Lauren Holbrook, 2.8.19
Lauren Holbrook is a gem in the Austin wine community. She has spent 12 years serving the industry in both restaurants and distribution, and continues to stand out for her humble and hard-working approach.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been working with wine for about 12 years now. It all began in restaurants. I absolutely loved the rhythm of service that was attending tables, and once I stepped into fine dining, the attention to detail of the service, of the food, and of the wine and beverage program sucked me in.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
There was no ‘aha’ moment that propelled me into wine, but rather a handful of them that kept me in the grind; that reinforced my intentions for staying in the industry rather than seeking another career in my field of study from the university. The first, which I remember so vividly, was a little dance with Chateau Rayas Pignan. Now I am just amazed ever so often at the large breadth of amazing wine at our fingertips.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people. Winery owners, winemakers, suppliers, fellow distributors, restaurant and retail buyers, farmers, families, writers, collectors, consumers, the team of which I am a part of - I am always surrounded by interesting and inquisitive beings that love the art of food and wine (among other amazing beverages), and the big world from which it all hails. What a fun bunch of people we are!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Thus far in my career, I have been surrounded and supported by a great bunch of people - both men and women. I do realize, however, that as a society and under our existing social structure, there has been more readily available opportunity for men to advance both their position within the hierarchy and their pay accordingly.
Statistically, we know that it has been more difficult for women to access such opportunity with ease. Throw motherhood into the equation, and it’s a real tough balance that society has not put enough thought into - this notion crosses all industries. But, overall, I feel very fortunate being a part of the Austin wine community.
Our city’s wine community is tight-knit, friendly and dedicated. We can only strive to create more balance and prove our worth and move forward for future generations.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I think it is important that we don’t underestimate ourselves, and that we stay true to what we feel is right for any given situation. For instance, in distribution, the hard sale is still relevant and praised. I know I am much more capable as a consultative saleswoman, taking a softer approach that focuses on long term business and relationship building. It’s a very important skill to utilize, but it is often taken for granted.
Short term goals and numbers on the whole only show a portion of the true picture. It’s a battle and I think women tend to feel it more. But, at the end of the day, the ability to balance business with the art of selling fine wine is the ultimate necessity.
The ability to be a good listener will carry one far. And, we must embrace teamwork with all of our peers. This industry, from what I’ve experienced thus far in both restaurants, retail and distribution requires a solid team effort. Combining the strengths of all genders on a general level, and with the strengths of each individual on a team works a magic that can be ever so rewarding from both a business perspective and an intellectual perspective.
What communal benefits do you think we’ll see by bringing more women into leadership positions?
I am a fortunate mom of two great bambinos, and I must say I have met so many admirable and astonishing fellow mamas that are the glue of their family, and the solid foundation of support in our schools and communities. It is precisely that keen ability to collaborate and organize tirelessly, for which women’s inclusion in leadership positions will benefit any industry.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I think the wine industry - in America and in certain sectors - could become a little more progressive. More time off and more flexibility that would ultimately lead to more efficient, well-rounded employees. This really goes for people of all genders.
Our industry involves work that is ‘never-ending’. It’s a grind! (But, I by no means want to complain as there are some VIPs in our world that suffer through very tough industries - our teachers, nurses and immigrant workers, for example.)
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Have fun! Wine is a lifetime of learning, and learning comes from many avenues - and, put in the time to develop not only an understanding of the art at hand, but of its journey from its birthplace to the consumer. There are so many players that are worthy of attention. The business is very complex, but utterly important for the industry’s sustainability and proper promotion.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equal opportunity for all.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I strive to maintain the highest level of work ethic possible, and I take all of my relationships to heart. I do my best to be responsive, considerate, honest and caring.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Hardworking, detail-oriented, caring of both the industry and the community at large.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Austin is full of SO many amazing women of wine. I will not throw out any individual names, because I want to name them all! I will say, the first wine book I dove into was “The Wine Bible” by Karen MacNeil. Her way of translating the world of wine and food, and wine culture will always hold a special place in my heart. I’d love to write like her someday.