2021 Chicago Rising Star Sommelier Kimberlee Beeler of BOKA and Alla Vita

2021 Chicago Rising Star Sommelier Kimberlee Beeler of BOKA and Alla Vita
September 2021

After getting her associates degree in hospitality management from the College of DuPage and serving at chain restaurants, Kimberlee Beeler got her big break in 2014: a front-of-house job at Chef Lee Wolen’s Michelin-starred BOKA. The Chicago native was fascinated by how a beverage pairing could completely transform a dish and dived into wine education. So when Wine Director Ryan Musser decided to lead a tasting group, Beeler joined him to help prepare for her level two certified exam. By the time Boka Restaurant Group opened Somerset at the Viceroy Chicago hotel, Beeler was ready to be a floor somm there. She became captain in 2017 then got promoted to wine director. When tasked with overhauling the wine list, she cut the bottle selection from 300 to a lean 120 to zero in on Somerset’s throwback country club theme.

In 2019, Beeler received an offer to return to BOKA as wine director; she replied with an emphatic, “Yes, please!” But just as she regained her footing, the coronavirus forced the dining room to close. Taking inventory of what the restaurant already had, Beeler created pairing menus based on two-person dinners so guests could experience BOKA at home. She also collaborated with wine reps to organize Zoom tasting experiences. Now as beverage director of BOKA and the new Alla Vita, Beeler’s expressive storytelling showcases her knowledge and enthusiasm for the wines. She also leads weekly wine education sessions for servers who have the same curiosity that she did when beginning with BOKA.