By Rachel Lintott
ICC’s Associate Wine Director
Each with a flute of pink bubbles in hand, ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training students all sat down at the long, wooden table in CooperVino’s private dining room/education salon. “I’m going to ask you all to guess what this is. You’ll never guess what it is,” exclaimed owner Michele Snock as she graciously greeted the class. A 2009 Intensive Sommelier Training graduate herself, Snock is now the owner of the recently opened wine bar and retail space in the new downtown Cupertino.
You see, it’s nearly impossible for a group of wine geeks NOT to challenge one another when it comes to blind tasting. It’s just too much fun, plus you might find yourself (as we did) sipping on something quite delicious.
Snock, a member of ICC’s Professional Advisory Committee (a group of professionals that help guide the school on industry trends, program improvements, etc.) invited the class to come in for a lesson on opening a business. Specifically, the path she took from corporate Silicon Valley, to becoming a Certified Sommelier, to opening and running a small wine business and what she’s learned along the way.
A few (not all) tips from Michele on opening a successful wine bar:
- Love customer service and be gracious.
- You don’t have to know everything. When hiring your staff, look for people with qualities and knowledge that you don’t have. Let them help you and learn from them.
- You need extensive wine knowledge (ahem, I know where you can get that!).
- Differentiate yourself.
After her presentation and ample discussion on the business of wine, a flight of Italian whites was presented. The students are at the beginning of the program — France — so it was a great glimpse at what’s to come. A floral 2014 Ippolito 1845 Ciro Bianco (100% Greco Bianco from Calabria), a refreshing 2014 Poggio del Gorleri Vermentino (from Liguria), and an exotic orange wine: 2009 Primosic Ribolla di Oslavia (100% Ribolla Gialla from Collio).
And, the sparkling rose? Well the predominant minerality led the students to the Old World, but once France was crossed off the list there were some far-fetched guesses. Finally, she revealed to us that the wine was from Sicily — Nerello-Mascalese made in the metodo classico: 2011 Murgo Brut Rosé.
Snock’s dedication and perseverance are apparent at CooperVino. Carefully selected wines, ambience, customer service and education intertwine to create an enjoyable and fun experience. Thank you Michele, for taking the time to support our students by sharing your knowledge, experience, hospitality and wine!