Welcome and thank you for checking out VinoMike.com! My wine career began in 2000 when I took my first job in the food and beverage industry as a fine dining server at Timpone’s Restaurant in Urbana, IL. Since then, I never looked back as I’ve continued my journey in the wine biz now for over 17 years. In 2003, my passion for wine and service drove me to complete the Introductory Course with the Court of Master Sommeliers. After continuing to sharpen my service skills as a fine dining manager and sommelier, I earned my Certified Sommelier pin in 2008 and passed the difficult Advanced Sommelier exam on my first attempt in 2009. These monumental accomplishments have put me in contention for the Master Sommelier Diploma, the hardest exam of any kind in the world. I have been honored to attend the Master Sommelier exam three times in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
The job of a “sommelier” is to provide the guests of a restaurant with excellent wine and beverage service while accommodating any other service related needs that arise throughout their dining experience. I left the restaurant world in 2007 and I am currently a store manager for a significant wine retail shop in Chicago, IL. So if I’m a sommelier, why don’t I work at a restaurant? Working in retail has offered me a constant exposure to wines from around the globe while allowing me to add new skills and experiences that have helped advance my career in this incredible industry. I also love educating my customers and recommending many different wines at once which they can try at their own leisure.
The purpose of this website is to share my passion about the ever-changing world of wine while keeping it fun and simple. If you’re a casual drinker and want to learn more, I am thrilled to offer advice and recommendations on a very down to earth level. If you’re a top wine professional or connoisseur, then I look forward to your feedback while exchanging ideas with you.
What did I do before my wine career? I am originally from Florida and attended high school at J.P. Taravella in Coral Springs. It was here that I cultivated my passion for music. I played euphonium in the symphonic band and marching band, both of which earned numerous top awards in local and state competitions. In my junior year of high school I discovered jazz which quickly became my main focus. That led me to play in jazz bands at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) where I completed an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. After graduating from UF in 1999, I moved to Champaign-Urbana to pursue a degree in music at the University of Illinois. While living there I needed a job to pay rent which, like many artists, is how I found myself working in the restaurant business.
Please enjoy the posts and I look forward to meeting you and learning your story.
- Michael Matonte – @VinoMike