This is a corrected version of a story posted Dec. 6, 2012. Click here to read the correction.
For Rachel Koblic ’04, every day at American Sommelier presents a new challenge. The organization, founded in 1998, offers wine classes and sommelier training and hosts a biennial competition to crown the “Best Sommelier in America,” and as the director of operations, Koblic handles a variety of day-to-day tasks, from accounting and payroll to sponsorship and web design, as well as long-term business and curriculum development.
Though the job often calls for 12-hour work days and learning on the fly, Koblic wouldn’t have it any other way. She graduated from Princeton with her heart set on living in France and immediately took a job shelving books at the American Library in Paris. A year later she was a children's librarian there, coordinating theater and dance programs for kids. After that, Koblic returned to her native Canada to work at a consulting firm in Vancouver; but her goal was always to get to New York City. In 2006, she began working at a New York hedge fund as an on-campus recruiter.
It was during her stint at the hedge fund that Koblic took her first wine class with American Sommelier. She said she was attracted to wine as a liberal art in which disciplines like history, art, geology, and climatology converge. She compared the study of wine to an “archaeological dig” uncovering more and more knowledge and complexity. “I love doing some of everything,” she said. “With every different vintage, there’s something new to know.”
Over the course of her wine education, Koblic developed a working rapport with her instructor, American Sommelier founder Andrew Bell. In 2009, he offered her the new position of director of operations, and she quit her job at the hedge fund to accept it. “I took a huge pay cut,” Koblic said, “but it was worth it to be philosophically invested in my work.”
She also saw that the company had great potential for growth. Sommeliers in the United States are not formally certified, navigating the industry by their personal knowledge and experience. “It’s a trial by fire,” Koblic said. “Doctors go to medical school, lawyers go to law school. Why shouldn’t there be a more formal education program for wine?” American Sommelier graduates have gone on to work at such illustrious restaurants as Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin. In the future, the organization hopes to take its curriculum nationwide.
American Sommelier also is committed to educating wine enthusiasts in the history, production, and consumption of wine. “The more you know, the more excited and empowered you feel to drink a wide spectrum of wines,” said Koblic.
Her main piece of advice for the average consumer is to have an open mind. “The mistake is to find something you know and like and order the same thing every time,” she said. “Just try!”
For the record
An earlier version of this post misstated Koblic’s class year.
Vicky Gan ’13 is a history major from Baltimore, Md.