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How Samantha Capaldi Went From Corporate Exec To Virtual Sommelier

If you’re a recent grad who doesn’t know quite what you want to do, or maybe you’re simply over the ~corporate world~ already, it may be time to think outside of the typical job box. Take it from University of Arizona alum, Sam Capaldi, owner and founder of ‘Samantha Sommelier,’ who did just that. After graduating from college in 2015, Sam accepted a job as an Account Executive at a large corporation. But after a year and a half, she began to reevaluate what she wanted her future to look like.

She looked to her passions and one that stood out from the rest. So she thought ‘wine not?!’ (sorry, had to) and enrolled in a four-week sommelier intensive course. Since then, she’s grown her brand on Instagram, curated many IRL wine events and even more so lately, has leaned into her successful virtual wine tasting business. Read long for the career advice (& wine!) you need in your life rn.

Her Campus: After a year and a half at your corporate job, what made you decide to go to culinary school? 
Sam Capaldi: So it was a culinary school but I opted for the Intensive Sommelier Training program which was entirely wine-focused and taught by the Court of Master Sommeliers. My inspiration for attending was truly just wanting to take a chance on a not so normal career and see where it could take me. I had always loved wine but at 22, it’s hard to know what exactly a career in wine will look like. I was willing to take that risk and I am so glad that I decided to. 

HC: At what point did you realize you could make your own business out of your learnings?
SC: When I got back from my training and I was working in restaurants I started doing little in-home private tastings for my family and friends. With their encouragement, I began to become confident in myself and decided to make my private tastings into an actual business. My favorite thing about wine is sharing it with others and making it as fun and approachable as possible. I never want anyone to feel intimidated by wine or afraid to ask questions. In my eyes, wine is all about making memories and appreciating what is in your glass and living in the moment! 

HC: Could you tell us about one of the most surreal moments in your career thus far?
SC: I had worked to build a brand for myself for almost 5 years with the goal in mind that I am meant to do something big and reach people on a larger scale to share my passion for making wine fun and approachable. And then 14 Hands Wine reached out to me, almost two years ago today actually. I finally had that "momma I made it moment." You know the moment when all your hard work has paid off and you are being seen?! 14 Hands has been a wine enjoyed in my household growing up so to be able to tell my family that I was their new media spokeswoman was such an incredible accomplishment for me. With a large scale opportunity, there also comes a lot of work, but this is the work I feel I have been meant to do all along. Travel across the U.S, getting to be my authentic self and share wine I love in an approachable setting on camera and at large scale events! That first year of working with 14 Hands I finally felt content in where I was at in my career so when they approached me to continue our partnership together into 2020, I practically was in tears. I have found a wine brand that loves long term relationships and sees the value of keeping a partnership going that has been thriving. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now but my biggest advice is to stay true to yourself because when you do, the right opportunity that is meant for you will come your way.

HC: Speaking of uncertainty, how have you adapted in the face of the pandemic? 
SC: Thankfully, before COVID hit I was already taking my business online. I started offering brand consulting and virtual tastings last year on top of my in-person events so I am very happy I had a bit of a head start. Now, I am actually planning on keeping my wine tastings almost entirely virtually! I am able to connect with so many clients across the globe. I just did a wine tasting for friends based in the UK, some in NYC, and some in CA, how amazing is that? I want to continue to bring people together all days of the week to drink and learn about wine, and virtual tastings let me do just that. 

HC: Do you see this forever shifting your business? 
SC: I do! I see it shifting it for the better. Being able to take a business virtual is amazing. As a small business owner, it is often hard to separate my personal life from my professional, take days off, etc. Being able to work online gives me the opportunity to see friends and family more often, all while connecting with more clients than I ever have before. 

HC: When you look at your industry are there any brands or people who you see innovating the space? 
SC: Julia Coney, wine journalist and founder of Black Wine Professionals had been an incredible inspiration and is doing work to change this industry for the better. Of course, as I mentioned before, Wine Folly. Madeline has always been a great representation of keeping this an approachable and welcoming space for other wine professionals. The McBride Sisters have been another huge inspiration and duo doing so many amazing things in the industry for the better. My original inspiration for making wine fun and approachable has always been Wine Folly. Over 6 years ago when I decided to go for my certification, Madeline Puckette was one of the first people I educated myself on in the industry so she’s been an inspiration since day one. More recently, I have gotten to know Tuanni Price, owner of Zuri Wine Tastings. She is based out of Cape Town and she truly shares so many similarities to me and my own business. I love that we are working hard to make wine fun and approachable for people across the globe! 

HC: Tell us a little more about your favorite wine event to hold? 
SC: I love leading wine events for bachelorette and bridal parties. They are always so interactive and eager to learn with me. They want to learn about the wine obviously, but they are so excited to all be together to celebrate and their energy is infectious. I love sharing some of my favorite wines with them like 14 Hands unicorn rose. It’s a special time in their lives and I love being able to be a part of it in a small way through our love for wine. 

HC: What advice do you have for women who are interested in pursuing a career in wine, like you?! 
SC: My biggest advice is to do the work, get your credentials, and be willing to start from the bottom. Even after I became a sommelier, I was bussing tables and scrubbing toilets before I started leading any type of tasting. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of hospitality before I started my own business and I think that is important. I truly think if you are going to work in wine regardless of which sector, you should know how to work in a restaurant first and be willing to do the grunt work. I think a lot of women see only the glam part of drinking wine all the time but there really is so much more than this career and I hope to bring more light to that. 

Madeleine managed the Her Campus national branded content team. She graduated from Fordham University in 2015, where she studied communications and marketing. Before joining HC, Madeleine most recently was the branded content editor for Delish.com and HouseBeautiful.com. She currently lives in New York City with her boyfriend and their cat, Beignet.
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