Long Absence​

So you are probably wondering why do I have a website where I promote my writing which I don’t take the time to post… Fair. What can I say I promise to be more diligent at putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, yadda, yadda, yadda. Ok but I am going to be better because I have an exciting year ahead!
On the agenda will be:

1) Taking my WSET Advanced exam and (fingers crossed) passing.

2) Taking my CMS Certified exam, passing and adding that Sommelier to my professional title.

3) Assisting in running the Wonder Women of Wine Conference in Austin, TX this coming March 2-3. I plan to document the process of planning, running, and executing the event. As well as meeting some dope wonder women of wine!

4) Volunteering at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee in NYC this April. It is always a pleasure to work with such a fantastic group of women!

5) Volunteering at TexSomm (finally) to work amongst such esteemed Wine Professionals.

Cheers to the New Year and many new adventures!

SommCon Day 2 Recap

SommCon Day 2 Recap:

PAY DAY! Which provided the chance to sleep in a little bit and take the luxury of Uber to the conference. I was able to make it just in time to grab a coffee and to my first session.

Session 1: Expanding the 4 P’s of Wine Marketing to the 4 E’s of the Experience Economy

Lead by: Carl Winston

As someone who did not study marketing or business in college it was worthwhile to sit in this session. It was well empathized that working in wine I am a part of the “experience economy”. Which is the hustle of selling memories to guests by way of a pieces that make up an experiential value. The idea that consumers (guests) need to decide between buying a toaster or an experience. It highlighted the four “Es’” of making up that experiential value: education, esthetic, entertainment and escapism. By framing your business in these categories then you can capitalize on your guest. It was illuminating to consider how my own place of employment worked to accomplish this feat. Throughout the session Mr. Winston utilized participation to enhance the session. It was useful to receive feedback and hear other’s ideas on areas of improvement. The session was a good lesson in hospitality as a business model.

 


 

Session 2: Finding Closure: Positive Effects of Natural Cork on Fine Wine

Lead by: David Glancy, MS (Moderator), Peter Weber (Executive Director, Cork Quality Council), Lisa Mattson (Director of Marketing & PR, Jordan Winery),  Katie Madigan (Winemaker, St. Francis Winery ), Jeff Meier (President & Director of Winemaking, J. Lohr Vineyards)

This session required a little bit more deep listening to glean lessons from. The discussion of cork and science behind different cork closures is not a sexy topic. It was not made any more interesting by Mr. Weber ,who while has a strong platform of expertise, did little to inspire me. I was able to take away the commitment of wineries to the usage of cork closures that promoted aging in their wines. It was at the direct bequest of consumers that have driven many wineries to seek out the best closures that reduce the odds of TCA spoilage. Many of the attendees asked insightful questions that prompted the panelists to highlight the zero waste of cork in the creation of multiple products. (I.E. flooring, furniture, etc.) It was not the most exciting session but I walked away with the knowledge that cork and closures have a profound impact on the product I consume and sell.

 


 

Lunch:

After taking a couple of FREE portraits provided by SommCon for my personal use and getting a sweet photo with my new friend Christie, we wandered up to the networking lunch on the patio of the Marriott. It was gorgeous up there! It had a beautiful view of the marina and bay. They had created mini food stations with a heavy influence of Mexican food. Naturally I ate delicious tacos because we don’t have excellent tacos like that in Atlanta. They also featured a Mexican winery among the few pouring. I made a huge bee line over. It was love! I found an amazing Gamay rose. I went back for at least 2 tastes after my first pour…. On the plus side is I can order and have it shipped to Atlanta. While we filled up on delicious food I also got to know a couple of the other YLS recipients. It was awesome hearing their stories and walking away with their cards knowing I got some great connections for the future! I think we were all sad to have to head back inside as it was a gorgeous day.

 


 

Session 3: Gamay: Connecting Oregon and Beaujolais

Lead by: Stacey Gibson

It was a perfect way to end my SommCon sessions. It was connecting Oregon Pinot Noir/ Gamay Noir to Beaujolais Gamay. Cue Electric Light Orchestra music because those wines make me want to groove and shake. Mrs. Gibson was so enthusiastic and passionate. It bled through the whole session as she took us through a bit of technical information on the Beaujolais region. We were able to sample 6 different wines that highlighted different producers, styles and regions. I really enjoyed her commentary and stories behind each wine. The tasting only endeared me more to Beaujolais and its unique expression with an eye on the even closer region of Oregon. Sometimes you just need to sit amongst fellow nerds who share your passion.

 


 

Trade Show:

Following the end of SommCon was a trade show that housed wineries and distributers. It was a bit overwhelming for me as it was only my fourth ever “trade show” in the industry. I especially get a little weird about walking up to tables and talking to strangers. Especially since most wineries were on the local side and I do not hold decision making abilities on my wine list. However sometimes you just got to take a lap and then jump in two feet first. While fighting palate fatigue I was able to find some exquisite gems. One table in particular featured all wines from Greece. It was a moment of great oral pleasure as I was able to try a bunch of fun, funky and interesting wines I haven’t seen around Atlanta. I did my best to “be social” and “get out there.” After harassing a local winery, Negociánt, did I allow myself to succumb to my palate fatigue and slink off and away in the search of dinner.

