Sarah Jane Curran, 5.17.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
15 years. I started working in kitchens when I was 15 years old, went to culinary school, then grad school. I’ve worked in Michelin restaurants, hotels, and beer bars - mostly FOH. I teach Intro to Beverage at a small culinary school in DC, host a beer podcast on Full Service Radio, consult, and write freelance.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Unfortunately, I had an “aha!” moment that propelled me away from wine, and into beer. It involved a burgundy tasting, sexism, and snobbery. My first beer tasting was so welcoming, no one cared who you were, or what you knew, they were just excited you liked beer too.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love teaching - that really wonderful moment when you see a realization on a student’s face, that “aha!” moment, is priceless.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Sadly, countless. Earlier in my career, people liked the novelty of “a woman in beer”. I was treated like a dog, prancing on her hind legs, for the sake of entertainment, hoping for a treat. I’m glad to say, that novelty is wearing off.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
We are all in the hospitality field, but don’t be so accommodating. You don’t always have to keep your mouth shut - if something is wrong, if you feel uncomfortable, say so. We need to stop normalizing so much bad behavior.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Any community flourishes when you support more diversity. If your community is made up of just one demographic, your community is driven by one mind. The wine community needs creativity, it needs to be vibrant, and dynamic - you don’t get that with just white dudes. But you do get dope pocket squares.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
For both the wine and beer industry, I don’t just want to see more women - I want to see more people of color, both on the production and consumer side. Both of these fields need to be more welcoming.
Look at this from a business perspective. Wine and beer will both feel more pressure from other competing markets, for example: cannibis products and non-alcoholic products. If your product is alienating anyone, that’s an even smaller consumer base.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Don’t give up. You’re still going to face hard situations. Be tenacious. And when you’re in a leadership role, seek out someone to mentor.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
When you are no longer a “women in wine” but rather, “a person in wine”
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Not enough. Equality can’t be talked about once a year, it needs to be in our minds always.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Brave. Strong. Kind.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Well, in wine - my dear friend Simi Grewal. She and I worked together in New York. I watched her tenaciously break into a wine boys club. But more importantly, I’ve watched her build a dream. She recently opened a wine shop/bar/education center in San Fransico, CA - DecantSF, with her business partner, Cara Patricia. I watched her push for this for years, and she finally did it. I’ve admired her from day one.
In beer, countless women. But to name one: Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association. The way she approaches craft beer education, especially when it comes to food and beer pairings, is inspiring. I’ve looked up to her for years.