Born in Chicago the fifth of ten children of an Irish-Italian Catholic family, O’Byrne learned at an early age the joys of sharing a meal at large gatherings. While living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late-seventies, O’Byrne initiated his wine palate with Joseph Phelps Riesling sipped from bota bags at Grateful Dead and Santana concerts.
After graduating UC Berkeley in 1982 with a degree in Computer Science, O’Byrne developed software in San Francisco for two years and then moved to Paris in 1984. Over long lunches while living and working in Paris as a software engineer, O’Byrne discovered the triumph of Cote de Provence Rosé with Vietnamese spring rolls and the sublime pleasure of slightly chilled Cru Beaujolais with duck confit and baby peas. Realizing there was more to his future than computer coding, O’Byrne left Paris on his bicycle and rode through the wine regions of France, Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Spain before moving back to San Francisco for a career in the restaurant business.
Since 1987, O’Byrne has been a steady presence in the Santa Fe restaurant scene as restaurant manager, event director, wine writer and educator. As the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta since 1994 and owner of the Taos Winter Wine Festival since 1998, O’Byrne has curated more than 250 wine seminars. He was the weekly wine columnist for the Santa Fe New Mexican daily newspaper for 12 years and still writes a monthly column for Local Flavor Magazine.
A Certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers program, O’Byrne has taught an annual wine course to Santa Fe restaurant students for the past 25 years. In 2004, O’Byrne helped start Santa Fe’s Slow Food chapter with chef/author Deborah Madison. When not producing his own wine events, O’Byrne is a regular guest sommelier at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine and other national wine events.
O’Byrne believes in wine with dinner every night and that it’s not what you drink but who you drink it with that counts.