Rachel DelRocco Terrazas - The Managing Editor at The Vintner Project.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been in some sort of customer since I was 14 years old scooping ice cream at my local shop in New Jersey. I worked at restaurants in New York from the age of 20 and started managing them when I was 22. I moved to Austin at 24 and it was at the unfortunately now-shuttered FINO that I fell in love with wine and spirits and how they interplay with cocktails and food. I spent my time in Austin as a sommelier and bartender until I landed a spot on the opening staff at Qui and moved up to beverage director within a year. I moved to Houston and worked at Camerata at Paulie’s as a sommelier and then after some brief stints in Tucson and Oaxaca City, where I started freelance writing, I landed back in New Jersey and found an internship with Wine & Spirits Magazine, working up to the role of Associate Editor. I recently left there to become the Managing Editor at The Vintner Project and have launched my own freelance career and digital marketing and consulting services.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
When I was a waitress at FINO, I had just started tasting wine, learning about wine, and selling wine and the language to me was so daunting and overwhelming. I took it upon myself to self-study the wine list. I took home the two rosés we had on our list which happened to be the Ameztoi Txakoli Rosé and a back vintage of Lopez de Heredia rosé—two completely different wines. I put my nose in both glasses and remember looking at where they were from (very near each other) and how strikingly differently they were. And I remember writing tasting notes—limeade and strawberries on the Ameztoi and dill for the Lopez. I researched those wines and was happily validated and I remember thinking how cool it was that I could smell different scents in wines and that their styles correlated to their geography. Sounds so nerdy but I thought “How awesome— I want to know more!” and down the rabbit hole I went.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy the people, the connections, and the humanity from the beginning of the cycle to end. I want to know the stories behind winemakers and distillers; I love the sommeliers as the conduits between those stories and customers; and the customers who learn more about the food and drink that they experience every day.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Plenty. There’s obviously egregious actions toward women in the industry but also micro-aggressions that can add up and be particularly dangerous as well. Customers constantly asked me for the male sommelier or their drink to be made by the male bartender because it was assumed there was no way I knew the same amount that they did. It was very common for male customers to hit on female bartenders and as that female bartender, you’re stuck behind a bar without much of a choice but to treat your customers with a non-mutual respect. I would get thrown on shifts out on the cocktail patio when we were short-staffed but none of my male colleagues behind the bar were asked to do the same. There’s also a culture where you should “drink and act like the boys” in order to be taken seriously.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?
It’s true because it’s so hard to move up amongst the men sometimes, it’s easy to feel competitive. I’m completely guilty of this but we just need to be open and willing and aware of what we say and what we do. And keep yourself and other women accountable. It’s hard to break the habits of your own mind but sit, breathe, and think about why you’re feeling that way. Practice kindness, peace, and respect because ultimately, we’re better in numbers and there’s a space out there for all of us to thrive.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
A lot of it is in the infrastructure in the industry itself. We can allow conversations for healthcare, maternity leave, racial inequality, tipping, sexual harassment, among many other of those issues and ultimately, it would be better for the industry as a whole—for men and women alike. Not to mention cool experimental wines, beautiful graphic design, engaging marketing and, if I’m being honest, probably a move toward more accessibility and approachability in wine.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
Changes in the culture and the conversation around issues that affect women from sexual harassment to being a mother, and having a sustainable and safe career in the industry. There should be a platform to be honest and open about the issues we face and things like Wonder Women of Wine are great way to get there.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Don’t forget that this profession is real and valid; keep your head down, say what’s on your mind, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
It means that the issues we face as women are approached just as easily and openly as a regional guide to Burgundy. It also means that the women out there just need a light shone on them. They’re there and they’re working hard; they’re just going unnoticed.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I hope I am by being proud of being a female in the drinks industry and remembering that there are no options shut off to me just because I’m a woman. I hope with my writing and work that I can provide a voice and a platform for women in the industry or inspire other women to do what they love and shout out about it.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Diligent, proud, open, willing, honest, hard-working.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There’s so many. I worked under June Rodil at Qui in Austin and I still to this day watch the work that she does from afar without limits or boundaries and am still inspired by her no bullshit attitude.