Ask a Bright Cellars Sommelier: Meet Our Wine Experts

Bright Cellars sommelier Courtney Hill and Mark Castaldi

Have you ever met a Bright Cellars sommelier? We’re introducing the wine experts behind the magic of Bright Cellars!

It takes a lot of training, experience, and know-how to become a wine expert! You already know we have an amazing staff of wine specialists ready to answer your every burning question. But did you know we have two Bright Cellars sommeliers on staff?

It’s Time to Meet our Somms!

Introducing Courtney Hill – our Bright Cellars certified sommelier and cheese expert! 

Courtney has been with Bright Cellars for over five years, and they’re an invaluable asset to our team. They started out on our Wine Concierge Team and has since worked their way up to Product Development Planner on our Operations Team. 

Introducing Mark Castaldi – our wine production guru! 

Mark has worked in the wine industry for well over 20 years, working for key players in the wine industry such as Treasury Wine Estates, Kendall-Jackson, and Constellation Brands. 

Mark actually has his own vineyard on his property! He planted his vineyard about 7 years ago, where he grows three different grape varietals based on his own preferences – Petit Sirah, Zinfandel, and Albariño. He enjoys having control over how the grapes themselves are grown and when they are harvested, determining the flavor profiles of the wine itself. 

Ask a Bright Cellars Sommelier

Q: What wine training or certifications do you have under your belt?


“My background is in the hospitality industry with a focus in food and beverage operations. I passed my Certified Somm exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers in April of 2018, and led tastings and wine classes for the Bright Cellars team. I’m also a Certified Cheese Professional with the American Cheese Society.” 


“During my 20+ years in the wine industry, I’ve held several executive level management positions (COO, CFO, VP) with direct oversight of all winemaking, production, and vineyard management. 

As for training, I’ve received my Sensory Analysis certification, Wine Production Fundamentals certification, and Viticultural Practices certification.”


Q: How did you get introduced to the wine world, and when did you know you wanted to make a career of it?


“What really kicked off my passion for wine was a semester spent studying abroad in a small town between Naples and Sorrento, where I made friends with the owners of the local wine bar, and took a deep dive into Italian wines, tasting through everything from Lacryma Christi produced from grapes grown on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, to Amarone made from dried Corvina grapes near Venice, to vintage Franciacorta, an Italian version of Champagne.”


“When I was pursuing my Masters Degree in Agricultural Economics at Washington State University, I did my thesis research on the economics of wine production. I always loved the challenge of solving puzzles – how much it costs to build and operate a winery, cost of production per case, overall profitability, etc. 

Plus, I found the people in the industry to be very welcoming and approachable!” 


Q: What’s your favorite wine myth or piece of wine knowledge that often surprises people?


“Some people don’t know white wine can be made from red grapes! Red wines get their color and tannin structure from the skins of the grape, so if the juice is immediately separated from the grape skins, you’re left with a completely clear liquid that can be fermented into a white wine!”


“There’s a common belief that high quality wine can only come from vineyards that only produce very small yields. This is not the case, and I’m so glad the industry is starting to accept this.” 


Q: What’s your favorite Bright Cellars wine?


“I’m a sucker for bubbly, so my favorite Bright Cellars wine is our Stigma Grand Reserve, a sweeter style of aromatic sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method. It’s perfectly balanced, and pairs well with almost anything, from cheese & charcuterie to pad thai or fried chicken.”


“My favorite Bright Cellars wine is Crypsis Primitivo! Primitivo is a close relative to Zinfandel, which is one of my favorite varietals. The label artwork is very compelling, and the wine is very fruit forward with soft tannins.”

In Vino Finito

Do you have any questions for a Bright Cellars sommelier? Ask away in the comments! 

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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