Mia Van de Water is a Master Sommelier and the Director of Beverage Operations and Education at Gracious Hospitality Management, where her wine program with Victoria James was nominated for the James Beard Outstanding Wine Service Award in 2023.


A restaurant industry veteran with a career spanning over two decades, Mia spent nine years at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, where her journey in wine began; during her tenure as Beverage Director for North End Grill (2012 – 2017), she passed the Intro, Certified, and Advanced Exams (2014 Rudd Scholar and Johnston Medalist), as well as the Theory and Service portions of the Master Sommelier exam, and was named one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2016.


In 2017, she joined the sommelier team at the three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, passing MS Tasting the following year in 2018. As part of her preparation for the CMS exams, she was an active competitor at the regional and national levels in both TopSomm and the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs sommelier competitions.


Mia has served on the Board of Directors for the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas since 2020.


Where are you working currently and how has being a MS supported you in your current role?

The greatest benefit of pursing the MS diploma is that it requires you to master the world of wine from a full 360° perspective, not just the aspects that you intrinsically enjoy or that are featured in the programs you work with. I would be a substantially less well-rounded wine professional today if I had not gone through the program.


Where were you working when you passed?

When I passed, I was working at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.


What made you want to become an MS?

I initially signed up for the Intro because I was a very green sommelier and knew that having a test to study for meant that I would actually put the time in. From there, the study quickly became addictive!


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

My best advice for studying wine is to always ask “”why?””. It’s tempting to just memorize facts, but the subject is so vast that you cannot master it through rote memorization. Instead, you have to look for the ways in which everything is connected.


What is your desert island wine, or what wines/beverages are you currently excited about?

My desert island wines are feinherb-style rieslings from producers like Peter Lauer, Keller, and Emrich-Schönleber. I could drink them all day!”