Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Fiona Mak: Growing up in Hong Kong, my father would always have wine with his meals. My sister and I started drinking at a pretty young age (around 14) and have always grown up with wines. I guess the one “ah-ha” moment for me was when I working as a sommelier, trying the Cayuse Bionic Frog. It was totally different and showed me the full range of what the Syrah grape can do.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
FM: I studied Hotel Management at University. Originally, I was going to pursue Musical Theatre or Music but fate intervened. I graduated in 2008, when the market plummeted, and had the vision of becoming a wedding planner. Obviously, times were tough so I turned to the restaurant industry, and started managing restaurants in Philadelphia and New York City.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
FM: The Walla Walla wine industry is very tight knit and supportive. We have a few visionaries and their messages are “a rising tide floats all boats” and “you push the person in front of you and pull the person behind you”. These messages have shaped who we are today– it cannot be more positive and uplifting. For a long time, I was living in metropolitan cities and it could get very negative and I couldn’t wait to change my life. I was glad I moved to Walla Walla and surrounded myself with its positive energy and people.
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
FM: My favorite part of being in the wine industry is that I can use wine as a medium to help people achieve their maximum enjoyment. As a sommelier at a restaurant, I would help them pick out a nice bottle of wine for a special occasion. As a winemaker, making approachable and affordable wines to introduce them in our world of seasonal Rosés. The wine industry is constantly evolving and there’s room for everyone to grow and find their own niche to be successful.
Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
FM: I’d say my upbringing definitely played a part but I was also glad I received my Sommelier training while I was managing a steakhouse in New York City. I am very grateful for that experience and the exposure.
Check out SMAK Wine’s website to learn more about Fiona’s seasonal rosés and order her wines: