Anna-Christina Cabrales - The GM & Wine Director of Morrell Wine Bar in Rockefeller Center.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
10 years in hospitality. I switched from investor relations/project management to hospitality. I was formerly the GM and Wine Director of Morrell Winebar in Rockefeller Center till it closed permanently in June. During this time, I started to dabble with IG Live to stay connected with those in the hospitality field. I named it Sommation - a group of somms, stronger together than all the individual parts. I’m happy to report that it is an official LLC and we are ready to collaborate with various food and wine suppliers!
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
It was on a date where he thought that getting me my vintage wine would impress me. It was a bottle of 1982 Bertani Amarone. It was the most complex thing that I’d tasted until that point and that’s where my interest started to grow. The wine got a second date; he did not.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing how happy my guests are when they can’t stop hugging me. My job seems so simple but to see how moved some people are with simple gestures of hospitality is truly rewarding.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
As someone who’s Asian, many guests — specifically men — are surprised to see that I’m the person on the floor that understands or created the wine list. They seem so stunned that I could possibly know something about wine! Until they start to understand how I select wines, describe and prep them, then they realize how ridiculous their behavior or assumption was. Kill them with hospitality is what I believe, and when they start asking for you, then know that the positions have turned. Now you are in control and can start telling them exactly what they should have or try, even well beyond wine, with very little to no questioning.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?
It’s a horrible feeling, and at its core it feels like you’ve been shortchanged, something is falling short in the situation and is unfair for you. I think identifying what those situations or feelings are and being able to speak up in a very even-keeled manner, where you educate the other person what is to be expected or what is fair, is incredibly powerful. People who know me know I don’t tolerate BS or unfairness across the board. I’ve just grown to not be scared. Even if you wind up being told to shut up, there will be something that will work in your favor. Or walk away. No one needs to tolerate being treated like they don’t matter.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Women have killer instincts, are great educators and, despite anything we’re faced, we still maintain a caring nature. We tend to be more inclusive as well and we need more people to get into wine! Its amazing to me how a lot of people still don’t understand wine and I think we can convert a lot more people to enjoy the nuances of this beautiful juice!
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
For more women to push to gain higher positions within companies and create networks to help mentor others who are looking to rise up in the field as well
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
You belong in the community of wine. You will find your path. Absorb everything around you with zero ego, ask questions, participate and you’ll find that the world of wine wants nothing but to give.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Attending wine events and consistently seeing more BIPOC professionals in the room.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I like to keep an open mind. I don’t assume I’m ever right. In fact, sometimes I want to be proven wrong or at least be given more dimension to my perspective. I created Sommation to create conversations to help myself and others understand so much more than just wine. It’s to understand perspectives especially on hard issues (i.e. racism in hospitality, mentorship, or cultural appropriation.) The space is welcome to everyone who wants to participate. Also, I totally support the growth of women in this business. I love being a mentor in general and for organizations such as Wine Unify or Napa Valley Academy.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
One who is knowledgeable, listens and creates meaningful conversation and of course shares wine on the regular. Consistency, staying curious, and creating community.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There’s too many to count. But if there’s one person in my life who’s pushing me really hard, it’s Annette Alvarez-Peters. Freaking #badass and pushes me to strive not just for what I think I deserve, but MORE and how to get it. I have yet to return to her with really good news but I’m trying my best!