Today’s episode is a fun conversation with winery sales and entrepreneur badass, Kat Shapiro of ZenWine. Ali and Kat discuss wine education, finding mindfulness even in your wine drinking, and the importance of building a community and lifting each other up.
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Full episode transcript:
Ali: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Thru The Grapewine podcast. I’m your host, Ali Simpson, and today I am flying solo for this interview as Ute is spending some quality time with family. A few updates and reminders before we get into today’s conversation: we have officially launched our Patreon.
Make sure you sign up today so you don’t miss our first video episode of A Gen Xer and A Millennial on May 1st and a reminder that those episodes are now going to be Patreon exclusive episodes. The link for our Patreon, as well as the topic request form, can be found in our show notes. So make sure to check those out.
All right. I am very excited for today’s guest. I have been following this kickass woman in wine on Instagram for a while now, and I’ve always been so intrigued by how she brings mindfulness and movement into her wine enjoyment. We are going to chat wine clubs, wine education, and of course dive into what it is like being a woman in the industry.
So without further ado, welcome Kat Shapiro of ZenWines.
Kat Shapiro: Hello. Hello. Thanks for having me.
Ali: Yeah. I’m so glad that we could get this sorted out and get you on the show today.
Kat Shapiro: Yes, I am very happy to be here.
Ali: Let’s get right into it. Yeah?
Kat Shapiro: Yes. Let’s go.
Ali: All right. Can you tell us a bit about yourself: who you are, what you do, and what are some of your passions outside of sharing stellar wine finds?
Kat Shapiro: Yes, so I am a wine and wellness curator. I love all things, you know, yoga and, and nature is a big one for me. That’s basically my passion outside of wine is nature. Hiking, swimming. I’m starting to now get into cooking, so I’m, I’m pretty excited to kind of go down that rabbit hole and get better and experiment more.
But as far as what I do for a living, I work in wholesale sales for a winery up here in Washington State. So I sell to restaurants and retail accounts. So that’s my day job. I also am a part-time entrepreneur. I have my own wine club business. And I’m also a wine educator, so I teach WSET level one and level two, and I kind of dabble in events and, you know, there’s, there’s different branches for, you know, the, the wine club.
But that’s like the, the heart of what I do is those three sales educator and entrepreneur.
Ali: Nice. I, speaking of your, your love of nature and how I’ve been following you on Instagram, how are the geese doing, or the swans, how are the swans doing?
Kat Shapiro: The swans! So the swans come around January and then they just go like, I don’t know where they go?
Yeah. It’s a very, they’re like a winter bird that just show up and, and then they go elsewhere, maybe to more cold weather, I’m not sure. But we have a lot of geese. We have a lot of birds, you know, in the Pacific Northwest, forest and water, kind of rain supreme here. So there’s always something new going on outside, which is such a joy for me.
Ali: Yes. Yeah. I love the videos of, you know, you’re walking with your family down by the water and it just seems so peaceful there.
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, it really is. It’s, it’s awesome. We’re lucky to live by a lake near water. Yeah, I could use a little more sunshine in my life, but yeah. But the water is,
Ali: I’m looking out my window right now, and hopefully the microphone doesn’t pick this up, but it is just pouring rain as it has been for days and weeks right now. So, could definitely go for some sunshine now.
So wholesale for a winery by day and, ZenWine Club by evening slash any free time you have. How did you get into the wine industry? Was wine something you always had a passion for? And was wholesale always the path or was it, you know, I’m gonna start in production and then I’ll try a tasting room, or what was your route there?
Kat Shapiro: So I started in the restaurant industry when I was 15. I started as a hostess at Applebee’s and it was just a way to make money. I’ve always been really independent. Alcohol was always a part of my family, but not in a holistic way, not in a healthy way.
I saw kind of the extreme of when we kind of you know, alcoholism, right. Just call it what it is. So, it was always in my life, but I never saw a balanced version of it. So, I started in restaurants when I was 15. I always thought it was a means to an end for my career.
Like I always thought, you know, I, I went to school, for marine biology, right? And I worked in restaurants the whole time. So it was always like, okay, this is just what I do to make money to pay the bills right now. I never thought it was gonna be something I ended up doing. But then in 2015, I heard of someone taking the Court of Master Sommelier, the intro exam, and I was like, what is this?
Like, it just blew my mind. At the time I was living in West Seattle working at the Matador, so tequila and mezcal was definitely more on my radar than wine was. I watched the movie Somm. I totally got the wine bug from that movie, which is hilarious to say that I was one of those, you know?
