On November 10, 2020, Vinequity held their Paths of Wine Education and Career Panel webinar event. It was a powerful event jam-packed with panelist personal stories and insights into what led them where they are today. The discussions held at this event were immensely important as many aspiring wine professionals ponder where to spend their education dollars, and what they can expect post their education.
Finally, if you missed the live webinar, no need to fret; you can watch the recorded version just below!
More about our Panelists and Moderator
Andrea Backstrom began her wine career in Vancouver in 2009 with Mark Anthony Brands. During her time there Andrea worked in key regional and national sales and marketing positions while working with multiple brand portfolio's in both Vancouver and Toronto. In 2015 Andrea took a role at Lifford Wine & Spirits as the Director of Sales for Ontario where she managed their sales team and the LCBO business.
In the fall of 2017 Andrea and fellow Lifford colleague Melissa Stunden founded A+M Consulting Inc. and took on the national market development for New Zealand Winegrowers. Together they continue to expand their business consulting for various partners in the Canadian wine and spirits industry. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Drinks Ontario, the provincial trade association representing the interests of manufacturers, agents, importers, marketing groups and trade offices of beverage alcohol products in Ontario.
José Luis Fernández
Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. José Luis Fernández is a certified CAPS and a CMS Advanced Sommelier. He has been living in Hamilton, Ontario, since 2004
José Luis placed 2nd in 2017 and won 1st place and the title of Best Sommelier in Ontario in the 2019 competition. José Luis will be representing Ontario while competing at the next Best Sommelier in Canada competition in the Okanagan, BC.
He is currently the Sommelier/Wine Director at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club, located in Ancaster, Ontario. José Luis was the Ontario finalist for the IVDP & CAPS “Master of Port Canada 2019” competition, where he got the third place. Also, he is currently working towards his Master Sommelier accreditation.
Elsa Macdonald was a management consultant in the telecom and financial sectors until 2003, when she heeded the call to pursue her passion for wine and changed careers. Now leading Wine Education at Arterra Wines Canada and developing strategy for their luxury portfolio “Principle Fine Wines”, Elsa shares her knowledge and zeal for wine with sommeliers, WSET Diploma students and trade professionals across the country. She is past-President of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers Ontario Chapter and is certified by the same body. When she isn't teaching or tasting or adhering to COVID restrictions, you can find Elsa exploring the world’s wine regions where she continues to cultivate her experiences and engage others in her passionate pursuits. Elsa also holds a master of science (telecom) from Syracuse University, New York and a bachelor's degree from Ryerson University, Toronto.
Born and raised in Fergus, Ontario, Shiraz Mottiar entered the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University in 1997 and was a member of its first graduating class in 2000.
In the fall of that year, Shiraz joined the team of Malivoire as a Cellar Hand. Within a year he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker and after another three vintages took the reins as winemaker in the summer of 2005.
Shiraz personifies Malivoire's founding philosophy: a winery’s excellence begins with healthy soil and vines, and depends on minimal human manipulation of the fruit and its wine. His passion is to allow each vintage to express its own unique character, reflecting the year in which it was grown. Shiraz also believes that the Niagara Peninsula, as a maturing wine region, is defining its terroir. He is determined that his sustainably farmed wines, whether gamay, rosé, chardonnay, or cabernet franc, with each succeeding vintage, will contribute to that definition.
At the end of his day, Shiraz returns home to his own Beamsville Bench vineyard, where he farms three hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and newly planted Melon de Bourgogne vines. Shiraz reserves time for travel, the enjoyment of live music, outdoor recreation, and spending time with his wife Isa and his three children.
In 2017, Shiraz was thrilled to be “Winemaker of the Year” by the Ontario Wine Awards in recognition of his consistent excellence and contributions to the province’s wine industry.
Christopher Sealy, voted Canada’s Best Sommelier 2019, is a certified Sommelier from CAPS and in the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Over the past 15 years, he has had the privilege to travel to numerous wine regions, exploring and studying different wine cultures, getting to know the winemakers, and the factors that make them unique. This culture and ‘people first’ approach to wine has enabled him to make wine not just a learning experience for all he encounters, but also an affable and relishable one.
Sealy has been instrumental in building full wine and beverage programs, and he has also held several posts in Management. What's more, he has instructed on wine education and built and opened a wine bar. Currently, he is the Wine Director at one of Canada's top fine dining restaurants.
Sommelier and Co-Founder of Vinequity
Nabilah Rawji is the former Wine Director of Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, and is accredited through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She was most recently one of only four Canadians, and the only woman of color, to achieve the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced designation in 2019. Having previously worked as a field biologist she brings a scientists' curiosity and rigorous approach to the world of wine. Nabilah strives to create lists that enable people to experience the classic wines of the world while leaving room for an adventure into lesser charted territories.