This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An interview with Tamara Belgard of Sip With Me wine blog
Examiner: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Tamara Belgard: The specific moment that unlocked my passion for wine was actually well before I was of drinking age. And what it unlocked was more of passion for the relationship between food and wine.
When I was growing up, Sunday night dinners featured my family at our favorite Italian restaurant. My dad would order a glass of the house rosé, which was promptly delivered by the restaurant owner, along with a personal pat on the back and warm welcome. It’s likely that the wine was likely not up to my current standards, it was cheap house wine after all, but I found it both alluring and fascinating. I would watch it shimmer in the glass as he swirled and sniffed it, coating the glass with an almost iridescent sparkle. He would always offer me the first sip, and I felt very special.
My brothers never showed much interest in this experience, but something about how he made that glass of wine seem so noteworthy not only intrigued me, it excited something deep inside me. He would sip that one glass throughout the entire dinner, holding onto it like it was a valued treasure and taking micro sips to ensure it would last. The way he enjoyed it with his meal seemed so natural and somehow made his dinner so much more festive. I couldn’t wait for the time I could sit down to dinner and enjoy an entire glass with a meal myself. A thanks to my father for showing me the way.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
I studied Journalism and Psychology in school. These seemed to pave the way for becoming a marketing specialist. After school, I worked for a newspaper as a graphic designer. Combining that experience with my passion for wine fortunately led me down a new path.
I started my first career in the wine industry working for Ponzi Vineyards. The family often jokingly referred to it as the University of Ponzi, as so many people walked through their doors with little knowledge of wine and left to move their careers forward with a true education.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
I don’t think being in the wine industry has really changed me, not as a person anyway. But I have learned a ton about wine and my passion has only grown tenfold. I hope that part of my education never stops. There is always something more to learn about wine—from the different regions, varieties, enology, viticulture to the stories behind what’s in the bottle. I just don’t seem to ever be able to learn enough. After more than a decade in the biz, and thousands of tastings, I still feel like a novice.
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
My absolute favorite part of being in the industry has to be finding and connecting with other like-minded people. Getting the chance to talk to people from all walks of life, who all share the same passion for wine and food, has been the most rewarding part for me. It makes the world seem smaller every day.
Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
When I was in college, I was never a beer drinker. In fact, I didn’t really like alcohol much at all. But soon after college, I went out on my first real dinner date to a fine restaurant. The guy I was with handed me the wine list and instructed me to choose the bottle. I was never sure what I said to give him the impression that I knew anything about wine, but he thought I did (or maybe he just wanted to remove the pressure of picking the right wine himself).
Looking back, I think he appreciated my sense of adventure about food and wine pairing, it’s something I just couldn’t really hide. I ordered a bottle of tempranillo that paired exquisitely with our mediterranean dinner and remember thinking to myself, I could enjoy doing this…often.