 


 

Final Thoughts:

It was an honor to receive the opportunity as a Young Leader Summit Recipient. I would not have been able to afford the chance otherwise and it was exactly the recalibration I needed to refocus me on my personal journey and career. If you ever get the chance to hob nob with wine geeks and professionals outside of your bubble do so! While I can be a bit of a shy person, getting outside of my bubble and seeing and meeting somms from all over was very rewarding. It reminds you that there are many, many paths in our field.
My suggestions for picking sessions would be to choose ones you know nothing about. Seriously! The sessions are an hour to an hour and a half so you can’t get into as much detail as you might want. So, choose sessions that push your boundaries. You will not be sorry because the presenters ooze passion and enthusiasm. I walked away from every session having learned something.
SommCon 2018 will be hosting an east coast conference in Washington D.C. July 22-24 and a west coast conference in San Diego November 14-16. Apply for the Young Leaders Summit if you are under 30, sign-up and go get inspired! (And hit me up for any suggestions for San Diego. I have some suggestions!)

SommCon Day 1 Recap

A running commentary and recap on SommCon 2017 in San Diego California. Day One:

I woke up early as compared to my day-to-day routine at 5:45am to shower. I then made my way down the steep hill to catch public transportation to the Marriot Marquis. (I have positive vibes for the San Diego public transportation system as it blows MARTA out of the water!)

Upon arriving I was able to locate the Coffee, Pastry and Networking area of SommCon. First off, I know coffee can kill the palate but screw that…I need coffee at 7:45am. It isn’t very clear how we were to network as I didn’t know anyone. Everyone either seemed to arrive with colleagues or were too tired to bother quite yet. I decided to sit on a bench and observe until the appropriate time. By 8:15am it would appear that the crowd was fulfilling the stereotype. The few scholarship recipients I recognized, from stalking their profiles, had their heads down in their phones. I followed suit and pretended to have very important business to respond to…

 


 

Session 1: Credentials and Your Career

Lead by: Geralyn Brostrom, CWE; Geoff Labitzke, MWEric Entrikin, MS

The session selected for us provided an opportunity to scope out my fellow Young Leaders Summit recipients. (We are very much giving off the type A personalities.) The moderators explained the major certification programs and the focus of each. They went over the Society of Wine Educators (CSW & CWE), WSET, CMS and Master of Wine. It was a great overview as each panelist had a different track and perspective. I was even able to glean a few tidbits on the testing processes. The session finished off by expressing what recruiters look for in resumes, experiece and credentials. It was helpful to get an understanding of standards for the top positions. Yet discussed positions were on the buyer & distributor side versus the hospitality track. It appeared evident that longevity on the floor isn’t the norm. I was very pleased with the conversation and information as it highlighted the positives of gaining credentials. I only wish they could have provided information on how to finance. It is not easy to come up with hundreds to thousands of dollars up front to finance the next steps while working in hospitality. (Adulting is not easy…)


 

Following the first session was a tasting that included a couple of wines from a sponsor. I wandered around and settled on listening to Lindsay Pomeroy,CWE from the San Francisco Wine School. She led a discussion on study tips for preparing for the upper levels in WSET and CMS. It was a great opportunity to listen in and glean some tips that might enhance my own study practices. The biggest tips I took away I listed below:

  • Teaching is a very helpful learning tool
  • The use of flashcards
  • Understand your own personal style of learning
  • Understand if you are a social or solitary learner
  • Create systems to enhance mental connections
  • Structure a study group and stick to it
  • Invest in a coravin and/or wine fridge

Again, some were obvious and others also helped solidify how I need to further improve my study habits.

 


 

Session 2: Wine and Music: Mysterious Resonances Explored

Lead by: Clark Smith

It could have been a more succinct lecture. Yet, Mr. Clark Smith seemed to have his own personal agendas to cover. Now he did highlight some disparity between wine produced in the US and the reality of what is available. (Which we will explore at another time.) I was most looking forward to this session as it relates to my current position. It is important to note he isn’t wrong. You only need to push through all the scientific slides, down the nose rambling and opinions. There is a connection between how music can affect the wine you are drinking. The simplest way of reducing his work for easy consumption is by putting it as follows. Different styles of music evoke different emotions, memories and sensations as do wines. When you take two sensory evoking experiences you are going to see them play off of each other, for better or worse. Thus, you should pay attention to what you are listening to and what you are drinking to wholly enhance the experience.

To further explore Clark Smith’s research and position I recommend checking out his site: http://www.postmodernwinemaking.com/wine-and-music

 


 

Lunch

I succeeded in not having to undergo the stress of finding a seat at table. The Young Leaders Recipients had a table in the front. I sat down and very grateful for the seat next to Christie. (Made a friend!) The sponsors were wonderful and it was great to meet the few that represented the scholarship committee. A few girls moved to integrate the table a little further. The rest of us made quick introductions and conversations and began to group up in appropriate pairings. Thankfully but throwing us all together basic human niceness took over and we were able to break the ice. 

