Apr 30, 2019
May 05, 2019
May 20, 2019
For Tara Herrick, the moment she knew she wanted to have a career in the wine industry came when she was age 17 and living abroad with a French family for one year. She had a chance to learn about French food and wine pairings, and to fully appreciate the broad range of wine offerings across France. That experience later propelled her to land a series of jobs in the San Francisco wine scene – including stints at a wine bar, a Napa winery and a wine shop in downtown San Francisco. Currently, Tara Herrick is a certified sommelier and Wine Director at Dirty Water.
One important aspect of finding your passion in wine, says Herrick, is to really understand the people behind the wine, as well as the unique social and cultural factors that go into making that wine. Whether it is recommending a bottle of wine at a restaurant, or guiding a customer through the process of choosing the perfect bottle of wine at a retail wine shop, it’s important to have an in-depth knowledge of how people made the wine, as well as the unique aspects of the wine region from where it came. In part, this approach to wine has been informed by her experience studying Cultural Anthropology at San Francisco State University, where she started to connect the dots between people, wine and food.
In her education as a sommelier, one important experience has been her ability to take wine trips to different parts of the world, including Washington State, Germany, Spain, and South America. Actually being in those wine regions is a “completely different experience” from just studying those regions, says Herrick. You have a chance to meet the actual producers of the wine, as well as to meet with local sommeliers, who can point you in the right direction to learn more about local wines. For Herrick, being able to connect with these local sommeliers and winemakers has been an incredibly valuable experience. To this day, she still maintains contact with wine industry veterans in Washington State (where she went on a “Wines of Washington” trip) and Germany. And, when she recommends wines to guests, it is often these very personal experiences that help her in guiding people to the right wine choice.
While Tara Herrick is an enthusiastic supporter of French wines, one of her most valuable experiences actually came in earning her certification as an Italian wine specialist. Whereas learning about French wine came very naturally to Herrick, thanks to her early experience living abroad in the South of France, Italy was “a whole new world to discover.” There were new grape varieties to learn, new regions to discover, and new food and wine pairings to explore. At one point, she was studying Italian wines for eight hours a day, literally waking up in the morning and learning about Italy to start her day. Today, her favorite Italian wines come from Southern Italy, primarily because they are so “super-rustic.”
Working and living in San Francisco for nine years has been very inspirational, says Herrick. “If you want to learn about winemaking, you can drive one hour north to Napa.” And, indeed, one of Herrick’s early career experiences was working with a Napa Valley winemaker, where she helped to manage the tasting room and the wine club. “There’s a strong sense of community in San Francisco,” says Herrick, making it very easy for anyone who wants to learn more about wine to discover their true calling within the wine industry. There are always wine tastings and study groups, and if you studying for a sommelier certification, you can find a very supportive peer group. For Herrick, some of her best early career experiences came when she participated in blind tastings at Press Club in downtown San Francisco.
Whatever stage you are at in your wine journey, there is a lot that you can learn from Tara Herrick. Get out and meet the actual winemakers from your favorite wine regions, learn about the culture and history behind your favorite wines, and don’t be afraid to go in new, completely unexpected directions as you build up your wine knowledge and expertise. To find your passion in wine, surround yourself with others who are just as interested in wine as you are.