And finally felt like, oh my gosh, I, I get it now. This is what I was supposed to do. This is like where my passion is that just that light bulb. Like I didn’t know where it was gonna go. But I just, the feeling that I had, that purposeful feeling really clicked in. So I did my first certification at the end of 2015, which was through the Courts of Master Sommelier, which is at the time was the only, like, I didn’t even know the Wine and Spirit Education Trust existed.
Like I just, I was like, oh, I found it and I just kinda went for it. At the time I was also six weeks, no eight weeks pregnant with my second daughter. So that was interesting kind of, infusing being a mother and then also being in the wine industry. Definitely interesting. I had a great palate. I was like, super taster!
Ali: Right. Very sensitive to everything.
Kat Shapiro: Yes. Yeah. So then I worked for a tasting room. I kind of got in with Charles Smith when he was opening his Jet City tasting room. So that was my first actual like wine job. And then I started working at a wine bar in Kent and I was dabbling in being an assistant manager. But I really wanted to get out of service at night because I was just so exhausted. It’s so exhausting.
Especially when we have families and kids, everybody’s coming home while I’m going to work. I was missing a lot and I’m the type of person that wants to be in my pajamas by like 8:30 PM you know, so going to work at night just goes…
Yeah, it was just so hard and I’d been doing it for so long that I just really was looking for my out. So, then I found the WSET and really kind of dove into that side. And so I took level three in 2017, and then in 2018 I started diploma. And that’s when I found sales and it was something that I didn’t fall into.
Like I knew I wanted to work for a winery that was big enough that could pay me a good salary because in sales you can work for a supplier or you can work for a distributor. And it’s tough. It’s tough out there because when you work for a distributor, you are schlepping so, so many things. Right?
Like a huge book of wine. Or spirits or beer. And I just knew I really wanted to focus and work for a winery. So I reached out to my connections that I had had already from working at the wine bar, and it was kind of just this serendipitous. They were looking for someone for South Sound. I lived in South Sound and it just, it was one of those moments that kind of just fell into place because at the time I left the wine bar and worked as a sommelier for a little bit. And that was, a really hard experience, a valuable experience, but not my favorite thing to do.
Ali: Yeah, I mean, speaking of the Somm movies, I’ve watched through those as well. And it terrifies me to think of what they have to go through for those. So I can’t even imagine being a Somm in a large setting then, too.
Ooh, that’s pressure. Yeah.
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, it is. It’s a lot of pressure and yeah, because people in the wine industry, you know, there’s this stigma that we’re supposed to know everything about wine, and that is just impossible. It’s an impossible expectation to have on on one person.
Ali: It really is. But yeah, there’s so much to learn in the industry, like you learn something new every single day.
So Ute and I always joke about how even while we’re recording episodes, we’re still on the side like Googling something to make sure that we’re saying the right thing or we’re remembering the right fact because we don’t remember everything and no one should have to remember everything in this industry.
Kat Shapiro: Well, and it’s constantly changing too.
So, things change all the time. So yeah. It was really after I did diploma that I wanted to open my own business. As the wine club.
Ali: Yeah. Well, let’s dig into that a little bit. I love how ZenWine is all about integrating the wine lifestyle with healthy minds and healthy bodies. You blend them all together so nicely.
Obviously coming from your restaurant experience and your wine experience, and you have yoga experience as well. Was that just a natural thing to put all of them into one business for yourself or did it take some time to think to how to meld those all together?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, so it definitely was like the wine life and the yoga life was running parallel for many, many years.
Like it was just two facets of my life that I really. Enjoyed for one reason or the other. I started a yoga practice, when I was in college and it was just a, a long, long journey of kind of unwinding and untangling, you know, the first 25 years of my life. When I started diploma, it was really when I started diploma that I realized how much I needed the yoga and mindfulness to get me through this incredibly difficult certification.
And it was just interesting because it was a natural integration because my life at the time was so difficult and every single unit of diploma… It’s a two year program with different units, so it’s kind of like a master’s degree in that sense, where you take a class.
Okay. You finish that class and then you move on. So every unit’s about like two months long or so, every unit was paired to my personal life, like challenges in my personal life that I had to like overcome, like figure out. So it was like walking hand in hand with this, okay, unit one, I was getting these like crazy migraines.
