Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Ryan Woolfolk: The first time I tasted Krug Champagne unlocked a new passion for wine. I was already in the industry and had worked at a winery, then a package store in Atlanta. But after tasting Krug, I decided to get my CSW. It was then that I really got serious about wine knowledge and tasting new wines and writing about my favorite wines.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
RW: I majored in kinesiology and anthropology, while also being a scholarship football player at William and Mary. My liberal arts education and the research that I did in cultural anthropology and archaeology have translated well to general study of wine, and also emphasizing the cultural relevance of wine in various regions in the world.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
RW: My time spent working with distributors probably changed me the most. The sales driven nature of the business takes away a lot of the romance. At the time it was something that I needed, to understand the concept of finding a home for every wine (even if “home” will never be my home)!
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
RW: I love how the knowledge is dynamic and there is a growing trend to break down the “rules” about traditional winemaking and consumption. The access to people from every background, all sharing a common desire to learn about wine or a love for wine is also a huge benefit.
Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
RW: Several moments but the one that sticks out most is a time when my parents were invited to a dinner party with my new and only friend that I made my first year in private school (7th grade). I grew up in Southwest Atlanta and wine was not at all a part of my culture as an African American. At this dinner, my friend’s dad was a stay at home dad which I had never experienced and he made this elaborate, restaurant quality dinner. My friend’s parents took my parents down to their wine cellar and they opened about a half dozen bottles of wine from all over the world. I distinctly remember seeing Caymus and Schafer labels. After my mom painfully rejected the half dozen bottles or so, she respectfully asked if they had anything that tasted like Manischewitz. The weird laughter that emerged has been in the back of my mind since then.
Read more about Van Duzer Vineyards and the wines Ryan sells by visiting the winery website:
Click here to read our Why Wine? interview with Van Duzer winemaker Florent-Pierre Merlier
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