into the Sommelier Certification from ISG graduating top of class, then Diploma of Wine from WSET, followed by the Advanced Sommelier passing in 2005 and finally the Master Sommelier Exams-becoming Canada’s first female Master Sommelier in 2011 graduating in Dallas Texas.
Her restaurant industry is vast, starting off in Toronto Restaurants is where she found wine. Jennifer has also worked for Canadian owned Cliff Lede Vineyards based in Napa Valley, and for 7 years ran one of Canada’s top wine programs at MLSE in Toronto, spanning over 6 restaurants and overseeing a multi-million dollar beverage program, while mentoring the properties 11 Sommeliers. Jennifer most recently was employed with California based Jackson Family Wines representing their brands throughout Canada. Jennifer is co-founder of @socialherbivore together with Priya Rao and published the first book ever on plant-based food & wine matching.
After winning the Ontario Sommelier Competition in 2006, Jennifer decided to invest her energy heavily in the execution of the competitions from 2008 to 2019. Jennifer together with Alex Evans made it their mission to hold the Ontario & Canadian ASI Competitions to the highest level of quality, integrity and standards therefore giving the best possible experience to the Candidates. She sat for several years on the board of directors of CAPS Ontario and focused her energy into building competitions and the content for them. She is also a continually active teacher with the Court of Masters, and mentors several Advanced and Master Sommelier Candidates throughout Canada and teaches with WSET. Jennifer has sat on the Board of Directors for Femmes du Vin as the Education Chair executing seminars to enhance the lives of all women in wine and raise money for women in wine and mentors at the non-profit VinEquity.
Born in Montréal, Québec, Élyse Lambert graduated with a degree in hotel management from the prestigious Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) in 1998 and as Sommelier from L’École Hôtelière des Laurentides in 1999.
Her career as a Sommelier began in the Québec Laurentians at the award winning Relais & Châteaux l’Eau à la Bouche. Her next move was to the Eastern Townships where, from 2000 to 2004, she was an integral member of the sommelier team at Auberge Hatley, a 5 diamond CAA – Relais & Châteaux.
In 2005 she joined the XO restaurant of Hôtel Le St. James in Montréal, where she lead the sommelier team until 2008. Subsequently, went on to build the wine program and was on the opening team of Montreal’s Le Local restaurant in 2008 and curated the restaurant’s much lauded wine list until 2013 when she joined the sommelier team at The Ritz Carlton Montreal’s Maison Boulud.
Throughout her exciting career path, Elyse continued to earn credibility for her craft and accolades in Canadian and international competitions.
After winning “Best Sommelier of Québec” in 2004 and third best in Canada in 2006, she won the title of “Best Sommelier of the Americas 2009” in the prestigious competition held in Buenos Aires.
Representing the Americas at the “Best Sommelier of the World” competition 2010 in Chile, she reached the semi-final and was classified amongst top 12 sommeliers in the world.
In May of 2015 in Aspen, Colorado she became Canada’s first Quebecer, fourth Canadian and second Canadian woman to hold the prestigious and globally recognized title of Master Sommelier. There are only 269 Master Sommeliers in the World.
After winning “Best sommelier of Canada” in 2015, she again represented Canada in the competition for “Best sommelier of the World” in Argentina.
Elyse lambert is now the 5th Best Sommelier of the World 2016.
She is currently working as a Sommelier Consultant and continues sharing her passion at Radio-Canada’s morning show. Elyse lives in Montreal and consults for private and corporate clients and is often invited to facilitate wine education seminars and to speak at corporate functions in Canada and around the world.
Wine Bar George
As one of 269 Master Sommeliers in the world, George Miliotes is a passionate educator and curator of wines. A firm believer in education and knowledge-sharing, Miliotes continuously studies wine, identifying the most interesting wines through annual trips to wine-growing regions from France to South Africa. Building relationships with some of the best vintners in the world, he also takes an active role in the winemaking process helping to create custom blends.
Miliotes’ unique by-the-glass lists encourage guests to make adventurous choices, selecting new wines, whether they are domestic or global, to pair with their courses. The result of his worldwide efforts are wine lists that are distinct to his restaurant’s culinary offerings, and widely reviewed as exceptional in every way.
George Miliotes is the grandson of Greek immigrants and a child of the restaurant and hospitality business. His family owned a specialty market and café in Orlando, Fla., which became a gathering spot for local chefs and served as the starting point for Miliotes’ passion for food and wine.
Miliotes later became the general manager of California Grill at Walt Disney World Resort, where he not only created an award-winning wine list, but also one of the first lists in the country to offer 100 wines by the glass. He is widely regarded as one the restaurant business’ foremost wine experts.
In March 2007, Miliotes became a Master Sommelier, passing a series of rigorous examinations that requires the candidate to identify grape variety, country of origin, district of origin and vintage of wines by taste, sight and aroma alone. From 2002 – 2016, he oversaw all aspects of wine culture for Darden including The Capital Grille and Eddie V’s, and was one of the founders of Seasons 52. George led the development of their award-winning wine lists and educated and motivated service teams about wine in order to deliver exceptional guest experiences.
Miliotes returned to Walt Disney World with the opening of Wine Bar George, the only wine bar in Florida led by a Master Sommelier. Now open in The Landing at Disney Springs, Wine Bar George brings Miliotes’ expertise and worldwide travels to the heart of Central Florida. Follow George @WineBarGeorge and visit WineBarGeorge.com for more information.