And it was like debilitating because I was so stressed out. I had to like dig in and bring these habits and ways of being into my wine life cuz I wasn’t gonna make it, you know, like it wasn’t gonna be possible if I didn’t. And so, as we kinda went on, it just became this very natural pairing, which I’ve come to find, that works really, really well.
Like we, you know, just people in the restaurant industry like they, and we need that wellness lens because we’re out of balance in that. So kind of bringing the pendulum back to balance in that way I think is really helpful.
Ali: Yeah, yeah. And especially, I mean, in the restaurant industry, you are not only physically beat up, I mean on your feet all the time, very high stress situations, but emotionally and mentally it’s very taxing. I mean, I, back in my early twenties, worked as a server and a bartender for just a few months, and it was right before I started my own master’s program for library science. And I, even before I started my master’s program, I was like, I can’t do both of these at the same time. They will run me into the ground if I’m already this tired. So, yeah, it’s, it’s a rough one.
Kat Shapiro: It really is. And, the culture too. The culture just feeds into this, like, you know, getting drinks after work, staying up till 4:00 AM. You know, a lot of people are younger so they don’t have kids.
But then a lot of people, you know, we see these like lifers, right? Where we like stay cause it’s good money. You can have a full-time wage. And, and not work full-time. So that’s really, really helpful. And actually for my first daughter, I worked three days a week and made a great wage and never put her in daycare.
And I was able to do that because I worked in a restaurant. But, kind of fighting that drinks culture where we’re expected to drink. Again, just like outta balance. So that’s, that’s really kind of the heart of why I wanted to intersect the wine and wellness is because it’s like, what is the why? Are we drinking to escape or are we drinking to expand and know more, get to know ourselves more, get to know the region and the wine and the winemakers, and the soils and all of that. So it’s a different vibe, honestly.
Ali: Yeah, 100%. Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. Of am I just, do I just need a drink in my hand or do I want a drink to experience, you know, the feel of being on the French countryside because I am drinking a French wine or something. Something like that.
Kat Shapiro: Or like, am I, you know, taking a moment to sit and, you know, have a little downtime if that’s what I need in my life. You know? Or can I, can I drink and not get drunk every time? You know, can I just have one or two glasses and for me that was not the case for a long time.
Like I saw the end of that bottle every time and, and I did not feel good. I felt horrible. And that’s another reason it kind of came to the point where I was like, well, I love wine and I love working in this industry, but if I’m going to continue, I have to find some balance and pull back a little bit on consuming.
Ali: Yeah, and even just if you want to continue in this industry, if you’re loving the work that you’re doing, you have to be mindful of your health is also being impacted by what you love, like your internal organs. You can’t be doing, you know, bottom of the bottle every single time because then you won’t be able to continue doing what you love.
Eventually your body will tell you, “Hey, we’re done. No more.” So just I love the concept of bringing in that mindfulness with every drink that you’re having of, all right, I am in the moment with my drink and I am good to proceed from here. So, yeah.
Kat Shapiro: Exactly. And you know, that also brings awareness to what I’m drinking.
And, and what I’m eating too. Right. I feel like as a culture, we have more awareness of what we eat now. Like more organic, more local, you know? That’s more on our radar than wine at the moment. And I know that’s changing and it’s been in the works of changing for a while, but I talk to people all the time that buy mass produced wine, but then they’re concerned about what food they’re eating so it doesn’t align. Right? It’s like we need to have more awareness of the wines that we’re sourcing too. Those vines are sprayed with the chemicals that, you know, harm the planet and harm our bodies, and we’re drinking it.
Ali: Right. Right. Yeah. You’re worried about putting it in your body via foods, so you try to go for healthier foods, but you’re not even thinking about what… Winemaking is very much agriculture. You’re growing your grapes, you are a farmer of those vines. And so yeah, making sure that as a wine consumer, you’re being conscientious about what are the practices in the vineyard? What are your farmers, what are your vineyard stewards doing to those vines? To make sure that your grapes are arriving at the winery in their healthiest state possible so that you can consume your wine in a low additive sort of environment.
Kat Shapiro: Absolutely. And you know, it’s like the money that we pay out to whatever we’re purchasing, that is who we are supporting. So if you don’t agree with big business and how they treat, their vines, but also how they treat their workers and their staff and kinda everybody in between then we’re supporting the cause that is harmful and the cause that we don’t wanna align with. So I think it’s just good to have that awareness just overall.
Ali: Yes. 100%. I love that. Let’s talk a little bit about the club side of ZenWine specifically.
