Do you like it? Then it’s good wine!
If you told me three years ago that I would look forward to going home and drinking a glass of wine, I would’ve thought you were crazy. If you told me a year ago that I would be living in Southern California working at a winery, I probably would’ve laughed at you. But here I am!
When I first arrived in Temecula, everyone kept telling me to check to see if any wineries were hiring. I had just recently relocated to Temecula from Youngstown, New York (near Niagara Falls/Buffalo) so I had never even been to a winery before I applied. I was a little intimidated considering that the only things I knew about wine were that I liked it, it came in white, red or pink and that you could purchase it in a bottle or box (classy, I know). I wasn’t sure if I should even try to work at a winery! I searched “wineries in Temecula” and that’s when I found the Ponte Winery website. In all honesty, I thought the website was cute and it seemed like everyone was really family oriented, so I went with my gut and applied – guess my gut knows its stuff!
Being raised in an Italian family, my grandparents had wine every night with dinner and were always pretty disappointed that I didn’t even like the smell of it growing up. My Nana’s father was from Sicily, Italy so she started drinking wine at the age of 3, so I’m sure that when I didn’t even like wine at the age of 21 they surely thought something was wrong with me. Wine was just in their blood. My Papa had started making wine in his basement when I was in about sixth grade and when it came time to bottle I was always “sick”, so I got to stay home from school and help him. Mainly, I thought corking the bottle of wine was extremely fun to do and I wanted to have a day off to spend with my grandparents. Once I was older they would ask me if I wanted a glass of wine any time I had dinner with them and, even though I kept trying it, I could barely tolerate it. Eventually, my palate changed and I discovered that I did in fact enjoy wine! I never will forget how excited my grandparents were when they saw me drinking a glass of wine with Sunday dinner. Now it seems rare that I go through a week without at least one glass of wine, and considering where I started at, that’s a big deal.
When I first started working here in the Wine Club, I felt a little overwhelmed. Okay, VERY overwhelmed. I had no idea what anyone was talking about, I had so much to learn in general and then learn about the wines on top of that. It seemed like I would never know what I was talking about. After almost two months here, I’m feeling much more confident when I answer the phone to help a guest, although I’m still a little rusty on knowing the wines. What I’ve noticed about Ponte, and what makes me feel better, is that they don’t care how much you know or how little you know about wine, that’s not what matters to them. What matters to the people who work here is if the customer is enjoying their experience and helping them find out what they like and don’t like. Yes, it is okay to not like a wine. Just because someone else says it’s good, it doesn’t matter! It’s up to you to decide what’s good!
Stuffy wine tasting? Not at Ponte!
When I came into the Tasting Room to wine taste on my day off, I felt like I was back at my Grandparents’ house. When I asked for a certain wine the wine servers didn’t overload me with “wine education” that would’ve gone over my head anyway, they just told me what it was and if it was a blend or not, etc. After I was finished with one wine, they asked if I enjoyed it or not. If I said it was okay or that I didn’t care for it, they helped me and guided me to one that they thought I would enjoy. Just like being at Nana and Papa’s house. After my tastings that day I had discovered that my personal favorites were Angry Wife Red and Doppietta.
I knew after that day that I had definitely chosen the right winery to work at. One that would help me understand wine without using big words or information that’s too hard for someone with no wine knowledge to understand. Everyone is so helpful here, not only to Wine Club Members and guests but to each other. It’s genuine when you speak with us on the phone or in person; we all truly want to help! Ponte Winery is definitely a place that I look forward to driving to every day. I mean, come on, it’s beautiful here! I’m just really glad to have been given this opportunity to work with such a great company, especially since it’s with wine, which has a connection to my family and my life growing up back in New York.
So if you ever ask me a question about the wine, I will do my best to give you an answer about it, but you might just hear me say “I liked it!” But hey, I’m still learning.
—What about you? Are you a sommelier in disguise or are you in Wine 101 with me?
–Stephanie Polka, Wine Club