Mariya Kovacheva MS

Master Sommelier and Regional Wine Education Manager Americas at Pernod Ricard

While grape growing and winemaking were an integral part of Mariya Kovacheva’s family life, it wasn’t until she moved to the United States that her passion for wine truly took flight. Now the Pernod-Ricard’s Regional Wine Education Manager Americas, Mariya was born and raised in a small town in Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley.

Mariya never imagined she was destined to become a wine professional when she moved to the United States to pursue her dream of graduating from a solid MBA Program. She began working in restaurants while applying to business school, and acquired valuable experience, learning from some of the “industry’s best” at a several fine culinary establishments in New England including Rebecca’s and l’Escale in Greenwich, CT, and at The Pearl in Nantucket. After spending a summer in Nantucket, Mariya passed her first Sommelier Exam. By 2005, her dream of being accepted to an MBA program had come true, but career path changed and took off in a different direction. For 10 years, Mariya worked at Café Boulud in Palm Beach, FL, where she managed the Wine and Spirits program.

Mariya has long had a keen interest in winemaking around the world, and although she has a decided preference for wines that come from classical winemaking regions, she is always on the lookout for well-made, terroir-driven wines from up-and-coming areas.  She especially delights in tasting wines and helping to develop menu-pairing profiles to complement diverse cuisines. Her talent for this was well showcased at the special monthly theme dinners she hosted at Café Boulud for six consecutive years, where she also created the “Tales of the Distiller” and “Seasons of Beer” series of tasting events that highlighted food and beverage pairings as well as consumer taste research.

While her first decade here in the US has been entirely different from what she had envisioned, it has been spent fulfilling Mariya’s very own American dream. She is inspired by her favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.

Today Mariya has earned the Master Sommelier title from the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as the diploma from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET). Additionally, she is an WSET Certified Educator. Furthermore, in 2012 Mariya became the first woman to have won the national titles of “TOP I SOMM” from the Guild of Sommeliers as well as the “Somm Slam Champion” from the Star Chef Congress. In the same year, she played a key role in the Café Boulud team's nomination for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service. Mariya is currently a Stage 2 student at the Institute of Masters of Wine.

In addition to her wine career, Mariya has accomplished the Master of Business Administration degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. While in the program, she was awarded the Shaping Leaders Fellowship as well as the Leadership Initiative Designation.

Mariya dedicates some of her free time to support the community by volunteering on local and national level. Mariya feels privileged to be surrounded every day by what she enjoys most – WINE!

Meet the other judges

Paul Carayas

GM and Wine Director at Saison Cellar San Francisco and Scotts Valley