Sandra Spalding, 5.10.19

Photo by Julia Keim

Photo by Julia Keim

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

I’ve been in the hospitality industry since I was 16! I have been with Twin Liquors for 19 years and was in the restaurant business before that. I started in my Aunt Angie’s restaurant and ultimately became a GM for Memphis Restaurant Group while I was finishing up my Art History Degree at Cal State Long Beach. I had such great experiences in the hospitality world I decided to keep at it once I graduated!

At Twin, I started as a retail clerk when the company had only 12 stores. I moved on to store manager, and after six years I became the company’s first regional manager overseeing 50+ stores. I am now Director of Marketing and Community over 93 stores! I also run Twin Liquors Wine Academy for WSET certifications and touch 500+ non-profit events annually. It’s an adventure every day and I love it!

 Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

In 1996 at Memphis Café our entire team was just starting to learn about wine. To accelerate the learning, ownership decided to close the restaurant for the weekend and take the staff to Santa Barbara, Ynez and Paso wine country. It was amazing! Seeing the process first hand and the lifestyle of wine and food was it for me. That and being able to experience it with my co-workers made us even more like family. It was a testament to the bonding opportunities that the hospitality industry provides and would provide years to come.

 What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love wine but I love people more. Being in retail, I have the honor of getting to touch the consumer AND the supplier. Interacting with people to help their tastes, projects and passions grow is incredibly fulfilling.

 Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?

From inside the industry I am extremely grateful that I had tremendous support from the men and women in my life. In terms of consumer interactions, in my early years, because I was so young and female I was not taken seriously.

Now that I have a more established reputation I don’t get it as often, but when I do it still catches me by surprise.

I will share with you something that happened just two weeks ago. I had someone (not at Twin) take credit to my face for my work. They did not know it was my work they were flaunting as their own. And, the thing is, rather than say something, I stayed quiet and let them brag on, because I didn’t want THEM being embarrassed if I corrected them. I was so mad at myself for not speaking up.

How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?

First of all, knowing you can change is huge. Try understanding the other person’s motivations and have empathy. Then try reacting to things in a new way and take what works and build on it. At the same time, you should know your standards and what you will and won’t accept. (See previous question where I failed at this!) You’ll know instinctually what feels right and if the path is not clear, ask for help. (Can I get some help?)

 When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?

Women have to work harder to prove themselves. The industry, no doubt, benefits from that grit.

What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?

I was so thrilled to see all the young and new faces at the Wonder Women of Wine conference. The new palate demands something different and will help evolve the industry.

I also love hearing people’s stories. This platform in particular is so important because in our crazy lives we don’t always have time for meaningful connections. This platform has allowed me to learn about so many women in our industry. I love when we get to share our stories and tell our tales.

 What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?

Ask questions. Be confident. Volunteer. Find a mentor. Find your balance. This industry can get the best of your health if you don’t respect it. Know your triggers, limits and study and think about them all the time, because those change too!

 What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Equal opportunities and recognizing that everyone’s part in this industry is important. Whether man or women we all must uphold a high standard because this industry will always have a tremendous impact worldwide.

 What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?

I micro manage projects but not people. So, I try to be an example and lay out a path, while allowing people to find their own way and grow.

 What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?

Confidence! Knowledgeable! Empathy! Role Model!

 What other women of wine do you admire and why?

Jessica Tantillo and Margaret Jabour are huge inspirations to me. Jessica is one of my best friends and I feel so honored to get to work with her every day. She cares so much about helping people and has an unrivaled work ethic! Margaret is my mentor and I have learned so much about empathy and leadership from her. She is the matriarch of the Twin Liquors family!

I will close by honoring my mom… She sold juice, almost wine! She was a woman in a male dominated industry and she OWNED IT. She started as a secretary in the 70s and recently retired as a Vice President. She was (is) gorgeous, but never used her looks or sexuality to get ahead. It was her work ethic and the way she inspired the people around her that got her promoted. People just wanted her around! Then when it was her turn to lead it was always people that were important to her. She could spot talent and groom like no one else. She is the reason why I have the confidence I have and lead in a very similar way.