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Thatcher Baker-Briggs - Founder of the Thatcher Wine Consulting.

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

At 13 I started working in kitchens, so now at 30, that is 17 years in the hospitality industry. I’ve spent 10 years in kitchens, and the rest in wine. While I haven’t worked the floor or in the kitchen for the past few years, most of my time is still spent in them. And while many in the wine retail/wholesale/import world may not often share the feeling that they work in hospitality - perhaps they should because wine, not to make it overly romantic, is and forever will be about relationships and warmth and not about who can buy or sell more. Today, I am entirely focused on TWC, where we help to bridge the gap between the wine collectors and wine makers. We help collectors manage their collections and aid in the process of creating that collection. There are a lot of complicated moving parts in trying to build a collection of rare, sought after wines and we aim to make that process more simple. In doing so we have also started a platform “The Wine Cellar” where we can share the wines we love in an easy to navigate website where the inventory is always revolving to showcase wines we are passionate about. We also launched Thatcher’s Imports where we will continue to import the wines of wine makers who share an important aspect of sustainable viticultural practices and for those who respect the way things have been done, but look through their own lens and make wines for the now and future.

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

What propelled me into wine was the moment that I realized that I had worked in restaurants for a decade, and I had been so focused on what was happening in the kitchen - that I had never taken the time to understand a very fundamental part of the restaurant industry, which was wine. I realized that I didn’t want to be a chef who didn’t care about the dining room- I wanted to understand every aspect of the industry, including the beauty that is wine.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Easy! One of my favorite parts is when we bring together the winemaker and wine drinker, especially the young generations. At Thatcher’s Wine Consulting, we have made a point of supporting the young winemakers in Europe that we are so passionate about, and doing our best to bring them to the US market.. We love to highlight how special these wines can be, and really enjoy introducing them to the next generation of wine collectors. When you see the look on their faces when you say - “hey, people are calling me, texting me asking me for more of your wines!” there is nothing better!

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

There is plenty of prejudice in the industry., just as there is in life. While work has been the thing I live and breathe for 14 hours + a day for the past 17 years - the way that people may internally or externally judge my abilities based on my skin color isn’t something that I’ve let affect the journey of where I want to work to get in life. People can judge as much as they want, but my energy is better spent on learning and pushing myself forward rather than letting things resonate on a personal level.

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

diversity and inclusion?

I think that it's too easy to say - well there isn’t [enough of this gender or this race| and so that's bad. I think there are far more greater issues that dampen the overall relevance of wine in communities more so than just the “Industry” itself. I think it’s on young people to remove the stigmas that wine is for wealthy or “bougie” individuals and make wine something that is fun, exciting and accesibile. One of the most impactful things in wine today in-terms of diversity - bar none is professional athletes embracing wine. It brings wine to an entirely different demographic. Seeing LeBron James, PJ Tucker, Carmelo Anthony drinking a great bottle of wine moves mountains in giving the impression of approachability because despite being amazing athletes they are just real people doing what they love.

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

We are at a massive generation change in terms of perspective on wine. A lot of young individuals are building businesses in wine. This inspires immense growth, inspiration and change. Young sommeliers, retailers, importers don’t care about the way “it's been done before”, they are focused on the way “it should be done.” We will continue to see a lot of toes stepped on, and that is how we will continue to be better at what we do.

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

For me - I think equality is measured quite simply. It’s measured in the feeling that anyone can do what they dream of. That regardless of gender, race, sexuality - if you want to be a sommelier, wine director, winemaker, that you will have the opportunity. It doesn’t mean that because you are X means you can be Y. We all collectively need to work hard to get where we want. But if an opportunity presents itself, you should be able to take your shot.

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

For me - contributing to equality is about allowing said opportunities to take place. It’s about embracing people for their skill sets. I hope that people can see what we are working towards and it gives inspiration to everyone that they can do anything they want in life.

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

Listen to what people are saying rather than how they are saying it. Looking through their lens and not just your own. There will be many moments of stress. Efficiently using your time staying focused on the goal rather than distracted by the “attitude” will give you an edge like no other.

What other industry heroes do you admire and why?

I think anyone that has taken a chance to do what they love and believe in while working hard to build it. An importer, a sommelier, a restaurant owner. I find that to be incredibly admirable.
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