I know from your website you have three different options, correct? Could you tell us a bit about that? Of just how often those shipments go out? How many bottles? And is it just Pacific Northwest or are you able to go other states or even outside of the United States?
Kat Shapiro: So right now we are a Washington based company.
We were shipping out of state, but we’re going to change that and we’re just gonna be Washington. We really are community driven wine club, so we wanna stay as local as possible. We have three wine clubs: The Enlightened is my favorite, possibly. It’s six wines and one sparkling, one white and four reds.
And this is just from anywhere in the world. I curate these wines myself and I really find wines that compliment and contrast each other. So you’re not gonna get two similar wines and you’re never gonna get the same wines. You’re gonna experience something new every time. So The Enlightened is for the person that’s like curious, open that, that wants to just discover basically.
That is $190 for six bottles. And then we do a flat rate, $10 shipping. So we share the shipping with our customers. And, the retail price of the bottles ranges from like $30 to $60. So, very awesome value for the wines you’re getting. They are all small production. They are made with love.
They’re made with people that farm the grapes, make the wine. You know, these wines are the wines that love you back. You know, they are, they’re not all quote unquote organic because that’s a whole nother, political kind of statement in the wine industry, but they’re all made mindfully. And they all have nuance to them and kind of this awe factor.
So The Enlightened, The Grateful Reds, those are six red wines. These guys are like the aged wines, the reservas, the wines that are ready for your consumption today, but that have been aged already for you. So I really love this idea that the wines that you get with ZenWine, you can open them today like they’re ready for you.
Cause so often, you know, when we are a wine club member at a winery, you get wines that are brand new, kind of hot off the press. And you kind of have to figure out when is the optimal time to drink this? And no one knows, we don’t know this information as consumers. So for example, in this spring release, The Grateful Reds, I featured an Argentinian Cabernet, that’s from 2017 and it’s tasting amazing right now. So it’s, you know, from like, 3000 feet of elevation and really refined, complex. But if you open it tonight and decant it, it’s ready and it’s tasting amazing. So that’s really what I try to find for The Grateful Reds is wines that you, that you can open tonight and be ready to go. And that club is $220, for the six red wines.
The Triple Zen is three bottles for $85 and there are two reds and one white. And I think of The Triple Zen as just a mini version of The Enlightened where one of the red wines is gonna be medium bodied, more suited for food, like, you know, higher acid. And then the second red wine is gonna be more punchy, fuller bodied, has more density to it. You’re gonna get wines that compliment food, but also have great labels because it gives you something to talk about.
Ali: I’m definitely someone who, occasionally I’ll just walk through a wine shop and I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll just pay attention to labels and if a label speaks to me, the artwork on it. I’m like, all right, this one’s, this one’s saying I need to take it home. So here we go. So, and I know you’ve shared artwork of your, of your bottles before that you’ve included in shipments and I, I think I’ve even commented on a few of them of like, can I get a print of this? Like, it’s really great artwork.
Kat Shapiro: Thank you. Yeah, I definitely, I’m a sucker for great labels too. It’s gotta have a great label. But you know, at the end of the day, it’s like, do you love the wine in your glass? So these are thoughtful, very well made and, and they’re unique. I also love Mexican and Hungarian wines.
So I source from a very small importer and he’s getting wines directly from the producer. So there’s very short line between where I’m sourcing my wines, and then when it ends up, you know, back to my home basically.
Ali: And those are two regions you don’t typically see in your local wine shop too, so that’s really exciting to be adventuring out into different, lesser known wine regions.
So that’s really exciting. I love that.
Kat Shapiro: I love that. Yep. I give my people this balance of like, I call like the hush hush wine. Like, okay, you’re gonna love it like it’s gonna be ok. You know, the one that they just, everyone goes crazy for, you know? Which is usually the Washington one!
Ali: Right? You get the insider knowledge before it’s cool.
Kat Shapiro: Exactly. Exactly. But then I give you one like unique wine, you know, where you’re like, okay, I know you’ve never had this before, and it might, you know, take you a sec to like, okay, all right. Like, kind of let it breathe for a moment and yeah.
It’s been really fun. So I’ve had a really great kind of community in this whole process. And that’s really what I wanna generate because yeah, I don’t have a wine shop. It is not my goal to open a wine shop, so I intentionally made this business online so that I can ship to your door. And then every wine comes with this digital booklet of information, tasting notes. There’s food pairings with each wine. So you get to, it’s kind of like Somm to your table. So you get to get to know each wine, you know, you like, you get the guided information behind it. Which is really fun.
