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About American Wine School

wset-approvedAmerican Wine School was founded in 2001 by Marianne Frantz. Since then, more than 15,000 wine enthusiasts have attended American Wine School classes, educational events and tastings held in seven states.

Whether you know a little or a lot about wine, American Wine School provides a systematic approach that can help you build your wine knowledge. For consumers and professionals alike, American Wine School offers an internationally recognized program of study through its affiliation with the prestigious Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Currently, Levels 1, 2 & 3 of this program are offered in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Chicago. WSET level 4 in Wines & Spirits is only offered in Chicago.


Marianne FrantzMarianne Frantz, CWE, DWS, FWS, Advanced Sommelier
Founder & President of American Wine School

A Certified Wine Educator, Marianne holds a Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) of London, and has also earned the Advanced Sommelier qualification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. After successfully participating in an educational competition sponsored by the Wines of Australia in the spring of 2008, Marianne became an educational Ambassador for Wine Australia USA. She is also a Certified Spanish Wine Educator, a Certified Rioja Educator, Certified Bourgogne Educator & a French Wine Scholar.

Marianne has always been drawn to education and taught high school chemistry after graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Wright State University. Most recently, Marianne completed a 2 year graduate program resulting in a Master of Education in Instructional Design for Digital Learning. In addition to teaching, she has produced culinary events across the U.S. and in France with the world’s top chefs and wine makers. Outside of the classroom, Marianne contributes to various wine publications and conducts speaking engagements for corporate clients.


Shannon Crowley-Avella

WSET Coordinator

A graduate of Dominican University with a degree in Nutrition (2009), Shannon works with our team of educators and hundreds of American Wine School students each year to keep registration and bookings running smoothly. Shannon has an extensive background in restaurant accounting and over 15 years of food and beverage experience working at 312 Chicago in the Hotel Allegro. She is extremely passionate about wine and has completed both Level 1 & 2 of the WSET. When Shannon is not enjoying wine, she is enjoying time with her two young children, Rose and Luke.



Eamon Photo 1Eamon Byrne
Wine Educator

Originally from Ireland, Eamon moved to Chicago in the summer of 2013. His passion for wine developed over 10 years ago while studying for his undergraduate degree and working part time for Ireland’s largest wine retailer. There, the manager took him under her wing, passed on her enthusiasm for wine, and pointed him towards the WSET qualification. In 2009, Eamon moved to New Zealand where he worked and conducted tastings in Central Otago. Having spent almost 4 years as a corporate trainer in financial services in Dublin, Eamon is thrilled to share his trainer skills by teaching for the American Wine School. Eamon currently works as Area Manager for Taub Family Selections. He holds the WSET Level 3 and is undertaking the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits.

Kristen EllisKristen Ellis, FWS
Wine Educator

Kristen knew from a young age she wanted to be an educator. She graduated   with a degree in Social Studies Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She then took her passion for teaching to Italy where she began to work as a Historical Tour Guide in Rome and the Italian Peninsula. During her more than five year tenure in Europe, Kristen studied Italian and French.   Inspired by a few close friends whom are sommeliers, she began her wine journey with WSET in Tuscany and quickly became a Wine Guide, showcasing Italian wines. Kristen finished the WSET 3 Advanced Level Certificate in Chicago, and is currently a WSET Diploma candidate. She is also a French Wine Scholar. Kristen is happy to begin her career as a Wine Educator with the American Wine School and by day, she has the pleasure of working as Wine Education Coordinator for Binny’s Beverage Depot.


Silvia Ortega Franco

Wine Educator

Silvia came from Barcelona in 2015, changing the vineyard views of the cava country in her homeland for Lake Michigan in Chicago. In Spain, Silvia developed a career in the European environmental industry for 14 years, getting a vegetal biology and ecology science degree and an MBA, but it was after a wine trip when she decided to change her path, joining a 101 wine class in La Rioja in 2013. After then, there was no way out: she studied Oenology and Pairing in Granada and began to develop her passion for wine over her previous career. In 2016 she decided that WSET was the best way to build solid and critical knowledge about wine. Silvia is very excited to join WSET educators in the American Wine School. She holds the WSET Level 3 and is undertaking the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits.


gattiG. Anthony “Tony” Gatti, CS, FWS
Wine Educator

Tony took a circuitous path to his wine career.  Originally from Cincinnati, he left at 17 to serve four years in the US Army as an Arctic infantryman and survival specialist in Alaska.  In the years after, he lost track of time in the Caribbean, got a degree from the University of Arizona in Latin American Studies and Creative Writing, and traveled abroad with a wild abandon while working for adventure travel companies.  He eventually settled down on St. Croix in the USVI, got married and had children. Wine came into the picture when Tony was offered the chance to run an all-Italian import company. Soon he built and managed an import/distribution business with global wine, spirit and beer products.  In 2012, Tony left St. Croix for Chicago.  Tony is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Certified Sommelier as authorized by the Court of Master Sommeliers, a French Wine Scholar, and holds a WSET Level 4 in Wines & Spirits.

Mark headshot

Mark Maruszak, J.D., CS
Wine Educator

Mark, a native of Cleveland, Ohio moved to Toledo, Ohio graduated from the University of Toledo College of Law in 2013. During his last year of law school, Mark found his true passion in the world of wine. He is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and holds a WSET Level 4 in Wines & Spirits. Additionally, he has been recognized as a Certified Beer Server through the Cicerone Program. With the goal of continuous education in mind, Mark has travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdoms and Paris, while also partaking in sommelier outreach programs such as the Napa Valley Vintner’s Somm Napa Valley, Oregon’s Pinot Camp, the Russian River Valley Pinot Forum, and Washington’s Walla Walla Vintner’s W2U.  Mark draws on a wide range of experiences including expanding the Wine Spectator acclaimed Best of Award of Excellence wine program for Benny’s Chop House. Currently, Mark is a sales representative for Connoisseur Wines in Chicago.


