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This Sommelier Series is supported by The Foley Food & Wine Society

Cassie Sakai
Goat Group Wine Director

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Cassie Sakai grew up experiencing wine culture through the eyes of her food- and wine-loving family. After college, Sakai moved to Chicago and quickly fell in love with the city. It wasn’t long before Sakai made her way to Girl & the Goat, a Fulton Market hotspot, where she’s remained for the last five years.

Beginning her journey with the restaurant as a server, Sakai realized that becoming a sommelier seemed like the most logical and sustainable next step in her career within the service industry. Even at the age of 22, Sakai knew that working with wine is something she could do for the rest of her life. Utilizing the building blocks in place from her serving experience alongside her passion for hospitality, Sakai worked her way up the ranks to becoming the Wine Director for the Goat Group.

Sakai’s wine pairings are as eclectic as the restaurant’s menu, crafted from the mind of renowned chef Stephanie Izard. The sommelier considers herself lucky to host adventurous guests who are open to unique dishes accompanied by nontraditional sips to capture the full experience of what Girl & the Goat has to offer.

Sakai attributes a large part of her growth and development as a sommelier to the community of female professionals in the field that embraced her when she first arrived on the scene. Over the years, Sakai has added to her toolbox, acquiring a wealth of knowledge for guests and green sommeliers alike to tap for tasting gems.

Adam Sweders
DineAmic Group Wine Director

Boasting a decade of experience in the service industry, Adam Sweders’s reach as a sommelier has extended far beyond the wine cellar. From navigating the fine dining scene in Chicago to receiving` national recognition for his endeavors, Sweders finds himself breathing new life into the wine industry one project at a time. 

Not long after receiving his certification, Sweders landed the coveted role of Head Sommelier at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. After 18 months of running the wine program at Joe’s, what he refers to as acquiring his Ph.D. in the industry, Sweders found himself linked up with DineAmic Group founders Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhso. Within a year, Sweders went from running the wine program at DineAmic’s Prime & Provisions to becoming the Corporate Wine Director for all seven of the group’s restaurants, creating, revamping, and curating each location’s collection.

Arguably Sweders’s most impressive creation is Wine Rival, formerly known as Somm Madness. Sweders dreamt up the blind tasting tournament while on vacation in 2017 watching March Madness and drinking a glass of wine. Sommeliers alongside wine enthusiasts gather from all over the nation to compete for a grand prize. Over the years, the annual event has gained national recognition and quite the cult following, beckoning hundreds of spectators to watch as the one-of-a-kind wine tournament unfolds, going from 64 contestants to the final four before crowning the Wine Rival champion.

If his resume isn’t impressive enough, Sweders has a few more creative projects in his bag of tricks that will soon be announced. Until then, he’ll be busy running the wine program for DineAmic Group and dreaming up his next big idea.

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