Advanced Sommeliers at Disneyland Resort: Ambassadors to the World of Wine

Jim Ames

by , Event Manager, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Last time, I had the opportunity to introduce you to three of the more than 200 sommeliers at the Disneyland Resort. Today, there are two more cast members I would like you to meet, both Advanced Sommeliers and both servers at Napa Rose, Kristofer Stewart and Dondi Balisalisa.

In describing his job as a server and sommelier, Kris explained: “I think of my role as an ambassador to the wine world for the guests dining at Napa Rose. I am able to use my experience to help guests enjoy their wine experience.”

Dondi is thankful for the training opportunity: “I started from scratch and I compare it to starting in kindergarten – now I feel like I’m in college. Michael Jordan (Master Sommelier and former manager of Napa Rose who began the sommelier education program in 2001) organized the vast material to help us understand the exams administered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Because of that level of training, I have successfully passed my Introductory, Certified and Advanced exams.”

Dondi Balisalisa, Sommelier at Napa Rose

Kris concludes: “You won’t find anything that provides this level of training as part of your job. The education and training give me the tools I can use when serving guests. It allows me to help guests with a wine recommendation and allows me to speak with confidence and authority about the wines I offer. The training helped me learn on my own, to travel and discover. I have tried many wines that I may never have tried before, and I have learned that every bottle has a story to tell that I can share with our guests.”

Kristofer and Dondi have made the commitment to a lifetime of education, and they take pride in the opportunity to help our guests discover the joy that can be found in every glass of wine. We wish them well as they study for their Master Sommelier exams.

Next time, I’ll introduce you to the cast member who leads our wine education, Advanced Sommelier Joy Cushing of Napa Rose.



  • When I last participated in the Napa Rose Cooking School Dondi was our wine steward. He did a great job explaining the wine pairings and answering questions for each course.

  • Since we are coming your way in three weeks, would love to find my way to Napa Rose. Will have to look you up as I do not know where to find you..

    10 of us..parents 45th anniversary

  • I actually know everyone mentioned in this article, from going there so much.

    HI GUYS!! It’s ME – Daniel! 😀 I often came in with my grandmother – Shirley. Sadly, she passed on some months ago, but I will ALWAYS remember my special times with her, and ESPECIALLY how you always made us feel so comfortable and welcome!

    You don’t know how inspirational you all have been to me, and my own food and wine explorations!

    (I hope you all see this!)

    I, as well, am in the food service industry. When I apply for jobs, I am often asked, “Have you ever been anywhere where your guest service was especially excellent?” I ALWAYS PICK YOU! Here’s why:

    About four years, or so ago, I made a reservation for Christmas. I believe it was on the 24th, or 25th of December, even. Michael (amazing guy) said that they would have to seat me in the lounge. I said, no problem, as long as I get in. The night of the reservation, he promptly approached me, and said, “your reservation has been moved into the main dining room.”

    And, if THAT wasn’t enough, about 1/2 way through our meal, another manager (I don’t know who it was) came by, and said, “I am sorry sir, however, we actually need this table for a larger party. Our sincere apologies. If we move you, can we buy you a bottle of wine?”

    I mean, who, EVER gets a FREE bottle of wine at ANY restaurant?!! THAT WAS AWESOME!!

    All of this, on top of personalized service, and constant surprises by #1 company who “Makes the Magic!”

    All of you have truly touched me, and you have a guest for life.


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