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Meet the Consultants


PETER PLAEHN

Wine Department Manager
Wine Buyer

 

 

 

 

 

I’m honored to join the team at Surdyk’s and thank the Surdyk family for the faith they’ve placed in me to lead the wine department of this iconic store. This was one of the shops I came to regularly when I decided to focus my career on wine many years ago, and it’s my daily goal to continue to make us someplace someone can get excited about wine… and then succeed me in fifteen or twenty years!

I come from 26 years in hospitality and beverage sales in restaurants, retail stores, and distribution. I was the first Minnesota-based sommelier to pass the Court of Master Sommelier’s Advanced exam and am the only one to have sat for the Master Sommelier exam (so far), an annual demonstration of both my personal drive and probable insanity. You’ll likely find me in a colorful bow tie (self-tied, because clip-ons are cheating) and fun shoes, because while wine can be incredibly detailed, there’s no reason it can’t be fun.

My degree is in Art (hence the career in hospitality) and in art you study the classics before you go your own direction; you learn the “rules” before you break them. I approach beverages in a similar way. The store already has a strong foundation of classics, so the wine team and I will be tweaking sections, mixing in the best of wine’s rising stars, the new generations taking over for their parents, and some delicious things that simply defy labels.

Also, get ready for classes and tastings to return! I love sharing what I’ve learned and providing a forum for others passionate about beverages, so in addition to myself and the wine team I’ll be reaching out to industry voices locally and around the world to share their knowledge and experiences with you.

The community around us is changing rapidly, and whether you’re entertaining friends or just having a quiet night in, we’ll continue finding things to help make life more enjoyable. I look forward to meeting you!

 


BILL MCCLEARY

Consultant

 

 

 

 

 

My job as a Surdyk’s Wine Consultant is the third scene in the story of my career path. I began my professional life as a college professor at South Dakota State University. I left academia to take over my father’s automotive business, which took me all over the great state of Minnesota. I had always had more than a passing interest in wine – I’ve been enjoying it since I was old enough to drink! 

 

During those years I found myself reading, studying, and developing my wine knowledge as well as beginning to collect notable and ageable wines. But wine was only a hobby at this point. When I left the automotive industry, I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t quite ready to retire yet wasn’t interested in pursuing another corporate career. My oldest son noticed that the International Sommelier Guild was offering a class here in Minneapolis and suggested that I take it, if only to enhance my love of wine. I decided to give it a go. As luck would have it, I was seated next to a Surdyk’s Wine Consultant. During our course work, he mentioned that a position was becoming available on the wine staff and, as they say, the rest is history. As a teacher I loved helping people learn. I’m so thrilled that I have had a chance to return to that teaching role here at Surdyk’s and I could not imagine a better subject matter. 


NOELLE STARR

Consultant

 

 

 

 

I grew up in Minneapolis in a home that did not drink wine – or much of anything else that included alcohol. My wine exposure started out sweet (like so many) with coolers…as in Sun Country Wine Coolers. 

From there the trajectory slowly moved to sweet whites to Chardonnay, where it stayed for a while until I attended a Riedel wine glass tasting with some friends that included a tasting of four different wines in glassware made to enhance each varietal. It was extremely eye-opening! That night, I learned not only about the nuances of the wine making process but that the glass you serve you wine in matters, too. 

I was a new mom and had left a career in high-end computer networking sales to stay at home with my daughter and I was looking for something to do. Scrapbooking and Mommy & Me classes were not my thing. This time at home gave me the opportunity to dive into any and everything I could about wine. I read every book I could get my hands on and tasted as much as my budget could afford. 

When my youngest headed off to kindergarten, I wrongly assumed joining my husband in real estate would be the obvious career move. He was great at it – I could not have been less interested. After a year, he suggested I figure out what it was I loved to do. “Drink wine!” was my sarcastic response. It just so happened to be looking at Surdyk’s website - they were hiring a Wine Consultant, and I sent off my resume. A few weeks later I was starting what has become one of the most rewarding, educational, and entertaining jobs in the world. 

