These renowned Master Sommeliers, winemakers, and entrepreneurs are all Culinary Institute of America alumni.

Five Wine Experts Who Got Their Start at CIA

The Culinary Institute of America is renowned for producing a rockstar list of graduates—like Roy Choi and Anne Burrell—who have become major personalities in the food world. But what is less widely acknowledged is the university’s close connections to the wine industry that has inspired revered wine experts. Here are five Culinary Institute of America alumni who are helping shape the American wine scene.

Carlton McCoy

Carlton McCoy is a Master Sommelier, television host, and CEO of five iconic Napa Valley wineries. He graduated from CIA in 2006, where he attended culinary school but discovered his passion for wine in a wine class there. “The wine class with Steven Kolpan was a revelation to me,” says Carlton. “It opened my eyes to a completely new world. I went to all the tutoring sessions to learn as much as I could about wine and I was fortunate to get a scholarship to accompany Professor Kolpan to Italy, specifically Piedmont, Tuscany, and Emilia Romagna.” Carlton credits this mentorship, among others, as being instrumental to his career success. Carlton’s passion for wine grew as his career in fine dining developed. In 2013, and at only 28 years old, he passed the Master Sommelier exam—becoming the second African American to do so. Since then, Carlton has played host to a CNN travel series called NOMAD, and now leads famed winery Heitz Cellars, among others.

Rajat Parr

Raj Parr is a James Beard award-winning author, world-renowned sommelier, and winemaker. He graduated from CIA in 1996 with intentions of becoming a chef, only to find that wine was his true passion. In a commencement address to the CIA’s 2014 class, Raj encouraged the young graduates to follow their passion and to stay inspired. “Remember you’re going somewhere, so don’t stop learning,” he said. Raj launched his wine career as an apprentice under acclaimed Master Sommelier Larry Stone at the late Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco, where it is said that he gained a particular affinity for wines from Burgundy. After a high-profile sommelier career, Raj leveraged his understanding of terroir to venture into winemaking. Focusing on Burgundian varietals, Raj now owns two wineries in Santa Rita Hills (Sandhi and Domaine de la Côte) and one in Oregon (Seven Springs Vineyard), all of which produce exquisite wines that are highly renowned.

Melissa Monosoff

Melissa Monosoff is a Master Sommelier, published author, and wine education expert. She graduated from CIA in 2000 and has been recognized for her exceptional contributions in increasing wine awareness. In 2010, Melissa became the 17th woman in the world to hold the title of Master Sommelier. Three years later, she became the director of education for the Court of Master Sommeliers (Americas), and has held that title for nearly 10 years. In addition to being a renowned wine expert—she has received awards for “Best Young Sommelier” and “Outstanding Wine Service”—Melissa is also a beer enthusiast and Certified Cicerone.

Kyungmoon Kim

Kyungmoon Kim is a Master Sommelier, wine instructor, and spirits importer. He graduated from CIA in 2005, which he chose to attend based on the vast array of classes available. One of those classes was an introductory wine class taught by Professor Michael Weiss, which, in addition to the Formal Hospitality and Service Management course, placed him on his path to becoming an expert in the wine industry. After working as a sommelier, beverage director, and general manager for acclaimed restaurants in Seoul and New York City, Kyungmoon became a Master Sommelier in 2016. Most recently, he founded KMS Imports, through which Kyungmoon has combined his industry expertise with his desire to tap into his heritage by seeking renowned producers of Korean Soju for the American import market.

Barbara Werley

Barbara Werley is a Master Sommelier, CIA graduate, and wine director at acclaimed Pappas Bros Steakhouse in Texas. In 1997, she became the first CIA graduate and fourth woman in America to pass the Master Sommelier exam. Barbara’s foray into the wine industry came by chance when she was working in the kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC. No one was managing the wine list at the time, so she ended up taking over the wine program. The opportunity gave her the foundation she needed to flourish at world-class hotels and resorts, eventually leading to her success in the Master Sommelier program. Today, Barbara is the director of Pappas Bros wine program, a title that she’s held since 2007. “I am… very proud of Pappas Bros. for winning the Wine Spectator Grand Award for our wine program since 2011,” says Barbara. “We are one of only 81 restaurants with this award around the globe.” The Culinary Institute of America’s most notable alumni include not only famed chefs, but also wine experts who are pioneers in America’s burgeoning wine scene. CIA offers both undergraduate and graduate students ample opportunity to explore their passion for wine:

Additionally, graduates of CIA become part of a vibrant alumni community filled with career support and networking opportunities with industry experts such as the ones listed above.
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