There’s no perfect time to get involved in wine. Entering the industry after a career in another field (or two, or three) can mean approaching things with fresh eyes and an out-of-the-box perspective. We checked in with a variety of pros who did just that to see how their previous experiences informed, helped them navigate or otherwise benefitted their current roles.
Here’s what they had to say.
Founder and CEO, Wander + Ivy, Denver
“I spent almost a decade within JPMorgan’s Asset Management division. My early career was based in New York City, managing wealth for hedge fund principals and Wall Street executives. There, I learned how to navigate an extremely fast-paced world. My later years at JPM were based in Denver, where I covered the food and beverage industries, among others. I was constantly inspired by and learning from their impressive entrepreneurial journeys. I gained insights into what it truly took to build and scale a new and innovative company.”
Owner CLE Urban Winery, Cleveland, OH
“Having those good leadership and project management skills and attention to detail and all of the things that the military gives you [over a 20-year career in the Navy] was very helpful in building a successful business… I’ve lived in Hawaii, I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve lived on the East Coast of the United States. A lot of travel and being able to sample different cuisines and different wines was also inspiring.”
Partner/winemaker Alma Fria, Sonoma area, CA
“I was a film producer in LA for many years before getting into the wine biz… Both sit at the nexus of art and commerce, and rely on the success of each to thrive. While the concentric circles overlap a bit, winemaking is primarily the artistic side, akin to writing and directing, while wine sales/marketing is the commerce side, representing producing and programming. Both businesses tell stories… The main difference is the underlying material. The wine business works with mother nature, while the film business deals with people.”
Owner/winemaker/sales Kutch Wines, Sonoma, CA
“Making the decision to trade Wall Street for tanks, barrels and vineyards ranks near the top for choices made in my life. Sixteen years later as I reflect back, while I left behind riches in terms of salary and bonuses, I am far richer in life experiences than most of my friends still grinding it out in New York… My experience from New York City, sitting under halogen lights and in corporate meetings, provided the framework for me to work relentlessly, seven days a week and not to accept failure. I have no interest in ever going back to Wall Street.”
Owner Metro Wines, Asheville, NC
“The practice of law teaches you, forces you, how to strategize to win, to think in a goal-oriented way, and trial work instills public speaking skills and a certain fearlessness to try new ideas and put yourself out there in a bold way… I tell people everyday that no amount of education or experience taught me more than campaign work.”
Proprietor Amanti Vino, Montclair & Morristown, NJ
“Management consulting, at its core, is about problem solving and re-engineering as needed. Throughout the last 16 years, Amanti Vino has had to make strategic modifications multiple times. Most notable were in response to the financial crisis in 2008 and during the Covid-19 pandemic. We grew through both of these challenging times by nimbly changing our focus and/or approach… My investment banking background has also been invaluable as I am super focused on understanding the financial implications of my decisions.”