I live for food and get immense satisfaction helping people pair wine with whatever it is they are having for dinner. I love all wine, but have a special spot in my heart for Bourbon, and like to consider myself the resident Gin expert. You also might have heard my voice talking about wine on the radio! 


DREW FULLER

Consultant
Minnesota Wine Buyer & Cigar Buyer

 

 

 

 

 

Like many people, I arrived later in life to wine drinking. I grew up in Connecticut and remember my mom entertaining with wine and food pairing as a priority, it was lost on me as beer and gin were my preferred beverages in my twenties. 

 

Wine started to become a passion after I got my hands on a copy of The Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine. I was a history major in college, reading about the history and study of wine had me hooked on the drink, even more so when I began to consider the stories behind each bottle. While living in Minneapolis in the early 90’s, I began taking classes at Surdyk’s! This love of wine grew into the love of pairing food and wine together, so my mom’s love of food and wine rubbed off on me after all. My career has always been in sales and during my thirties, those jobs took me all over the country. While this was a very transient time in my life, wine was always a constant. Finally in 1997, my passion for wine and my career in sales collided. Since then, I have worked in several aspects of the wine business; distribution, supply, and now retail. 

 

In the past ten years, it has been exciting to see the way wine has taken the US by storm. While I love wine from all over, Spain and South America are my specific areas of interest. I also buy and curate the selection of Minnesota-made wines in the store, a new interest of mine and a particularly exciting section of the store! 


DAVID MAHONEY

Wine Consultant

 

 

 

 

I first got excited about wine when I was living in San Francisco and working as a travel writer for a regional magazine. My work frequently took me to the wine country of Northern California, and I fell in love with the whole winemaking world, from the visual appeal of the vineyards to the heady aroma of the barrel rooms. The cocktail revival was just starting to take off in San Francisco at that time, and I got swept up in that, too. I brought that love of wine and spirits with me when I moved back to my home state of Minnesota, where I continued to indulge my passions as a regular customer of Surdyk’s.

 

My professional and personal interests dovetailed when I became the founding editor of Drinks, a wine and spirits magazine distributed by Surdyk’s and other retailers around the country. That gig opened doors to a lot of other great experiences, like writing a regular wine column for Minnesota Monthly, serving as a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and contributing as both a writer and editor to the recently published Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. And, not least of all, working as a wine and spirits consultant at Surdyk’s, where I get to talk about things I love all day long, whether that’s Spanish and Rhone wines or bourbon and single malt Scotch. 


DALE JOHNSON

Consultant & Beer Buyer

 

 

 

 

It was after a long, busy night in a restaurant kitchen that I told myself it was time to change something. I walked home in a freezing December rain thinking of what else could I do for work. My studies were in Journalism, Russian and Eastern European/Slavic Studies, and German, but I also began to learn about wine in a highly enrolled elective course at Iowa State. It was a whole new world, but I thought that being a sommelier would be a good way combine my interests in food, language, geography, stories, and people.

 

My first couple of years in wine were at a grocery store wine shop in North Iowa and I learned as much as I could. I was pursuing the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified exam and even drove up here to Minneapolis weekly for a tasting group with some very talented, young wine professionals here in the Twin Cities. After passing the exam, I went to Des Moines and Kansas City where I held various positions as a chef, bartender, restaurant manager, and sommelier.

 

The pandemic put me on a job search, and so I moved up here to the Twin Cities for many reasons. Chief among them: there’s a great restaurant & wine scene, I missed watching the Twins fiercely, and that I could play hurling and curling in my time off.

My restaurant experience has been mostly with Italian cuisine, but I am also extremely passionate about sparkling wines and Central & Eastern Europe. Amaro, agave spirits, single pot Irish whiskey, and kölsch beer are also in my regular rotation. Feel free to ask any question or share a story, because that’s my favorite part of being a consultant here at Surdyk’s.