Benson Zak, CSW
Wine Educator

Benson worked many restaurant jobs while pursuing degrees in political science, law and criminology. Once he was done with school, he realized that he really liked the restaurant business and decided to stay. After getting the introductory certificate from the Court of Master Sommelier, he began pursuing his wine education. He is currently a candidate for the WSET Level 4 Diploma. He also holds a Certified Specialist of Wine award from the Society of Wine Educators. The opportunity to share his love of wine with others drew him to becoming a wine educator with American Wine School. Benson is the Wine Director at The Capital Grille.


Kathy MerchantKathy Merchant
Wine Educator

An Italian Wine Scholar, Kathy holds a WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits and the Society of Wine Educators’ Certified Specialist of Wine.  Kathy is also a wine blogger and writes Vino Ventures (Facebook or www.vinoventurescincinnati.com). In addition to her blog, Kathy has written about food and wine for Cincinnati’s Venue Magazine online and a print feature about Monteverdi Tuscany, and published a blog series on Burgundy for travel company French Wine Explorers. She previously served as resident wine educator for 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, where she is also an investor, and in 2013 partnered with The Painted Chef to host a “Perfect Pairings” series exploring food and wine. Consultations have included The Grotto Wine Bar, US Bank Ascent Private Capital Management, and custom wine education and events. Kathy recently retired as president/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.


Brandon FordBrandon Ford
Wine Educator

By day, Brandon works as Legal Counsel for a chemical company in Cleveland. He is an undergraduate of Case Western Reserve University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. He also holds a Juris Doctor and a MBA from The University of Akron. His hobbies include collecting wine, running, reading and family time with his wife and son. Brandon’s interest in wine began after a summer long trip in Europe. After years of studying, Brandon is holds the WSET Advance Certificated (Level 3), the Certified Specialist of Wine award from the Society of Wine Educators, and is a Certified Spanish Wine Educator. An American Wine School Captain, Brandon is one of a handful of graduates who teaches at the American Wine School on a regular basis.

Paul GiudiciPaul Giudici
Wine Educator

Paul started his thirst for wine knowledge by virtue of studying his Italian & French heritage. Inevitably, this led to attending “Wine 101”, his first wine class with AWS during the fall of 2006. In Paul’s words, “Marianne’s infectious teaching and our first trip to Napa pretty much sealed my fate. I’ve been here ever since!” Paul is now a Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educator, a Spanish Wine Educator from the Wine Academy of Spain, and holds the Level 3 WSET Certificate. More recently, Paul is studying for the Bourgogne Master Level Certificate from the French Wine Society. By day, Paul works as an IT Architect. Wine has provided him that artistry & expression that the other side of his brain craves. Outside of wine Paul enjoys playing guitar, traveling, & watching lots of movies. He also considers himself a bit of a stock market geek.

tuliTuli Banerjee
Wine Educator

Tuli has been affiliated with the American Wine School since volunteering at the 2006 Fabulous Food Show. She has participated as a captain regularly since then. Tuli passed the Advanced WSET certification exam and is preparing to become a Certified Specialist of Wine in 2013.Tuli grew up in Mumbai India and moved to Sumter, South Carolina in 1990 as a Rotary International exchange student. She received her Bachelors of Science in Pre-Med from Wofford College, South Carolina and her Masters in Healthcare Administration from University of South Carolina. Tuli currently works for Cleveland Clinic as a Senior Contract Manager.Besides wine appreciation, she loves to paint and read about health, fitness & nutrition. She also is a fan of rock and roll music.

Deborah MyersDeborah Myers
Wine Educator

For Deborah, her career as a Travel Agent eventually sparked her passion for wine. She says it all started in New Zealand after visiting many wineries and falling in love with Sauvignon Blanc. After that trip, her pursuit for wine knowledge began. Shortly after she returned home from her trip, Deborah attended Wines of New Zealand hosted by Marianne Frantz. She was hooked. “Marianne was so terrific. I took the (WSET) Intermediate Immersion class the following month.” Deborah now holds the Level 3 WSET Certificate, is a Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educator, a Spanish Wine Educator offered by the Wine Academy of Spain and a French Wine Scholar. Currently, She is a WSET level 4 Diploma candidate. Outside of wine and travel, Deborah is a book worm who enjoys cooking!


Jerry SiegelJerry Siegel, Pharm.D.
Wine Educator

Jerry Siegel is owner of WineScripts LLC. After 35 years at the Ohio State University Medical Center as Sr. Director of Pharmaceutical Services he is now focusing on his other passion, wine education. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University where he earned 3 degrees including a doctorate in pharmacy (PharmD). Jerry achieved level 3 advanced accreditation with Merit from WSET. He is also a Wine Spectator school designated connoisseur in Bordeaux, Tuscan and German Wines. Having studied wine and traveled to most of the world’s wine growing regions over the past 30 years, Jerry brings great depth of knowledge to his wine classes. In addition to teaching WSET, Jerry has presented wine programs several corporations including Amgen Pharmaceuticals, Mckesson Corporation, American Express Financial and the Central Ohio Society of Health-System Pharmacists.


brianne-photoBrianne Guist

AWS Wine Educator

Brianne earned a WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine & Spirits in 2013 and is a Certified Wine Educator. Before becoming the Director of Wine Education at Constellation Brands, Brianne worked for Heidelberg Distributing as a District Sales Manager from 2005-2014. A graduate of Biology from Hiram College, she also has a Masters in Philosophy from Boston University. Currently, Brianne is in the Master of Wine Programme.