Phuong Pham ’12 gains appreciation for wine industry, encourages student involvement
For senior economics major Phuong Pham, Washington wine country doesn’t just serve as a backdrop to her liberal arts education; it has also served her an opportunity for work while pursuing her own interest in wine.
Pham currently works at the tasting room for Charles Smith Wines (35 S Spokane St).
“I never paid attention to wine before my [freshman] year,” she said. ”In fact, Carlo Rossi was actually my first wine, but I started to branch out because I was interested in it and started researching, and drinking more wines. Then, last year, I had a housemate who was really into wine, and she introduced me to a lot of the Walla Walla wines here in town.”
Then, at the end of last July, Charles Smith Wines hired Pham, thanks, in part, to a bit of serendipity.
“I had an internship in Canada that didn’t go so well, so I decided to come back to Walla Walla and try to find a job . . . and I got involved with Charles [of Charles Smith Wines] through some contacts I had developed as an advertising associate for the Pio,” she said.
Through her work, Pham has been able to cultivate a sense of the local wine community.
“The stereotypical ideas of wine people being snobbish— I don’t think it’s like that at all in Walla Walla . . . We are all very connected to all of the restaurants and the events that come through town, and I’ve learned that everyone knows everyone. There really is no animosity between businesses. It’s more about [wineries] focusing on their own brand, while at the same time coming together to make Walla Walla wine more prominent.”
“It’s where you will meet so many different types of people from every part of the world,” she said speaking about her work in the tasting room.
“More often than not, these people are the ones who love wine and the ones who love talking about wine. You have to love people in order to work in the wine industry.”
Pham’s experience of working with customers also speaks to the vitality of Walla Walla’s wine scene.
“It amazes me every single day I work in the tasting room,” she said, “and I find people from Scandinavia and Latin America, and here we are in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere.”
Yet while the wine industry is a boom to Walla Walla’s economy, it can also be beneficial to Whitman students.
“Within the Whitman community, the wine industry helps expose us to Walla Walla, and it creates a lot of part-time jobs for students. I know a lot of Whitman graduates who still work in the wine industry because they got a part-time job [at a winery] in college,” she said.
And in regards to students trying to pursue an interest in wine on a non-professional basis, Pham also had some advice.
“Wine is just booze— just drink it! Don’t think that you have to smell a certain smell or anything, because when you first start out, you probably can’t smell anything [but the alcohol] . . . Wine is an acquired taste, and it will take you a while to actually smell anything, but in the meantime, just think of it as booze and nothing out of the ordinary,” said Pham, partially quoting one of Charles Smith Wines’ slogans.
At the end of a follow-up email interview, Pham shared what she’s currently sipping on.
“I am a cab-girl [meaning Cabernet Sauvignon],” she wrote, “and Charles made a killer Shield 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. As for white, my favorite for this past year has been Cadaretta’s 2008 Cabernet Blanc/Semillon Blend. [And] for the sweet tooth and more affordable wine, [I would recommend] Long Shadow 2010 ‘Leap Poet’ Riesling.”
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