Meet Three of Scottsdale’s Top Sommeliers
Shaun Adams, Sommelier, Talavera at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Shaun Adams moved to Arizona in 2000 to become a chef; instead, he ended up in the front of the house.
“I realized how much more I enjoyed interacting with guests than working behind-the-scenes in the kitchen,” he says.
As the sommelier at Talavera at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, Adams uses his creativity to introduce new flavors and educate guests on the extensive wine selection—520 options! His passion for wine began in 2006 at the Phoenician, where he was running private events. He started to notice how a great food and wine pairing impacted how much the diners enjoyed their events.
“The influence that wine can bring to the diner’s experience is amazing,” he says. “It takes a regular meal and turns it into a memory.”
Adams started to learn more about wine and passed the Certified Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is also a Certified Specialist of Spirits and a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Adams has been at Talavera for almost 10 years and runs the wine program.
What’s a common mistake that people make when pairing wines with food?
“Not considering the body of the wine to the body of the food. Flavors can interact well with each other, whether it’s a contrast or a mirroring flavor pairing. Overthinking the flavors of the wine and the dish without thinking of the richness or delicate qualities in them can end up hurting the overall success of the pairing.”
“Wine bridges history, geology, farming and enjoyment, all in one glass.”
Jason Caballero, Lead Sommelier, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Jason Caballero has reached a pinnacle in the sommelier world. He is the first person in the Valley in 17 years to receive the Advanced Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. To put that into perspective, there are probably 800 Advanced Sommeliers in the entire world.
Caballero worked in restaurants throughout college in Tucson. He liked it so much that he stayed in the restaurant business after graduation. When Olive & Ivy opened at the Scottsdale Waterfront in 2006, Caballero was hired as a bartender and started interacting with the in-house sommelier, Kyle Erickson.
“I didn’t know anything about wine, and he blew my mind,” he says. “I was an engineering major, so I wanted to know the how, the why, the nuts and bolts of wine. I wanted to learn the world of wine in one day. I probably drove him nuts asking so many questions, but I soaked it in.”
After a stint as the wine director at the now-closed Vintage 95 Wine Lounge in downtown Chandler, he sat for the Advanced Sommelier certification in March 2017 and passed. Caballero has been the lead sommelier at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for two years.
What’s a good wine to bring to a dinner party?
“Riesling is an incredible accompaniment to any get-together. The wine is refreshing, easy to drink and versatile—it’ll work with nearly any type of food. A good way to find a good German Riesling is to look for the ‘VDP’ symbol on the label. It will be an eagle with a cluster of grapes inside it called a ‘traubenadler.’”
“I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic. When I wasn’t working with wine, I had a large void.”
Duke Hornia, Sommelier, Mastro’s Ocean Club
Duke Hornia’s path to becoming a sommelier was completely by chance. He was working in Boston for a travel company that was across the street from Jimmy’s Harborside, a popular restaurant at the time. When the travel company went under, the owners of Jimmy’s offered him a job as the maitre d’. It was his first job in the restaurant industry. That was 38 years ago. Hornia made his way up the industry chain and has been the sommelier at Mastro’s Ocean Club for 14 years.
“I love the fast pace and exciting atmosphere that the place generates,” he says. “The food and service is first class, making it one of the most popular restaurants in the Valley not only for our local guests but also for visitors from out of state and country.”
Hornia’s love of wine has been a journey that’s lasted more than 25 years. He says once he was exposed to wine, he wanted to learn everything there was to know about them. He started tasting the wine the distributors would bring in and study up on them. In 2005, he became a Certified Sommelier.
Who has been your biggest influence?
“I first knew that I wanted to be a sommelier when I was running a restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea, Maui. I was fortunate to have a sommelier, Kris Harriman, expose and educate me on all things wine-related. I consider him to be the person who has influenced me the most in my wine career.”
“The world of wine has led me to meet people and develop friendships with wonderful people from all over the world.”