What is The Wine Coach? Corporations like Merrill Lynch and Booz Allen Hamilton would say it’s a means to providing a great teambuilding experience or strengthening corporate-client relationships. But, to the Smeal College of Business, the Wine Coach is … an alumna!
Yes, The Wine Coach® is Smeal’s very own Laurie Forster, a 1989 graduate in business logistics. Since 2002, Forster’s career in wine has taken off, earning a certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, writing for numerous publications such as Style magazine, and penning an award-winning book, The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. But Forster’s passion for wine did not come until later in life, sparked by a single event.
After graduating from Smeal, Forster worked as a traveling sales executive for i2 Technologies, a supply chain software company, where entertaining current and potential clients was a core job function. It was at one particular dinner that she was charged with selecting the wine. Not knowing much about fine wines, panic quickly swept as the table’s full attention was on her to choose the perfect wine for the dinner event. After this embarrassing moment, Forster began learning about wines.
“I grew up in New Jersey where wine came in a box and was always pink,” she says. “I learned about wine when I got out in the working world. Studying it helped me give clients a better experience.”
Forster realized parallels between simplifying the value of high tech software to clients and understanding the complexity of fine wines. Studying wine soon became more than just a hobby.
After earning a certificate in viticulture and vinification, and training as a life coach at Coach U, Forster began working at one of the largest wine stores in New York, Astor Wines & Spirits. There, she learned how to interpret customers’ needs and determine which wines would best fit their tastes.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about wine, but after hosting an alumni wine tasting event for the Notre Dame New York Alumni Chapter, a light bulb went off. I wanted to educate and inspire people.”
Now, Forster spends her very busy days organizing corporate wine tastings, creating fundraising events for nonprofits, writing for the The Washington Times Communities, and hosting her new radio show. She also travels each year to a different wine region, experiencing new cultural and geographic aspects of wine. Forster’s overarching mission is to make wine more fun and practical. Her goal is to educate her clients on how to finesse ordering off the wine list. If you ask her “What is The Wine Coach?” she’ll reply, “It’s a great business tool and a super fun way to learn wine.”