[Image of Sue Straight from San Francisco Chronicle wine judge Website.]
Most of us know her as a wine writer, wine judge, a singer in her funky, down home bands, and a friend. But, when I first met Sue (over 20 years ago), she was working at Lambert Bridge Winery, with consumers on their direct sales purchases from the tasting room… The rest of her titles round her out. Her true expertise is knowing how to present wine to consumers and the trade, since she’s also been on the road presenting wine to on and off premise accounts… All, in order to actualize sales, increasing someone else’s bottom line.
Tomorrow, I’m writing about Sue Straight, the wine industry’s Renaissance Woman… But today, this story is exclusively about Sue Straight, the wine writer we affectionately know as Sue, The Wine Wench…
[Q] Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?
[SUE] I live a wine-drenched life. I’ve had a day job in the wine industry since 1982. I just launched my wine industry consulting business, as a direct to consumer (DTC) Wine Coach.
[Q] When did you start writing about wine?
[SUE] I’ve been writing about wine since 1982, but it was as a winery employee – I wrote newsletters and POS materials for whichever winery I was working for. (I’ve worked for a few over the years.) My first professional writing gig started in 2005. I was working at Limerick Lane Cellars and met someone from the San Diego Union Tribune. She asked me to create and provide weekly content for their online wine guide, which I did for five years until the company was sold. I started writing for Wine Country This Week Magazine in 2006, and am still providing content for them on a regular basis.
[Q] What prompted you to start writing about wine?
[SUE] Wine tasting and judging is unabashedly sensual. That’s why I love it. I revel in the aromas and flavors that the alchemy of nature and science has gifted us with. When I taste an excellent wine, I am as happy as a dog, rolling on its back in the fresh grass, tongue lolling, paws in the air. I pick up a glass and taste a wine. I see a spectrum of aromas and flavors that are almost colors: bright yellow for the juicy acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc, lime green for the floral notes of a Viognier, gold for the rich, buttery ripeness of a Chardonnay, satiny red for the sexy texture of Pinot Noir, velvety magenta for a mouthful of spicy, sassy Zinfandel. I just freakin’ love it, OK?
[Q] What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?
[SUE] Tasting, judging, education, and food pairing.
[Q] How has your job changed since you’ve started? It’s really been “evolve or die.”
[SUE] The wine industry is ever changing – there are new technologies, marketing methods and philosophies that are constantly popping up. The wine industry has always been highly desirable for career changers and retired folks and it is even more so now. Add the wine business programs that are churning out eager young graduates with letters after their names and my beloved chosen field is even more competitive.
[Q] What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?
[SUE] 1971 Dom Perignon. On my 21st birthday, my husband, some friends and I drank a magnum of it in a lifeguard tower on Venice beach as we watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean.
[Q] What’s your favorite variety?
[SUE] Pinot Noir. My favorite white wine is Riesling.
[Q] Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?
[Q] What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?
[SUE] Social Media. It’s really changed how wine is marketed… Mostly now direct to consumer.
[Q] What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?
[SUE] Pinot Noir and wild salmon or Riesling and sushi.
[Q] What are your interests outside of the wine business?
[SUE] Playing and writing music – I’m a singer/songwriter/harmonica player, cooking, walking, reading, spending time with friends and family and traveling.
[Q] Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?
[SUE] My wine mentor is Carol Shelton – she’s the first person (winemaker) to notice that I had a palate and she got me into wine judging many years ago. She is still a dear friend. My musical mentor is Etta James – she was big, sassy and sexy and her voice was like warm caramel. Jo Diaz is actually quite an inspiration, as well – I’ve watched her work really hard through the years and am excited to see her success. She has also been a wonderful friend and mentor to me.
[DISCLAIMER: I didn’t coach this from her…]
[Q] For what would you like to be remembered?
[SUE] I would like to be remembered for being a good friend, sister and mom; and, my passion, integrity, harmonica playing and wacky sense of humor.