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Kristina Ferdinand - AGM & Assistant Buyer for Elemental Spirit Co.

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

Oh wow. Probably 25 years actually. I started in food and bev working at my dad’s counter service restaurant in the food court at perimeter mall. I worked (legally) in restaurants, doing just about every FOH position imaginable, from when I was 18 until 33. In February of 2020 I took a position at Elemental Spirits Co as a sales associate and am now the AGM/assistant buyer.

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

I actually did not drink until I was 25! But wine was always a stable in my childhood. Lol I guess my rebellion was NOT drinking. But I will never, ever forget trying Paolo Bea ‘Pagliaro’ for the first time. I was lucky to be friends with the wine buyer at my restaurant at the time. It knocked me on my ass. I still think about it.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Community. I just love it. I love showing people new things I know they will love. I love connecting with other women in this industry and re-discovering why we love this.

What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?

I stop working, it seems like a silly answer but it’s so important to me. I just stop working when I’m not at work. Boundaries are my biggest wellness practice at the moment, I fail often, but I’m trying to make them as solid as possible.

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

Oh my, well, I hope it is more inclusive. I hope the voices of those that have been silenced and ignored are heard. But I also kind of want to be a part of creating a whole new voice. I hope we can strive to be more community driven and less capitalistically driven. And I really don’t ever want to be called sweetheart ever again.

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

I honestly don’t know. I’ve never seen it. I want to say everyone having a seat at the table but honestly I want us to all have a bon fire around that table and watch it burn. I think opportunity needs to be available and given freely.

How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?

I hope that people can feel my passion for inclusivity. The wine buyer (hi Jesse I miss you!) and myself push out distributors to bring on more inclusive brands. I am trying to be a mentor to other women in the industry and not trying to save all the sad boys. But I think it is important to call out people in the moment and I strive to do that with my colleagues and others in our business. There is always so much more to be done.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?

Talk to other women. Join tasting groups. Go to all the shops. Be adventurous. Don’t be afraid of being “too loud.” Learn and listen. But also, work as a server. I really find it an invaluable experience (traumatic or not) to working with people.

Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.

Janeen Jason, Whitney Blue, Kellie Thorn, Jesse Kirkpatrick. All of these women do things are their own terms and have taught me so much. From Kellie who is a pioneer in the Atlanta bar scene and taught the US about cognac, to Janeen who knows everything. Literally, she is an encyclopedia. To Whitney who helped guide me when I left the restaurant industry to finding a place in wine retail, to of course Jesse, my boss, my very good friend, and wine buyer for Elemental Spirits co. I wouldn’t have felt like I deserved to be here without her.
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