Interview with a Sommelier - Page 2
GSW: How did you manage to become a sommelier? What educational process did you follow and where did you do this? How long did it take to earn this designation? Are there various stages of being a sommelier based on your knowledge development?
Wendy: As my career continued to change and develop I too needed to be sure that my skill set continued to grow and develop along with it. I began running wine dinners and realized that there was a whole world of wine that existed out there and the only way to try and tackle the immense amount of information available was to get educated. I went to the Sommelier Society of America and completed a 21 week program designed for both professionals and consumers passionate about wine. Master Sommelier is the highest distinction a wine professional can attain and it is quite rigorous to get there which is why there are only about 74 Master Sommeliers in the U.S 12 of whom are women. At some point in my life I may chose to pursue that lofty goal, but am currently so engaged in my day to day role here at Park Avenue Club that I prefer to spend my time amongst our members and immersed in the world of wine as it relates to my ever changing needs.
GSW: How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry? How do you stay current on all the wines available? Do you travel in your work?
Wendy: In any profession it is imperative that you read up on your specialty as well as immerse yourself in it fully. For me that means working closely with other wine professionals to make sure that I am constantly tasting new vintages, grape varietals, etc. of wines both well known and virtually unknown, consistently look for feedback from members on wines that we have recommended as well as wines that they have selected themselves, travel in a small part to wineries and vineyards to see, hear, touch, taste and smell what it means when someone for example says Napa Valley, visit the competition, go to wine tastings, read, read, read…taste, taste, taste…and finally to speak on topics and host special events and wine dinners constantly keeps me on my toes because you never know what someone might ask and you ALWAYS want to be prepared.
GSW: Are there wines from particular parts of the world that you enjoy and recommend highly? What are a few of your favorite U.S. wineries?
Wendy: I have such a great affinity for wine it is difficult for me to play favorites as my palate, along with the wines themselves, are forever evolving. I am always excited by a great bottle of wine and I try to tell people every day that value is value, at any price point. I get equally excited about a totally undervalued wine from Chile at $10.00 as I do about a ’97 Barolo at $175. Good wine is good wine plain and simple and like people, each one brings its own personality to the table and so you judge it based on that. My recommendation for people with an interest in wine is to ENJOY wines they know and love, but EXPERIMENT with wines they think they hate. I hear a lot of people telling me what they don’t like and I wonder if they have ever allowed themselves the opportunity to slow down just enough to smell the “viticulture flowers”. Sometimes one bad bottle of wine of an unfamiliar grape varietal will have someone saying for the rest of their life that they just… don’t… like it. By taking an all or nothing approach to wine is reminiscent of a kid with their vegetables. Maybe, the Brussels Sprouts you hated and tried to feed to the dog as a kid ends up being your favorite savory side dish as an adult. Experiment and revisit, that’s what I say!
GSW: Do you recommend other women becoming a sommelier and, if so, how do they get started? Is it a good career path and why?
Wendy: For myself I created the “4-P’s”…get yourself in a Position to Pursue your Passion Professionally and then…make it happen and never look back. Being a sommelier has provided me a platform to experience and embrace my passion for wine and people. The two are so strongly rooted in me that to do something involving neither would quite frankly be criminal. Being a sommelier is a wonderful career but it doesn’t come without its fair share of sacrifice. The world of wine operates on a different timeframe than typical corporate America and by default when the world socializes…you, work. That is why the love for people is almost as important as your love for wine because your clients, patrons and friends in turn, become a part of your extended family and in turn an integral part of your life.
Wendy can be reached at
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