Our Team

Jessica Erley | Steven Fladung  | Scott Melanson | Gillian Casten | Francisco Ayala | Damien Casten

Jessica Erley, Sales

Jessica Erley, Candid Wines Organic Wine sales

Jessica Erley, Candid Wines

An Engineer with an MBA and ten year’s work experience, Jessica’s true passion lies in food and wine.  Turning her attention to what she loves, she now holds an Advanced Certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and a Culinary Associate’s Degree from Kendall College.

During culinary school, an internship in the kitchen at the Michelin-starred Sepia with  Chef Andrew Zimmerman exposed her to the professional happiness that comes from offering of a great food and wine pairing.  Jessica then joined the opening team at City Winery Chicago as a sommelier in addition to leading staff trainings, wine classes, wine dinners, and pairing events.  She even put on boots and climbed into a fermentation tank or two.

Jessica is a dynamic representative for Candid Wines, offering intelligent and appropriate selections to on and off-premise customers.  Pairings, palates, and budgets are all thoughtfully taken into account.   She is as graceful pouring at public events as she is effective at educating restaurant staff.

Jessica is focused on the Chicago and the north and north-western suburbs. She can be reached at jessica@candidwines.com and 248.231.1770.

Steven Fladung, Sales

Sales Representative at Candid Wines in Chicago

Steven Fladung, Candid Wines

Steven started in our industry as a line cook at ‘Dewey’s Other Place’ in Urbana nearly fifteen years ago while working towards a degree in hospitality. From the humblest of beginnings, Steven arrives at Candid Wines most recently having been the Assistant General Manager at Mario Batali’s Baffo here in Chicago. Along the way, he’s worked at Charlie Trotter’s, Lettuce Entertain You’s 2 Michelin star spot, L20, as well as The Elysian, and a small spot Steven helped open, 2 Sparrows.

Steven brings a deep knowledge of what it takes to succeed in some of the very best and most demanding restaurants Chicago has ever known as well as an appreciation for how wine fits into the most comfortable and casual of meals.

Please contact him if you would like a taste of these or anything from our portfolio.

Steven Fladung / 630.306.2966 / steven@candidwines.com

Scott Melanson, Sales

Scott Melanson Candid Wines Sales Chicago Illinois

Scott Melanson, Candid Wines

Scott brings Candid a world of “big brand” experience having worked in the adult beverage industry for twenty years prior to joining us.  His resumé includes sales management and event marketing for Campari, Red Bull, Heineken and Pernod Ricard among many others.  A passion for wine, for continuing education, and a desire to work in an entrepreneurial environment lead Scott to Candid and he has quickly grown into a dynamic force on our team.

Scott calls on a wide run of accounts with a focus on the Western Suburbs and larger retailers.

When not working, Scott is most likely to be found either at a local theater as a long-time supporter of the arts, or on a sailboat winning the famous race to Makinac, a feat he and his crew mates have accomplished a remarkable three times!

Scott Melanson / 773.680.3280 / scottmelanson@candidwines.com

Gillian Casten, Director of Operations

Gillian Casten Candid Wines Director of Operations

Gillian Casten, Director of Operations

Gillian joined Candid as the Director of Operations with a background in finance, analytics, and entrepreneurship. The three years she worked as a private equity analyst at Fortress Investment Group in New York City provided a rich education, but left her with little time for herself. Trying to stay healthy while working impossibly long hours, she noticed that the quality of exercise classes depended almost entirely on the abilities and skills of the instructor and recognized an opportunity. She left Fortress to launch RateYourBurn.com, a platform that grew to become the largest database of fitness instructor reviews in the United States, attracting half a million monthly visitors.

As her exposure and traffic grew, Gillian recognized that RateYourBurn was, in fact, a “data company with thin veneer of fitness”. She accepted then that she is enamored with spreadsheets, numbers, and analysis and decided in 2014 to return to the Chicagoland area to study supply chain management and operations, where she began consulting to Candid Wines in 2015.

You can find Gillian at the office most days building inventory models, analyzing data, acting as our resident nerd and insisting that all her jokes are funny.

Gillian holds a BA from Cornell University and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Gillian Casten / 607.227.5918 / gillian@candidwines.com.

Francisco Ayala, Warehouse and Deliveries

Francisco “Cisco” Ayala is the man behind the wheel of our delivery van and in many cases the glue that holds our operations together.  Much more than just a “driver” Cisco is a valued member of our team whose keen eye helps us keep track of inventory and whose friendly, joyful nature is a pleasure to have as the face of Candid as our wines are rolled into restaurants and retailers around Chicagoland.

Francisco “Cisco” Ayala / 312.835.5070 / cisco@candidwines.com

Damien Casten, Partner

Drinking Keller Riesling Grosses Gewaches

Diving into Keller’s Grosses Gewaches Riesling.

Damien Casten began his career in food and wine fifteen years ago when he traded a corporate job in the south of France for kitchens at the New England Culinary Institute.  On graduation he returned to France for two years, earning a spot on the brigade at Chef Alain Senderens’ Michelin three-starred Lucas Carton.  Away from the restaurant, he immersed himself in wine, apprenticing at one of Paris best independent wine shops, Les Ultra Vins, and visiting producers in wine regions across France on a regular basis.
After a few years working as a professional chef, Damien’s passion for wine won out.  On returning to the United States after six years in France, Damien co-founded Candid Wines, an importer and distributor of small production, organic and biodynamic wines in Chicago in 2005.
Today, after ten years in business, Candid Wines can be found on the lists of most every major restaurant in Chicago as well as on the shelves of the area’s best retailers.  While rooted in France thanks to Damien’s experience there, the company has grown to include selections from regions across Germany, Italy, Austria, New Zealand, and the US, as well as a few remarkable selections from Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia.
In parallel to Candid Wines, Damien is developing Ask a Winemaker, a video series dedicated to wine education.  The project was born during the 2006 harvest at the Scherrer Winery in Sonoma when Fred Scherrer shared more information than could be recorded with a pen.  Damien started filming in order to remember all he was learning and today the video series has more than 700 videos produced in a partnership with Sean Berringer, a professional video editor.  For more, please visit the project on YouTube.
Damien can be reached at damien@candidwines.com.