And then we do an online happy hour. We do like a live club happy hour where we open two bottles together and kind of go deeper into this cause and effect of like what we’re tasting. Last time I had some ideas of like, okay, bring some of this kind of food. Let’s taste the food and the wine together. Why are we tasting this?
Ali: And those are, are they virtual meetups or are they in person?
Kat Shapiro: Virtual. Yep. Virtual meetups and, our in-person action that we are implementing this year is —
Ali: Yes, I was gonna ask you about this.
Kat Shapiro: Yeah. Yeah.
Ali: So exciting.
Kat Shapiro: Yes. So the club trip! We are taking six of our members to Hood River in August. So we are basically gonna be tour guides. We are gonna go to wineries, to restaurants, and have this exclusive winemaker experience. So I’m really, really excited to just start a new branch of a business.
Ali: Yeah. That, that sounds really… Is that something you wanna keep going with future club releases? Especially if you’re gonna be pulling it back to just a localized community club?
Kat Shapiro: Yes. I would love to do that. Go to more places, expand to like international, you know? I would love to do that. And it’ll be really special cause it’s just for our wine club members. So it’s only open to the people that are in our community. And I think that that has been really special to connect with people on that level.
Ali: Yeah. You have other events too. I know. There was a paint night at one point and I really wanted to paint that champagne bottle, but I, I knew I couldn’t make it for, I think it was like during harvest or something, so of course I have no time available then. But, you have other events with your club members that are local, correct? Or is that just anyone?
Kat Shapiro: Just anyone. So, I partnered with this other female entrepreneur. She owns a smoothie shop right here in Sumner. And we closed and did this paint and sip. And then we had another gal, she’s the artist, so kinda this really cool trifecta of ladies. So Anne taught the artwork. We did one during the holiday season last year, so we everyone painted two ornaments. So that was really, really good. So then it comes with like the painting or whatever painting and project that we’re doing. And then a bunch of snacks and four different wines. So it was definitely a combination and it was just so much fun. We’re doing another one June 10th. So, Super excited to get another one on the books.
Ali: Yeah, that’s really cool. And to be able to build up and support other female entrepreneurs in your community, I feel like that just fits in so perfectly with your whole concept of mindful wine and female entrepreneurship, so I love that so much.
Kat Shapiro: I know it was great because like Anne is the artist and she is used to teaching kids cuz she teaches her daughter’s and her son’s class, you know? But I was like, Hey, let’s do this, you know. We’re just adult kids! So same, same, you know, probably the same level of skill. Right?
Ali: Right. I was just gonna say like adults with no painting experience, like just there for a fun night out with friends. Like Yeah, teach me at a kid level, please.
Kat Shapiro: Exactly. Exactly. So, it was much fun. It was great. Local, local people and everyone was like, we need to do that again.
Ali: Yeah, I love that. Well, it sounds like you have very exciting things in the future and dreams that are hopefully going to come true soon for the wine club. I’m excited to see where all of that goes.
Kat Shapiro: Thank you. Yeah. It’s gonna be good. And just figuring things out as we go.
Ali: Yeah. Sounds good. We have talked a little bit about your wine education, but I do wanna dive a little bit more into that. I come from a higher education background, so I’m always asking people about their wine education as well.
So you have taken the first level of Court of Master Somm, and then you’ve gone all the way through diploma level. Can you talk to us first about what your favorite course out of all of your certifications has been to take?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, so favorite course I would say was Italian Wine Professional. It was like a two or three month course just focusing on Italian wines, which is huge. Right? Like so, so much in terms of variety, different regions. But it was a lot of fun and I learned so much and it gave me a solid intro to the wines of Italy and then helped me a lot when I took diploma. Cause I already had that foundation.
But yeah, I also loved taking the sparkling unit for the diploma program. Yeah, that was really fun.
Ali: You’re speaking my language. I’m all about the bubbles.
Kat Shapiro: Oh, I know. And finding other wines, other high quality sparkling wines other than champagne. Cause there are a lot. And we don’t typically know about them unless we seek that information out. So it was kinda fun getting to know like Franciacorta and, you know, some of these other wines of the world that are just not necessarily on our radar. So.
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, I think you–
Ali: and Oh, sorry, go ahead.
Kat Shapiro: No, go ahead.
Ali: Oh, I, I didn’t know if you had another favorite one. I was gonna let you finish that thought.
Kat Shapiro: No, I think that’s, that’s it.
