How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
About 13 years total in the food/wine industry. Spent 25 years in tech, co-founded Wine Direct in 2001 and fell in love with wine. Currently I am the owner/executive chef/wine director of Coast and Valley.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I moved to Napa in 2006 when WineDirect relocated its headquarter from NYC to Napa. It wasn't an aha moment, but rather an aha location. Living in Napa, just minutes away from world-class wineries and vineyards, I was able to spend every weekend going wine tasting, meeting winemakers, and just soaking in the beauty of wine country.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Getting people who say "I don't know anything about wine" to say "I'm so glad I learned something today" when they leave the wine bar
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
We have chosen to close one day a week, which forces us to take the day off. And on our days off, we try to visit other bars and restaurants to fully take advantage of what NYC has to offer, to support others in our industry, and to truly appreciate everything that it takes to run an establishment in hospitality.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
Diversity in all aspects - race, gender, age, income, you name it. The only way for the industry to sustain and grow is to show people that this industry welcomes them.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
When the consumer base reflects the diversity of all people. That's the only way we'll know the efforts and changes being put in are not just performative, but something that people can actually see and feel.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
Our wine list consists of 100% POC, women and LGBTQ+ winemakers. The diversity of our team reflects our hiring practices. Everything we do is to create an environment that makes everyone feels welcomed.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Just get a job, any job, in the industry, and ask if you can accompany the wine buyer or wine director to distributors' portfolio tastings. This is the one place where you can dive in, taste and learn about wines from all over the world all for free!
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Every single one of the producers we feature on our wine list (and some that we don't). Being a minority in an industry that is dominated by cis white men takes courage and perseverance. Not only do they have to worry about uncertainties that all winemakers face, they also have to face sexism, racism and bigotry at every turn.