For Immediate Release Contact: Mel Dick
President, Wine Division/Senior Vice President
Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.
Telephone: (305) 625-4171
Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. strengthens its Historic Commitment to Professional Excellence in Wine Education and Wine Service
America’s Leading Wine & Spirits Distributor NOW Employs 9 Master Sommeliers, 6 Certified Wine Educators & 7 Master Mixologists – most in U.S.
Southern’s Focus on Education and Service benefit its Employees as well as all its Customers
MIAMI - February 19, 200 - Mel Dick, President, Wine Division and Senior Vice President of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., the country’s leading wine and spirits distributor with operations in 27 states, is pleased to announce that the Company is intensifying its historic drive to raise the level of professional excellence in wine service and wine education and drinks mixology through a number of a new corporate initiatives.
Overall, according to Mr. Dick, as part of its longstanding commitment to education, service and raising the level of professional excellence in the wine and spirits business, the Company is proud to report that it currently employs nine Master Sommeliers (MS), seven Certified Wine Educators and seven award-winning mixologists, the latter group working under the direction of Francesco LaFranconi, the Company’s recently appointed Director of Mixology.
Wayne E. Chaplin President and Chief Operating Officer of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., said, “As a Company we have always been deeply committed to raising the professional standard and service excellence in our industry.” Mr. Chaplin added, “We believe there is no other company that possesses a higher level of professionalism in the wine and spirits distribution business, and we know that Mel and Francesco as well as our entire team of Master Sommeliers, our Certified Wine Educators and Mixologists also passionately share this educational and service-oriented commitment, not only in their work with our own employees, but also with the thousands of customers we are proud to serve on a daily basis in virtually every market in which we are present. ”
All told, Mr. Dick reported that with the recent appointment of Doug Krenik, Master Sommelier, who is now working in the Company’s Colorado division, America’s leading wine and spirits distributor now employs a total of nine Master Sommeliers across the United States, more than any other company in either the beverage industry or the hospitality business.
According to the American Chapter of the London, England-based Court of Master Sommeliers, there are a total of 76 U.S. Master Sommeliers, (including two deceased), who have earned this professional distinction, which is widely regarded as one of the most distinguished certifications in the wine business and requires, via a three-level series of exams, mastery of all aspects of wine knowledge, appreciation and service.
Of the 74 Master Sommeliers in the United States today, Mr. Dick said that 12 percent are now employed by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, a vital sign of the importance the Company attaches to maintaining and delivering the highest standards of wine service and wine education in the beverage and hospitality industries across the U.S.
Mr. Dick said, “Since its founding in 1968, Southern Wine & Spirits of America has always put a premium on delivering the highest standards of service and has invested countless hours and substantial sums in educating both its employees and our thousands of customers across the country. Now, with our latest Master Sommelier appointment, we are proud to employ nine Master Sommeliers across key markets in the United States.”
Mr. Dick added, “This is more than any other organization, and it is emblematic of our Company’s longstanding commitment to maintaining the very highest standards of wine service and spreading the benefits of wine education to our employees as well as our customers. The importance of wine education and service has never been more important than now in today’s rapidly changing business environment, and we believe strongly our capability in this regard gives our Company and all our employees and supplier partners a real competitive advantage in the U.S. marketplace.”
Here are the 9 Master Sommeliers now working for Southern Wine & Spirits of America:
Serafin Alvarado, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois;
Jay Fletcher, MS, at Southern Wine & spirits of Colorado;
Ira Harmon, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada;
Eric Hemer, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida;
Jay James, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada;
Doug Krenik, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado;
Ron Mumford, MS, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada;
Reggie Narito, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Northern California; and
Roberto Viernes, MS, at Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii.
In addition to these nine Master Sommeliers, Mr. Dick said that there are a significant number of Master Candidates – that is, Southern Wine & Spirits team members who have passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam.
According to The Court of Master Sommeliers’s website, the professional group “was established to encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants. Education was then, and remains today, the Court's charter.” The group’s website also reports, “The first successful Master Sommelier examination was held in the United Kingdom in 1969. By April 1977, the Court of Master Sommeliers was established as the premier international examining body. It took the Court ten years to perfect its qualifications, which are recognized internationally.”
