I met Caroline Shifflett in the bathroom of the Tory Burch corporate office. Between washing and drying our hands I quickly found out she was from Napa, loved wine and we had a friend date planned by the time we left the bathroom. I quickly learned that beyond her love for wine she hosts these curated wine tasting events, is the voice behind the blog Chardonnay Moi and just launched her first wine company with her brother. Back in August she led the ladies of Six Degress Society in a wine tasting teaching us the basics along with elevating the way we converse about wine. When Caroline isn’t busy working her full time job at Tory Burch you can find her hosting friends for delectable brunches and dinners and enlightening us about her newest wine discovery.
1. Born and raised in Napa how has wine played a role in your life? And how have you been able to impart your wine wisdom on your friends?
I think wine was something I took for granted growing up, it was such a normal part of every day life, I used to walk through the aisles of the grocery store saying “mommy’s wine” when pointing to the white, and “daddy’s wine” when pointing to the red! I didn’t start to gain an appreciation for wine until after college. As my appreciation for food grew, I loved the pleasure and enjoyment that can be had by bringing friends and family together over good food and wine. Being from Napa everyone expects me to have more wine knowledge than the average person, but it all has to start with an interest in wine. I’ve taken wine classes to build my foundational knowledge, and to really hone my skills in deciding what I like in a wine. I try to share those tidbits with my friends to encourage them to know what they like in a wine as well. It’s such a personal subject; it all comes down to individual taste and preference.
2. Congratulations on the launch of your new wine company called 86 | 87. Can you tell me a bit about the journey to produce your own wine?
I never in a million years thought I’d be in the wine business, it’ s funny where life will lead you. My brother lives in Napa and works on the viticulture or growing side of the business, we started chatting 3 years ago about how we both enjoy the idea of wine and wanted to set ourselves up for the ultimate “American dream” of working for ourselves and a long-term career path. We figured why not start now. We filed for our LLC in March of 2013 and our first harvest was September of that year. It’s been a long 2 years waiting for our first wine to age but it feels so great to finally have it available to the public. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our family.
3. You are currently working at Tory Burch; do you find similar challenges in the fashion world as you do in the wine world?
Both share the end goal of appealing to the consumer. We both have products to sell! With the wine, I think there’s a little more room to experiment with our winemaking style, especially at this early stage where this project is a side hustle vs. our full-time job.
4. You are currently the voice behind Chardonnay Moi, what’s next for you?
I want to continue to grow my blog following and wine tastings/events side of the business. I feel that there is such a need for approachable wine education, I want to fill that void with fun and educational experiences that don’t break the bank! I currently offer completely customizable wine tastings and curated wine-centric events for groups of any size.
5. Do you have any advice for someone hoping to break into the wine world? Any tips on developing the vocabulary and perfect palate?
You know what they say, “How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large one!” – I’m hoping to prove that wrong. There is so much competition in the wine world, but if it’s a passion, that will show through and set you apart from the rest. For anyone that wants to get into the business I’d recommend just starting somewhere, whether that’s continuing education, traveling to wine regions, getting out there and tasting, even if it’s just opening a bottle with friends. Start a conversation about the wine and take some time to study it. There is no such thing as a “perfect palate” it’s really all about what you enjoy, so get to know what that is for you and how you can articulate what it is you like/dislike in a wine so you can communicate those preferences.