The Wine Hustle Series | Hannah Williams Head Sommelier at Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns
I first heard about Hannah Williams through my connection with Victoria James through Instagram + The Wine Hustle Series after seeing what an amazing culinary + wine experience she was having at Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns. I loved how two Somms were so friendly, willing to share each others secrets and were passionate about supporting each other.
Enter in our next Wine Hustle Series feature - Hannah Williams, Head Sommelier at Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns. Her energy and passion to teach and spread the magic of wine is palpable just through reading her interview. She dives deep into terroir and has an almost ‘romancing’ relationship with wine through her first hand experiences permeated with culture and curiosity. Enjoy a fervent read and get ready for a fascinating love affair with wine. Cheers!
How did you get your start in wine and what was your initial inspiration?
I found my way into the world of wine when I spent a semester of college at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, funnily enough. I was a foreign exchange student studying literature and creative writing at the time, and joined the Wine Society to make friends. The Wine Society held a Blind Tasting Competition to recruit members for their Competitive Blind Tasting Team, and I somehow landed one of the spots. I went from not knowing what wine to order for myself when I went to a restaurant, to being able to identify a grape, country, region, and vintage in a matter of months. It was incredible! I felt like I had found world, filled with warm and curious people, that I really loved to be a part of.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a culinary delight and an immersive experience. It’s essentially a dream job! What is your favorite part of your job?
The menu (or lack of one), and the insane amount of dedication, passion, and true hustle that I am surrounded by every day continues to inspire me. But, some of my favorite moments at Blue Hill are getting to help others fall in love with wine. Pushing the quality of Beverage Education is essential to our program, and we have a bi-weekly Court of Master Sommeliers Study Group that I hold for Front of the House (and sometimes even Back of the House!) employees that want to pursue their Introductory or Certified Exams. And that is in addition to other weekly wine classes that are held! Getting the opportunity to mentor others, teach about the world of wine, and see other people get inspired can be one of the most rewarding elements to the job. You never know where it can lead them.
What is the best advice anyone’s ever given you? Do you have a “mantra” you stick to?
“Mae’r diawl yn y manylion,” (from my father, in Welsh- ‘the devil’s in the details’), has always been my mantra. A piece of advice that I have written out on a post-it note above my desk, and read every morning as I sit down to study for my upcoming Advanced Exam, was written by Master Sommelier Matt Stamp: “In every pin that you achieve, every exam that you do not pass, every personal goal that you realize, whether you can take the long view or whether you are simply putting one foot in front of the other: you are building and enriching yourself.”
At WINEFARER, we love hearing about the unexpected journeys that stem from wine. Can you share your favorite wine journey with us?
I recently found myself in Burgundy for the first time, watching the sunset over Vosne-Romanee. It was quiet and cold, but I felt like I had experienced something singular and remarkable. When studying, Burgundy can seem like this impossible feat, the one thing that you can spend a lifetime studying, and never feel like you really know at all. But in that moment, I was deeply moved by the stillness and sense of permanence of the vines around me. Sometimes it takes moments like these to be able to reflect on the path that you have taken, the places it has brought you, and the people you have met along the way.
It seems like you love wine as much as I do, in three words, describe your love affair with wine?
Selosse, Selosse, Selosse
Finally, what advice would you give women entrepreneurial spirits who want to start their “wine hustle” but are hesitant to take the leap?
Define your goals, and don’t let off the gas! Now, more than ever, there is such a strong community of women in this industry that are ready to stand up and support each other. Be relentless in your pursuit of knowledge, dedicate yourself to a place that appreciates you and your work, and push yourself to achieve far beyond what you could have imagined for yourself. Remember that it is empowering to help & include others.
As Ruth Reichl said, “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”