TEMECULA, Calif. – (Feb. 12, 2019) – As someone who considers himself a world traveler, it would be natural to think Pechanga Resort Casino’s new sommelier, Mark Amodeo, would have picked up a lot of his oenophile knowledge while on the road. Good stories with plot twists like his tell us, that’s of course, not the case. He started out as a stiltwalker, skydiver and Infantry paratrooper. Now he takes on t he challenges of finding the right appellations and fertile soils to know the perfect wine to pair. He consistently educates himself with what lies at the next peak on the viticulture horizon. Pechanga welcomes Mark Amodeo to the position of sommelier, the property’s wine expert responsible for creating well-crafted and well-rounded wine lists that partner perfectly with the resort’s dining outlet offerings. Amodeo is the first person to ever fill this role for the west coast’s largest resort-casino. Pechanga completed a $300 million resort expansion in March 2018 that saw the addition of two new restaurants and two new bars/lounges.
A native of Wales, Amodeo’s first foray into wine began with him tending bar as an 18-year old in in his hometown of Cardiff. “There you only had three choices – white (sweet or dry) and red,” he recounts. It would be his love affair with the United States that would eventually set him on a true path to wine expertise years later.
He first came to the U.S. during a third-year college internship with Walt Disney World in Florida. He graduated from the Disney University, but the seed of exploring the vast expanses to be found in America had already sprouted within. A Chicago road trip to remember, then to New Orleans, Miami and other must-see sights cemented the fascination and awe of the country he experienced during his six short months in Orlando.
He returned to Britain to finish his fourth year at University of Huddersfield in North England. Commencing with honors and a business degree in hospitality, he quickly became a manager within a popular restaurant chain. It was not long before the siren song of the states – John Hughes movies, skyscrapers and all – came calling again. He packed his bags and set course for Chicago.
“A friend who I worked with at Disney World helped me get a job at the restaurant where he worked. He also happened to have a side business putting on stiltwalking performances. I agreed to try it and help him out with his business.” Not satisfied with keeping even sticks beneath his feet, Amodeo took up skydiving and traveled to even more locations across the U.S. to jump from airplanes. “Maybe it was because I grew up in Wales. I guess I was always one of those people who had to leave home and explore. My adventures became more and more, well, adventurous.”
He always held steady work in Chicago’s exploding restaurant scene. Hired at ¡Salpicon!, a fine-dining Mexican restaurant, Amodeo gleaned reams of food and wine smarts from the establishment’s owners who opened expensive bottles of wine many nights for the staff to taste and become acquainted with for the benefit of guests. He later moved over to Bin 36, a popular restaurant, wine bar, wine education and shopping concept that eventually opened three locations in Chicago. Under the establishment’s wine director, Amodeo was promoted to the position of wine educator supervisor. He conducted classes for guests and helped staff understand nuances of varietals and differences of viticultural regions. Amodeo continued to increase his own knowledge by studying for examinations with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers.
After Chicago, Amodeo moved to Ohio where he helped open a Chicago-style fine dining restaurant, lending his Certified Sommelier and restaurant management expertise to the project. Needing something else to add to his plate, he also enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard an Infantry paratrooper. He jokes there probably has never been another certified sommelier in the 17-week Infantry boot camp and jump school in Fort Benning, Ga.
After a decade in Ohio, the sunny skies and vineyards of Southern California beckoned Amodeo and his wife. He jumped in and landed the newly initiated sommelier job at Pechanga for which he says, “I am so grateful and appreciative. It’s my goal to work in concert with the robust food and beverage team, and bring real value to them and to the myriad of guests looking to increase their familiarity with wines.” He says he looks forward to working with wineries in the Temecula Valley Wine Country to help elevate their profile, and is excited to be a part of this burgeoning wine and tourism region.