Where I ask my favorite wine geeks shitty questions!
Why are you a wine geek?
Studying wine makes me feel like I'm traveling to all of these different countries without leaving my house. I love looking at maps and imagining how the vineyard might curve around a hill or how scary it must be to harvest grapes on a steeply sloped vineyard. But I think most of all, I love sharing my knowledge with other people. I think that knowledge for knowledge's sake isn't really all that interesting to me. I'd rather be able to see how the technical information about the region, the viticulture, and the winemaking translates into an actual bottle of wine and to share that wine with others.
Extraterrestrials just landed on earth. What wine do you pour them?
Côte Rôtie! Northern Rhône Syrah is one of my favorite styles of wine. My dad's really into Rhône wines so when I was a kid and he would give me a taste of his wine, it would almost always be Rhône. Sharing a Rhône wine is like sharing a piece of my home, so that's how I would welcome extraterrestrials to my home planet.
What's your favorite scent you have ever smelled in a wine?
Berry Berry Kix. Super ripe Syrah to me smells like Berry Berry Kix. I think I relate a lot of wine smells to cereals or other strong sense memories from when I was a kid.
Any favorite music or podcasts you like to listen to while you drink wine?
Lately, I've been rewatching all of Buffy and Angel and listening to the Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast. I first watched Buffy when I was in junior high and so it's fun to rewatch as an adult, listen to the podcast, and have a glass of wine while I'm doing it.
If you could visit any wine region in the world right now what would it be any why?
Central Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand. I've never been anywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand and I've heard that Central Otago is beautiful. Plus I love Central Otago Pinot Noir!
What do you think is the most exciting thing going in the world of wine right now?
I think the most exciting thing is that people are starting to question the dominant narrative in the wine industry. Essentially, we've all been told this very Eurocentric, colonialist narrative that white people land in countries, plant grapes, and then we're all supposed to taste wine using the same European or US tasting notes. I think a lot of people are questioning who built the vineyards and wineries (was there slave labor? were people pushed off of their lands?), who profits, what are ethical business practices in the wine industry, and how can we transform our industry into a more ethical and equitable one. To me, it's exciting to see people from various backgrounds realizing that they don't need to fit into some narrow definition of what a wine professional has to be and realize that they can bring their backgrounds, cultures, and ideas to make the wine industry better.
What would you like to see in the future of wine?
I would like to see more investigation into oppressive histories in wine and action plans for how we can address the current diversity and equity issues. I want to see tasting groups and tasting notes that encourage people to express wine in their own words and using their own cultural backgrounds, rather than having to pretend that a very white, male, cisgender and straight model for tasting and wine service is a universal model.
What advice would you give yourself looking back to when you first started working in the wine industry?
You don't need to hide who you are in the wine world to get ahead and, in fact, you will feel happier and be able to connect with the kind of people you want to connect with when you are your full, authentic, self. Even though it doesn't feel like it when you're first starting out, there are so many LGBTQ+ people in the wine industry who are really wanting connection, just like you! Also, the racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic things that you've witnessed are not okay and you don't need to pretend that they are, even when you're being told by someone in a position of power to sweep it under the rug.
Who are some people that inspire you in the world of wine?
So many! Aya Nomoto, Diana Hawkins, Scott Tyree, Arthur Hon, Derrick C. Westbrook, Jill Zimorski, Elaine Chukan Brown, Maryam Ahmed, Jirka Jireh, Jessica Waugh, Fernando Beteta, Alpana Singh, Mary Beth Liccioni, Rania Zayyat, Tahiirah Habibi, Lia Jones, Jane Lopes, Carrie Rau, and so many more!
Anything in the works you'd like to mention or promote? Include any website, social media, or info you want to share
I own and founded my own wine school, Elliot Wine School! I offer wine classes that I've developed myself and community-building events like the LGBTQ+ Wine Brunch, which is a monthly virtual gathering for LGBTQ+ wine professionals and LGBTQ+ people interested in joining the wine industry. I also partner with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) to offer their certifications and the Sake Sommelier Association (SSA) to offer their classes and certifications--you can take both the WSET and the SSA classes virtually over Zoom from anywhere in the US. My aim with my school is to provide an inclusive, fun, and engaging place for all people, especially BIPOC, female, and LGBTQ+ students, to learn about wine. You can sign up for classes and events at www.elliotwineschool.com, and follow me at @elliotwineschool on Instagram for updates!