Ali: Okay. Well I think you kind of already answered this previously, but what was your most difficult certification you went through?
Kat Shapiro: Definitely diploma as a whole. But yeah, I would say within diploma D3 was the unit for wines of the world. And that was a lot. It was just, it’s just so much to fit into, you know, three months or two months of studying. And then a huge exam at the end where we’re blind tasting 12 wines. And writing essay questions, you know, five pages of essays, basically. That was, and that was the last unit I needed to pass diploma. So, it had the most weight on it as well. So, a lot of pressure, a lot of information. But, you know, being in front of it now, I am so glad, I’m like thanking my previous self for doing the hard work and doing the thing. Cause when we’re in it, it’s just seems impossible. But you just have to find a way.
Ali: Yeah. With, with diploma it’s six units, right? And you have to take unit one and unit two, but then unit three, four, five, and six can just be whatever order you happen to take them, right?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, depending on your school that you take it through, you might have some variances in the last last units. But yeah, definitely one and two are the fundamentals because unit one is viticulture and vinicultre, so you really need to understand what’s happening in the vineyard and the winery before you can kind of move on.
Ali: Right. Yeah, I’ve heard unit three is basically. WSET level 3 on steroids, but all condensed in a much shorter time. And you have to regurgitate even more information than in all of level three.
Kat Shapiro: Right. But it’s more than a regurgitation. It’s, it’s an understanding. And that is the main difference of going from level three to level four is they want you to know why, and they want you to explain and weave in the information together.
So that cause and effect you really, it’s more than just memorizing and like dumping back out. It’s integration of knowledge. But that is so helpful to understand wines of the world and just how it all works. Because then you really get it. Yeah. So it’s, it’s painful, but it’s worth it. Depending on what you do, you know.
Ali: Right, right. Now that you have diploma under your belt do you have dreams of going on to the Master of Wine program applying for that?
Kat Shapiro: I don’t, honestly. I, typically would, I would say. Like, I thought about it, but I just, I wanna have fun, I wanna play, I wanna be creative. I wanna be with my family, you know? Like, diploma I mean, there were a lot of weekends where I was studying 10 hours a day. You know, and, and I missed a lot of time. And, you know, kids grow up and, and you get a certain amount of time with your family and I really wanna be around.
So that’s why, that’s so instead of the Master of Wine, that’s why I opened ZenWine cuz I was like, okay, my own business, I can, I can make it work into my life and I can have fun and be the creator and also be the be the boss. So, —
Ali: and continue to learn.
Kat Shapiro: And continue to learn ! Oh, I’ve learned so much. So, and, and pivot, right? And just like see what works. See what doesn’t. But keep going. So in terms of certifications, I just took the level one Spirits course through, the school that I teach for. So that was, that was fun. I really loved learning about spirits.
I also would love to take the level one sake. I love sake so much!
So that would be awesome to kind of go that route. And just kind of dabble into other certifications. But I kind of like the level one.
Ali: Just gimme the base knowledge.
Kat Shapiro: Yes. Yeah, I’m cool with that. I can digest that like after, yeah, after diploma I’ve kind of been like allergic to anything that’s like too hard. I don’t want it.
Ali: Yeah. Yeah. I hear you. Yeah. So you teach level one and two WSET through the Wine and Spirit Archives. Yes? That’s where I got my level three through last year, so very familiar with them. I love it.
Kat Shapiro: Awesome.
Kat Shapiro: Great crew.
Ali: Oh yeah, they are so knowledgeable. It’s amazing. So with with your spirits certification, do you have any expansion plans for ZenWines? Do like a sister venture of spirits to ZenWine… ZenSpirits? Maybe?
Kat Shapiro: That would be fun. That would be fun. I don’t think so at the moment. Right now, my branch to the business is, I really want to start doing online courses. Courses, mentorships. I wanna go start being more digital. Kind of like this wave of everybody’s kind of like doing this online courses and businesses and everything. So that is something that I really wanna do.
So I put together, I created this class that I taught last year. It was how to taste like a Somm. And it’s a two hour class, kind of a deep dive, how to taste, what to look for, you know, age worthiness, quality, all of these conversations. And it’s been, it was really fun. So I’m basically turning that class into a course.
And then I’m just going to expand from there. That’s, that’s my goal that I’m kind of working on in the backend is like the courses, how do I get that up and running? I wanna do like a wine and yoga challenge. Where it’s like 12 days of wine and like tasting and yoga and like really get that integration going. Cause I think–
Ali: Okay. Keep me updated on that one. I would be a beta tester on that for you.