There are three increasingly challenging stages to attain the top qualifications of Master Sommelier. First, the student must take the Court’s Introductory Sommelier Course, after which a candidate must pass the Certified Sommelier Exam. Next, the “Certified Sommelier” must take and pass the Advanced Sommelier Course. Finally, the “Advanced Sommelier” must engage in further study and then take and pass the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.
In addition, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. employs a total of six Certified Wine Educators (CWE), according to Mr. Dick, which is more than any other U.S. distributor.
According to Ira Norof, CWE, who is Director of Education, Southern Wine & Spirits of Southern California, a CWE must pass a rigorous series of written exams about wine as well as a blind wine tasting test, all of which are sponsored by the Society of Wine Educators (SWE). In addition to the seven fully accredited CWEs working for Southern across the country, almost 80 Company employees have passed the first stage of SWE exams and are Certified Wine Specialists (CSW), adds Mr. Norof.
Here are the six CWE’s who work for Southern Wine & Spirits of America:
Rupert Billins, CWE, Southern Wine & Spirit of Northern California;
Eric Hemer, Master Sommelier & CWE, Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida;
Doug Krenik, Master Sommelier & CWE, Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado;
Steve Miller, CWE, Lauber Imports-Southern Wine & Spirits of New York;
Ira Norof, CWE, Southern Wine & Spirits of Southern California
Carolyn Prusa, CWE, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada;
According to the non-profit educational group’s website – log onto www.societyofwineeducators.org – the SWE is “a professional membership organization dedicated to advancing wine education through professional development and certification.” Specifically, according to its website: “The SWE exists to promote accurate and professional wine education and to support those who provide that education by:
- helping wine educators gain and maintain current and reliable information and resources for conducting wine education,
- providing a neutral ground for all wine professionals to meet and exchange information,
- providing professional development standards for the industry, and
- setting ethical, professional and certification standards for wine education.”
Mr. Dick said, “At Southern, we are more determined than ever as the leading wine and spirits distributor in the United States to raise the standards of wine service, wine education and wine appreciation, which is exactly why we employ more Master Sommeliers and Certified Wine Educators than any other beverage and hospitality business in the United States.”
Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. also employ seven award-winning mixologists, which is more than any other U.S. distributor.
According to Mr. Lafranconi, at Southern Wine & Spirits of America’s Director of Mixology and who previously served as Director of Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada’s Academy of Spirits and Fine Service, which he founded, the Company currently employs six other Mixologists:
Bridget Albert, Mixologist & Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois; Jason Gerard, Mixologist & Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of Arizona; Allen Katz, Mixologist & Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of New York;
David Nepove, Mixologist & Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of California;
Armando Rosario, Mixologist & Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada; and
Arturo Sighinolfi, Mixologist &Spirits Specialist, Southern Wine & Spirits of
Florida in its South Florida Division.
Since its founding in 1968, Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc. (Southern) is the leading nationally-recognized wine and spirits distributor in the United States. Known for its historic commitment to delivering the highest standards of customer service, creative marketing programs and partnerships, the Company is also known for its industry-leading, professional and well-trained sales, operational and support staff as well as its ongoing investments in and contributions to hospitality and beverage education for its staff, its customers and many national educational institutions. In addition, Southern is justly respected for its deeply-held belief in the importance of giving back as a socially-responsible corporate citizen, including generous contributions to national, state and local charitable organizations.
Today, Southern operates in 27 states, including its original Florida market, where its corporate headquarters is located in Miami. Over the past 38 years, pursuing a determined strategy to expand through internal growth as well as through the acquisition of established wholesalers, Southern Wine and Spirits of America expanded its geographic footprint to include California in 1969, Nevada in 1976, Arizona in 1992, South Carolina in 1993, Pennsylvania in 1995, Hawaii in 1996, Kentucky in 1998, New Mexico in 2000, Colorado in 2001, Illinois in 2002, New York in 2004, and Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia in 2005. In 2006, the Company began operations in Alabama; and, in a partnership arrangement with Alaska Distributors Co., now operates in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming as well. On a national basis, the Company employs more than 10,000 team members.