Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaitlin Brooks.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kaitlin. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started studying wine because I enjoyed drinking it and because at the time I was working at a small restaurant to pay off my student loans, and people were always asking questions about the wines they were drinking. I wanted to be able to answer their questions and thought that learning more about wine would be a cool party trick.
I signed up for my first class at SDSU in the Business of Wine certificate program and immediately realized how much more complex wine was than I thought. It was a very humbling experience because I had many preconceptions about wine coming into the class–like the idea that red wines were the more sophisticated wine choice, and all of these ideas were pretty quickly corrected. I fell in love with the way history, food, culture, and people were brought together around wine.
From there, I joined a non-profit group here in San Diego called the Women’s Wine Alliance, and received a gushing of support for my wine ventures from female wine professionals in every aspect of the industry. I started signing up for classes and exams through both the Wine Spirits Education Trust (WSET) as well as the Court of Master Sommeliers and in 2016 passed both my Certified Sommelier Exam and my Advanced WSET exam.
While I still love drinking wine, most of my excitement surrounding wine comes from getting to share it with other people. I ran the wine program at Cueva Bar in University Heights for a few years and teamed up with Cow by Bear in 2016 to start hosting intimate wine events in addition to Bear’s brunches and dinners. These wine gatherings were inspired by mini wine lessons I would have in my tiny living room with some of my closest friends while studying for my exams.
They kept wanting more information and more opportunities to connect with each other and Bear, and I realized there was potential for re-creating this on a public scale. I currently work as the Sommelier for Cow by Bear, pairing each course for the Seattle and San Diego dinners, training the hosts on the wines, and also hosting the wine nights. I love my job and love facilitating those “ah-ha” moments where the food and the wine make more sense together, and people understand a little more about what they are eating and drinking.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some of the biggest challenges that people face when trying to break into the wine world include financial barriers. It costs hundreds of dollars to take exams, plus the expense of classes, travel, and supplies for tastings. In many ways, I was fortunate to get a lot of financial support through scholarships and grants for specific events.
Many of these were through the Women’s Wine Alliance since they set up scholarships as part of their mission to support women going into the area of wine. Any struggles along the way were significantly outweighed by the support and help I received. I couldn’t have done any of this without the fantastic mentors and wine folks of San Diego.
Wine, Mostly – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Wine, Mostly is in the early phases of conceptualization, which is a fun and creative phase but also seems like a very time-consuming one. One of the biggest issues when starting something like this is that it deals with alcohol and there are a lot of little barriers, liabilities, and permitting hoops to jump through when alcohol is involved.
The more immediate vision for Wine, Mostly is to be a small online shop/blog that carries boutique, but non-pretentious (this is important to me) wines and provides in-depth information on each wine. I would also like to continue to host local, pop-up wine events throughout the city.
The long-term vision is for a small brick and mortar storefront with a highly cultivated selection of wines, a space for tasting and learning about the wines, and for bringing people together. Stay tuned for all of the fun things in the (hopefully) near future.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The moment I am most proud of in my wine career so far is probably the moment I found out I passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier exam. This exam was a stressful, and highly competitive exam that I took in Las Vegas in 2016.
I was one of the few women to be there for the exam in the first place and one of the even fewer women who passed. Getting to celebrate that and know that my hundreds of flashcards, hours of tastings, classes, and reading had paid off, was a truly exhilarating feeling.
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Andrew Arceri, Josue Castro