Kat Shapiro: Great. Excellent. Good. Great. Yes.
Ali: Well, it’s really exciting. I love the expansion of just wanting to better understand spirits and hopefully, eventually sake. And, and then of course it makes sense that you want to go out and share your, your knowledge via teaching.
So that’s, I’m, I’m excited for those ventures for you.
Kat Shapiro: Thank you. Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it’s, it’s been fun and humbling.
Ali: Yeah. Well, let’s, let’s pivot a little bit and chat: do you have any favorite regions that you like to travel to? I know you’ve mentioned Mexico and Hungary that you like to, to drink wines from. Do you have specific locations or regions that you are always like that’s the place that, that brings me peace and joy when I travel there?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah. Well, if we’re talking about Mexico, Valle De Guadalupe, that is kind of, that’s where 90% of Mexican wine production comes from, and it is such a stunning place that we don’t necessarily think of when we think of a wine region. But it’s kind of, it’s like the Napa of Mexico. And it’s just like, look, this, like, you know, you have the, the ocean and the mountains and then you just like adventure into the mountains and off a dirt path. All of a sudden there’s these like incredible buildings, farms, like, it’s amazing.
Just mind blowing. And the level of quality and the level of terroir and, and kind of this like thoughtful farming where it’s the, it’s like the circle, right? The regenerative farming. You know, you eat at the restaurant and you’re eating food that was grown 20 feet away. That was so incredible. I got the chance to be an international wine judge in the Mexican wine competition. So that was, that was where I had the time to go and experience and go to wineries and, and talk to producers. So that was mind blowing for me and so much fun.
But locally, I just went to Hood River for the first time. And that was amazing too, cuz it’s only four hours away from me. And you know, the Columbia Gorge has a lot to offer and, you know, if we’re talking about grape growing, there’s so many different microclimates within the Columbia Gorge area, that you have so many different wine styles coming out of there and it’s, it was so fun to go explore. So I’m super pumped about Hood River and exploring kind of my local, I love the underdog. I’m always, I, I’m always have this affinity for the underdog, so.
Ali: Nice. That’s nice. Being a woman in this industry, did you, or do you currently still see any hurdles, and if so, what, what are those hurdles? How did you overcome them?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah, I’ve definitely had my share of experiences good and bad.
I would say that one of the biggest hurdles for me was sometimes in this industry you have to align yourself with the power that is in place. Okay. And when we do this, it’s kind of out of like this survival mode where it’s a choice, but also a lot of times if you wanna get ahead, you have to make that choice.
You know, and kind of throwing elbows a little bit and coming from this place of like, scarcity, you know, that if I don’t charge forward whatever way that I can, that I’m not gonna move ahead. So that has changed, that attitude for me has shifted a lot. And just allowing and giving myself some compassion and grace for, you know, maybe not being my true self in certain scenarios.
That, that asked of me to kind of leave myself at the door and be someone else to get the job done. And so I’ve kinda had some guilt surrounding that. So having a little bit of grace for myself for, you know, aligning with the powers that I don’t want to align with. But I would say as like, you know, advice or for this industry to kind of form an alliance.
Because a lot of times, you know, if something happens, if like, you know, somebody is inappropriate, like using language or doing something that is like not okay. You know, a lot of times if we say something, you know, we always say like, when you, if you see something, say something, but that can actually be damaging to our workplace environment, our, our health too. That kind comes with a double-edged sword, so
Ali: it really does.
Kat Shapiro: It does, and that’s kind of the backfire of being a woman. It’s like, well, either I keep quiet like they want me to be, but it’s like not okay. You know? Or I say something and then I suffer. My career suffers. So I would say like, form that alliance with other women and warn them, talk about the men that are behaving badly, you know? Talk about that, you know, so you can form your community and be and warn them, Hey, this is what happened to me with this person, you know? And you can kinda build that trust.
And then also you can be that person in the meeting that’s like, Hey, I’m gonna back you up. Like I will be your backup. So if you say something, I will second that. Like I will be like, oh, that’s a great idea. You know, so we can kind of start to form this alliance together because in this patriarchy, they want broken, quiet women that don’t speak to each other, that will just kind of conform and, and just say yes and, and move along, and that’s not what we’re gonna be.
So, I think being smart and having strategy is a good thing, but also, you know, in terms of just like the wine industry in itself, and if you’re looking to like find your place in it, I would say find a mentor and be a mentor.
