Stories of Latinas in Wine: Ely Sanchez

Written by Eliana Sanchez

Growing up, wine was not around in my household. My parents preferred cerveza or tequila for family gatherings and my mother had her whiskey from time to time. I saw people drinking wine in movies and when I waitressed at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica. Wine felt unreachable at that point in my life. I remember when I had my first sip of wine, I did not care for it or maybe I thought it was not meant for me. I even went wine tasting to Santa Maria with my sister and, still, the wine taste did not intrigue me. Years went by and I gave wine another try. My heart along with my taste buds instantly became full. I started to appreciate it all. I can’t recall this second wine attempt, but I’m so happy it happened. A good glass of red wine became my drink of choice. It wasn’t until I switched careers to become a flight attendant, that I started becoming aware of certain wine aromas. My personal trips started to revolve around wine. Everywhere I went, I made sure I was having local wine. I started to ask questions and did research to pick my wine. Selecting a glass or a bottle of wine was based on specific varieties and regions, not just on a nice bottle label.

Year 2020 arrived, and like many of us, there was so much change. I had lost my job and decided to challenge myself. I was motivated to start learning something new I was passionate about and started my wine education journey. Books, blogs, Instagram, Google, and local wine shops became my sources of information. Instagram alone became a major tool for me. Discovering @latinaswineclub, I realized there was a community out there that I would love to be part of. Watching las Jefas and seeing their passion for wine further excited and inspired me.

Soon, I decided to sign up for WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Level 2 certification. This whole process was challenging and at times, I doubted myself. My aromas were not matching with my instructor or with the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine (SAT) in the describing aromas and flavors section. Even with all my doubts, I passed with distinction! Soon after, I discovered The Veraison Project, a non-profit comprised of a volunteer group of Wine Industry Professionals committed to making our industry a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place. I was fortunate to receive their scholarship to complete WSET Level 3 certification.

Before I began the certification, I received the exciting news that I got my flight attendant job back. My days were either spent flying or studying. I thought WSET 2 was hard, but WSET 3 was ten times harder! Again, for the wine tasting portion, I wasn’t always getting the same smells and tastes as my instructor or SAT. I found myself smelling agua de jamaica while my instructor was smelling dried fruit. I was smelling carne asada while my instructor was smelling smoke. Most of the time, I figured I was close enough. It wasn’t until I realized I had to calibrate my palate to my instructor, that I knew I could succeed. I had mixed feelings and wasn’t sure if I could write down my actual smells and tastes; however, through my textbook reading, I knew my smells were correct, even if not conventional for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

The amount of knowledge I have learned still surprises me. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity the Veraison Project has given me. While I wait patiently for my results, I continue to openly share my knowledge with my friends and family with a non-intimidating approach. All the smells and tastes are thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. Wine is for everyone!

My wine journey continues. For the meantime, I am an ambassador for @latinaswineclub. I am learning so much from these knowledgeable Jefas, all sources available as well as when visiting local wine shops during my work and personal travel. Now I select my wine not only if it has a cool label but from all regions, varieties, and wines that tell a story. I know the knowledge I have gained will only further enrich my journey in the wine industry….Salud!