Cara has been specializing in wine and beverage since becoming a staff-trainer while serving at Chicago's SUNDA in 2008. Cara then became Manager and Wine Steward of Chicago’s Longman & Eagle, a Michelin-starred gastropub & boutique hotel.
After spending time working in fine wine & spirits retail at Chicago's LUSH Wine & Spirits, in 2011 she moved to Napa Valley to attend the nation's premier school for wine and beverage education: The Culinary Institute of America’s Accelerated Wine & Beverage Program. Under the mentorship of Master Sommeliers, Cara gained experience in wine, beer, and distilled spirits theory, wine business, marketing, and mixology. While studying at the CIA, Cara worked as a private client wine consultant at Napa Valley’s ACME Fine Wines.
In San Francisco, she was Lead Sommelier at Hakkasan and won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2013, and then simultaneously oversaw operations of Bright Wine Fund and acted as Cellar Master of Michelin Three Star restaurant Saison, which received the Wine Spectator Grand Award under her tenure. Cara then worked with Saison's Wine Director Mark Bright at Bright's Les Clos in San Francisco as GM and Sommelier. Cara wanted to learn more about the "three-tier system" and joined the team at Domaine Select Wine & Spirits as Northern California District Manager, and brought that experience to Strategic Group where she is currently a Champagne Specialist in San Francisco representing fine Moët Hennessy Champagnes (Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, Ruinart and Krug.)
In September 2015, Cara earned her Advanced Sommelier credentials from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In addition, Cara is WSET Advanced, as well as a Certified Wine Professional (CWP) and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Culinary Institute of America and Society of Wine Educators, respectively. She also holds certifications as California Wine Appellation Specialist from the San Francisco Wine School and French Wine Scholar from the French Wine Society.
When she’s not drinking Cru Beaujolais, Cara is hanging out at comedy shows or slaying dragons on her Xbox.
Simi’s career with food & wine traces back to her freshman year at NYU, when she fully began to realize how much joy she took in cooking. At NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Simi created an interdisciplinary degree that focused on “The Business of Food”. Rather than pursue a culinary degree, this degree allowed her to complete both Business and Economics minors, as well as complete a comprehensive program of study that explored the impact of food on social, political and economic cultures around the globe.
Simi has always worked in positions that allowed her to gain a holistic understanding of the hospitality and restaurant industries. During her undergrad, she worked as a line cook; interned in the marketing department of a major restaurant chain; interned abroad through every department of a central London hotel; and, worked for the Manhattan luxury grocer, Citarella.
After a year of managing a small restaurant in Manhattan's West Village, Simi headed west to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley to complete the Accelerated Wine & Beverage Program. There, she met Cara!
After graduating from the CIA in 2012, Simi returned home to New York, and joined the team as a server at the acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. Despite working with one of the best teams in the industry, Simi missed California dearly, and was soon hungry for a more wine-focused opportunity. In the summer of 2013, she headed back to San Francisco to join the Grand Award-winning team at The Village Pub, in Woodside.
During her time at the Michelin-starred Pub, Simi gained an incredible amount of insight to the northern California wine market, as well as managing a large, profitable and respected wine program. After three and a half years with The Village Pub, she's moved on to help launch DECANTsf in a full time capacity. Simi has since prepared for owning her own business by working with another wonderful San Francisco wine bar, Birba.
Simi holds a Certified Sommelier credential from The Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as a Certified Wine Professional (CWP) and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Culinary Institute of America and Society of Wine Educators, respectively. She also loves watching European football, and hanging with golden retrievers.
photos: Sarah Rodriguez