I’ve been getting a lot of mail lately from people who want to know how I got into the wine business, where I studied, how I got my first wine job, etc. so I figured I ought to just put it in the blog!
So, if you’re into it and want to read an article (that I probably should have made 3x shorter) about the journey that has lead me right up to this very moment – as I sit here in my little European apartment in 34° heat and zero air circulation – then by all means:
Welcome to my life!
Having a career in wine never crossed my mind as a child. I suppose that isn’t too much of an anomaly for a kid in general, let alone for a little girl who used to tell her kinder-garden teacher that she wanted to be a turtle when she grew up… mhmm, fact.
Thankfully though, my reptilian aspirations faded and eventually I developed the new and slightly more achievable goals of becoming a fashion designer/actress.
I took sewing lessons through grade school, practiced Shakespeare and outdoor theatre in junior high, and in high school I designed and created my very first clothing line. It was called ‘anaJ’ and I presented it in-front of a big crowd of local shop owners, press and of course, all of my family and friends. What I didn’t know then, was that the brochures for my big ‘fashion debut’ had been printed in a very sleek, modern font; a font that turned my innocent little ‘anaJ’ into a not so subtle ‘anal’… hahaha ahhh. Isn’t it funny how something that was once SO mortifying can be so hilarious now?
So anyway, after high school and the whole ‘anal’ debacle I made the spontaneous decision to turn down design school and follow in the footsteps of dear old dad. Since I already knew how to design, I figured it would be smart to learn how to run my own company too, so I enrolled in university to study business. Now, even-though that may have been a good idea in theory, unfortunately due to my complete lack of attention span, it didn’t exactly pan out… In my second semester I flew to England to visit a friend and during that visit became quite smitten with a South African chicken farmer who was waitering at the time in a pub outside of London.
Nothing ever did come of the chicken farmer and I, but the whole ‘European spring fling’ thing had me feeling inordinately adventurous! By the time I landed back home in Nova Scotia I had already made up my mind – I would finish my semester, sell my car, sublet my apartment and move to London! And that’s just what I did.
I loved life in the big city – it was the perfect place at the perfect time. The people, the art, the architecture and the buzz in that city is spot on. I stayed as long as I was allowed, which was sadly only two years, and then I packed my bags again and headed to New York City to study film.
The Big Apple was cool – a totally different vibe than London of course, but I loved it there too. I lived up in Harlem on the corner of 135th and Lenox in the same building where Cam’ron and Big L used to live (these names will ring a bell if you were a fan of hip-hop/rap in the 90’s – R.I.P. Big L) and I got to know a lot of the locals pretty fast. Everyone was laid back and friendly once you got up past Central Park and away from the rush. People actually took the time to acknowledge one another on the street and hold the door for a stranger.
My neighbour’s name at the time was Million and man was she a character – she was the best! She used to call me Snowflake, until a couple of my Swedish girlfriends moved in and she started calling us ‘Charlie’s Angels’. She always kept us up to speed on the neighbourhood juice. Unfortunately however, Miss Million was not around to give us a heads-up the day that the police were searching the rooftops of all the brownstones on our block. Yep…the three of us were up there sun-tanning and we thought we had hit the jack-pot discovering that the door was unlocked to let us up there! Anyway, let’s just say the cops got a pretty good surprise when they found the angels up there topless soaking up the rays!
Of course one of the best things about living in Harlem was the music and culture.
My then boyfriend (now husband) used to fly over from Europe on his semester breaks and when we weren’t drinking $2.00 PBR’s and playing pool at dive bars downtown you would most likely have found us enjoying the live jazz scene at the Lenox Lounge or The Shrine. We were always so amazed when someone would just walk in off the street with a saxophone or a trumpet and join in with whom ever was already in the middle of a set.
Anyway, post film school I moved up to Toronto. Being in my home country made it a lot less complicated to find work and I had heard decent enough things about the film industry there. Basically, I became a stereotype and lived out the classic waitress/actress lifestyle.
I spent the most part of 3 years working at a high-end Italian restaurant called Sotto Sotto where they have an incredible (and very extensive) wine list. It’s the kind of place that frequently caters to celebrities, athletes, etc. blah blah, who cares, right? The point is: I needed to know wine and I didn’t.
Since the restaurant gig was the only thing I could rely on as a source of income, I decided I should probably take it seriously and get a handle on the whole ‘wine situation’. That is when I decided to enrol in classes at the Sommelier Factory in downtown Toronto, and this is where my story finally starts to get a little more relevant!
… to be continued.