Rising Wine Pro Wins Sonoma Sommelier Star Challenge

2016 Sonoma Sommelier Stars, Sponsored by Rodney Strong Vineyards

Sommelier Star winner Lindsay Thomas at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction.

Sommelier Star winner Lindsay Thomas at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction.

Sonoma County, CARodney Strong Vineyards has announced the winner of the 2016 Sonoma Sommelier Star Challenge. Lindsay Thomas from Camerata at Paulie’s of Houston, Texas, competed against 14 other sommeliers to win the title of “Top Sonoma Sommelier Star 2016.”

Thomas won after participating in a series of sommelier skills challenges, which included a blind tasting of Sonoma County wines, a food and Sonoma County wine pairing, a test of their presentation skills, and analysis of their service techniques. She was then featured on Sunday, September 4 as part of an auction lot that raised $10,000, which provides essential funds for Sonoma County non-profits at the annual Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction.

“This is Rodney Strong Vineyards’ ninth year as sponsor of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend’s Sommelier Star program,” stated Rachel Voorhees, Director of Wine Education at Rodney Strong Vineyards. “The role of wine education is something we recognize as key to the evolution of our industry. We continue to support this program because of that, and our deep commitment to Sonoma County. Our region grows world-class, diverse wines and our guest sommeliers help us to share them with all who attend this wonderful weekend of food and wine. We are honored to host the Sommelier Stars and congratulate the participants.”

Judges for the competition included:

Rick Sayre – Senior Vice President of Winemaking, Rodney Strong Wine Estates

Matt Dulle – Advanced Sommelier, Sonoma County, California

Geoff Kruth, MS – President, Guild of Sommeliers

Gil Kulers – Wine Journalist and Sommelier, Atlanta, Georgia

“I am so pleased that I got to take part in the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, and surprised and humbled by the fact that I succeeded in the competition, especially in such formidable company. It was an honor to be asked to participate, and I am overwhelmed by the sense of community, compassion and generosity that this event displays. I am grateful that I

was able to play a small part in it. I am incredibly thankful to Rodney Strong for sponsoring events such as these, encouraging those in the wine business to continue pursuing the things they love and supporting educational excellence for all,” said winning sommelier Thomas.

The complete list of 2016 Sonoma Sommelier Stars who were selected from across the United States and Canada, are:

  • Benjamin Appleby, Abe & Louis Steak House, Boston, MA
  • Cassandra Brown, Hakkasan Restaurants, Las Vegas, NV
  • Mark Canak, The Metropolitan Club, Chicago, IL
  • Joy Cushing, Cellar Tasters, Los Angeles, CA
  • Seamus Dooley, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
  • Chuck Herrold, Ponsatys, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
  • Leslie LaMont, Leña Brava, Chicago, IL
  • Steven McDonald, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Houston, TX
  • Patrick Olds, Four Seasons Hotel, St. Louis, MO
  • Nadia Pavlevska, Darrens Restaurant, Manhattan Beach, CA
  • Chris Reid, Cibo E Beve, Atlanta, GA
  • Christopher Sawyer, SawyerSomm Consulting, Petaluma, CA
  • Steve Steese, Shanahan’s Steakhouse, Denver, CO
  • Lindsay Thomas, Camerata at Paulie’s, Houston, TX
  • Tyler Wesslund, edison food + drink lab, Tampa, FL


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is the signature three-day celebration of Sonoma County’s wines, winegrowers, chefs and the independent, generous spirit of this world-class wine country destination. For more information about Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, visit SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com.

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About 2016 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sponsors and Beneficiaries

As Sonoma County’s leading annual wine fundraising event, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend brings the wine industry, chefs, and guests together to invest in our community by supporting youth and children for future success, preserving our environment, and improving health and welfare of our local communities.

A partnership between Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers and Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards®, Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and an assortment of intimate and exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at multiple locations throughout Sonoma County.  To date, more than $24 million has been invested in Sonoma County’s future. For more information visit SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com.

About Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards is a family-owned company that farms 15 estate vineyards and crafts wines from Sonoma County’s finest appellations – Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, and Sonoma Coast. The winery was founded in 1959 by Sonoma County wine pioneer Rodney D. Strong as the 13th bonded winery in the county. It was purchased by the Klein family, a third generation California farming family, in 1989. The company aspires to conserve and protect the environment in all its operations through sustainable practices, solar power, and fish-friendly farming. Rodney Strong Vineyards is located at 11455 Old Redwood Highway, off Highway 101 just south of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Learn more at RodneyStrong.com.

About the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and Foundation

The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance (SVVGA) is a non-profit trade organization serving over 500 members who share a mission to promote awareness of Sonoma Valley’s grapes, wine, and history as the birthplace of the California wine industry. Sonoma Valley comprises five of the seventeen American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) of Sonoma County: Bennett Valley, Los Carneros, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. For more information on the SVVGA and SVVGF, please visit SonomaValleyWine.com.

About the Sonoma County Vintners

Sonoma County Vintners (SCV) is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to raising awareness of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier wine regions, noted for its heritage of artisan winemaking, distinct growing regions, and extraordinary quality. Founded in 1946, SCV represents more than 250 wineries and affiliated business throughout the county. Learn more about SCV at SonomaWine.com.

About 2016 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Presenting Sponsor Visa Signature® & Visa Infinite®

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is presented by Visa Signature and Visa Infinite. Visa Signature and Visa Infinite offer account holders a range of benefits that provide special access and can save time and money. In addition to points, miles, cash back and other premium rewards offered by Visa Signature partners, account holders enjoy perks such as 24/7 complimentary concierge services, the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection and exclusive offers for fine wine and food, travel and sports and entertainment events. For more information on Visa and issuers offering Visa Signature, visit VisaSignature.com.

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