Sometimes it’s just Renée, sometimes it’s the 'wine ninja' and other times its the 'crazy Italian.'
Bear. Bears are super cool.
The wine that lit the fire:
It definitely wasn’t the wine my grandparents used to make when I was growing up. That was terrible. One of the wines that cemented it for me was a 2010 Jacques Puffeney Vins Jaunes. I tried it on a trip and found it so compelling. The wines and flavours were so different and unique. It tasted like nothing I had experienced in wine before.
I am a proper Italian girl. I’m from Woodbridge, Ontario.
To work hard enough to enjoy an early retirement. Honestly, I love everything I do. I love working for myself and being able to shape my own future.
The thing that led you to wine as a career?
I started working in restaurants at 14. Eventually one manager told me about all the various wine tastings in the city. I discovered there is a whole industry that I was completely unaware of. Through that process I discovered one of my business partners. I worked from a couple years in Italy at a winery and when I came back to Toronto I began seeking agents to represent that winery. Despite the wines being great, no one would take them on. At the same time, I had about 4 other wineries approaching me to help out and it all made sense to start an agency myself.
Heirloom Vine Imports and I have a contract sommelier business helping restaurants craft wine lists and working with them on guest satisfaction and the overall wine service program.
Favourite Part of Your Job
Honestly, I really love all of it. I love my business partners and the people I work with. I love building something from scratch. Being able to create something and watch it to grow to something bigger than you imagined it to be is really amazing.
Current wine crush
I would geek out if I met Donatella Cinelli Colombini. She really is an inspiring figure to me…I would really freak out if I ever met her.
Dream dinner date
The same answer. That woman has really gotten to understand everything in life.
Favourite wine resource
Guildsomm.com....I go there for almost everything. All I ever need to know about wine is there. It is such as a huge resource. I also use wine-searcher a lot, as I want to figure out where things are selling and for how much. It really helps for the agency work I do.
Have you ever experienced gender bias or discrimination in your work?
I want to say no, but obviously yes. Gender bias can be how men interact with women. I’ve felt it in the way of having men underestimate me. Then again there is a lot of power in being underestimated. While it is unfortunate, it is also an interested place to be in, as I don’t think I would be where I am today if I wasn’t pushed to exceed the expectations of those that have underestimated me.
Is there something that you do to support women in our industry?
I work with a lot of female restaurateurs, general manager and somms. I am often trying to push women to get the positions they should have.
Is there anyone who has become a mentor for you, or otherwise been especially inspirational or supportive?
Emily Pearce-Bibona has been my biggest mentor in my sommelier life. I want to be like her as I grow. My partner has also been a mentor as has Alex from Dionysus Wines & Spirits.
After it’s all done I’d like to have time to travel and drink wine and be in front of my computer less. I want to focus on seeing the world around me which has taken a backseat while I build my businesses.