How I Fell in Love with Wine – A Great Role Model and Exceptional Customer Service at Gloria Ferrer Winery

(Contributed by Brenna Machek) – I fell in love with wine through two memorable experiences. The first time was with my parents, and the second time was when I landed my first big job in the wine industry.

My Dad – The Role Model

I remember every summer coming to Northern California for a vacation with my family. In exchange for some fun boating time with my brother, my parents would make us stop by a couple wineries so they could have their “fun adult time”. I would watch how my dad carefully eyed the wine in the glass, stuck his nose deep in the rim of it and closed his eyes to fully inhale the esters that came from the wine he was about to taste. He would then sip a little, swish it around and make the pitter patter sound with his mouth to embrace the tannins all surrounding his taste buds. I would pretend to copy my dad with a glass of sparkling apple cider and he would just laugh and say, “Soon enough little one”.

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Brenna Waiting Outside a Tasting Room Door

My First Job in the Wine Industry

Well, “Soon enough” came earlier in the year when I FINALLY turned 21! A couple months after that big celebration I attained an internship over the summer as a Wine Marketing Manager with Brown-Forman. During the internship, I was required to do two wine independent study days where I went on a private tour and tasting of two top competitors for our company.

Visiting Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma Valley

The winery I chose was Gloria Ferrer. I was with a group of people for the main tour of the winery but then brought into a private room for my own tasting and pairing with the manager of the Tasting room. Gloria Ferrer is located in Sonoma County, California and is gorgeous to visit during the spring and summer time, which is when I visited. It has a beautiful view of the vineyards and of the Sonoma region. The tasting room is occupied by a bar area where customers can stand and taste, or indoor and outdoor seating, where waiters attend to you and can bring food or desserts to pair with your sparkling wines.

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Gloria Ferrer Winery.  Photo Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

The Best Customer Service Ever – and Some Amazing Wines!

When I attended Gloria Ferrer, it was the best customer service I have experienced. The tasting room manager personally went over the sparkling wines and food pairing with me in a private room and patiently answered all my interview questions. I was given a complimentary tasting and even sent home with my favorite bottle for an extremely discounted price.

Gloria Ferrer is known for their sparkling wines, but they also carry still wines in their line of products. I was able to taste their Demi-Sec, Royal Cuvee and Blanc De Noirs alongside some food pairings such as a spicy salami, lemon sprinkled crackers, and sweet almonds with a cheese plate. I was lucky enough to taste a variety of their still wines such as the Estate Pinot Blanc, the Pinot Noir Rose, and the Jose S. Ferrer Selection Chardonnay. For being so popular in the sparkling wine category, they acquire some beautifully crafted still wines. My favorite overall was the Estate Pinot Blanc.

Gloria Ferrer Sparkling

Sparkling Wine at Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma County, CA

Why a First Tasting Room Experience Can Be So Memorable

I have visited a wide range of wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions of California, and have to select Gloria Ferrer as my favorite and most memorable experience, because it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve encountered before. The hospitality of the employees, the breath taking views, the wines, and the history made it the complete package. Gloria Ferrer made my experience one that was unforgettable and made that summer a top ten favorite moments in my year. I highly recommend it to friends and family and visitors in the area and can’t wait to go back soon.

 

How I Fell in Love with Wine: Autumn Leaves and Finding Grape Buyers

Contributed by Victoria Herrera – In 1950 my great grandfather bought 75 acres of farmland outside of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma, California in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. It was then passed down to my grandfather, who was an immigrant from Italy. Naturally he planted several acres of Zinfandel grapes that he would sell to make a little bit of cash, and also make wine for the family.

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Vineyard Leaves in Autumn

Growing up, I always enjoyed visiting my grandfather at his Healdsburg property. I enjoyed watching him take care of his chickens, vegetable garden, walnut trees, and grapes. He took great pride in everything he grew. One of the best parts for me was to climb to the top of the hill in the autumn time and look down across the vineyards. There was a full 180-degree view of the Dry Creek Valley, and the vine leaves were always beautiful shades of yellow, gold, brown, red, and green.

Recently my grandfather passed away, so my mother and her two sisters had to take over the work of the gardens and vineyards. However, we no longer had any one to sell the grapes to because the connections my grandfather had remained with him. We were left with beautiful grapes, but no idea what to do with them or to whom to sell them.

This is how I fell in love with the wine business. My mother and I reached out to people, and eventually we found someone to buy and harvest our grapes. Experiencing the whole process created a spark within me, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the wine industry. That is why I am studying wine business at Sonoma State University.

Though I am not old enough to drink wine yet, I will be in another year. Then I look forward to falling in love with wine in another way – through exploring taste and texture, pairing with food, and sharing with friends and family.

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Old Vine Zinfandel in Autumn

 

How I Fell In Love with Wine in San Francisco

Contributed by Cecilia Bandalan – It was a cold winter day in San Francisco, and I had just turned twenty-one years old. I was also dating a French guy from Marseille here on a temporary visa working at a biotech company. Prior to dating him, I had very little experience with wine. After meeting him, we would drink wine at the end of our workday, but nothing he bought really lit a fire in me. He tried explaining the flavor notes; even paired some with cheese and charcuterie, but it still never excited me. Not until the day of my birthday.

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Tournedos Rossini. Photo Credit: CC by 2.0

He insisted that we eat at a French restaurant to get this one particular dish called Tournedos Rossini, which is a filet mignon pan- seared in butter, topped with a seared piece of foie gras, drizzled in a black truffle demi glace. Our waiter also suggested I get a Cote du Rhone to pair with this dish. Now, at the time I had no idea what foie gras was. When my French boyfriend told me that it was duck liver, I immediately pushed the dish away. He said, “Cecilia, trust me, foie gras is one of the greatest luxury foods in the world, have an open mind and just try one bite.” So I sliced a beautiful medium-rare piece of filet as well as a small slice of the duck liver, moved my fork full around the black truffle demi glace and took a bite. It was absolutely amazing. I chewed for a little bit, swallowed, then took a sip of the Cote du Rhone wine, and I kid you not, I lost track of time and very briefly forgot that I was on a date.

Not only was the dish amazing, but I remember starring at my wine glass wondering to myself, “Why is this red wine so damn delicious?!” I swirled it around to see if someone poured something in my drink because I could not believe how incredible this dining experience was. After swirling the wine around a little bit, I stuck my nose into the glass and took a big whiff, and from there it just all made sense. I understood the magic of pairing good food and even better wine. Ever since I was hooked on food and wine.

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Cote du Rhone Wine. Photo Credit: Agne27

I never stop looking for incredible wine and food pairings. I am also constantly trying to give myself “wow” moments where time stops. It truly is an exciting subject to study in college and it is a wonderful career to have. As a current tasting room associate, I feel overjoyed when I see that “wow’ factor on a customer’s face when they taste a first sip of the wine I am presenting to them. Overall, I am very passionate about wine and cannot see myself working in any other industry. Wine is magic!