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Lara Whiteley - Sales Rep & Business Development Manager of Specialty Wines.

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

I have been working in the wine industry since 2013. In 2019 I found my home at Specialty Wines. My current role is multifaceted working as a Sales Representative as well as Business Development Manager. I work on servicing my personal accounts while also supporting the sales team ensuring they have all the tools necessary to succeed and go after new leads in their individual markets.

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

I have them on a regular basis and they continue to propel me further. My most recent? Hegyi-Kalo Szeptember 7th. I could spend hours with my nose in that wine.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Exposing those in my reach to genuine wines made from genuine people with an honest interest in the sustainability of our planet and the vineyards from which they produce.

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

Being told it’d be easier for me to marry than do what I do always seems to fire me up. However, my world is larger than those that say these things to me.

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

We will see more creativity, more ideas, more frames of reference, new ways to describe wine, more interest in wine as a whole and ultimately more passion.

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

I hope to see the consumer dig deeper into what they are consuming. I want to see people go past buzzwords and price points to recognize where their wine is coming from. I believe it would surprise many to learn that what may be in their glass directly conflicts with their values. At the end of the day wine is an agricultural product, you should always strive to know what and who goes into making it.

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

Equality in the wine industry from the base level looks like fair, just, and humane conditions for ALL vineyard and winery workers regardless of winery case production. It looks like accessibility to quality wine at every price point. It looks like open minds to all grape varieties and wine regions, people and backgrounds, and exalting work ethic over “knowing the right people”.

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

Rallying behind winemakers that are providing quality work environments for vineyard and winery workers, bolstering wineries that contribute to causes that align with my beliefs, and being an OPEN BOOK FOR ANYONE who wants to learn more about wine, the industry, and anything else I can offer. I hope to look back on my career and see people excelling and know I was a stepping stone that helped bolster them forward.

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

Work hard. Do not let anyone make you feel inferior regardless of their lapel. You will never learn everything. Being treated poorly by someone is more of a reflection on them than you. Under promise over deliver. Be kind, be inclusive, help one another. Your health and those you hold dear are more important than anything else.

What other industry heroes do you admire and why?

Clare Carver from Big Table Farm - she is living her passion and dream. Art, bees, pigs, chickens, a garden, wine? What more do you need. Jessica Gualano from Bowler Wine - she works harder and cares deeper than most I know.
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