Celia Pellegrini - Suerte Manager & Wine Director
How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I really started getting into hospitality and wine when I moved to San Francisco for college. I was introduced to a chef who ran a pop up called Lazy Bear which later grew into a Michelin starred restaurant in SF. During the first year of opening I got to be part of this incredibly creative and collaborative process where I met several professionals who were passionate about things like wine and service in a way I'd never experienced before. It was here I discovered natural wine, which prompted me to work at Donkey & Goat in Berkeley before moving back to Austin in 2018 where I joined the Suerte management team. This year I will be transitioning into an operations role overseeing Suerte and our new restaurant Este while continuing to run our wine programs.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I can't say there was one moment that really flipped a switched for me. I loved how vast the wine world was and how much I had to learn. Being in Northern California gave me a lot of opportunities to meet winemakers, visit vineyards, and watch the winemaking process which all helped fuel that curiosity and desire to learn more.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
My team is absolutely amazing. Everyone brings an energy to work everyday that is rooted in respect, positivity and a desire to make themselves and our work better. They all have an intense desire to learn which motivates me to do my best to share my own knowledge with them and find the answers to the questions I don't know.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
Creating balance with a restaurant career has always been a challenge for me because every day is so different. Some days or weeks you are working for hours on end so for me it is more about recognizing when I need to step back and create space for myself. The most impactful practices I have created are the small routines I use to start and end my day because I can do them no matter what else happens that day.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
Connection amongst peers and a willingness to share knowledge. I spent a good portion of my wine career thinking I needed an expert to be my mentor, but as I have continued to cultivate relationships with others in my local community I have discovered that I can find mentorship everywhere! I hope that any new wine/hospitality professionals are introduced to a more inclusive and open wine industry where knowledge is shared openly and not wielded as a form of seniority or hierarchy.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
An acknowledgment of each and every person that creates a bottle of wine from the time it is grown to the time it is poured. That each of these people are not only recognized for their contribution but paid fairly and treated with respect. It is also the recognition that world of wine belongs to anyone who is interested in it and our emphasis should not be reserved for those who has the most access but rather those that are working to share that access with others.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
By coming together with other likeminded people in the industry I’m hoping to amplify the voices of those who aren’t often heard even though they have really amazing things to say.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Ask questions and show a genuine interest in what the people in the job you want have to say. There is nothing more motivating for me then knowing that there is someone equally excited about wine as I am and that always makes me what to share more!
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
I have so many great reps in Austin who have always taken the time to teach and discuss with me, particularly when I was just starting to buy wine. Bill, Anna, Ray, And Julia have all been incredible resources and supporters. The women who worked with me in the DG tasting room during my time there showed me a lot about comraderie, passion, and respect. And now I’m surrounded by so many professional women like Sophie from Salt & Time and Sara from Nixta who are running programs and businesses that speak so much to who they are!