INSIDE THE WORLD OF WINE
Hilarie Larson: Wine Writer, Educator & Sommelier
Co-owner of Northwinds Wine Consulting in Southern California, Hilarie Larson is a wine educator, sommelier and wine writer and frequent guest on Big Blend Radio.
Hilarie’s passion for wine began in the 1970’s while in the European hospitality industry. In 2003 she began her wine career in earnest in her native British Columbia, Canada, working in the vineyards, cellars and tasting rooms of several wineries. A stint with a Canadian winebroker expanded her knowledge of world wines and marketing as did several years working as Resident Sommelier for a Washington State Winery, providing staff education and training.
In 2004, Hilarie received her certificate from the Court of Master Sommelier and has since acquired her Certified Specialist of Wine and French Wine Scholar post-nominals. She’s currently pursuing her Master Level studies on the wines of the South of France to compliment her certificate for the wine region of Provence. Her wine certifications and accolades include: CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine, FWS – French Wine Scholar, Certificate from the Court of Master Sommelier, CIVP Certified Provence Instructor, BIVB Ambassador of the Wines of Bourgogne, 2013 Emerging Writer Scholarship Award, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.
Hilarie shares her love of all things wine as a contributor to such online publications as Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine, Wine Folly, Wine Geographic, FWT Magazine, where she is also their wine consultant, and others. She also consults with wine country businesses to develop well trained, educated teams and speaks at trade and consumer events such as the Wine Tourism Conference in Paso Robles, the San Diego International Wine Show, and the International Wine Tourism Conferences in Champagne and Barcelona. Based in Southern California’s Wine Country, Hilarie’s company Northwinds Wine Consulting provides a range of wine education and training services with an emphasis on making wine appreciation relaxed, social and fun. Learn more at www.NorthwindsWineConsulting.com.
So what does it take to be a successful in the world of wine? Listen to our Big Blend Radio discussion with Hilarie Larson and read her answers to our 10 Wine Industry Insider Questions about her career, including the challenges she faces, as well as her inspirations.
- What led you to a career in the wine industry?
I answered an ad for a tasting room host position at a small winery in British Columbia and that was it – I was hooked!
- What attributes do you have that make you a good fit for the wine industry?
A background in hospitality helps, as does a love of travel, cuisine and insatiable curiosity. I’m also not afraid to get my hands dirty, trudge through muddy vineyards or get ‘geeky’.
- Who or what inspires you?
My husband. He’s always learning, exploring and up for a new adventure.
- Describe your ideal client.
When it comes to working with wineries; someone who’s open and not afraid to really analyze their business – the good and the bad. As for personal clients, I love working with people who are eager to learn and have fun!
- What is your pet peeve in regards to your industry?
People who take themselves too seriously and think they know it all. How boring would that be?
- What personal changes have you had to make in order to build your career?
Moving! Physically and, often, out of my comfort zone. I had to overcome my fears of bees/wasps and ladders.
- What do you consider your biggest challenge?
Time – because there’s simply not enough to accommodate everything I want to do: improve my less-than-adequate French, study for my next wine region certification, travel, taste and share the stories. And then there’s the book I’m supposed to be writing.
- If you could invite any three people (alive or passed on) for a dinner party who would they be?
Thomas Jefferson (great wine collector and his views on today’s world would be interesting), wine writer Hugh Johnson (because he’s a pioneer and super wine historian), and musician David Gilmour (he loves wine, the south of France and he’s fabulous).
- If you could switch careers for a day, what would you choose?
Well, this ties in nicely to the previous question: Backup singer for Pink Floyd.
- What is the most important tip you would pass on to another person just getting started in the wine industry?
View your career as a life-long learning experience-keep an open mind and an open heart. It’s all about the journey.