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Our Team

Liz Palmer

Liz is an avid learner and has amassed four graduate level degrees (including both a JD and LLM) as well as a number of certifications (including a CPA).

Liz recently combined her love of learning with her love of wine, and now holds the WSET Diploma, Bourgogne Ambassador, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Rioja Educator, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Scholar, Spanish Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional Certifications.

In 2014, Liz joined the Texas Wine School to manage day-to-day operations. She became a partner in 2015, assumed control of the school in 2016, spun it into a non-profit corporation in 2019 and now serves as the Executive Director.

Walden Pemantle

Walden caught the wine bug while working through the kitchens of Philadelphia and it followed him all the way to Houston. While studying at Rice University, Walden taught a 15-week wine basics course, ran the school paper’s Arts & Entertainment section, and co-enrolled in Rutgers University’s food science department to study the microbiology of cheese and wine. After leaving Rice, he went to work in wine distribution, meeting with the city’s sommeliers and traveling to Italy to source new wines as a representative for Vino Vero Wine Company. He now serves as Manager of The Texas Wine School.

Since 2018, Walden has passed the Wine and Spirits Education Trust’s Diploma certification with merit and earned the Walter Clore Scholarship for top score at his Certified Sommelier examination. He is thrilled to be a part of the Texas Wine School and continue turning his love of food and wine into a full-time gig.

Brad Fox

Brad discovered his palate early- while traveling through Italy during college.  Wine, travel and education have since become his passions. Brad attained his WSET- Level III Certification through the Texas Wine School, and has also studied with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and International Sommelier Guild- his studies continue.

 

Brad has been serving the Terroir Group, LLC in operations, purchasing and sales since 2018;  is active in collaboration with Members of the Art of Cellaring;  and assists in management of the Texas Wine School.

 

Since 2011, Brad has opened tens of thousands of bottles during his employment as a Sommelier in restaurants and tasting rooms.  He has assisted importers, wineries, distributors and collectors; hosted tourists through wine regions in the U.S. and abroad; traveled and tasted; worked harvest; and judged wines at the Houston Rodeo.

Brandon Kerne, MS
Brandon Kerne is the Director of Operations for the AOC Collective, our trio of wine companies based in Houston, Texas: The Texas Wine School, Art of Cellaring, and AOC Selections. He passed the Master Sommelier exam in 2021, becoming the 270th individual since 1973 to pass this rigorous examination. For five years beginning in 2015, Brandon was the lead sommelier at Pappas Bros Steakhouse in downtown Houston. The program received numerous accolades while he was a member of the team, including a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Wine Program and the Wine Spectator Grand Award. At Pappas, he worked with over 4,500 selections spanning vintages dating back over a century from regions all around the world. Brandon also coordinated the wine education programs at each of the Pappas Bros Steakhouse locations in Texas, and is passionate about wine education. Prior to living in Houston, he was a manager and wine director at both Bar Italia and Elaia & Olio in Saint Louis, Missouri, which placed in Wine Enthusiast’s “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants” and Bon Appetit’s “50 Best New Restaurants in America”.
Meg Van Til
Meg’s love of wine goes all the way back to her home state of Michigan, to a little local winery where she started working at age 19. What started as a part time job during college morphed into a career when she quickly realized that wine makes people happier than politics, and she traded her plan to work in Washington DC for a job at a wine bar in Dallas, Texas.

Over the last five years, Meg has achieved her WSET Level 3 with Distinction as well as becoming a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is currently pursuing her Advanced Sommelier certification and can usually be found energetically running around the cellar at Art of Cellaring and the Texas Wine School where she is currently employed as Cellar Master. Her love of travel and years of experience in the service industry make her an expert at sabering champagne and geeking out about wine, particularly Riesling and Nebbiolo.
Stephanie Earthman Baird Instructor

Stephanie began her journey into wine in the 1980s, while globe-trotting with ExxonMobil.  In 2002, she left the corporate world and turned her passion for wine into a full-time endeavor.

She operated a wine import and distribution company for 12 years, representing boutique producers from 11 countries.  In 2014, Stephanie pivoted to wine education and consulting.

She is a Master of Wine candidate, and holds 10 wine certifications including WSET Diploma, Certified Wine Educator, Certified Sommelier and Italian Wine Professional.  She consults with Texas Tech University’s wine program, and serves as a wine competition judge.  She was conferred the Nobleman title from the Confrerio do Vinho do Porto for her efforts promoting Portuguese wine and Port.

