“Somm Insider” Darla Hoffmann Talks All Things Wine – This Week: Jason Caballero

AZ Food & Wine is pleased to welcome Certified Sommelier Darla Hoffmann as its new resident wine expert, and writer of the weekly column, ‘Somm Insider’. Darla brings a wealth of knowledge about the Arizona wine industry and promises insider knowledge on the best wines, vintners, merchants and events in the valley.


Who: Jason Caballero, Wine Director, Bourbon Steak
Where: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
By: Darla Hoffmann

Fine dining in Arizona is escalating, and accordingly, there is a craving for beverage professionals to accompany these establishments. Advanced Sommelier, and Wine Director for Bourbon Steak in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Jason Caballero is confident that Arizona can be one of the most prestigious destinations for food and wine in the entire country.

Impressively, Jason is the first person to pass the Advanced Sommelier Exam in Arizona in 17 years. When asked what it felt like to pass an exam of such magnitude he responded, “I am most proud of showing that it can be done in Arizona. It lends credibility that we can lay the groundwork for a global market. I refuse to accept that it can’t happen here,” he continues. “I feel like I inherited a big hotel with the right framework and energy, but it needs a little remodeling.”

One of the things Jason loves most about working at Bourbon Steak is that it operates in a teamwork environment. The ultimate dining experience is created when the experts in wine respect the experts in food, and vice versa. That is the answer to being the best of the best in this industry. You can make it anywhere as long as you have qualified people running a well-designed program. Nobody has to move to the ‘city that doesn’t sleep’ in order to see a brilliant show.

Jason spearheads a weekly study group of over 20 Sommeliers. The group demonstrates a palpable commitment to excellence. Although he would not take full credit for creating this animal, there is no doubt he has initiated change and excitement. “I guide the group, but they put in the time and have the courage to sit for these difficult exams,” he says. “I don’t want to be the only Advanced Sommelier in our state; I want a community of successful individuals in this market.”

Mark Tarbell, owner of Phoenix’s renowned Tarbell’s, allows the group to use his restaurant as a study retreat. “Mark has been an integral part of our success and has shown a huge foundation of support,” says Jason.

The food and beverage industry in Arizona is extremely proud of Jason’s accomplishments, and eagerly awaits his acceptance to sit for the first portion of the Master Sommelier exam this year. Cheers to an inevitable movement toward tremendous growth and opportunity for Sommeliers in our state.

Bourbon Steak, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, Monday–Friday 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Business owner, Darla Hoffman, passed both her Sommelier Level 1 and Certified Level 2 exams with the highest score in her class, earning the esteemed “Walter Clore Scholarship”. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Hospitality Beverage under the Society of Wine Educators, a Certified Beer Server/Level 1 under the Cicerone Program, and a member of The Wine Century Club. Additionally, she works in the tasting room at LDV Wine Gallery, an award-winning winery in Scottsdale, has written for City Sun Times and MYnewsMesa, and has been a guest writer on The Society of Wine Educators’ site. Darla is the sole proprietor of About Wine, which focuses on wine education and marketing through means of tastings, classes, marketing, and promotions. She conducts customized classes at various restaurants and events in Phoenix, such as Wine 101: ‘The Grape Expedition’ series, and Italian Varietals: Wines of Bordeaux, Spain & Portugal. For more info, visit: www.aboutwineinaz.com

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