 


 

Session 3: Discover the Versatility of Moscato d’Asti

Lead by: Geralyn Brostrom, CWE

This next session was not one I signed up for but was rather placed in. Discover Moscato d’Asti is one that evokes a lecture on the positives of sweet wine. However, I must say this session was impactful! I had never understood or actually wanted to explore Moscato d’Asti before. I walked away feeling that I have been overlooking a fantastic grape & wine style that is quite versatile. The session began with going over the region details of climate, soil, topography and vinification. It was then followed with a pairing of 6 different moscatos with 4 food preparations. We were to select 2 of the 6 moscatos we enjoyed the most and try them with each of the 4 pairings to discover pairings. Surprisingly the moscatos didn’t clash with the savory. Some were more complimentary then others but all in all it was sensory delight. The desserts also required some finesse in appropriate paring. I found the moscatos with higher RS (residual sugar) didn’t match best with the richer dessert. On the other hand a fruitier style of moscato did great with a simple dessert because it enhanced the profile. While I would not have picked this session for myself it opened my eyes to this overlooked wine and region.

 


 

Session 4: A Close Look at Agave & Terroir: The Wine of Mexico

Lead by: Maurice DiMarino

Panelists: Guillermo SauzaMario Marquez , Gilbert MarquezJaime Mateo

I was a little naïve walking into this session as it was Agave: The Wine of Mexico. So here I am thinking it is going to go over wineries in Mexico…. HA! It was by far the best session I took over the two days. It was a discussion of Agave and the creation of Tequila, Mezcal, Bacanora and Raicilla. Atlanta is a market that has embraced mezcal on all the top cocktail lists. But by asking those in the industry to explain mezcal you discover that most are not knowledgeable. The honor to sit and listen to producers talk about their method, terroir and experiences was both humbling and eye opening. They highlighted the importance of climate, location, the actual species of agave and the process of production. I never understood how much history and politics play into production and the identity of tequila vs mezcal. At one point a fellow attendee asked why is Blue Agave only used in the production of tequila. The response further indicated the complex relationship of social and political elements in the industry. I walked out of the room feeling like I needed to get my hands on more information. 

 


 

My general feeling of Day 1 was that of excitement, annoyance and exhaustion. It was a day that reminded me why I got into this field and reignited my focus and passion. Stay tuned for SommCon Day 2 recap!

Atlanta Ponders Liquor License Increase

Recently the Atlanta City Counsil attempted a half-hatched plan to increase liquor license fees threefold. The proposal was presented at a council meeting on Tuesday, October 23rd. The proposal would require restaurants to pay a flat rate of $5,000 to include the sale of liquor, wine and beer to paying $5,000 per each type of alcohol served. Thus, a restaurant could theoretically pay $15,000 for the sale of wine, beer and liquor. A multi venue establishment, like the one I work at, which might boast 3 separate bars and would see the increase of fees from $15,000 to $45,000.

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In an industry that accounts for 10% of the state GDP and for just under half a million jobs according to the Georgia Restaurant Association, the impacts of such an increase would have wide ranging consequences.

Atlanta boasts a unique culinary landscape that is made up of many small businesses that rest their reputations on the name of a Chef versus a big box restaurant that relies upon a consistent national menu and has the backing of a national corporation. It stands to reason that local owned restaurants and bars that contribute to the tapestry of Atlanta would find it near impossible to come up with $10,000.

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In order for most restaurants to afford a drastic increase the burden would be placed upon the consumer. Establishments would need to increase pricing for product in order to bolster their revenue to afford the hike. My experience has shown me how most consumers in the ATL already balk at $11 beers or $13 glasses of wine (which is below standard in most large cities) or a $15 cocktail. It could become a norm for most prices to jump and the industry could then face a backlash from its very customers.

The industry also already deals in practices that puts an intense amount of work and pressure on its workers without the security of a salary or health benefits. This burden could be the difference between a restaurant or bar being able to offer its employees health benefits or a 401k program. Larger establishments would see an increase that essentially is equivalent of a salary and could see the consolidation of a position in order to preserve a financial business model.

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No matter how you slice the issue, the Atlanta City Council did not provide sufficient context for the proposal and more than half of the council members seemed confused over the proposed increase. On the day of the meeting more than 100 different restaurant were present to fight. It was posted across social media by local establishments as a rallying cry to the tight knit community here in Atlanta.

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I have to ask myself in the face of this sly movement by the City where and how we survive the lack of understanding of what we do as an industry. Our job is to take care of people and provide an experience that transcends the burdens of everyday life. If we become one more industry that must place more of a financial burden on the very guests we aim to care for then that is the day we have lost. Our industry exists to create an equalizing experience for every person who sits to enjoy our craft, no matter their position in life. I can only hope that the City Counsel of Atlanta realizes the value of this before they vote to send a chasm through our community and industry.