Ashley Muir, 6.7.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I joke that I have been in the hospitality business for over twenty years—my grandma owns a Mexican restaurant in El Paso. At seven years old, I used to greet and seat guests looking for their enchilada fix.
I was hired for my first (official) gig about seven years ago. I worked part-time as a host at Momofuku Ssam Bar during my time at NYU. Everyone on staff was incredibly talented; the experience made a mark on me. Though I tried a few different career paths post-graduation, I kept finding my way back to the floor. I finally decided to take the leap when I moved to Austin, and have worked in beverage ever since. I have been a part of the McGuire Moorman Hospitality team for the past year and a half, and currently am the Beverage Manager at Clark’s Oyster Bar.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
My love for wine started early. At Ssam Bar, our team would gather daily before service to taste new wines on the list. Jordan Salcito, who was the Beverage Director at the time, was (and still is!) an incredible inspiration for me. Two years ago I finally decided to turn my passion into a career.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I was studying for my Certified Exam I was overwhelmed by the number of people who offered up their time and resources to help me succeed. I was so humbled and grateful, and have since promised to do the same for my peers. It is inspiring to watch everyone around me succeed, too!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
I have always been drawn to work for strong, entrepreneurial women, and it is because of them that I am fortunate to say I haven’t personally experienced much prejudice in the workplace. I also have had incredible mentorship from many of the men within my company. Prejudice comes more often from the guest end of things. Many people ask me if I am a host, or ask to speak to the manager, not thinking it could be me.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
Even though women are often on the receiving end of prejudice, we're not precluded from making our own inaccurate judgments. Asking before jumping to conclusions and not turning a blind eye to bad or questionable behavior is a process that we all need to be a part of!
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
There is room for all of us to be successful—in lifting each other up I expect we’ll reap the rewards collectively. We’ll see more diversity and creativity on wine lists, but also more transparency and positivity in the workplace overall.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more female entrepreneurs, winemakers, and sommeliers taking risks and forging their own way. It’s a personal mission of mine to make wine more accessible for everyone, and I hope to see other women doing the same.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Be yourself, always. Study hard. Don’t be shy. Ask lots of questions. Never, ever take no for an answer.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equality looks like equal pay for men and women and equal consideration for leadership roles. It means fairness and supporting the best candidate for the position, regardless of gender.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I am trying to do my part by building a diverse and inclusive staff at the restaurant. I also love supporting female winemakers, and try to add women-made wines to my lists whenever possible!
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
A wonder woman of wine is someone who is endlessly curious and passionate about culture in general. Wine is about so much more than grape juice—it’s science, history, language, politics, agriculture. There are endless ways you can study and be involved in wine, so intellectual curiosity is a must! I also think that a wonder woman of wine must exhibit dedication, professionalism, and excellent taste.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Jordan Salcito has been an inspiration to me since the early days of my career. She founded her company Ramona while on maternity leave… badass! Her ability to balance family life and work with such grace is something I aspire to.
June Rodil is another force in the industry that I greatly admire. She taught me to be a fierce woman in business while being fair and true to who I am. Working with her was one of the most meaningful experiences of my career.