2023 Sommelier Judges
CHIEF WINE & SPIRITS JUDGE
Jesse Rodriguez, National Director of Sales, FUTO Estate, Big Sky, MT
Jesse Rodriguez returns for his 11th year as Chief Judge of Sommelier Challenge. He is an award-winning beverage professional, who is credentialed as an Advanced Sommelier, Certified Wine Educator, and Spanish Wine Scholar, and holds a diploma from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust. During his tenure managing luxury resort and fine dining restaurant beverage programs, he has been awarded the Wine Spectator Grand Award for both Studio at Montage Laguna Beach and Addision at The Grand Del Mar.
MEET THE SOMMS
Dana Farner, Winery and Import Consultant, Storica, Minneapolis, MN
Dubbed "the indie-rock goddess sommelier" by LA Weekly and "one of the best around" by Bon Appetit, Dana holds the Advanced Level certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Global Wine MBA from Sonoma State. Much of her career has been in restaurants, most recently as Beverage Director and Sommelier at Wolfgang Puck's CUT at the Beverly Wilshire. Outside of restaurants, she was Regional Director for SevenFifty and Wine Advisor for private clients, and National Sales Manager for On Premise Groups at Massanois, a NY-based importer and distributor.
Nicholas George, GM & Wine Director, La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, San Diego, CA
Originally from upstate New York, Nicholas discovered the world of wine while attending the Culinary Institute of America. He is credentialed as a Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers and worked as Maitre d' at Addison in San Diego and Maitre d' and Sommelier at Per Se in NYC. Prior to Addison, he was at Balthazar in NYC, one of the city's top casual restaurants. In San Diego Nick served as Corporate Hospitality Manager at Urban Plates and Director of Operations for Great Maple. He is currently GM and Wine Director of the Marine Room and La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, and will also be a wine instructor at SDSU this fall.
Nick Burns, Manager & Sommelier, Tango Room, Dallas, TX
Nick started his wine career at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, working for Jesse Rodriguez. As Lead Sommelier at Montage, he helped the resort achieve a Forbes 5 Star award before moving to Dallas in 2021. He has been at the Tango Room for 1-1/2 years, and is happy to be part of the team that just received its first Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Lisa Redwine, GM & Wine Buyer, Market Restaurant + Bar, San Diego, CA
Lisa is an Advanced Sommelier, who also holds a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She worked as a chef and general manager for some of the finest restaurants in San Francisco before relocating to San Diego. She served in management at the San Diego Marriott Marina and La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, creating innovative beverage programs that encompassed wine, cocktails and beer. She currently is General Manager and Wine Buyer at Market.
Zack Musick, Director of Education, The German Wine Collection, Orange County, CA
Zack's career as a Sommelier began at the Studio restaurant at Montage Laguna Beach. His career transitioned to Beverage Director at the Four Seasons Lanai'i, followed by Beverage Director at the Merriman's Restaurant Group, with multiple locations on the islands. Zack has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Somm Journal and Maxim during the various facets of his beverage career. After nearly 10 years on the "buying side" of the industry, he is fulfilling his passion for wine education in his current position.
Meghan Vergara, Proprietor, M Rose, Napa, CA
Meghan is a Certified Sommelier and Vintner with 18 years experience in the wine and hospitality industry. She received her formal wine training through the Sommelier Society of America and worked with top winemakers, industry professionals and hospitality venues in NYC, Napa Valley and San Diego. In addition to a noted career in speaking engagements, hosting corporate wine events and consulting, Meghan created her own boutique wine brand, M Rose, where she crafts small lot single-vineyard Rose and sparkling wines.
Adam Jesberger, Lead Sommelier, Rancho Guejito Vineyards, San Diego, CA
Adam is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Specialist of Wine with The Society of Wine Educators. With more than 10 years experience at the professional level, he currently heads tasting room operations and serves as Resident Sommelier at the historic 23,000-acre Rancho Guejito Vineyard in San Pasqual Valley. Adam also hosts wine tasting events at Vino Carta Wine Shop & Tasting Bar's two locations and operates AJ Wine Consulting.
Jessica Solomon, Head Sommelier, Born & Raised, San Diego, CA
Jessica is a Sommelier with Consortium Holdings Inc. in San Diego. With Consortium, she served as Head Sommelier for Seneca Trattoria, operating an exclusively Italian wine list. Currently she is stationed at Born and Raised, an American steakhouse specializing in American Cabernet Sauvignon. Jessica also serves on the Leadership team for SommCon and volunteers for Women's Wine Alliance and The United Sommeliers Foundation.
Rachael Aresco, Sommelier, Bob's Steak & Chop House, Carlsbad, CA