Spending his college years working at the great fine dining restaurants of his hometown New Orleans, Chris’ love of wine took hold early. A fortuitous winery visit in Woodinville, Washington – and a particular hatred of cubicles – prompted Chris to abandon a promising career in finance, moving to Seattle to work as a sommelier while commuting to Walla Walla to pursue winemaking. However, when Wolfgang Puck personally asks you to build a Wine Spectator Grand Award wine program as the Beverage Director for his flagship Spago in Beverly Hills, you don’t say no. A relocation to Los Angeles translated to Santa Barbara winemaking opportunities.
Many years, wine lists, restaurant openings, and a Master Sommelier Diploma later, it was time for a new challenge. Chris exchanged his suit and tie for jeans and boots, now spending his days in the vineyards and his winery – Seabold Cellars.
A native of Phoenix, Vincent Morrow moved to California to attend Sonoma State University on a soccer scholarship. His proximity to wine country piqued his interest in wine, and when it came time to pick a concentration for his bachelor’s in business administration, he chose wine business strategies and marketing.
A Master Sommelier before the age of 31, Morrow honed his wine knowledge working at renowned wineries such as Ridge Vineyards, and at lauded Bay Area restaurants that included The French Laundry, Gary Danko, Benu, and 0′ by Claude Le Tohic. Along the way, he was named 2016 USA Champion in the TopSOMM Young Sommelier Competition, and entered the 2017 Chaine des Rotisseurs Jeunes Sommeliers Competition, winning the USA Championship and placing 3rd overall in the world.
At PRESS, which is home to the largest collection of Napa Valley wines in the world, Morrow looks to build on the vision of late founder Leslie Rudd: to curate a cellar that is timeless in its breadth and depth of Cabernets and hidden gems, and a cellar that also includes lesser-known varieties produced in the region, to ensure they get the spotlight and attention they deserve. He looks to create exciting pairings that match with Tessier’s modern American and technique-driven cuisine.
Morrow, in addition to his work at PRESS, was designated as the 2022 Iconoclast Dinner Experience Wine Honoree, named the 2022 Sommelier of the Year by VinePair and the 2022 Michelin California Sommelier of the Year, and acts as the Chairperson of the Diversity Committee of the Court of Master Sommeliers, where he is intent on making the organization more inclusive of women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and unrepresented communities within the wine & hospitality industry.
Andrew ‘Rusty’ Rastello spent his formative years working in restaurants and learning about wine in Phoenix, Arizona. His passion for wine was ignited while working with the 200-page wine list at Kazimierz World Wine Bar. After spending a few years as a sommelier and running beverage programs for restaurants in Phoenix, Rusty jumped to the other side to work for a boutique wine distributor. In 2012, he left for New York to follow his dream of working for Danny Meyer at Gramercy Tavern. In October of 2014, Rusty became one of the first sommeliers at the 20-year-old restaurant. Rusty joined the sommelier team at Eleven Madison Park in 2015 – eventually becoming their Assistant Wine Director. In November of 2019, Rusty joined the SingleThread Team as Wine Director. As the Wine Director, he quickly developed key relationships with valued importers and local producers alike in California. He created the SingleThread Wine Shop, a virtual wine store, which funded the expansion of SingleThread’s wine program. In 2021, after only one year in his role, he was awarded the highly coveted Grand Award from Wine Spectator, as one of ninety in the world and the first in Sonoma County.
New York, NYDetails
A former sommelier at acclaimed New York City restaurant Le Bernardin, Sarah Thomas is the co-founder of Kalamata’s Kitchen, a company on a mission to inspire kids to experience the whole world through adventures with food. Sarah’s childhood passion for food and service is what eventually led her to the hospitality industry, and after getting her start in restaurants in Pittsburgh, PA, she obtained the prestigious Advanced Sommelier certification and worked for nearly six years at 3-star Michelin restaurant Le Bernardin in NYC. Through her background as a creator of meaningful experiences through food and beverage, and her storytelling work with Kalamata’s Kitchen, Sarah hopes to create a confident character that other children of color can see themselves in, while also encouraging all kids to look at different foods and cultures with a sense of curiosity and compassion. Sarah has authored two books in the Kalamata’s Kitchen series (published by Penguin Random House), which is also being developed into an animated series for television by Imagine Entertainment, as well as adapted for live events.
Scott Turnbull originally planned to be a French teacher. After graduating from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in French, he worked for two years in the Rhône Valley as an Assistant English Teacher at the Lycée Gabriel Faure in Tournon sur Rhone, as well as at the Lycée Hotelier de Tain l’Hermitage. It was at the Lycée Hotelier where he was able to begin learning about wine while helping the sommelier students describe wines in English. After two happy years in France, his visa ran out. Luckily, one of the school’s former students was the Head Sommelier at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, and after a quick letter of introduction, Scott was able to trade the classroom for the cellar. Two years at Le Bec-Fin were followed by Head Sommelier roles at Seeger’s in Atlanta, then back to Philadelphia to Striped Bass and then the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Philadelphia. In 2012, California came calling, and so he moved west to take over the program at Solage Calistoga, before joining the team at the Restaurant in Meadowood in 2018. After the 2020 fires claimed the Restaurant, he joined Winebow in early 2021.
He is a Certified Wine Educator from the Society of Wine Educators, (in addition to being a Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Specialist of Spirits), and recently achieved the title of Master Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas in August of 2022.
We are appreciative of the generosity of previous sommeliers who have made this event a success.View Past Sommeliers