Wendy Shoemaker is an independent wine consultant who was working at the Disneyland Resort in California and pursuing degrees in chemistry and biochemistry when, on a trip to Italy, she discovered her passion for wine. She earned her Advanced Sommelier certification at the same time as her Masters in mechanical engineering, with an emphasis on solar energy.
Pivoting her full attention to wine, she joined the Marriott Marquis in San Diego as their wine director. In San Francisco, she worked for the St. Francis Yacht Club and AQ restaurant, prior to becoming Wine Director of Californios, helping them achieve 2 Michelin Stars in 2017—the first Mexican dining establishment in the world to attain that status. She was residing in New York City as the National Brand Ambassador for Ruinart Champagne prior to the pandemic. She has had the opportunity to work harvests twice in Sonoma, CA, along with a harvest in Yakima Valley, WA at Cote Bonneville family winery which has increased her depth of knowledge in winemaking, leveraging her scientific background. She now hosts online tastings, consults for events, teaches wine classes, and specializes in curating wine cellars. She is currently studying for the Master Sommelier diploma and is passionate about creating a culture of wine appreciation, education, and mentorship.
Besides her love of wine, Wendy is an avid traveler (when conditions allow), scuba diver, pet lover, and spends as much time outdoors as possible.
1. How did you get into the wine business?
I was bitten by the wine bug on my first trip to Italy in 2004. I was asked by a friend in New York to bring back a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino of either the 1995 or 1997 vintage. I found it at a local wine shop after walking far from the tourist area in Florence. When we opened it together when I returned, my first thought was “this is intense!” I wasn’t sold, but then I tasted it with food and… I was hooked. Given that Disneyland Resort (where I was working at the time) offered courses with the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) I jumped head on into studying. Faced with a choice between engineering and wine—both loves of mine—I chose to pursue my passion for the latter and took a leap, moving to San Diego for my first wine director job—and haven’t looked back since.
2. What are the most frustrating and rewarding parts of your job?
Teaching and mentoring others is my favorite part of being in the wine community. I’ve always prioritized education wherever I’ve worked, with the aim of making wine more approachable and accessible. I love inspiring others, whether it’s encouraging them to be more adventurous and try that Etna Rosso wine, or to pursue certifications in the industry. Some of my proudest moments have been watching others succeed. The industry community we enjoy: the relationships with wine professionals in all areas of the trade and the life-long friendships I’ve built over the years have brought immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction.
One of the most frustrating facets of the service side of the wine industry is when individuals forget that we work in hospitality and at the end of the day it is a business, not a platform to show off knowledge or push one’s own agenda. Our job is to give customers what they want and offer advice while contributing to their overall hospitality experience
3. What is your most memorable wine experience?
Visiting wine regions throughout the globe has provided some of the highlights of my career—from wine region trips to Washington, California, Italy, Germany, South Africa, France, and South America. But my most memorable was the trip to Champagne after winning the Ruinart Challenge in 2017. I was able to taste iconic Grandes Marques and grower Champagnes, visit historic vineyard sites, eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and meet the Chefs du Cave of many great producers. Most importantly, I was able to meet and connect with the winning sommeliers from all over the world. Experiencing their different cultures and approaches to wine was an eye-opening experience which resulted in lasting friendships. It was of course an enormous privilege and honor to later represent Champagne Ruinart as their US Brand Ambassador.
4. What is an upcoming trend you see in wine?
Trends in wine—as in all things—tend to ebb and flow. Yet, I feel the move towards greater sustainability and environmentally conscious wine production is something we will continue to see much more of in the future. Consumers today are much more conscious of where things come from, how they are produced, and how they impact the planet. We are starting to see more eco-friendly packaging, and more attention is being paid to what goes into the wine we drink, whether it’s unwelcome winery additions or the amount of (unrecycled) water that goes into much winemaking,
In the last year, we’ve seen sales inevitably shift from restaurants to retail, and I don’t believe this will be changing soon. Consumers have realized how easy it is to order wine online and via DTC channels. I see that trend continuing, along with virtual tastings to connect people all over the globe.
Independent Wine Consultant
5. What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
My first mentor Michael Jordan (the Sicilian MS, not the basketball player!) reminded me to “always remember that it’s just fermented grape juice at the end of the day,” i.e. don’t be pretentious and always try to stay humble. We need to focus on changing the widely-held view of wine professionals being stuck-up to one where we are both approachable and passionate. Another industry icon and friend wisely advised me to focus on career goals rather than certifications, as experience is essential to success.
6. What is one tip you have for someone just getting into wine?
Practical experience is worth its weight in gold. Travel to regions as much as you can; join tasting groups; attend seminars; network with as many professionals as you can. Keep studying the books but don’t pass up opportunities to get out and see the wine regions, meet the people, and learn their individual stories. Wine can be a wonderful vehicle for the exchange of ideas and the building of lasting friendships. Stay open-minded and enjoy the journey, as there is always more to learn.
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