There’s just something magical about a good glass of wine. Maybe it’s the inherent lesson in how vines strengthen over time, renewing themselves each year and producing a juice that grows precious because of stress, not without it.
There’s also an air surrounding the wine industry in general. What’s it like to make such an environment your real-life 9-5? Is it intimidating? A dream job? Are you sipping varietals between conference calls?
We wondered, so we asked. Behind the scenes at one of our favorite wine companies, Winc, is Brooke Matthias. She’s the company’s Wine Director but took an unexpected path to get there. What started as a side interest has since blossomed into her 9-5, and we wanted to know more about the job, her advice for making a career shift and, of course, the wine.
Darling Magazine: You started off in finance — why and how did you make the switch over wine?
Brooke Matthias: I started out studying economics as an undergraduate, which led to my first job in finance. There were various aspects of finance that I loved, but there was a definite lack of passion and excitement for me. I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys the process of learning, so I decided to explore another interest of mine — wine.
I learned that the world of wine has so much more to offer than most realize. Wine became a way for me to experience the world through the study of climate, geography, geology, topography, food, culture and history.
I completed a certificate in Wine Education and Management and went on to business school, where I pursued as many wine-related opportunities as possible. I became the wine club’s president during my 2nd year, and participated in a wine tasting competition called the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup, where top business and laws schools from all over the world are invited to compete. We placed 1st in the qualifying round and were invited to Bordeaux to compete in the finale at Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
Wine became a way for me to experience the world through the study of climate, geography, geology, topography, food, culture and history.
While still in business school I began interning for Winc, focusing on social media for the company, which turned into a full-time role in wine production. Since then, my role has diversified and expanded. Winc has allowed me to leverage my background in numbers while pursuing my passion for wine.
DM: What would be your advice to someone in a similar scenario who’s considering a drastic career shift?
BM: Education was key to my own professional transition, so I would definitely encourage them to never stop learning or gathering information. Networking was also important to my own career shift; I leveraged my network from business school to initiate conversations with professionals I admired, which ultimately led to an internship with Winc.
Lastly, I’d recommend remaining open-minded when looking to switch industries. My goal was to end up in wine production and winemaking, but I got my initial start in handling social media for Winc. It was a welcome challenge that enabled me to continue to learn about different facets of the company and gain invaluable experience within wine.
DM: There’s a bit (maybe a lot?) of a stereotype that the wine industry can be very exclusive, competitive and hard to break into. Have you found that to be true?
BM: The wine industry can certainly seem exclusive at times, but there are amazing people and companies like Winc out there who value fresh talent and unique perspectives. Winemaking and wine production definitely require experience and training, but wine is a multifaceted industry and there are various roles available ranging from business to communications to branding; your skills can be transferable across industries.
I was personally drawn to Winc because of its mission to do away with the notion that wine needs to be pretentious and to make wines more accessible to a broader audience.
DM: Are the opportunities to work in wine diversifying, do you think, beyond sommelier and winemaker? How so?
BM: There is so much more to wine than sommeliers and winemakers. Those roles definitely receive a great deal of attention and glory, but behind any great winemaker there is a strong production team, a sales and marketing team, finance personnel, suppliers, growers — just to name a few.
Like any other industry, there are many positions within wine that require different levels of experience and training. The opportunities to work in wine are definitely becoming more diverse as companies like Winc are committed to rethinking the way that the industry works and are challenging the status quo. I am lucky enough to have a position that requires a combination of business acumen and technical skill with agriculture and winemaking.
DM: As Winc’s Wine Director, what does your role entail and what’s your day-to-day like?
BM: My day-to-day is rarely the same. As Wine Director, I am creating and executing the wine production plan, which includes everything from spending time in the vineyards to overseeing bottling to making label design decisions. This also involves the nitty gritty tasks like managing inventory and handling the financials. I spend a lot of time up in the vineyards and at the our winemaking facilities, tasting and blending alongside Director of Winemaking, Ryan Zotovich.
Winc has a robust international wine program, which provides me the opportunity to travel around the world looking for winemakers and wines outside of the United States that we can add to our portfolio.
DM: What is the most challenging thing about your job and, conversely, the most enjoyable?
The most challenging part of being Wine Director is the diversity that the role entails, but that is also the most exciting part! One week, I might be in the south of France walking around the vineyards and blending new cuvees, while the next I am focused on demand planning and budgeting. Or you may find me in a meeting with our creative team, brainstorming blog content. Working at a company as dynamic as Winc, I get to touch all kinds of projects and brands. You can definitely never get bored!
In addition to the diversity, I love continuing to expand my knowledge of winemaking. It is essential to what we do here are Winc and I love getting to work closely with all of Winc’s different departments in order to create high-quality and interesting wines that people can enjoy with their loved ones.
DM: If someone doesn’t know anything about wine but wants to learn, what are a few simple pointers for ordering or buying a good wine?
BM: The easiest thing to do is to ask! Sommeliers, waiters and retailers are all amazing resources when you want some help picking out great bottles of wine. As a consumer, it’s great if you can learn how to talk about what you like in a wine. If you know that you like lighter-bodied reds with high acid and you’re able to communicate that at a wine shop or a restaurant, then you can rely on the experts to help you pick the perfect bottle.
Working at Winc has instilled in me a strong belief that wine should not be intimidating. Our goal at Winc is to help consumers explore different styles, regions and varietals of wine. Everyone’s experience with wine is unique and personal, so you should never be afraid to ask questions and to start talking about wine!
Working at Winc has instilled in me a strong belief that wine should not be intimidating.
DM: What’s your go-to bottle right now?
BM: Right now, I am really loving a new Cabernet Sauvignon that we just launched from Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County called Diviner. We make a lot of our wine up in the Santa Barbara County, and as a region, it has a great deal of winemaking potential because of its unique microclimates and soil. I think this wine really showcases what sets Santa Barbara apart from other wine growing regions in California.
As the weather warms back up, I am definitely going to be enjoying a lot of our Central Coast Rosé, Summer Water. It’s dry and super crisp, so it’s perfect for just about any occasion during long Los Angeles summers — or any season, really!
Interested in trying out Winc’s monthly wine club? Head over here to find your new favorite bottles and to receive a special discount on us!
This post is brought to you by Darling partner, Winc. All thoughts, opinions and reviews remain Darling’s own.
Images provided by Winc