Every month, we feature a member of our SippingTHIS community (aka Sipper) who is doing incredible things in wine and for the world.
Rebecca is a superstar sipper who is also a Somm! I met her at our Wine Riot event in LA a few years ago, and we instantly connected over wine, Wisconsin, and being badass women with a sense of humor.
Rebecca makes wine more relatable and fun with her fast food and wine pairings. She also is a kick-ass wine bar owner who has innovated to keep the wine flowing amid these unprecedented pandemic times. We're so excited to feature her this February!
Read on to learn more about Rebecca.
Laura (SippingTHIS Founder): What made you want to become a Somm and Wine Director?
Rebecca: It was a bit of an accident. I got my first job in the service industry when I was 14 as a cake cutter at a 24-hour diner close to my high school in Greenfield, WI. I eventually moved up to hostess and then server. I continued serving to get myself through college in Milwaukee. When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting, the hospitality industry offered me a flexible schedule. Although I always sold wine, I didn't really fall in love with it until I started my first management position at a restaurant here in LA called Little Dom's. I was in charge of wine inventory and ordering, and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole. My passion grew quickly, and I knew I wanted to make it my career.
Laura: What do you love most about working in the wine industry?
Rebecca: The people! I always say that my favorite thing about what I do is connecting with people; wine is just the facilitator. From my guests at the wine bar to my sales reps, winemakers and staff, I love spending time with people and hearing their stories. I've made my best friends through working in restaurants.
Laura: What is the biggest challenge you’ve face being a female Somm, and what advice do you have for other women who want to enter the wine world?
Rebecca: I've worked in restaurants for 20 years, and with that history comes the usual stories of harassment and discrimination. But I am incredibly optimistic about the future. Like many industries, the wine and hospitality industry has been forced to come to terms with its lack of equality and diversity in the last year. I don't expect the culture to change overnight, but I certainly think we are headed in the right direction. My advice would be to find other women and stick together. We are always stronger together. When women build networks that push each other forward, we see more women sitting at the table. Don't be afraid to reach out and find your tribe. And if you can't find one, make one!
Laura: You do so many amazing things to help others learn about wine. What impact do you want to make in the wine world?
Rebecca: I want it to be more fun! I think a lot of Americans still think wine is fancy and complicated. Wine shouldn’t be a luxury item reserved for the 1%. It should be an everyday indulgence that goes with everyday kind of food. Not that I advocate eating fast food every day, but the reason I love pairing wine with fast food because it's fun and it’s something most people can relate to. Plus, the pairings translate to the kind of foods you make at home. You shouldn’t have to eat foie gras or truffles to discover an exciting and affordable Pinot Noir or a delicious Blaufränkisch! Wine goes with everything!
Laura: I love the fast food and wine pairings you do on Instagram @letstacoboutwine and YouTube. What are your all-time favorite fast food and wine pairings, and why?
Rebecca: Oh gosh, so hard to choose! Buffalo wings and off-dry Riesling is a gift from the gods. Teriyaki beef with northern Rhone Syrah or crunchy Taco Bell tacos and cabernet franc are definitely some go-to's. Also, don't be afraid of dessert wines. Pour a Madeira with some cinnamon bread twists from Dominos, and your mind will explode!
Laura: You opened a cheese and wine bar in Studio City, CA, right before the pandemic hit. How has COVID-19 affected your restaurant, and how can people help support you?
Oh gosh... where do I begin, lol. This year has been a roller coaster. Laying off the entire staff, dealing with multiple closures, trying to budget when sales were wildly inconsistent, it's definitely been stressful, to say the least. But I think the biggest lesson I learned this year is that when a door closes, a window opens. Every time it seemed as though we hit an insurmountable challenge, we carved a path in a new direction. We're still here by the grace of our wine club
members and incredible regulars. If you're in LA and you'd like to support, come in for a glass of wine or a bottle to go. Buvette
in Sherman Oaks is now open, and Vintage Wine + Eats
is on track to re-open in March. If you are not local, I urge you to spend your money at small restaurants and wine stores near you, even if it costs a little extra. Applebees will be fine, but it's the small businesses that have really suffered the most during this storm.
Laura: You offer FREE Virtual Wine School classes every Saturday. Tell us more!
Yes! One of the many ways we've managed to pivot is by offering our guests an online tasting experience
on Saturdays. If you want to taste along, you can purchase the bottles at the bar, but the class is always free. I've taught everything from blind tasting to Spain, Greece, Portugal, and sometimes I get the winemakers to join. It has been such a fun way to learn, drink, and stay connected.
Laura: We met in Wine Riot LA and instantly connected over our Wisconsin roots and shared sense of humor. How do you think your WI upbringing has impacted how you approach wine?
Rebecca: Well, for one, it gave me a very high tolerance for drinking! I'm really proud of where I come from. I'm down to earth, and I'm Midwest nice. That's how I approach everything I do, and I wouldn't want to do it any other way.
Laura: What is your favorite SippingTHIS saying?
Rebecca: Well, this is a Sophie's choice. I'll pick a few because I can't pick just one:
"Decant touch this"
"Before you lose your shit remember there's no wine in prison"
And of course, "Malbec that ass up!"
Laura: Anything else you want to share that I forgot to ask?
Rebecca: Only that I am such a big fan of yours. You are kind, funny, and creative, and I am so grateful that wine brought us together.
Laura (feeling grateful): Thank you, and back at you!