How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been working in wine in Austin for almost 10 years. I started in restaurants and am currently about a year into my first job as a sales rep with a natural wine distributor in Austin. Having come from a more conventional wine background it’s been really interesting to see how my palette and personal tastes have changed simply due to exposure. That has been a really powerful transition to notice and undergo because it unfixes a certainty of taste and illusion of objectivity that can exist around wine.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I think what really hooked me was building the embodied knowledge of knowing what I taste when I taste different grapes or and styles of wine. I started learning how to taste through a deductive tasting sheet and I felt pretty complicated about it. On the one hand, the standardization of the palette echoes a lot of really problematic things related to colonialism and domination. On the other hand, I learned the dominant language of wine and the references and knowledge I acquired through that have helped me and continue to help me in my job.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Finding people, conversations, spaces where there is thoughtful interrogation of the things we view as normal: the queering of wine.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
Carving out a space where I have the opportunity to bond with people in the absence of alcohol is really important to me. I also find a lot of solace in movement and learning how my body interacts with the world around me.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I’m excited about all the co-ferments and apple wines being made, specifically domestically. The idea that one species of grapevine is the best suited to make wine everywhere in the world is bizarre and is proving to have devastating environmental ramifications. This is part of a larger conversation around decolonizing wine that I find thrilling.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
I think it has to come through intentional and routine action. I think if you are someone with a privileged identity (and many of us have at least one) it is essential to embrace the discomfort that will inevitably occur as you are confronting your own privilege. And I think acknowledging your own privilege with radical honesty is always the first step toward creating a more equitable world.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
I try to enact everything I mentioned in the previous question in my own life. Building a community open to critique, and vulnerability is also really important.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
There is a lot of gatekeeping in wine. Don’t mistake access for a measurement of worth. You deserve to be here. If you don’t resonate with the ways you see wine being discussed or talked about in your community you can be sure you aren’t the only one. Learn the rules but take them with a grain of salt. Healthy dose of irreverence encouraged.
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
I’ve been inspired by so many people in the industry. I’d say the most inspiring work in the wine industry (or anywhere) is the work of becoming a leader who can motivate people, advocate for people, see the best in people, and be playful with it as well. These are people in my orbit that fit that bill: Rania Zayyat, Ali Schmidt, Ray Small, Celia Pellegrini, Sophie Stuart and Sara Mardanbigi.