Marcy has expertise in beverage sales and service in all levels of the industry. In her experiences she has been a bartender, sommelier and general manager. Her career was built on passion and the talent for pairing spirits and wine with food. She arrived in Houston in 2005 during the Katrina evacuation and immediately found work as a sommelier at the Mockingbird Bistro. In 2007 she took over management of Houston Wine Merchant, a fine wine store in River Oaks. She is currently studying for Advanced Sommelier certification with the Court of Masters Sommeliers.
Cathy Nguyen began working in the hospitality industry at 17 waiting tables and bartending. She developed her passion for food and wine not much later while working at Perry’s Steakhouse in Sugar Land. There, she trained closely with the sommelier and corporate wine director, Mario Plaza, and mentor, Master Sommelier Guy Stout, to study wines from around the world. With a natural knack and enthusiasm for the wine industry, Cathy was promoted to sommelier and wine buyer for Perry’s Steakhouse in Clear Lake where she began her first wine program at the age of 21. Wanting to finish her degree at the Art Institute of Houston, Cathy left the Perry’s Restaurant Group to work for a smaller independent restaurant. As the wine director of El Meson, Cathy studied fine Spanish wines and worked hand in hand with Chef Pedro Garcia in wine dinners featuring wines, vintners and importers from all over the world. Armed and certified by the Court of Masters, Society of Wine Educators, as a Spanish Wine Educator and as a Specialist in Sherry, Cathy left El Meson after four and a half years and is now at Mark’s American Cuisine.
Cathy is driven by her fascination with good food, fine wines and how the perfect marriage of the two will turn into a special occasion.
Jonathan traces his wine interest to a study abroad program in college. Traveling in Eastern Europe, he researched a study on the wines before, during and after communist rule.
Armed with a working knowledge of Tokaji, he returned to the US to complete a history degree and to start a career in politics. But Honefenger soon realized that he wasn’t cut out for that world and returned to his hometown of Houston.
He got a job as a server at El Meson, and started to take courses through the International Sommelier Guild. He also completed both the Certified levels through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Honefenger then moved on to Brennan’s of Houston as a sommelier, where he worked until Hurricane Ike destroyed the restaurant in 2008.
In the aftermath, he helped open a wine bar called Vinoteka Poscol, and served as sommelier at Tony’s. He was named one of 2009′s best young sommeliers in Wine & Spirits magazine and won third place at the Texas Sommelier Conference’s best sommelier competition in 2009.
Justin Vann does not have a romantic story about how he worked in his grandfather’s wine shop, or visited Montrachet when he was twelve and suddenly realized his destiny. He did not grow up around fine
beverages. He still does not own a passport, nor has he ever visited a winery. The only grapes he has actually seen growing out of the ground were at MS Guy Stout’s Vineyard in Texas.
That being said, Justin holds numerous certifications for Wine, Liquor, and recently Beer (Advanced Sommelier and Master Sommelier candidate, CWE, CSS and more). He has been immersed in the wine industry since being hired as a Sommelier at Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at the age of 22. After being promoted to Wine Director in 2009, he managed the wine list for a year. He currently oversees the Wine & Beer Department at Central Market.
Justin is guided by a joyful, and near pathological, obsession with studying all alcohol and its interaction with food.
For Evan Turner, it was his fascination of the art and science that is wine, coupled with the theatre of serving guests, that inspired him to become a sommelier. Now, as Branch Water Tavern’s managing partner and beverage director, Turner looks forward to broadening the breadth and depth of his beverage offerings.
“Every sommelier dreams of working on a list from the ground up. Branch Water Tavern offers me that opportunity for the first time ever, not only for wines, but handcrafted beers and signature cocktails as well,” says Turner. The opportunity to partner with Executive Chef David Grossman was also a great draw for Turner. “He has tremendous talent and passion that will be exciting to be part of,” he says.
Prior to joining Branch Water Tavern, Turner served as beverage director at Gravitas, sommelier at *17 and The Strip House in downtown Houston, general manager at The Tasting Room at River Oaks, and wine director at Bank by Jean-George.
Having lived in four countries, eight states and five major cities before settling in Houston, the Norfolk, VA native has muddled, stirred, shaken and swirled all over the world, most notably New York where he served as wine director at Palladin and was greatly inspired by Chef Jean Louis Palladin. “The man was very inspirational, a true genius. It was a brilliant experience working for him,” recalls Turner.
Certified as a sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Turner will sit for his advanced levels shortly.
Sean Beck, is responsible for the wine served at Backstreet Café, Hugo’s and Trevisio in Houston. He has accumulated information on wine that would be remarkable for a wine enthusiast twice his age. But at a mere 30, Sean’s in-depth knowledge of and appreciation for wine is definitely remarkable. He has a sharp palate and “nose” that can sense when the right pairing happens. Add that talent to a mind that retains practically everything it encounters, and the result is an enologist that ranks among the best. Sean recently received the title of Iron Sommelier after winning a local sommelier competition that raised money for children with cancer.
Saree, now the Champagne specialist for Republic National Distributing Company, and the former wine Director for Mark’s American Cuisine on Westheimer, developed an interest in food and wine while working in a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida during college. Her interest in the hospitality industry led her to Hawaii, where she worked at Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Kahana Bar and Grill in 1999. As a Manager-in-Training, she assisted in managing the wine room and doing inventory. Realizing an enthusiasm and natural tasting ability, Saree decided to focus more on developing herself in the wine industry. Promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2001, Saree moved to Roy’s Restaurant in Denver, Colorado, where she was able to develop her passion for fine food, great wine and exceptional service, thus beginning to make a name for herself.
Two years later Saree opened Zoe’s in Virginia Beach, Virginia as Proprietor/Sommelier, earning a reputation as one of the areas’ top wine professionals. She garnered many awards for both the restaurant and wine program including the Four Diamond Award, 2004-2005, Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence”, 2004-2005 and the Wine Enthusiast Award of Distinction in 2006. Saree, herself, was a finalist in the competition, Best Young Sommelier in America, Mid-Atlantic Region.
Before joining Mark’s American Cuisine as Sommelier in June 2007, Saree worked briefly for the Fountain Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and for the Hilton Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in both properties as Sommelier.
Saree is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, was featured in Chalk Hill’s 2007 Sommelier’s
Paul Bonarrigo is a fascinating individual who came to Bryan, Texas to open the St. Joseph Hospital Physical Therapy department in 1971. He then opened his Sports and Back Clinic in 1976 as well as the Messina Hof Winery and Resort with his wife, Merrill, in 1977.
As the owner and winemaker of Messina Hof Winery and Resort, he is responsible for overseeing and operating one of the fastest growing wineries in Texas, which hosts a winery, gift shop and tasting room, wine bar, as well as The Villa, a luxurious bed and breakfast and The Vintage House restaurant. He is the most awarded winemaker in Texas and produces more different wines than most other wineries in the world. He is responsible for such wine industry innovations as Thermoflash fermentation of Pinot Noir and production of Port without the addition of Brandy.
Messina Hof released its first vintage in 1983, however the rich wine heritage of Winemaker Paul Bonarrigo dates back seven generations to Messina, Sicily. Paul is the sixth generation winemaker and their son, Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, will be the seventh generation winemaker in the family history and the second generation winemaker in Texas. The Bonarrigo family is pioneering the Texas Wine Industry in creating premium wines of distinction and a landmark wine country destination.