Student Spotlight: Getting to Know Wilbert Herrera

Wilbert Herrera is an enthusiastic member of the San Francisco Wine School family. He's taken Intro to Blind Tasting, successfully completed the Somm Essentials Intensive, and is a regular at our weekly Wine Dojo. He's also interned with us at various events and classes and on March 25th, 2018 passed his Certified Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He's originally from the Yucatan region of Mexico and has pursued his dreams in hospitality since moving to the Bay Area in 1999 and investing in his education.  His passion for wine and eagerness to grow in his career are contagious and inspiring. We sat down with him to learn a bit about his experience and how his wine studies are bringing him closer to his goals.

How and when did you fall in love with wine and decide that you wanted to make a career out of it?

It has been a long time coming, I remember seeing my boss drinking and spitting wine when I was a dishwasher and I always wondered what he was tasting but I couldn't speak the language until now.  Working as a cook at several places, I never had the real opportunity to taste wine at the restaurant.  

Why did you pursue wine industry credentials?

I really wanted to be able to pair food and wine because I think they go together like a marriage.  I love this opportunity to help others to enjoy their wine and food because when you go to restaurants, many servers don't know how to help create this experience.

If you were not in the wine industry, what would you be doing?

Learning more about and creating new styles of cooking.  I love experimenting and knowing grape varietals and wine styles only helps feed that curiosity for the perfect pairings.

What are your career goals?

I would really love to go further in the restaurant industry.  Thanks to this course, I was offered a job as a server at Agave Uptown in Oakland, and it has made an enormous difference in my life and career in service. After completing Somm Essentials, I was also promoted from the kitchen to the front of the house at my other job, Angela's Kitchen in Alameda.  I would love to one day be a sommelier and a professional in hospitality.

What are some of your favorite things to drink?  

I really love drinking Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, dry rosés, and lately some spirits such as Mezcal and Tequila. 

What has surprised you about the industry?

Everything!  Tasting & drinking a lot of wine, spirits, different types of beer, meeting a lot of people...  I feel like a big secret door just opened which I couldn't even see -- it's been really wonderful & amazing. I'm loving it thanks again to SFWS.

How has taking classes at our school moved you closer to your career goals?

Wow, well I'm still speechless.  It has been an extremely big jump compared to only 6 months ago.  I'm more confident with more access to opportunities in the industry.  I know this is only the beginning and there is a whole lot to learn. I'm looking forward to more!

What would you say to someone just starting out?

Passion, love, enthusiasm and appreciation for wine --- Learn every step beginning from the vines, the grapes, the farmer, the winemaker. Embrace everything that goes into the final product.  But most importantly, enjoy it to the max.  
What wine region would you most like to visit?

Rhone Valley would be my first choice cause I would love to taste all the wines they produce. Then I would go to Veneto, Italy for Pinot Grigio and Rheingau, Germany.  I have a big list :).
What's the most fun part of your job?

Working with people, sharing my knowledge - especially when they are surprised by what I am able explain to them about specific wines or spirits.  It's very gratifying & fulfilling.  I always mention SFWS and David Glancy.  I'm very grateful to San Francisco Wine School for my experience so far and this opportunity to start my journey.

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