Meet Our 2019 National Sommelier Challenge Winners!

Winner from New York – June 3

Joshua Carlsen

Joshua is the Beverage Manager at the Stonecat Café in Hector, NY. The restaurant is a five time Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner, 2014-2018. Known for its organic, regional cuisine it is now in it’s 20th year of operation. Joshua is also a co-owner, assistant winemaker and sales director for Nine Four Wines, a wine brand from the Finger Lakes region of northern New York State.

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Winner from Chicago – June 6

Aleya Broadway

Aleya is a Certified Sommelier who works as a floor sommelier at the Cherry Circle Room in downtown Chicago. The Cherry Circle room is described as “the darling of Chicago’s own Land and Sea Dept.—beloved for its distinctly American farm-to-table, nose-to-tail ethos—evokes visions of two martini lunches and post-trial feasts with Chicago’s midcentury powerbrokers. Experience fine dining at the Cherry Circle Room, where swell curves and swank wood panels frame a creative take on throwback cocktails and tableside presentations of the finest meats.” Aleya is also a Certified Level 1 Cicerone.

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Winner from San Francisco – June 11

Robert Fogliasso

Robert works in the operating room as a nurse, but in his free time he is an enthusiast of wine and wine education. Hailing from the Napa area he has tasted at over 200 wineries in the Napa-Sonoma region. He is also a part of a wine education and wine tasting group called the Napa Valley Wine Tasting Society. Once a month he has the opportunity to educate and learn from this group of regional Napa locals.  In 2020 he plans to attain his WSET level 3 and continue on his journey into the world of wine education and travel.

Winner from Los Angeles – June 12

Irina Ponomarenko

Irina came to California to do graduate work in Political Science at the UCLA but got immersed in the wine culture and gradually diverted away from political science into wine. She obtained several wine certifications (WSET, FWS, CSW), and after getting a sommelier certification, began teaching herself with the North American Sommelier Association.  She teaches most of the Association’s course offerings (parts of the Certified Sommelier curriculum, Italian Wine Specialist, Wine Primer (intro wine course), as well as special seminars (the latest on Vinho Verde).  She has also developed her own course — the Cognac master class. 

In addition to work with the North American Sommelier Association, she also organizes independent tasting/educational events, as well as work with other organizations on collaborations (e.g. Pacific Food & Beverage Museum / the Museum of the American Cocktail; Ginifest – the Armenian Wine Festival). She is looking forward to doing educational events on the wines of the Languedoc! 

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