Laura Williamson MS, CWE

Master Sommelier, Owner of Unlock Your Palate Inc and Partner at RingIT Inc

Laura was encouraged to pursue the Master Sommelier Diploma and in 2005 achieved this coveted distinction of which only 78 Americans (including just 13 women) had attained prior.  She has done extensive work for the Board of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas both as a member of the Exam and Education Committees. She also holds the prestigious title of Certified Wine Educator and achieved this feat in 2002 when only approximately 100 others had previously. 

Following her accreditation, she began consulting for Small Vineyards Imports, the fastest growing Italian Wine importer in the US from 2006 to 2007 focused exclusively on small-production, hand-harvested fruit with minimal environmental impact. 

While living in AZ, she was co-owner of the award winning VinTabla Restaurant and Wine Shop in Tucson.  Her handcrafted wine list showcased 100+ wines from around the world, offering ‘taste’ and ‘glass’ pours to support tableside-custom wine flights that fostered consumer learning and appreciation of synergistic pairings.

She also managed sales nationally as Vice-President of Sales for Rudi Wiest Selections, an exclusive importer of German wine focused predominantly on dry styles across Germany. 

While living in Manhattan for five years, she worked as Chef Sommelier to Jean-Georges at his namesake Michelin 3 Star New York City venue prior to accepting the position as Corporate Beverage Director for Jean-Georges.  Following that, she became Wine Director for Mandarin Oriental, New York, managing all beverage execution for this prestigious luxury hotel. She was an adjunct faculty member for eight years with the International Culinary Center in New York City, teaching students within the Sommelier Intensive program and prepping them to become the next generation of sommeliers.

She currently operates her own consulting business, Unlock Your Palate Inc, and also consults for Wine Ring I RingIt, the most advanced and comprehensive global artificial intelligence software for wine preference, built to guide consumers to their personal favorites intuitively via their preference profile. Laura has shared her esteemed expertise through features on CBS, FOX, NBC, Forbes Magazine and Wine Spectator.  She also supports numerous children’s charities and actively educates women executive groups on savvy wine list navigation.

Meet the other judges

Will Parsons

Vice President, International Operations & Global Portfolio Manager at PARSONS FINE IMPORTS

Christian Shaum

Lead Sommelier at Bazaar Meat & Bar Mar Chicago & CMSA Advanced Sommelier, Chicago