How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I'm originally a photographer but fell in love with the wine industry about 5 years ago. It all started with a "survival" restaurant job that had an incredible wine program. Wine felt too intimidating until a coworker challenged me to blind taste 3 wines to believe in myself more--when I got them right right off the bat, a spark of "I can do this!" hit me and I've ran with it since. I now work at 3 Parks Wine Shop in Atlanta and do some work with Telesomm as well!
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Definitely the moment my coworker, who knew I could do it, challenged me to blind taste 3 wines. His support and belief in me really sticks with me. Since then I've been lucky to have quite a few people like that who believe in me even when I don't!
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
So many times people come in to the shop or chat with me after a tasting and are just shocked at how much they enjoyed it or how much they learned. Giving people a safe space to ask the questions they've been too nervous to ask and to really bring them in to the fold of wine and not be snobby about it, it's amazing to see their reactions. When people leave with a little nugget of interest of feeling of acceptance, that makes my day.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
Hiking is always a big one for me. It seems to reset things when life in a city gets overwhelming. I tend to overbook myself as we all do and it just helps show a different side of the world and calm my soul!
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I'd love to see more sustainability in the packaging and delivery of wine. It's been exciting seeing little changes like people using lighter glass, trying different formats for bottles (recyclable plastic, bags like in Texier's Chat Fou pouch!) and avoiding styrofoam and other hard to recycle items. So many winemakers are so focused on the environment, I'd love to see that extend to the rest of the industry.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
I think equality and equity are hugely important, bringing more people to the table and meeting them where they are. We all come from such different backgrounds and that can make this industry so much more diverse and beautiful. I'm excited to hear from more voices in the next fives year and see the industry welcome more and more people to the fold, make sure they have what they need to really succeed in a place where, like me, they didn't think they could fit in. But it's not about fitting in, it's about making your own space and I hope to see more of us in the wine world elevate more diverse voices than our own.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
We can always be doing more but in my case I often hope that being visibly and openly queer can make people feel more comfortable right off the bat. I'm fortunate that the wine shop I work for focuses on minority producers and really wants to bring that to the city of Atlanta. Seeing someone's face light up when we tell them the producer of this wine looks like them or loves like them is so rewarding, representation is hugely important. I want to create more spaces for people in the LGBTQ+ community to join together and learn about wine or just enjoy it and I'm fortunate to have a few winemaker friends in that community that I love lifting up.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Find mentors! Learn. Really really learn. Read all you can, talk about wine with friends. Meet people where they are when you're talking to the public about wine, not where you want them to be. Make it funny and make it your own! Be able to admit in the beginning that you're new, you're learning and that you'll make mistakes and not know answers to things. Once you accept that we're all learning then I think the ego we can all sometimes have will dissipate a bit!
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Ryan Mullins is a huge one for me. He's been mentoring me and supporting me in this wine journey since my early days. He's a really special guy to a lot of us in the industry. Adam Danielson is another, he gave me a lot of freedom and education when I was really jumping into the wine world. Sarah Pierre, owner of 3 Parks, pushes and challenges me every day. She also sent me to Pinot Camp and for that I'll be forever grateful! She loves helping me merge my photography and wine worlds when I can, she's just an incredible force in the wine world and I'm incredibly grateful for how much I've grown under her tutelage.