In an interview, Ester Hill, a former accountant in the Tech Industry, gave us some insight on her professional journey. After graduating from the ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Program in 2014, she became an entrepreneur in the Food & Beverage Industry, opening her own wine shop.
ICC: How did you end up as an entrepreneur in the Wine Industry?
Ester: Completing the sommelier program at the ICC, led me to positions in San Francisco as a wine sales associate, sommelier, and wine director. In Portland, I found a dynamic community with a growing interest in wines and a high demand for dedicated wine shops. Last year, I opened a retail wine shop in Portland, Oregon that offers more than 400 labels and stocks 3000 bottles.
ICC: As a wine shop owner, what does your job entail–both in a broad sense and day-to-day?
Ester: My job entails selecting the wines for the store to carry (through industry tasting events, winery visits, and meetings with distributors), rating and writing about those wines (every wine on the shelves is labeled with a description and score that I assign), hosting weekly tasting events (I prepare background material on each of the wines to be poured) and…of course…selling wine!
ICC: Did your ICC education help you become the successful entrepreneur you are today?
Ester: The sommelier training that I received from ICC provided me with the knowledge and experience essential to selecting and selling great wines. I use the skills that I acquired at ICC every minute of every day. I completed many wine courses, but none were as intense and comprehensive as the ICC Sommelier Program.
ICC: What were your greatest challenges at school? And how were you able to overcome them?
Ester: English is my not my native tongue so many of the vocabulary words I learned in the courses were new, not just the French ones! I studied very very hard, made a lot of flash cards, and tasted as much wine as I possibly could.
ICC: Do you have a fondest memory of your time here at the ICC?
Ester: I have many excellent memories of learning from the Master Sommeliers, getting to know students from all over the U.S., the challenge and satisfaction of the exams, and the great celebratory meals after each exam.
ICC: What is the best industry related advice you’ve ever received?
Ester: One of the Master Sommelier instructors recommended that after graduation we should be humble and start out in the lowest position at the best restaurant that we can find. At the time, I was shocked by the thought of washing dishes after training so hard as a sommelier. I see now how important it is to be prepared for long and difficult work in an industry that values experience so highly.
ICC: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in wine?
Ester: The food and wine industry is highly competitive. If you are going to enter it, you will need every advantage that you can get to help ensure your success. In particular, you will need ability, education, experience and perseverance. Do yourself a favor, and get the best education that you possibly can.
Check out her website: www.orangelinewines.com