Rachel Thralls - Certified Sommelier & Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach.
How many years have you been in the business?
I have been in the wine business since 2012, starting out doing freelance food and wine writing.
Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I am a certified Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and a wine education consultant for wineries and other industry organizations across Sonoma County. My motivation is entertaining and educating key members of the trade, as well as consumers, while conducting classes and seminars that articulate the wonders of Sonoma County wine, food and farming. I am a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and studied at the International Culinary Center, where I honed my food and wine pairing expertise. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by Old World wine collectors, I found a passion for wine and food early in life and credit my father for my palate and my mother for my culinary skills. Prior to starting my coaching and wine consulting business, I was the Director of Wine Education at Rodney Strong Wine Estates and I was the food & wine writer for BevMo! and Wine.com. After receiving a B.A. in Communications and Psychology from Vanderbilt, I earned a Masters of Education from Notre Dame de Namur.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
My father is a wine collector, so I grew up learning to appreciate good wine and it has always been a huge part of my life. He collected all five first-growth Bordeaux in my birth year as well as my sister and brother’s birth years! He still shares his collection every time we get together! A particular time while visiting with my parents, we had a 1982 Mouton Rothschild. I have pages of notes about the wine, which kept changing and growing in the glass. It was the most amazing wine I had ever tasted and it was in that moment that I really wanted to study wine. The very next week, I enrolled in the International Culinary Center’s Court of Masters Certified Sommelier program and never looked back!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Currently, I love educating people. Education has always been a huge part of my life and now, with my combined business of wine and the health and wellness industry, it’s all about education.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
The main prejudices I have experienced in the wine industry have to do with pay and growth in roles. I am always surprised by the look on people’s faces when I say I deserve more, especially when it comes to growth. Especially when growth usually means more responsibility for the better of the company.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are 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?
I am a huge proponent and fan of personal development and daily engagement in that has switched my mind from judging or feeling in competition with other women to supporting other women. I am all about empowering women and teaching other women how to empower, support and lift each other up!
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
I honestly believe that we will see more women in upper management roles, more female winemakers and more female-run wine businesses. In turn, I believe this can help grow the wine industry and be even bigger and better.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
Equal pay and respect: more women in leadership roles and upper management roles with room to grow within these positions and build teams.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Seek out mentorship and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Take on more responsibility because let’s face it… women can do it all! Stand up for yourself, learn as much as you can in all areas of the wine industry that interest you, be authentic and always be true to who you are.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equal pay, women in more leadership roles and people working together side by side. Less sexual harassment and attention to how we look but instead focusing on our contributions, brain power & conversations.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I work daily to motivate, educate and empower women to speak their truth, make themselves a priority and to never give up on themselves- in any area of their lives!
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Empowerment, Courage, Confidence, Visionary, Community
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are so many women I admire in the wine industry who I have looked up to and learned from! Special shout out to Barb Kiefer who was my co-worker and sister from another mother. She always taught me to stand up for myself and know my value and worth! I admire how hard Karissa Kruse works for the Sonoma County Winegrowers and is paving the way for more women in leadership roles! I also respect and admire Rebecca Hopkins and Cathy Huyghe for all of the hard work they put into A Balanced Glass and for helping others maintain wellness in the wine industry.