The Path of “Wine-o” at Heart

CWiB is extremely lucky to have a dedicated and passionate alumnae network; we always love to hear about the amazing things they are pursuing and accomplishing. This week, Allie Rahill ’13 writes to us from New York City! Continue reading to learn more about  her current role at HP Selections and how she came to be a “Wine-o”!

Hi girls! For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Allison Rahill and I graduated with the class of 2013, only a few short months ago. My time at Colgate was marked by the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, working for the Creative Writing Initiative at Hamilton Central School and acting as the blog director for CWiB. These days I work for a wine import and distribution company called HP Selections as a Sales Assistant. Looking back to the days of the job hunt and earlier, there are two specific experiences that helped me to land this amazing job. In addition, the advice and knowledge I received from the alumnae during my senior year provided the necessary skills that actually got me a job! I swear… it’s true! (Hint: CWiB LinkedIn Session)

During my junior spring I studied abroad in Buenos Aires where I spent time studying Malbec wine, which is the most popular red grape varietal in Argentina. With the help of a creative writing professor on my program, I created my own independent study, which compared the representations of wine throughout Argentine history with current ones via literary contexts. I read 19th century Argentine poetry that mused about wine, interviewed vineyard owners in Mendoza, spoke with restaurant owners in Buenos Aires and read wine reviews. My study culminated in a written essay that detailed how wine, and specifically the Malbec grape, was a major part of Argentine immigration, the growth of its current economy and how it unites people in social settings. This experience solidified my desire to work in the Food and Wine Industry after graduation. I absolutely love to cook and was interested in food and wine pairing as well as the marketing and business techniques that companies use to get us to consume their product.

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One of first tasting events ever! Taken at Trapiche Winery in Mendoza, Argentina.

The second factor was a combination of luck and perseverance. Colgate invited my current boss (also a Colgate alumnus) to come speak about his experiences as an entrepreneur in the wine industry at the Senior Champagne Brunch. When I received the invitation, I reached out to him on Linked In and asked to speak with him personally. From our first conversation, I discovered that we shared a mutual passion for meeting people, tasting wine and travel. For the past 15 years he has developed relationships and a reputation in New York, Chicago, Florida, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscany that led him to be the President of HP Selections today.

We met a few weeks prior to graduation where he advised me to stay in touch over the summer, which I did. In August, he offered to start me in the sales department and spend time shadowing him in order to learn the business of wine. Little did I know that I would also end up assisting the Director of Operations with marketing materials and developing new clients for our database.

For the past few months, my major responsibilities have included researching the wines we carry in order to produce marketing materials for our consumers, and assisting with the development of our website, which feature our wines for purchase. Our company is a small start-up and therefore I help out with whatever needs to be done from running the occasional errand to closing sales deals with wine buyers.

I know for all of those currently on the “job hunt” that it can be a daunting and thankless process. However, I cannot stress enough how important networking was during my senior year. Even though the e-mail I sent to my current boss was one I never thought I’d hear back from, I still reached out. He loves to tell the story about receiving that e-mail to people in our company and being reminded of the tenacity and ambition that so many Colgate students are known for.

In summary, the transition to the “real world” and to working full-time was not the nightmare I expected, and I elieve this is true because I’m passionate about this industry. I’ve started to take wine classes one night a week that explores winemaking techniques, grape varietals, soil structures and the science behind tasting and comparing wines. I’ve learned to appreciate the aromas and flavors much more with every sip. I’m gaining the confidence to speak up in client meetings regarding the wines we offer. Finally as a new New Yorker, my job introduces me to wine bars and restaurants all over the city that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. It’s not just about logging the “9-5” hours and getting a paycheck that make up this job, but it’s also about the moments and experiences that are created by working in and learning about an industry which was mostly foreign to me three months ago.

I still have A LOT to learn and am constantly reminded of my youth and inexperience on a regular basis. Although graduating college is a wonderful achievement, I’ve found myself back at the bottom of the totem pole, which has been difficult and refreshing at the same time. Here is what I do know and what my job search came down to: I LOVE wine, and I LOVE food; I wanted to work with those things. At 22, I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice two absolute passions for just another mediocre opportunity. Down the line, I’m not totally sure if I want to be a wine salesperson, a sommelier or if I want to own a vineyard in Argentina. But first I have to be the grunt, the errand queen, I need to make mistakes (which happen frequently) and baby-step it all the way until I find out.

-Allie Rahill ’13

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