Top Sommeliers In South Florida

May 20, 2014 7:55 AM

South Florida has its share of wine lovers that range from the experimental to the enthusiast. Often times, these people incur the help of sommeliers, professionals trained in the art of wine, when dining out. Sommeliers build the wine list and can suggest unique wine pairings with their restaurant’s signature dishes to really bring out the flavor in the meal. Check out the list below and see if your favorite sommelier made the cut.
rose Top Sommeliers In South Florida

(Source: Niema Hulin)

Aaron & Kirsta Grauberger

Market 17
1850 S.E. 17th St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
(954) 835-5507

This brother/sister team is not only made up of two sommeliers but also the co-owners of Market 17, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar. Their 10-page international wine list complements the freshness of each dish. Many wine lovers enjoy the popular option of Dining in the Dark where Chef Lauren DeShields prepares a customer-tailored prix-fixe menu and the Graubergers select the accompanying wine pairing as their patrons dine in a pitch-black room, often times guessing each dish and pairing. “With the dining in the dark, we do get a lot more food-minded and more wine-minded enthusiasts—matter of fact, the people that seem to have the most problems determining what the wine is in the dark room are often times the people that should be the most educated about it,” notes sommelier Aaron Grauberger. This is proof that these sommeliers make dining out an experience to remember.

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Thomas Smith

Tasters Grille & Market
91252 Overseas Highway
Tavernier, FL 33070
(305) 853-1177

Thomas Smith is the owner and sommelier at Tasters Grille & Market and the co-owner of Meat Eatery & Taproom which features specialty microbrew and craft beers. He trained under Master Sommelier Sally Mohr in Boulder, Colorado and completed the Court of the Master Sommeliers Certificate program. He went on to become the wine director at Trios Wine Bar & Grille and at Marker 88 before opening the Asian-Caribbean fusion gastropub, Tasters Grille & Market, serving boutique-style wines. When asked about his job as a sommelier, Smith says he’s most passionate about “taking the fear factor out of wine and the intimidation that a lot of people feel to make them comfortable with pairing food and wine.”

George Johnson

The Grateful Palate
817 S.E. 17th St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
(954) 467-1998

George Johnson is a certified sommelier at The Grateful Palate with a taste for the extraordinary. When compiling his wine list, he specializes in choosing wineries that produce less than 2,500 cases per year. “As a small restaurant, you try to stand out from the crowd and the best way to do that is to offer your guests something that they can’t get anywhere else,” says Johnson. He’s the best because he finds beauty in the obscure and yet is still devoid of the pretentiousness that is rampant among most sommeliers in fine-dining establishments.

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Claudio Giordano

500 Brickell Key Drive
Miami, FL 33131
(305) 913-8358

Claudio Giordano is the sommelier at Azul, the ultra-modern European restaurant located inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel. He oversees a 39-page wine list that would intimidate even the most accomplished wine aficionado. He has a Bachelors of Science from Florida International University in Hospitality Management and an Associates Degree in Business Management from Miami Dade Community College. He is the sommelier for those who like an upscale atmosphere with a great international wine selection.

David Meneses

4441 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33140
(877) 326-7412

David Meneses is one part of a three-part wine team. Under the supervision of the highly decorated sommelier-turned-director of beverage David Mokha and with the assistance of sommelier Henrique Viotti, the group has a private weekly wine tasting to decide which wines will be added to the preselected wine list. The wine must complement all meals served at the Asian fine-dining restaurant, Hakkasan, or it will not be put on the menu. Also, all other wines, except for select vintages, are regularly tasted to ensure the list stays on par with Hakksan’s current menu. Meneses is great because he’s a team player that has helped to continue the legacy of quality food and beverage that Hakkasan is known for.

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Niema Hulin was born in Newark, NJ but raised in Lexington, South Carolina for the bulk of her formative years. In 2002, she moved to Miami after graduating from the University of Florida. Since then, Niema has worked in film, television and commercials as a Production Assistant and Production Coordinator. Some of her films have included Bad Boys II and I Am Number IV. Her work can be found at

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