Known to local TV and radio stations as “the wine lady,” she equally enjoys leading wine professionals and novices in their personal journey into wine.

Bryan Blackmur Instructor

Even though Bryan Blackmur is an instructor at the Texas Wine School, he’ll always be a student of wine. With every bottle, he’s found there’s something new to learn about the time, place, art, and craftsmanship that went into it, and knowing a bit more about each of those elements makes every sip all the richer.

In enriching his own experience of wine, Bryan has earned an WSET Advanced Certificate, and become a French Wine Scholar and is Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. As an engineer in the oil and gas industry by day, Bryan loves to understand how a wine came to be and his passion is sparking that same joy and deepened appreciation for others.

Giorgio Caflisch Instructor

Giorgio “George” Caflisch, a/k/a “The Italian Wine Guru,” started his wine journey as many Italians kids do, with a little glass of watered-down wine at family dinners.  And the rest is history.  In 2012, Giorgio obtained a WSET Level 3 Advanced Certification with Distinction through the Texas Wine School.  In 2016, he was recognized as a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers.  He received the Italian Wine Specialist certification, with Honors, from the North American Sommelier Association, in 2013.

In 2015, he was awarded the Italian Wine Professional certification, with Honors, from the Italian Wine Central.  In 2017 he completed the Italian Wine Scholar Certification from the Wine Scholar Guild, with highest honors.  In 2018, Giorgio was awarded the coveted Italian Wine Ambassador certification from the Vinitaly International Academy in Verona, Italy, and in 2019 he successfully passed the VIA Educator Certification program. Giorgio has been a volunteer judge at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition every year since 2011.

He is a Master Knight of the Houston Chapter of the Knights of the Vine and a Treble Member of the Wine Century Club, having tasted more than 300 different international grape varieties.  A prolific writer, Giorgio has written thousands of tasting notes on CellarTracker as the “TannicBeast.”
Daniela DaSuta Instructor

Raised on a Texas vineyard, Daniela fostered a love of viticulture that later bloomed into a full-fledged wine career. Because of her love of administering wine education, she founded Sekt Wine Consultation, a company that offers wine training, classes, and wine list analysis.

Daniela is also the wine buyer for three independent Austin-based wine stores and a social media coordinator for Pen and Tell Us, an ad agency specializing in food and beverage campaigns. She currently holds a Diploma in Wines from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and plans on pursuing the coveted Master of Wine title.

Trienet del Valle Instructor

Trienet del Valle is an accredited wine educator and certified sommelier (Sommelier Society of America, New York City.) She was awarded the Advanced Certificate (with Distinction) by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), an international leader in wine and spirits education based out of the UK. Trienet also holds the California Wine Appellation Certification (CWAS) offered by the San Francisco Wine School, and the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) offered by the Society of Wine Educators.

Prior to a career in the wine industry, Trienet enjoyed working in higher education at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and Engineering School at the University of Virginia. She is currently pursuing the WSET Diploma while teaching at the Texas Wine School and consulting for private and corporate clients in Houston and New York City. She has a keen interest in geography, viticulture, food and wine pairing, wine tourism, and the business of wine.

Ginny Endecott Instructor

Ginny’s interest in wine began while working as a server in an upscale restaurant while in college.  Although she spent the next decade and a half at her “day job” after graduation, she continued learning about wine and worked weekends at a catering company to stay in the business.  She formed a women’s wine education group called “The Cellar Belles” in Katy, TX, which met monthly and swelled to 40 members with a waiting list. She ran the group from 2008-2013, and began studying at the Texas Wine School during that period.

She has obtained a WSET Level 3 Advanced Certification with Distinction, Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Educators, French Wine Scholar from the Wine Scholar Guild, and is continuing Master classes with the Wine Scholar Guild in Champagne and Bordeaux.

She spent 2015-2016 working with a wine retailer, and has served as a judge for the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show Wine Competition since 2012.  Ginny writes a column called “Wine Smarts” for a local Houston magazine, and has been teaching for the Texas Wine School since 2016.

