Updated: May 23
How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I've been working in the wine industry in various capacities since 2008 - hard to believe that it has been almost fourteen years! I became a Master of Wine in 2016, and my career really began as a cellar intern at Balthazar in New York, where I was exposed to wines from all over France. I was also lucky enough to work with incredible colleagues who became friends and mentors, and who taught me through action the import of both hard work and humility. I've worked in restaurants, retail, wholesale, and direct to consumer throughout the years in New York City, North Carolina, and the San Francisco Bay area. I now have the pleasure to work with two estates, one in Napa (Screaming Eagle) and one in Burgundy (Domaine Bonneau du Martray), in addition to my work as Co-Founder at Wine Unify, a nonprofit dedicated to championing and promoting diversity in the wine industry, as well as other small educational and consulting projects on my own.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Curiosity - I remember drinking a bottle of wine from Bordeaux and knowing nothing about what that actually meant. I became obsessed with understanding the context of wine, and realized that it combines everything I love - business, science, history, culture, a little bit of romance - all in one (hopefully) delicious glass.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
I love sharing wine with people. Throughout my career, I've worked with wines that range from entry-level commercial all the way to the top examples of classic wines, and in every category, I find joy in sharing a wine's story.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
I love spending time with my little dog Mickey, and I love being outdoors and taking adventures. Hikes, spending time with friends and loved ones in beautiful places are the best ways for me to find balance.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see a more diverse and welcoming community along with a dedication to thoughtful, well-educated wine commentary. Sometimes the loudest voice in the room is the only one heard; as an industry, as in any industry, I'd like us to ask bigger questions and work more collaboratively to find the answers.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
I think equality starts with accepting that inequality exists, followed by the commitment to strive for equitable solutions to provide access for those who truly need it. Not everyone begins with the same resources, but everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed. Giving back, building others up, recognizing when you can be a resource for someone else, recognizing when you have access or privilege that someone else does not and then sharing that resource - these are all elements that at least contribute to the concept of equality in the wine industry and beyond.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
I work alongside some of the most wonderful and talented friends and colleagues at Wine Unify, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access and opportunity in the wine industry. We are only a piece of the puzzle, but we offer mentorship and awards that fund education, educational tools, and a sense of community. We've discovered enthusiastic industry partners who work with us to make these awards available to BIPOC who either work in the wine business already or would like to in some capacity. We've learned that above all, the sense of community and mentorship that comes with our program is what leaves the most lasting meaning for recipients and those facilitating the programs. It's a small step, but we believe that education can be empowering, that representation is critical for change, and that having a group of people you can lean on makes a huge difference in someone's experience with wine.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Embrace hard work, passion, and kindness every step of the way.
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Alicia Towns Franken is a friend, mentor, Head of Mentorship at Wine Unify, and Vice President of Archer Roose's wine portfolio (among many other things). Her experience in the wine industry has taught me so much, but more than that, her compassion for others and dedication to everything she does is inspiring. Rebecca Banks is a friend, wine educator, and Beverage Director for Keith McNally's restaurants. She was my first real mentor in the wine business when I worked at Balthazar; I learned so much from her then and continue to learn from her now. Peter Marks MW is a Master of Wine, educator, and friend. He's done so much for Master of wine students over the years, and I look to him for advice and support to this day. He's done so much to inspire me in the wine business, and like everyone else I've listed (and so many others who I have not!) I feel lucky to know him.