Most people think hospitality jobs are lowly. It’s one of those jobs that young people do while going to school to pay for their main career. So what if you choose ‘the industry’ as your main career? (Finally someone who doesn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer!) Here are some tips from an industry pro who worked his way up from the bottom.
There are some very gifted people in the wine business and you could be one of them.
We talked to DLynn Proctor about what it takes to be a wine sommelier. DLynn was featured in Somm, a documentary on becoming a Master Sommelier. Today, Mr. Proctor travels around the world educating and inspiring people about Penfold’s wines. He has a dream job, but it wasn’t easy to get where he is now.
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What was it about being a sommelier that inspired you to pursue that career path?
I started working in restaurants in high school, and for some reason I was able to see the value of communication and ingratiating of guests. I remember always wanting to be a part of their stories of travel and lifestyle, and I gravitated toward it.
There was one individual who evoked everything an ‘Old World’ wine professional embodied. His speech, his delivery, his candor, his attire, attention to detail, his presence, and all facets of being ‘the guy’. That’s what I wanted to embody.
How did you use self-discipline to improve yourself?
Self discipline and discipline is paramount for me. I spent all of my time in the early 2000’s traveling to wine regions with the money I made from tips while working.
Instead of hanging out after work and wasting time partying, I would get home and study. With all of the money I saved on ‘not partying or hanging out’, by the end of the month there was plenty for plane trips to Europe. Staying in hostels and with consorzios was the way to go. I ended up at top wineries learning and asking questions about soil, production and styles… and the ‘why’.
The amount of depth of knowledge a sommelier must learn seems daunting. How do you learn to retain so much info on wine?
I would create outlines and rewrite everything I’d read on a particular region. Starting with a particular region, like Italy, and then making my way from the north to the south and then in alphabetical order afterwards. Then Repeat! To this day I will still read something, transcribe it in a different color pen, and then map it out so that it will make sense to me. The next day, I’ll rewrite it again to see how much I retained.
What is the coolest part of a Sommelier’s job?
Being able to educate people about the things that are not easily understood. Our industry is plagued with ‘you can’t drink what I drink’ or ‘you don’t know what I know’ or ‘I’ve been to Bordeaux 20 times’. I want to be able to show people how fun, cool and laid back it actually is. Hopefully I can elevate all people in an un-elitist way.
Mr. Proctor was one of the lead real-life characters from the independent film, Somm, a documentary highlighting the challenges of becoming a Master Sommelier. In the movie you see him at his lowest point, with a towel over his head attempting to use a neti pot to help revive his sense of smell, which disappears right before taking the excruciating Master Sommelier exam.
Last we saw you there was a towel over your head and a Neti Pot, what happened?
A lot of folks who’ve seen the film don’t realize that my sinuses were pretty serious. About 6 months after the film ended in 2011, I ended up having very invasive sinus surgery. I’ve been getting allergy shots every Monday for the last 2 and a half years and I also travel every week too!
I think now my nose is better because I’ve gone through two major surgeries. Everything is clear, I think I’m a new me. I can actually dive into a glass of wine and really understand what it is.
Any tips for people looking to pursue a career in the wine business?
Find your happy place of family, people, work, travel, and self happiness. My path was unconventional, but worked for me. Make sure you have balance.
Figure out what aspect of restaurant or what method of sales (retail, supply, wine production or distribution) you want to be in and identify how to master every portion of it.
I’m still finding my way!!
What can you do to get into the wine business?
- Join the email list below We release useful and fun articles every week that will help you explore wine.
- Check out Wine 101 Get the basics on wine, but also find out what books you should buy and what classes you can take
- Never drink the same wine If you want to be in the business, start expanding your palate to different regions and varieties.