The Wine Hustle Series | Alpana Singh, Master Sommelier, Restauranteur and Host of “Check, Please!"
I first heard Alpana Singh speak in June at the Welcome Conference in Lincoln Center. Her hustle was palpable and her story of personal “terroir” was galvanizing. So much so, I had to dive deeper. Her story of exploring change and pushing through fear, all the while becoming the youngest woman to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier exam at the age of 26 is simply, incredible. Needless to say, I reached out to Alpana to find out more and the below is extraordinary.
“change begins by understanding where we come from and honoring each other’s terroir.” Alpana Singh’s Welcome Conference Talk
How did you get your start in wine and what was your initial inspiration?
I discovered wine when I was 18 years old applying for a job at a local restaurant. They asked me what I knew about wine and I said it was made from grapes. They were at first hesitant to give me a job but I was persistent and they hired me on the condition that I would learn more about wine. Not much, but just enough to describe the wines by the glass to our guests. One of our managers was studying to become a Master Sommelier and he taught these amazing wine classes and I just fell down the rabbit hole. I love the many sides of wine that you can study from geography to art and science, food and travel. It's perfect for someone like me who has many different interests and many sides to them.
At 26 you became the youngest women ever to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier Exam. INCREDIBLE, IMPRESSIVE, AN INSPIRATION so many thoughts come to my mind! Was there a certain piece of advice or mantra that stuck with you throughout your path to Master Somm and then opening up 3 restaurants?
First of all, thank you. I've learned many things along my journey but one thing I know for sure - life's big goals are done one small step at a time. As I look back upon my career, I realize that it was showing up every single day and being consistent is what eventually lead to the big accomplishments. I think we sometimes get daunted by the unreachable nature of our dreams when in reality we do it one task, one study session, one meeting, one paragraph, one glass of wine at a time. We just have to be consistent and to give our best every single day.
At WINEFARER, we love hearing about the unexpected journeys that stem from wine. Can you share your favorite wine journey with us?
Sitting in the wine cellars at Louis Jadot with fifteen of my colleagues and drinking a wine from 1897 was definitely a career highlight. When I think about the historic events, the wars and everything that bottle endured just for me to be its final end, it’s very humbling and it gives me goosebumps to this day. I have an enormous amount of gratitude for the adventures that I have been on and I don't take a single one of them for granted.
It seems like you love wine as much as I do, in three words, describe your love affair with wine?
Learning never stops
Finally, what advice would you give women entrepreneurial spirits who want to start their “wine hustle” but are hesitant to take the leap?
I read recently about a woman who couldn't feel pain or fear and I thought, my gosh, what would that be like? If I couldn't feel any fear what could I do? Let's face it, the number reason we don't pursue things is because we're scared. It's okay to worry about practical things like paying your rent, taking care of your family and health insurance but what's the worst that could possibly happen? If it’s something that is really important to you and you believe very strongly in it then you owe it to yourself to roll the dice - as long as you do it with integrity and good intentions. It's not going to be easy, it will be the most difficult thing you've ever done and there will be times when you will regret the decision and want to go back to a small and safe space but I don't believe in living a life of regrets, even if you fail you'll come out a stronger person and will have learned some very important lessons. I believe that we all have a reason for being here and it's our job to realize that purpose and to follow our path. I don't know - I say go for it! The only thing you have to fear is really fear itself.