My wine journey began after my college graduation, with a sense of adventure to move across the country to live/work in Napa, California. Never in my wildest dreams did I plan to turn that aspiration into a passion for wine, career as a sommelier, or a lifelong pursuit to study the art of wine. However, life had its way of surprising me.
I used my time in Napa Valley to breathe in everything I could about wine culture, knowledge, and tasting. I was relentless in my desire to become a sommelier. With the help of countless mentors and an endless sea of grapes at my disposal, I obtained my "pin" through the Court of Master Sommeliers and I could now call myself a sommelier.
After working tirelessly for a year, I could have put my feet up and reveled in my newfound "Sommdom." However, my mind and heart were far from staying stagnant. I set my sights on a spontaneous move to New York City to polish the skills that Napa had instilled in me. It was much easier than I thought, to get a job at a restaurant in the ever-intimidating city. A few weeks after my unexpected decision, I had my eyes focused on the east coast. I had a determination to make it In NYC and packed everything I owned in the back of my car for yet another cross- country trek!
Napa and NYC couldn't have been more different. Working as a sommelier in New York City was the most challenging, enriching, and eye-opening experience I could have ever imagined. I jumped from job to job, trying to find my footing. In doing what might have turned out to be negative career moves, something simply “happened”. I learned the restaurant side of wine, as well as the retail/education side, and also the business/sales side. Tasting groups, study sessions, and trade events were endless in NYC. I grasped at every chance to do something which I thought could improve my wine savvy.
At one point, I swore moving to New York would never change me. I was wrong. The city brought me new perspectives, dashed my dreams, gave me new ones, and made me a "grinder." In New York, nothing was impossible . That's what was etched into my mind during my time there.
So, that was it.....four years of my wine journey, in a nutshell! Napa Valley gave me the passion for wine and NYC gave me the strength to make it grow. A funny thing happened to me, as I acquired more & more wine experience: I wanted it to be more than a "job." I wanted more than strolling table to table, pouring wine in a restaurant. I wanted more than teaching classes about wine and cheese pairings. I wanted more than selling wine through a distributor. I wanted to create something of my own. That scared me more than anything, up to that point. The idea of literally putting my heart and soul into a project, with a chance of failure, almost brought the dream to an end. However, I knew if I gave everything I could to that idea, I could create something beautiful. I could do what I always dreamed of, with wine. I could INSPIRE people. That was the day that Wine Inspired was born.
I resolved that Wine Inspired would encompass everything I loved. I would develop classes and provide education to the curious. I would plan and host events, centered around wine. I would work with restaurants and their wine programs, sharing everything I had learned. As I excitedly developed all of my ideas, a creeping thought told me it wouldn't work. Something told me this was a common dream. Wine consulting/teaching businesses were a dime a dozen. However, that thought didn't last long because I knew something that would keep me going throughout all the struggles. I was meant to do this. I was born to be with people.....to make them smile, to make them see the good in life & to help them in any way I could. It just so happened wine was my instrument to achieve these things. All the pieces of Wine Inspired came together after those thoughts, and I just needed to find a place in which to build it.
Wine culture was certainly thriving in New York and Napa. If I was going to make any real progress with impacting the world with wine, I had to start somewhere that needed improvement in the wine specter. One word kept flashing in my mind, & that word was Jacksonville. I always believed that going home would be a step backwards, a sign of "giving up", or something I would regret. In my mind, Jacksonville didn't have the rolling vineyards of Napa, which captured my heart and soul. It didn't have the endless career challenges of New York City, which spurred my growth and experience with “all things wine”. Jax didn't have the unknown adventures, which had driven every move I had made in the four previous years. But then I realized that I wasn't even the same person from four years ago. I once believed Jacksonville wasn't the place I could make my dreams come true. Turns out those years of daring and exploratory pursuits did something I wasn't quite expecting. Maybe, just maybe they made me wiser. In my mind, Jacksonville became my new frontier for wine. If I was going to pour my heart into the project, it had to be in a place that always had my heart.....my home.
My gut agreed and that's all I needed. I planned to launch Wine Inspired in Jacksonville and never looked back.
Get the wine glasses out Momma, I'm coming home!!!!