Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Greenbaum.
Hi Amanda, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I’m born and raised in Los Angeles. I became a certified mixologist in 2018 just before graduating from UCLA. I also founded the Sommelier’s Club at UCLA during my time there where I taught students about the wonders of wine. That’s also when I developed my wine and spirits blog SOMMthing Rad.
After UCLA, I moved up north to study at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California where I was fortunate to graduate top of my class and on the Dean’s list and received a certificate in Wine. I then passed the Court of Master Sommeliers examinations and currently hold the title, Certified Sommelier.
I became fascinated with alcohol at the ripe age of 14 when my family started making wine in my backyard. This backyard hobby turned into a full-blown winery, AJA Vineyards, where I am now head of operations.
I just passed my Certified Beer Server (first level from the Cicerone program).
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
If your road is smooth, you’re not doing it right. I have been very fortunate and blessed to have a loving and support family throughout my life who has helped me through the struggles. But without those kinds of struggles, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
When I was in middle school, I was constantly bullied. Girls used to take my clothing out of the P.E. lockers and hide them behind the sinks and toilets in the bathroom. They made fun of how I loved to sing and play the piano. I was definitely an outsider then.
Moving into High School was a little easier, I made some great friends who made me feel included, but I always felt like I was “the new girl.” I found my place in Track and Field amongst the hurdlers (ironic right?). And yeah, I wasn’t too bad jumping over those things, even when I got a massive injury that has left me with a big scar on my knee. But you have to keep going and jumping because even if the physical hurdles are no longer in my life, there’s always metaphorical ones.
After graduating college, I was in the middle of studying for my Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Examination when the massive Woolsey Fires hit our hometown. I was stressed from studying but now even more stressed that I may not have a home or my vineyards to come back to. Luckily we did survive the fire but the singed leaves and the stressed vines have stayed and reminded us every day that we are blessed and lucky. We still were able to make wine and are continuing to make wine from that vineyard as we continue to rebuild the 40% of vines that will die off in the next couple of years.
My biggest obstacle I’d like to share is one I don’t often discuss. My health. Since graduating from college, I’ve been dealing with severe wrist pain which has hindered my opportunities to do what I love: bartend, make wine, pour wine, and essentially do 90% of my job. I sleep in casts around my wrists and take daily pain medication like an arthritis patient. We’re not sure exactly what it is, but I’ve been working with several doctors to do what I can to find a cure.
But with all of the obstacles I face and will continue to face, I have yet to find one too big to tackle. When you have a support system, amazing family, friends and loved ones, you can do ANYTHING. So if you want that support from someone else, you must also give it to them too. That system of support is what can propel you to do anything. I truly believe that.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I own and operate my family’s winery AJA Vineyards which is a boutique winery in the Malibu Coast making award-winning red, white and rosé wines. I am the youngest Wine Proprietor in the Malibu Coast starting my tenure officially at age 22.
My family’s winery was a hobby turned into a business through passion. Founded by my parents, AJA was created to make beautiful wines from the Malibu Coast. At the young age of 14, I became passionate about wine and fascinated that you could even grow wine in Malibu. I began meticulously researching and joining my father on ventures to the winery, at harvest, and during aging and blending trials.
Being a boutique winery in an unknown region is difficult. Yes, people know Malibu, but what do they know about the wine-growing region? With a small budget, expensive overhead, and a boutique production size, it’s been difficult to promote our brand but we’ve found an extreme uptake and people actually aware of our name as we’ve grown in size and have did our best to promote what we think are fabulous wines.
I also run the Millennial Wine Beer & Spirits Competition with my business partner Olivera Markovic, which is a wine and spirits competition created to cater to the Millennial wine and spirits consumer.
Millennials are now the largest generation currently existing. And though we don’t hold the entirety of the purse strings, we like to drink, and we are changing the way brands are marketing. The Millennial generation sees the world differently. They care more about the core values of the company, to the point where it’s just as important as the product. For an industry such as the wine and spirits industry which has been set in their ways, in order to keep up with the times and to promote continued success, they have to start catering to the millennials.
Our competition was created to bridge the gap between the millennial producer and consumer. We want to provide insights into the millennial market about products and brands that help producers gear their products and marketing towards millennials.
One of the ways we do this is through our double blind tasting where we produce a judge of Millennial Tastemakers (as we call them) which is a panel of wine and spirits industry members who are millennials as well as influential millennials (i.e., celebrities, social media influencers, youtube stars, etc.) who taste wines and spirits completely blind sent into competition and provide ratings based upon their own palates. Those ratings are then presented to our clients as well as are available to the millennial consumer.
We’ve been finding great success with this company. In the first year, we were able to double our revenue and we’re hoping to once again double or triple our revenue this year. This competition is the first of its kind and we’re hoping to provide the best possible information for our clients to cater their product and marketing towards millennials. But we have a long way to go and a lot of lessons to learn as we climb the mountain of success.
Lastly, I published a cocktail book called Rad Cocktails last November which I made for the average consumer who wants to make the perfect cocktail at home. Anyone can make a great cocktail, you just need the right ingredients, materials and PATIENCE! My book gives you just that: 50 original recipes, ten classic cocktail recipes, a laundry list of what you need for your home bar and the materials you can use instead if you haven’t bought a Boston shaker and a jigger just yet. Getting that published and available worldwide was so exciting. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, and many other online web stores.
So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
Family. Nothing matters to me more than those whom I can call family. Blood relatives or not–those who treat me like family, I treat them like family and they become my utmost priority. Don’t get me wrong, success is extremely important to me. But what is success worth if there’s no one to share it with? I’d rather fail at success and have a family who loves me than be extremely successful without a family with whom I can share this success.
- AJA Wines: $19-60 per bottle
- Rad Cocktails $25.99 per book
- Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: ajavineyards.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/ajavineyards instagram.com/sommthing.rad instagram.com/millennialcompetition
- Facebook: facebook.com/ajavineyards
- Twitter: twitter.com/ajavineyards or twitter.com/millennialcompetition
- Other: millennialcompetition.com