Wine Buyer and Department Manager
Never did I intend to work in the wine industry. Growing up, my parents wine consumption focused mostly on carafes of Gallo and I only began drinking wine seriously during my graduate studies at the University of Virginia where I focused my attention on the subjects of Government and Foreign Affairs. My intention was to teach at the college level once I completed my degree. During those years hobbies took a back seat to my studies but I did manage to dabble around with my budding wine interest. La Vieille Ferme Rouge and Ravenswood Zinfandel were among those I regularly drank. I was so immersed in academia that I missed the opportunity of a lifetime – a little bar a few blocks away from my apartment featured a band that played every Friday night for about 2 ½ years, a band called The Dave Matthews Band. I never made it to a single show! When I moved to Minneapolis, demand for Foreign Affair expertise were pretty dry so to make ends meet, I took a job at a local wine store. I wore many hats - cashier, warehouse and inventory until steadily, I discovered that I could have a career combining my love of learning and teaching with my passion for wine. That decision led me here, to Surdyk’s where I am the Wine Buyer and Department Manager. While my focus is on wines from France and Italy, I had the opportunity to tour Washington state’s wine country in 2012 and fell in love with the wines from this fast growing region.
My job as a Surdyk’s Wine Consultant is actually the third scene in the story of my career path. I began my professional life as a college professor at South Dakota State University. I left academia to take over my father’s automotive business which took me all over the great state of Minnesota. I had always had more than a passing interest in wine – I’ve been drinking it since I was old enough to drink! During these years I found myself reading, studying and developing my wine knowledge as well as beginning to collect notable and age-able wines. But this was only a hobby at this point. When I left the automotive industry, I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t ready to retire yet I wasn’t interested in pursuing another corporate career. My oldest son noticed that the International Sommelier Guild was offering a class here in Minneapolis and suggested that I take it – if only to enhance my love of wine. I decided to give it a go. As luck would have it, I was seated next to a Surdyk’s Wine Consultant. During our course work, he mentioned that a position was becoming available on the wine staff and, as they say, the rest is history. As a teacher I loved helping people learn. That teaching environment didn’t exist where I was in the automotive world. I’m so thrilled that I’ve have a chance to return to that teaching role here at Surdyk’s and I couldn’t imagine a better subject matter. California Cabernets and Pinot Noir, and Italian Reds are areas of special interest for me but you can also engage me on Scotch and Bourbon…
I first began working for Surdyk’s back in 1989. I have long been a wine and food lover and this love has taken me on a career path that includes stops working at restaurants, a wine wholesaler in Oregon, and back to Minnesota where I have been on Surdyk’s Wine Staff for over 20 years. I love good wine – which does not necessarily imply expensive. In fact, I often teach classes on finding values because I love opening people’s eyes and tastes buds to the multitude of good, affordable wines out there. My palate demands interesting and different, and you must know, I am not a fan of wine scores or ratings – as I truly believe each person should come to a wine with an open mind, not a preconceived opinion that the wine is “good” because someone (who’s palate may be completely different from you) gave it 92 points. I am a fan of cooking and I love to play with flavors and textures in food and wine combinations. If it’s summer – you’ll find me on my patio next to the grill. In colder months, I’m in the kitchen. I find German wines (both sweet and dry) to be some of the most mind bending wines in the world.
Like many people…I came late to wine. I grew up in Connecticut and remember my mom always entertaining with wine and food pairing a priority. But, it was lost on me as beer and gin were my preferred beverages in my twenties. Wine started to become a passion after I got my hands on a copy of The Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine. I was a history major in college so reading about wine had me more than hooked both on the drink itself as well as the story behind each bottle. While living here in Minneapolis in the early 90’s, I began taking classes here at Surdyk’s! My love of wine grew into the love of pairing food and wine together. It’s funny that this was an area my mom loved and subconsciously it has rubbed off on me! My career has always been in sales and during my thirties jobs took me all over the country. While this was a very transient time in my life – wine was always a constant. Finally in 1997 my passion for wine and my career in sales collided. Since then I have worked in all aspects of this business; distribution, supply and now retail. In the past ten years, it has been exciting to see the way wine has taken the US by storm. While I love wine from all over, Spain and South America are my special areas of interest.
I grew up here in Minneapolis in a home that did not drink wine – or much of anything else that included alcohol. My wine exposure started out sweet (like so many) with coolers…as in Sun Country Wine Coolers. From there the trajectory slowly moved to sweet whites to Chardonnay, where it stayed for a while until I attended a Riedel wine glass tasting with some friends that included a tasting of four different wines in glassware made to enhance each varietal. It was extremely eye-opening! That night, I learned not only about the nuances of the wine making process but that the glass you serve you wine in matters, too. I was a new mom and had left a career in high-end computer networking sales to stay at home with my daughter and I was looking for something to do. Scrapbooking and Mommy & Me classes were not my thing. This time at home gave me the opportunity to dive into any and everything I could about wine. I read every book I could get my hands on and tasted as much as my budget would afford. When my youngest headed off to kindergarten, I wrongly assumed joining my husband in real estate would be the obvious career move. He was great at it – I could not have been less interested. After a year, he suggested I figure out what it was I loved to do. “Drink wine”, I said sarcastically. It just so happened to be looking at Surdyk’s website - they were hiring a Wine Consultant…I sent off my resume. A few weeks later I was starting what has become one of the most rewarding, educational and entertaining jobs in the world. I live for food and get an immense satisfaction helping people pair wine with whatever it is they are having for dinner. I love all wine, but also have a special spot in my heart for Bourbon. I also like to consider myself the resident Gin expert. You might hear my voice talking about wine on the radio.
I started at Surdyk’s in 2011 after college and have proceeded through the liquor store cursus honorum - cashier, stocker, supervisor, and on to wine consultant in 2015. As a self-avowed history nut, wine quickly became my adult drink of choice upon starting out at Surdyk’s. I love pursuing the deep backstories on wines and wine regions. It's no surprise that my tastes tend to bend toward old world wines with a special affinity for the wines of Bordeaux, Germany, and Austria (these happen to be areas where Surdyk’s has an exceptional selection). Also near to my heart are fortified wines, especially port, as its story is so intertwined with the politics of Europe over the past 400 years. Come and chat with me about wine and I’ll try not to go off on too many tangents!