So find somebody that you look up to, but then also be that person for someone else. Because again, it kind of goes back to that alliance.
Ali: Yeah. Yeah, that community of, even if you’re not working at the same location as long, like I know I personally feel stronger if, even if that person isn’t in the room with me, if I know somewhere out there I have people who have my back, who are going to step up and support me when and where I need them. Even if it’s not immediately in a specific meeting or situation. But knowing I can walk away from that place and have that community just unfold me in their protective arms, metaphorically or physically, either one. I’ll take hugs.
And, and yeah, just being able to support each other, uplift each other and share our knowledge, build that collective. It’s that you talked about, you know, keeping people silent and in the past, it’s been expected that women stay silent and stay complacent, but that is how we get things like the #metoo movement, where there was such a problem that no one was speaking to each other. No one knew what everyone else was going through, and so that problem was allowed to persist.
Or, you know, the wage gap. It’s been conditioned in us to not discuss how much we are getting paid. We have been taught that that is a faux pas, that you should never discuss how much you’re getting paid. But that is how it stays where we are getting paid less. Where, where everyone who is not the powerful white man is getting paid less.
And that needs to stop. We need to use our voices and be in communication with each other and that’s the only, you know, the whole rising tides lift all ships. So, yeah,
Kat Shapiro: I love that. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. And be you know, happy for other people when they succeed and and know that there’s room for everybody.
Kat Shapiro: There really, really, really is. And I, I hope that I can get to a point where I have a nonprofit, that’s another little dream in the books for me. I would love to help diversify this industry. So, and kinda carve a path for others that haven’t had it as easy as I have.
Ali: Yes. This your, your whole journey into creating ZenWine, and the dreams that you have moving forward even, remind me of, I listen to a podcast by Tori Dunlap called the Financial Feminist, Her First 100k. And she is all about bringing feminism and fighting the patriarchy through our finances. And she has a saying that says something along the lines of “if there isn’t room at the table for you, then build your own table and invite others to it.”
And I just feel like your, your vision and your work, you are, you have your table and you are starting to invite women to it, and I commend you for that. I love it so much.
Kat Shapiro: Thank you. Thank you. I really, I appreciate it and I’m excited to share. I’m excited to share and build community and keep drinking great wine.
Ali: I love it so much. Let’s, let’s wrap up here. We are getting, we’re been chatting for almost an hour now. Let’s wrap up with, do you have a woman or, or any women in the industry that you look up to that you would like to shout out and have other women and just women and men, anyone in the industry to go check out their work and, and see what they’re doing as well?
Kat Shapiro: Yeah. So I, well, I would love to eventually meet or work with Karen MacNeil. Yes. She is kind of been my, just yeah. Wise woman that I always look up to. But yeah there’s a lot happening like on Instagram with you know, wine and wellness is kind of coming into its own and yeah. I’m just excited to see what everybody’s take is on that. So really, really looking forward to seeing people come up in this, in this sector.
Ali: Yeah. Fantastic. I’m gonna throw one more question at you that I did not include on the questions that I had previously sent you, but it’s an easy one. Ute and I have a friendly competition going between Team Red Wine and Team Bubbles.
If you had to choose a team, which one would you choose?
Kat Shapiro: Oh, that is really hard question. I think it would change depending on the day. But right now I’m going Team Red.
Ali: Okay. There you go. Ute, you, you have a, you have a, a fellow teammate.
Kat Shapiro: Tomorrow it might be different, you know? Right. But who knows?
Ali: We, we do sometimes allow people to choose the Team Choose Your Own Adventure. That’s, that’s where you’re, you just want all the wine. It’s fine.
Kat Shapiro: Yes, yeah. I love it. I love it.
Ali: Alrighty. Well, I’ve mentioned your Instagram a few times, so will you tell our listeners where they can find you and how to get in touch with you?
Kat Shapiro: Yes, so my website is zenwineclub.com, and my Instagram is at Zen_wine. That’s where you can find me.
Ali: Fantastic. I will drop both of those in the show notes for our listeners. The links there, and we are at the end of our conversation. Kat, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate your time and energy in this conversation.
Kat Shapiro: Thank you, Ali. I so appreciate you and what you and Ute are doing. I think it’s wonderful, and it’s such a great spin on your talents and what you’re bringing to the table, so I love it.
Ali: Thank you. Thank you. Well, with that, all I have left to say is Sanatate!
Kat Shapiro: All right. Cheers.