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CORA BARNES - Close to completing her WSET Diploma. Set on opening Park Ave Wine & Spirits in GA.

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

I’ve been in the wine business since 2012. My background has been mostly in construction accounting for real estate companies and a governmental agency. As far as wine, I’ve worked in wine retail and for a winery. For most of the 9 years, I was working in both industries concurrently and attending wine school as well. As of late 2019, I’ve taken a break from working in wine, to work on my first venture and to complete the WSET Diploma. Currently, I’m a project accountant for a real estate company and working on opening a wine and spirits store in the state of Georgia. The store will be called Park Avenue Wine & Spirits.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

That first sip and reading this free wine publication (can’t remember the name) that I used to pick up in Publix, planted a seed in me. But I would say, when I really started making money to afford wine and started reading The Wine Bible, that’s when my life transformed. I just couldn’t get enough of what I was learning and tasting, so that led me to wine school and to where I’m at now. I knew wine would be my life.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my experience, thus far, is being able to share what I’ve learned about wine, and when customers love my recommendations. I also enjoyed just lending an ear to customers; I feel some of them need to be heard. Sometimes people need to get things off their chest, whether it’s a good or bad situation. I’m glad I was able to be that ear, for that moment. With my own ventures, I’m looking forward to the fruits of my labor and my contribution to the wine industry.

Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?

I’m truly blessed; my experience has been positive thus far.

When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion adds more creativity, innovation and a different perspective, amongst many other things. I can see a larger talent pool, improvements with marketing, and more profits.

What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?

I’m hoping to see more women of color in more roles in the industry and obtaining wine credentials. I’m also hoping to see more women in leadership positions: more owners, CEOs, etc. But also, I would like these women in leadership to have more visibility. Lastly, I would like to see more change regarding wine laws. My main issue is the delivery and shipment of wine. I would like to see more stores and wineries having the freedom to deliver and ship wine directly to consumers, whether it’s local or out of state.

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Equality in this industry looks like more diversity throughout the industry; bridging the gender gap, more people with disabilities, more ethnicities, etc. Equality also looks like better and equal pay.

In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?

As a lesbian, African American, and female; I am adding to the diversity in the wine industry. On that note, I would like to thank my previous employers, most notably Square Wine & Spirits, for giving me a chance and supporting me.

What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?

Be you! Put the work in, for what you want. Push yourself; growth is not found in comfort. Pay attention to your intuition; it will guide you. And don’t let anyone distract nor discourage you from doing what your heart desires.

What other industry heroes do you admire and why?

I really admire Jancis Robinson and Mary Ewing-Mulligan. Their breadth of knowledge, contributions to the wine industry, accomplishments and leadership are very inspiring. Jancis is a Master of Wine, journalist, wine critic, and wrote The Oxford Companion to Wine. If you didn’t know, the Oxford Companion is a major resource for those in the WSET Program. Mary is the first American woman Master of Wine, she owns the International Wine Center in NY, is the co-author of Wine for Dummies and was instrumental in bringing the WSET program to the U.S. I’ve had the pleasure of being in a few of Mary’s classes. These women are part of the reason why I have obtained the CSW, WSET Advanced, and will complete the WSET Diploma soon. And as a future entrepreneur and future Master of Wine, I’m hoping to be just as great as them.
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