Stephen Wong

Stephen Wong, Master of Wine

Wellington's own resident Master of Wine, Stephen fell in love with it while playing music at clubs and doing harvest while studying at Otago University. He took on sommelier and waitstaff roles in Wellington in the early 2000s, running the wine programmes at Café Bastille/Roxburgh Bistro, The Matterhorn (pre-2011), Citron, The Spire Queenstown, Singapore Marriott Hotel and Arbitrageur Wine Room while Wine Sentience was coming together.

With a focus on education and communication, he teaches the first year wine paper for Le Cordon Bleu's Bachelor of Culinary Arts and Business degree, was a founding member of the NZ Sommelier and Wine Professionals Association, and occasionally judges wine shows in NZ and Australia. He works closely with wine festivals and NZ Winegrowers in education, presenting and speaking at the Sommit Scholarship, Pinot Noir Conference, The Aromatics Symposium, Bragato Conference and at their events in Melbourne, Hong Kong and China. He currently co­organises the Australasian MW Educational Seminar with Andrea Pritzker MW and sits on the Education Committee of the Institute of Masters of Wine.

As one of the organisers for Budburst, natural wine is a particular passion for him. A natural wine pioneer, Stephen instigated Ponsonby’s Golden Dawn Tavern becoming the first natural wine bar in the country back in 2010, a commitment now carried on by Sherwood Queenstown, Ancestral Bar and Whitebait. However, as a classically ­trained taster, Stephen also runs in­depth tastings and masterclasses on traditional fine wines. You'll see him presenting at both vintage assessment tastings of Burgundy and Bordeaux and deep dives into the myriad of natural wine styles.

Caitlin Perlman

Caitlin Perlman, Associate Sommelier

Over the past decade Caitlin has been building her career in food and wine with stints in North America, Europe and New Zealand. During her university years Caitlin took a break from a degree in literature at University of California, Santa Cruz for a culinary program in Eastern France. At the end of the culinary program Caitlin accepted an internship at the two MIchelin starred L’Oxalys in Val Thorens where the more prominent wine regions of the world took second stage and a life-long love of wines from the mountainous Savoie and the nearby Jura was born.   

A return to California without an obvious role specialising in the wines of the Savoie & the Jura, Caitlin reinvented herself as a Cheesemonger over the following six years. Wine was not forgotten and Caitlin also became a certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers during this time. A return to wine brought about harvest stints at Saint Jean du Barroux in Provence, time behind the bar at one of San Francisco’s first natural wine bars, Terroir, another harvest at Crater Rim in North Canterbury and then rounded out with time spent as Retail Manager at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

Caitlin provides support to many of Wine Sentience hospitality accounts while also leading our events programme for both the wine trade and the wine drinkers. Get in touch with Caitlin to talk about Charley Noble, Sherwood Hotel or natural wine events.


Sylvaine Novel, Associate Sommelier

Sylvaine is a French-qualified Sommelier and have worked in the trade since 2002.

As a teenager Sylvaine set out to be a chocolatier/ confiseur at a catering school near her home in Toulouse. But during her first year she took part in - and won - a local wine competition and this glimpse into the world of wine changed the trajectory of her studies and her career with chocolate and sweets being left behind for wine.  

Sylvaine made quick use of her Sommelier certification landing roles in several Michelin star restaurants including La Villa du Majestic and L’Oasis in Cannes; The Waterside Inn (Michel Roux) in Bray on Thames; The Square, Angela Hartnett at The Connaught (Gordon Ramsay group) and La Trompette in London. 2008 saw a shift from fine dining and classic wine hospitality experience to working vintage in the Yarra Valley with Mac Forbes and taking on the role of assistant retail manager at the Prince in Melbourne. The move to Wellington brought Sylvaine back to her Sommelier roots as she joined Arbitrageur restaurant and took charge of their wine list and wine program. When Arbitrageur made the radical transformation into Annam, Sylvaine dived deep into pairing wines to asian flavours and spices.

At Wine Sentience Sylvaine specialises in the classic wine regions and is involved with the Le Cordon Bleu wine education program.  Get in touch with Sylvaine to talk about Le Cordon Bleu.

Elissa Jordan

Elissa Jordan, Production Manager

A relative newcomer to the world of wine, Elissa started an amateurs tinkering in the field in 2012 with the WSET Level 2, which she passed with distinction. Since then she has taken on experience and education at speed. Including becoming a member of the Consumer magazine wine panel; establishing Wine in Wellington, a wine education group for public consumers, in 2015; taking the reins at Budburst as Event Manager; and completing her WSET Level 4 Diploma in early 2017.

Elissa’s wine career follows on from a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, a Diploma in Journalism, several Yoga Teacher Training certifications and a career in the not-for-profit sector as a Senior Digital Project Manager, most recently at BioGro NZ.

Elissa is helping to develop and drive the strategic direction at Wine Sentience, supporting the wider team to deliver events and education programmes. Get in touch with Elissa to talk about private and corporate tastings, or the Hub.