1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background and your current role?
I grew up a Navy brat in Southern California. I went to College in LA and then moved to San Francisco through a job in the telecommunication business. I have over 30 years in the wine business. I am the person that is between the Winery and the Distributor who sells and delivers to the trade. I worked for large corporate companies in the beginning, handling multiple Wine and Spirits brands. The company I work for now, Dreyfus Ashby, is a family-owned, medium-sized Importer of family-owned wineries, mostly from France and the Pacific Northwest. I manage nearly 200 wines in 4 states, and I’ve been with them for over 12 years. The company has a small support structure so I conduct all aspects of the business. We are owned by the Drouhin family out of Burgundy so I have been able to visit France at least once a year. I am a certified Sommelier but I don’t intend to get further certifications. I am versed in regions all over the world, including Japan (Sake) and India, and I have conducted hundreds of seminars and public speeches.
2. Why did you choose this industry and what do you love about it?
My passion for wine is what got me into the business back when I was living in San Francisco. I had been dabbling in other industries while having a passion for wine. I used to visit the wine country every chance I had. I was laid off from work and I thought this was the time to use my sales skills in the wine business. My first job was working for Classic Wines, selling a portfolio based on Glen Ellen. It was the hottest brand back then! This experience gave me the “boots on the ground” knowledge by working the streets of San Francisco.
Throughout my career, I have been asked why the wine business? I could be making a lot more money doing something else. But it all comes back to the people in the business. It doesn’t matter now what I sell, it’s who I spend my day -to-day experiences with. Not many people can say they love what they do and enjoy working with their boss!
I also enjoy the educational aspect of Wine - Visiting the wineries, learning about the regions and culture, studying the winemaking techniques, tasting wines, etc. Then to share that experience is such a pleasure.
3. What challenges have you experienced in your profession in 2020?
Nevada – we used to sell 80% of our wines to the ON Premise (casino) trade. We lost a majority of that. Brands that had retail distribution did well, but not enough to make up for the losses.
US - TARIFFS!!! Can you imagine what we Importers have suffered through in 2020 with both Covid and higher prices from Tariffs? There is now a new postponement but its only for 4 months. Even though we might see them go away for good, we wont see prices come down quickly. We have to sell through the wines that are higher priced first – the damage is done!
The change in the way we do business – this is a “People” business. Odds are that bottle of wine you pick at a retailer is there because a sales person showed the retailer that it’s a good choice to have it in the store. Not being able to see the trade face-to-face has been frustrating and sad. We do Zoom meetings with our partners and consumer groups constantly but its just not the same.
4. What are some of your favorite and comforting wine/wine region/pairing?
I have had many gourmet meals in different countries. My favorite meal I ever had was in the mountains of the Alsace. Every plate was an extraordinary experience and the artistry of each plate was tied to nature.
We have an Arizona bread company here called Noble bread. Its so amazing! Especially if you grill it with olive oil. Top with goat cheese and some kind of spread and pair with pretty much any wine. Serve with Marcona almonds – OMG!
In all, I’m a simple gal. If I was stuck on an island, I would have to have my French fries, preferably fried in duck fat, with Joseph Drouhin’s Clos Des Mouches Blanc. 😊
5. Any advice for aspiring industry candidates?
This is the time for placing yourself in the right starting position. We will see the business come back for the next couple of years for sure. And if you are in the right position/company to start, the best position will follow. I highly recommend doing your research now. For example, if you want to be a Sommelier for a high-end restaurant or a salesperson at a distributor, then ask to meet with the person who does that currently and have an “informational interview”. Find out how they got to their position, what they like, don’t like, etc. This will go VERY FAR and will help build your industry contacts that you need.
6. Please share an anecdotal moment that you will never forget!
I was on a business trip to France and visited Chateau de Campuget in Nimes (they make awesome Rhone varietals). There’s a river that runs by Nimes that is under the Pont Du Gard Aqueduct. The tourists love to raft down this river. We had some free time so the owner, Franck-lin, decided we should do a rafting experience. We each had a large tire tube and a bottle of Rose. The river got rough but I kept drinking my Rose! Needless to say, I got sick during the experience. But nobody knew except the fish! 😊
7. Is there anything else you would like to share or mention?
I think its great that this platform has been created. The more education we provide to consumers, the more fun it is for all. I wish we could education the younger generation more and get them to feel more comfortable about wine. Of course, this has always been the challenge of the wine business.
Kate: "If I was stuck on an island, I would have to have my French fries, preferably fried in duck fat, with Joseph Drouhin’s Clos Des Mouches Blanc!"
Kate: "With my colleagues in Nimes in 2019 with Franck-lin of Campuget in the Chateau de Campuget vineyard"