Student Spotlight: Getting to Know Dana Gurela
After studying, sipping and working in California wine country for five years, Dana Gurela has brought her expertise and passion for West Coast varietals back home to Georgia as the owner of Deep Roots Wine Market & Tasting Room on Canton Street in Historic Roswell.
Gurela holds a California Wine Appellation Specialist® certification, offered exclusively at San Francisco Wine School. “I have learned that wine is so much more than fermented grapes,” Gurela reflects. “It’s a combination of art and science that brings each aroma and flavor profile to life.”
Dreams Do Come True
After receiving her certification, Gurela continued to cultivate her California wine country interests with hospitality and ambassador positions at Foley Family Wines and Boisset Family Wines. She eventually landed a dream job as a hospitality and wine educator with Eleven Eleven Winery in Napa Valley.
“The vibrant beauty of the vineyards, the aroma of the oak barrels and the distinct flavor of each wine made a lasting imprint on my soul,” she says. “It’s my dream to be bringing that experience to each of our guests at Deep Roots.
Let's Find Out More About Dana
How and when did you fall in love with wine and decide you wanted to make a career out of it?
I fell in love with wine during my first trip to Napa in 2009. Receiving a bit of wine education in the various tasting rooms really gave me a sense of what it took to get wine into a bottle and it fascinated me. It never dawned on me before that it was so agricultural. Being from the midwest, and surrounded by corn fields, I felt very at home in the vineyard environment.
Why did you pursue wine industry credentials?
We moved to the East Bay in 2012 and took full advantage of being close to both Napa County and Sonoma County. We spent a lot of time navigating wineries on the weekends. So of course I took full advantage of further wine education through hospitality staff in the tasting rooms. My husband suggested that I get a job in a tasting room. But, I'm so type-A that I would have felt uncomfortable without a bit of an education. I asked around to the contacts I had made in the industry for recommendations. San Francisco Wine School was highly recommended.
If you were not in the wine industry, what would you be doing?
I would still be miserable with my career! I got a bachelor's degree in economics and started working in a manufacturing environment right out of college in the field of procurement. I was in purchasing/procurement/inventory management for several years and hated every minute of it!
What are your career goals?
My goal now is to have a successful business, selling wine!! My goal is to provide wine education to my guests in a comfortable, fun and unique environment. I want to take the (perceived) stuffiness out of wine and relay my passion to those who visit my wine market & tasting room.
What are some of your favorite things to drink? Most memorable food and wine pairings?
I am currently in love with Merlot and a citrusy IPA! I have an ongoing love affair with Burgundian-style Chardonnay. But my most memorable food pairing was a Gewürtztraminer paired with curry
What has surprised you about the industry?
I have been surprised about the different laws in each state. First, working in the tasting room in Napa, I was surprised that not everyone could get shipments of wine. Then, as a retailer in Georgia, I was surprised that we have to purchase solely through distribution... which is a bummer!
How has taking classes at our school moved you closer to your career goals?
Taking classes has made me more confident. I'm just that sort of person who needs to know all the why's & how's before I can begin to sell something.
What would you say to someone just starting out?
I have just hired a manager of my store, and I have told her about San Francisco Wine School and forwarded the information for the upcoming online class beginning in May. I have strongly encouraged her to take the course. For anyone just starting out, I would tell them to take it slowly... there is so much to learn about wine and no one is ever fully informed about the complexities of the process. Most importantly, I would tell them to have fun with it!
What wine region would you most like to visit?
I went to Tuscany a few years ago and that was one of the highlights of my life! Next, the Rhône Valley is on my bucket list. I'm fascinated by the slopes of the Northern Rhône and the terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Whoops... I forgot to mention that Grenache is also one of my favorite things to drink!
What's the most fun part of your job?
Right now we are in the start up process. It's all fun... I'm tasting wines and planning my inventory, overseeing the construction of our new space, purchasing equipment and consumables. However, looking back, as a hospitality professional in Napa, I just loved to see how the guests' faces would light up when they tasted their wines, especially when paired with amazing cheese. I loved to explain the growing and harvesting process and show them around the winery as fermentation was underway. No question was a dumb question and I truly enjoyed helping them understand each step of the process. That's what I'm looking forward to in my new adventure. I hope to bring that California tasting room vibe to the Atlanta area. I hope to make it a comfortable spot where my guests can learn as much or little as they want. I can't wait to share my passion for California wines!