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Exploring Life & Business with Emily the Somm

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily the Somm.

Hi Emily, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
It all started with my sense of smell. For as long as I can remember, it has been the superpower I’ve relied on to root me in both the past and present. The most important word surrounding wine is terroir – which means many things, but can be summed up as “a sense of place” – and is exactly what smell has the power to evoke. It can transport you to a specific place and time that you feel viscerally, beyond the vagueness of a memory. But, before I knew anything about terroir, I knew that my sense of smell was, to say the least, prominent. I would annoy everyone around me obsessing about what a certain smell was or where it was coming from. I can call out people’s perfumes and colognes as they go by. One of my happiest places is in a store that sells candles; a place I gleefully spend hours sniffing. Finally, five years ago, it occurred to me that maybe I should put my abilities to good use. I moved to LA to pursue acting in 2012, and like many others started a parallel career in hospitality. So, on what was essentially a whim, I signed myself up for the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1 Exam, gave myself three months to study, and passed. My first job in wine was at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, where I developed a serious passion for French and Italian wine. In 2018 I took a job at Terroni, and it has been my home ever since.

Up until March of 2020, I was working at both the West Hollywood and DTLA locations. Before DTLA closed this summer, I helped run monthly Women in Wine events with the other amazing lady Somms there. Each month had a different theme and brought together women who had a shared passion for wine, food, and learning. For the past year and a half, I’ve been expanding upon what I would call my “traditional” education in wine and focusing on the natural movement – which among other things is the glorious re-invention of table wine. When Covid hit, I had to come up with a way to bring my passion for wine from inside the restaurant to the world beyond. Over the past few months, I have been focusing on growing my own business that I run through my Instagram account, @emilythesomm. Essentially, I am a personal wine shopper; someone who takes your interests combines them with my knowledge and delivers you a box of goodness. It brings me actual joy to share the wines I find interesting with people – especially when they get as excited as I do! There is so much to know and appreciate when it comes to wine. Every bottle has a story, and so many are made with an astounding level of respect for nature, tradition, and art. What’s even more astounding is that all of that nature, tradition, and art is accessible from producer to consumer via your senses. In a world that is finds new ways on the daily to tear us away from presence, I find my sense of peace in a sense of place.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The beginning of my career was tough. I went into the wine industry with a lot of knowledge but not a lot of experience. There is quite a bit of pageantry involved with being a Somm, and those abilities only come with practice. For example, the first time I had to pour out a bottle of very expensive wine equally into eight glasses, I thought I was going to pass out. But like anything else, it’s trial and error. Another time I accidentally popped the cork off of a champagne bottle and narrowly missed both my own eye and a light fixture. Admittedly this is a prominent occupational hazard, but it’s also a big no-no for obvious reasons. It was very embarrassing, but I learned, and it hasn’t happened again. Because I walked away from these kinds of mishaps relatively unscathed, they’re easy to laugh about now. What is less funny though was what seemed to be a never-ending onslaught of misogyny in the early days of my career. Wine has traditionally been an exclusive, sometimes nightmarish boys club – as everyone has finally seen in the past few months thanks to The New York Times, Julia Moskin, and the women who risked everything to speak up. No one enjoys having to deal with something that makes their job harder, and selling wine is hard! Think of it like this – in a real-time conversation, you have to maintain pleasantries, access an information database in your brain, cross-reference these facts with sensory information, and assess the client without asking too many questions.

Many times, I had to do all of that while fielding inappropriate comments about my looks, my age, and my relationship status. Many other times, I had to paste a smile on my face and bite my tongue while someone (an older man, usually) asked if there was a male Sommelier they could speak to instead. It’s also worth noting that the product I sell lowers inhibitions – which at times has allowed people to act far more inappropriately than they may have otherwise. There were certainly some tough nights, but I clung to my passion and love for wine and the knowledge that even though sometimes I felt like an imposter, I was good at my job. Eventually, I learned to navigate tricky situations better, took things less personally, and found a way to cancel out the noise. Theoretically, it has also become less acceptable to behave this way as both a coworker and client – though it still happens from time to time. I also have to give a lot of thanks and credit to the incredible people in the industry, both men and women, who have had my back, mentored me, and inspired me – as well as the clients who have made this job in hospitality well worth the struggle. They continue to be the people cheering me on in my new venture.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
So far, I have been focusing on curating cases for people locally through the Terroni wine shop, Dopolavoro. For orders outside of Los Angeles, I use either online platforms or your local wine shop that does curbside pickup or home delivery. What sets my service apart from say, a wine-of-the-month club is that I focus on smaller-batch producers that I, personally, am a fan of. Often times those services are big corporations that send you wine they got at a good price. I am recommending and sending wines that I know are made ethically, responsibly, and with attention to detail. That is the kind of stuff that matters to me. If you care about what you eat, why wouldn’t you care about what you drink? I’ve noticed that sometimes people hesitate to order wine from Somms because they think we are going to drastically upcharge. Because of this, I have been very transparent about how the pricing works. Each order is customized to the individual. You want a whole case of rare bottles of Burgundy? Let’s do it. You want a mixed case of natural wines all under $25? Done. Whatever your budget is, we can find a way to make it happen. 

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
Follow my journey on Instagram,@emilythesomm, and let me pick you out some wine! Additionally, if you have a relevant product (wine, a snack, a device) that you’d like me to review on my page – I will happily do so! You can see a couple of examples on there already. Just send me a DM or an email to emilythesomm@gmail.com and we can set it up.

Contact Info:

  • Email: emilythesomm@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @emilythesomm

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