Hi, everyone! My name is Sarah Grace and I've been working here at the Cellar since last December. I love working for Mark and Wendy and getting to know all of the great customers! As I will be writing some blogs here, I wanted to take this chance to give you a bit of background and tell you about my experiences working abroad in the wine industry.
I came to Fort Collins directly from Santiago, Chile where I was working in a vineyard as a Sommelier and tour guide.
When I graduated from college, I moved to Osorno, Chile, which is part of the Lakes Region in Southern Chile. I volunteered in a low-income municipal high school as part of a United Nations Development Program. I thought I wanted to be a teacher and this was the first step on my career path. Although I loved the kids and it was a great experience, I quickly learned that I was not made to be a teacher. After a year at the school, I decided I needed to find a new career.
I felt a bit lost trying to find a job in Chile. I have always loved cycling, so I applied for jobs in bike shops, but couldn't find anything. Luckily, I found a job as a bicycle tour guide in Santiago through the company La Bicicleta Verde. The opening they had was at the vineyard Cousiño Macul in Santiago, Chile. The vineyard is located in the middle of the capital city, Santiago.
From the vineyard site, the Andes mountains tower overhead and the metro passes along the border of the property. The historic bodegas (cellars) were built in the 1850's and are still used today. Viña Cousiño Macul is now in the seventh generation of the family.
Living in the chaos and noise of the city, I often longed for the pine forests and open spaces of Colorado. It was hard to adjust, but the vineyard helped. Every day after an hour and a half on the metro, squished together like sardines in a can, I walked down the tree lined entrance boulevard to the property and finally relaxed. I would take my first deep breath of the morning and admire the sight of vines in front of sky scrapers, framed by snow-capped peaks.
On the tours we rode bikes down dirt lanes between gnarled vines, tasted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from 85 year-old plants, and toured the historic brick and stone cellars, walking between 32,500 liter tanks. I loved every minute of it.
began to learn not only how complicated wine is, but I also learned more about myself. I was drawn to the challenge of the wine industry. I decided I was interested in making a career out of wine. After a few months working alongside the Head Sommelier, Giovanni, I was offered a job in the wine shop as a sommelier, on the condition that I completed the Level Two Certification of Wine Sprit Education Trust (WSET) Certifications. I didn't hesitate for a minute.
The WSET course was eye-opening. I had no idea how many wine regions there are and how important the climate is in defining wine style. In three days, we tried 52 different wines, learning how to write tasting notes and how to evaluate the style and quality of the wines. I finally began to feel confident using wine terminology in Spanish thanks to taking the course in Spanish and having an English textbook.
We received over 500 visitors a day at the vineyard and there were only 4 people on staff, including myself. It was a fast paced chaotic job and between tasting the wines in the morning for flaws, and leading 4 different tastings during the day, I usually tasted and spit 35 plus glasses a day. The vast majority of the visitors were Brazilians, so I quickly had to learn to understand Portuguese and speak Portuñol (a Spanish/ Portuguese mix). I never really got the hang of Portuguese though. With staff from Brazil, Chile, the US, and South Africa, we spoke a strange mix Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
I had found a new passion, but eventually I missed my family and wanted to go home. After three years in Chile, last November, I came back to the US. I wanted to continue working in the wine business and building my career. Thankfully, I stumbled across Mark and Wendy here at the Cellar!
If I haven't had the chance to chat with you yet, stop by the Cellar and we can talk Chilean wines!
Hope to see you soon!