Paula Rester Salinas, 8.31.18
Paula Rester is a wine and hospitality vet and has been in the industry for 28 years. She is currently the Wine Director for La Corsha Hospitality , including such Austin staples as Second Bar & Kitchen and Mattie’s Austin.
How many years have you been in the business?
28 years! My first job was in a restaurant.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Yeah, so I don’t come from a family that drinks wine, but I always learned about wine as an aspect of my job. I didn't really have that moment where I felt that I had to know more about this until I had a glass of Nebbiolo for the first time. It was actually from Gattinara, and it was at Asti. It was delicious. It was transcendent. It took me on a journey. It was unlike any wine I've had before. That’s when I realized.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is the connection, not only with our staff members, but with our guests. I think wine is a way to bring people together, to share an experience.
Can you describe any prejudices or setbacks you experienced in this industry in regards to being a woman?
Yeah, I mean I think we’ve all had a moment where there was a perception about being a woman, especially a floor sommelier, and trying to not be overcome at the table. I’ve had experiences where you approach a table and get “We’d like to speak to the sommelier, can you go get him?” You face a lot of challenges in that moment because you have to respond to that guest despite what frustrations you’re experiencing. I usually make a joke and say, “Well, he’s a she, and she’s me,” still building that connection.
It was pretty equal at Maialino, in that it was a very unique situation. There were three very strong women sommeliers on the floor in the evening, and we were very visible. I think that it was very apparent that we were confident in our job. It would happen occasionally, but I would say at the same frequency as here. It would be a mistake that would be made unconsciously.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I would say to not fall into the trap. Take inspiration from other people, but don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself. Have confidence in your unique voice and what you bring to the table.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Any time you see an emergence of diversity of any kind you are bringing in new thought, new ways of looking at information, more points of connection and seeing more women on the floor would really follow to grow the wine industry as a whole.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I know what I hope to see. I hope to see more spaces women are creating for themselves to gather as professionals, share strength, camaraderie. The world of wine has had a reputation for being a boys club, so when we need to create our own spaces for our own conversations to be at ease with each other and share our stories.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
I would say that apart from whatever obstacles you might face in the profession, sometimes we can be our own biggest enemy. I would say work very hard, be determined and focused, say yes more often than you say no to opportunity.
What ways would you say you are contributing to the overall empowerment of current and future women in wine?
I try and make myself available. I think although I’m a private person, if anyone has a question for me, I always try and make myself available to answer them truthfully and point people towards resources they are looking for, and clearly supporting women winemakers.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Someone who has passion, but also joy that they're willing to share.
What women of wine do you admire and why?
There’s so many. I’ve been spending some time with Heidi Schrock. She’s a woman winemaker that I admire tremendously. It isn’t often that a winemaker will make wines that are reflective of their personality, but I feel like her wines are an expression of who she is as a person. They're unique, charming, and they’re complex. She’s always thrilled to come and work the market. She carries a joy for what she does inside of her, and I think when I see professionals tasting with her, I feel that they feel the energy and her spirit and her wine.