How many years have you been in the business?
Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today. I got started working in restaurants, so indirectly with wine about thirteen years ago. It wasn’t until the last 8 years or so that I’ve been extremely dedicated to wine. I’m currently working as the Director of Sales & Customer Engagement at Domestique. In addition to that I run the wine club there too.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I walked into a restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and saw this massive wall of wine. I realized that I had drank wine, but I didn’t really know anything about it. What I found intrigued me in a massive way.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Outside of the fact that I get to drink fantastic things regularly, I think the best part of my job is the personal interactions that I get with people on every level. From producers to importers, to consumers, I get to build relationships with people based around this one thing that we all really care about. We get to foster a community that (we try) brings out the best in one another.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
I’ve certainly come across some instances when I was working in restaurants. When it would happen, it would always be a table of men who thought they were funny or making a joke. It was always the same joke though, the “disbelief” that I couldn’t have been the person who would steer their wine selections for the evening.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
I think we grow more as we surround ourselves with people who have different perspectives and have lived different experiences.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I’d like to see the conversation around wine shift to availability.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equality in the wine world looks like a day when “he” is not the automatic default. Of course, there are many other things that go with that, but that’s a big starting point for me.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I like to think that by working on accessible language and presenting my authentic self in the wine world, it is setting new expectations for everyone in how we interact with each other and wine itself while working to make sure no one feels left out.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
Let your personality shine and never hesitate to be yourself. Authenticity is key.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
People who I’ve really looked up to in the wine industry start with people like DLynn Proctor, who was the first sommelier that I could look up to and see someone who looked like me. The more I got involved with wine, the more I learned about women like Lee Campbell and Julia Coney who are just beacons and trailblazers to me. Now, I think I look around at people whom I would consider to be my peers who are doing amazing things. A writer like Sydney Love, organizers and educators like Jirka Jireh and Whitney Pope. There are so many people who I could go on about how I admire them. But it’s nice to even have this many people to choose from.