Laurie’s personal mission is to learn more about wine—from discovering its rich past around the world to how it is made in the winery and finally to how it is served and best paired with food. But Laurie’s passion is not only experiencing wine, it is experiencing people experiencing wine. She brings to the profession a blend of skillful hospitality and a charismatic personality that defines her approach.
Laurie is a WSET Level 4 Diploma holder and an Advanced Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. She holds the French and Spanish Wine Scholar Certifications through the Wine Scholar Guild and is currently working on her Certified Specialist of Wine Certification with the Society of Wine Educators.
Following her work at Shutters on the Beach Hotel, Laurie worked at the Malibu Beach Inn as Wine Director. Currently, she is the Wine Director at the exclusive and historic California Club and is responsible for one of the most impressive wine collections in Downtown Los Angeles. In her current role, Laurie supports 538 Wine and Spirits shop, Downtown LA’s premiere source for world-class wine and spirits located on the ground floor of The California Club.
1. How did you get into the wine business?
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a Liberal Arts degree in Classics, I moved to Los Angeles to explore options for a career. I worked my way through college in restaurants and hospitality settings, so naturally, when I arrived in L.A., I started working as a server at Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Santa Monica while researching career options. One day at work, we had to attend a mandatory wine lecture hosted by Peter Neptune, a Master Sommelier. I was intrigued with how involved and interesting wine was with the discussion of the grapes, history, geography, soils, climates, why it tastes as it does, and all it entails. This was a life-changing moment for me. Following the lecture, Peter Neptune gave me a roadmap on how to pursue this endeavor, and here I am still on the wine journey!
2. What are the most frustrating and rewarding parts of your job?
The most rewarding part of my current position is the interaction with our very talented members at the California Club. I try to always exceed their expectations in all forms of hospitality. The members are very curious and knowledgeable about wine, which keeps me very stimulated and challenged to keep current with the continual pursuit of education, and to seek out for them stellar wines at various price points in the current market.
The most frustrating aspect, currently during the pandemic, is all the shutdowns negatively affecting many in the wine industry financially, professionally, and emotionally. I look forward to reconnecting with all my very talented colleagues in the industry and, once again, enlightening me with their wisdom.
3. What is your most memorable wine experience?
I won an educational trip to Bordeaux through ‘Somm Like It Bordeaux’ by literally having my name pulled out of a hat! During the trip, we visited many wine estates, attended exceptional classes and cooking lessons, went to a barrel cooperage, toured oyster farms at Arcachon Bay near the Atlantic coast—every moment was packed full of excitement. Our Château visits included very prestigious wine estates to small family wineries, and everything in between. My most memorable experience was visiting Château Bourgneuf in Pomerol. We were greeted with warm hospitality by proprietor Dominique Vayron and her daughter Frédérique, the winemaker, who shared their passion and love of Pomerol with our group. It was an eye-opening experience to walk through their vineyards and hear the history of their winery and region, taste the wines, and touch their very famous crasse-de-fer soils. It was very special to a wine geek who loves soils!
4. What is an upcoming trend you see in wine?
I see the consumption of Champagne and sparkling wine will rise over the next year as people are able to reunite and celebrate in person after being isolated from each other in 2020.
5. What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
I heard the words of a very intelligent colleague and friend Dana Farner, an Advanced Sommelier in Los Angeles, say to work with integrity, honesty, and compassion. These words from her resonate with me and I find them very inspirational and repeat them as a mantra for the wine business and life, itself.
The California Club
6. What is one tip you have for someone just getting into wine?
Keep your dream alive and have fun with this journey. Study your theory with passion; taste for quality with gusto and build a great foundation for yourself. I think this is very important as the wine world and business is dynamic, and we must stay curious, open-minded, and adaptable.
One more! Taste without discrimination for all your guests in your current and future establishments. If you do not personally care for a particular style of wine, taste for its quality and assess without personal bias, as much as possible, as your best customer may love it!
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