Erica Fine Instructor

Erica has worked in the wine industry for 12 years, serving as a distributor, wine buyer and floor sommelier. She helped found both a wine distribution company and a chemical solvents company.  While keeping her toe in the chemical solvents business, she currently works as a consultant to a number of boutique wine distributors and serves as a wine educator. She has traveled extensively and has a passion for the small wineries, maintaining connections with wine growers around the world.  She has also served as a wine judge for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Wine Competition.

Russell Kane Instructor

Dr. Russell Kane is an award-winning Texas writer, author and wine aficionado with articles, tasting notes and quotes that have appeared in local, regional and national publications over the past 20 years. His bestselling book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, was released by Texas Tech Press in 2012. His newly completed book, Texas Hill Country Wineries – a wine trail guide and pictorial history of the Texas Hill Country Wineries, was released January 2015 by Arcadia Publications.

Dr. Kane has served as the executive director of the Wine Society of Texas, as a board member of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA), and a member of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Wine Industry Development Advisory Committee. He is a two-time awardee of the TWGGA Press Award for media coverage of the Texas wine industry. He currently contributes articles for Edible Austin and Edible Houston, provides Texas wine recommendations in the Houston Chronicle and blogs at www.vintagetexas.com.

Dr. Kane received his first level certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2002. He is also Ph.D. and an experienced and awarded technical researcher and writer with over 250 technical publications as author or co-author, and editor on five technical books. In 2015, Dr. Kane received his certification as a Texas Master Naturalist.

Fred Salumunek Instructor

Fred Salumunek is a Houston native, retired from a 33 year career with Exxon-Mobil in 2013.  He developed a passion for wine during tours of California wine country in the 1990s.

A few years before retiring he began formal study about wine, and has earned a variety of professional certifications: Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine, Wine and Spirits Education Trust level 3 (advanced), and French Wine Scholar.

Since his retirement, Fred has worked for a wine distributor, consulted with retail wine shops and restaurants, hosted wine dinners, and judged wine for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition.  His favorite activity is teaching consumer wine classes, which gives him the opportunity to share his passion, so he’s excited to have joined the team at the Texas Wine School!

Woodie Stephenson Instructor

Woodie Stephenson is a graduate of the Burgundy School of Business in Dijon, France where he mastered in Wine Business. He was awarded the WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2019 after studying the WSET program through course providers in London, Philadelphia and Houston’s very own Texas Wine School. He is also a Certified Wine Educator with the Society of Wine Educators in Washington DC, and has completed the French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Scholar and Spanish Wine Scholar study programs with the Wine Scholar Guild. He is currently participating in the beta version of the Capstone California, the first international California wine certification program in partnership with the Wine Institute and hopes to help bring the program to Texas in the future. Woodie has a background in technical writing and communication with the University of Houston and Rice University, and began his career in the wine business working in restaurants and has experience in wine retail management, wholesale distribution; he currently works with the Boisset Collection as a Regional Account Manager and on the National Accounts team. He enjoys enotourism, billiards, cycling, and is a volunteer judge with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s International Wine Competition. Woodie is most passionate about the classical wines of Europe and emerging wine regions in the United States and enjoys teaching all levels of the WSET program.

Gary Clark Instructor

Born in Scotland but raised in Texas.  After a brief stint as a private investigator, Gary entered the world of wines and spirits in 1987 at Mr. Dunderbak’s and later Matthias’ Restaurant in Houston.  After 6 years of 2AM closings and rowdy customers he transitioned to the wholesale tier of the business in 1993.  A particularly embarrassing presentation and an admonition of his supervisor (who told him he needed to be able to read a bottle’s front and back label and give a presentation) he began seriously learning about his chosen profession.  Since then he became known as “the professor” while selling spirits at Glazer’s wholesale before moving to a wine supervisor position.  Gary went to work for a small wholesaler in 2005 and after a brief period became their wine buyer.  Since 2010 Gary has owned his own company, Clark Liquor Brokerage, LLC.  In this capacity he represents numerous small producers and importers.  One of these companies had Japanese Whisky to sell but had no information about their own brands.  Gary researched their brands and went on to research many others and in 2017 published the “Japanese Whisky Handbook”.  While researching the book he took and passed both the Sake Level 1 and Sake Level 3 classes of the WSET.  He passed the WSET Spirits Level 1 in 2018 and Spirits Level 3 in 2019January 2019 saw Gary began teaching consumer spirits classes at the Texas Wine School in Houston.