An Interview with Laurie Forster
Laurie Forster is an award-winning sommelier, author, TV personality and comedian. Her edgy approach to demystifying wine caught the eye of major networks and led her to guest
appearances on FOX Morning News, Martha Stewart Living Today and ABC News at Noon. She’s performed her wine themed comedy at the DC IMPROV, Broadway Comedy Club, Tampa IMPROV, Avalon Theatre and RamsHead On Stage.
Forster is also the host of her radio show The Sipping Point on WBAL 1090AM and her mobile application “The Wine Coach” was listed as one of the Top 8 Wine Apps in Wine Enthusiast, Top 5 Wine Apps in the World by Departures International Magazine and 2012 App of the Year from Go Mobile Solutions.
A former software sales executive, Laurie’s wine career began in Manhattan where she studied with the American Sommelier Association to obtain her certificate in Viticulture and Vinification. Laurie has since earned an Advanced Certificate with Merit from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She has also trained with the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.
How did you become The Wine Coach®?
To answer this question, it is best talk about how I came to love wine in the first place…My love of wine began over a decade ago when I was working as a sales executive for a software company, traveling all over the country and working with some amazing people. One aspect of my job, which I enjoyed the most, was entertaining prospective clients—typically taking them out to dinner at the finest restaurants around the country for great food and wine. Sampling great wines was always a joy for me, but ordering from a wine list was another story. I was not raised in a household where fine wine was common at our dinner table. The first time I was handed a wine list that was as thick as a phone book, I panicked! Everyone at the table was looking to me to choose the perfect wine selection to accompany our meal. I scanned the list for anything familiar and hoped the client (and my boss) would not see how nervous I was. I asked the waiter for help, but was greeted with a healthy dose of attitude.
To ensure this embarrassment would NEVER happen again, I began studying wine. I wanted to navigate a wine list and dazzle my clients unassisted. I began taking wine classes, attending wine dinners and reading as much as I could about wine. If I could sell complex software to Fortune 500 corporations, there had to be a way to understand the world of wine. As a salesperson, my role was to explain our high tech product in a way that was easy to understand and highlight what value it could bring to our clients. I found I could use this same skill set to simplify what I learned about wine. As my knowledge and confidence grew, I began to look forward to taking charge of the wine list. Ordering a great wine became a tool to impress key customers and to close deals.
In working with my life coach, I decided to take a sabbatical to study my two passions—people and wine. In 2002, I studied with the Manhattan chapter of the American Sommelier Association to earn a certificate in Viticulture and Vinification. Concurrently, I trained as a life coach with Coach U, the leading global provider of coach training programs, where I learned how to help other people pursue their passions. During that time, I worked at one of the largest wine stores in Manhattan. One night I was asked to host a wine tasting for an alumni group. It was at this tasting that everything clicked—I enjoyed teaching everyone about wine in my down to earth, attitude-free style and could see the light bulb going on for many of them. I also noticed that, after the formal tasting, people felt more at ease to connect and talk about life. It was then that I realized that I could blend my knowledge of wine with my experience as a life coach to create unique wine events as The Wine Coach®.
I have since made a commitment to create events that help people connect with wine in a way that is approachable and fun, while creating opportunities for them to bond with each other. The most rewarding part of my job is that I can save my customers from the awkward moments I suffered with the wine list back in my software days. As The Wine Coach® I have armed thousands of corporations, associations and wine lovers with the knowledge and confidence to take charge of the wine list. In the process, they have the opportunity to connect with their team members and their customers which results in higher productivity, more sales and added visibility. The old proverb stating, ’Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made,’ is proven time and time again at my events.
What are your qualifications?
I have studied wine professionally for almost a decade, and I feel as passionate about it now as when I began. A graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Logistics, my course in life took an interesting shift from software sales executive in 2001 when I decided to move to New York City to study wine. After earning a Certificate in Viniculture and Vinification with the American Sommelier Association, I put my knowledge to the test and worked at the popular Astor Wines, one of the largest wine stores in Manhattan. Here, I was able to learn more about the retail side of the business and what their diverse group of clients were looking for. Since then I have completed the initial test towards becoming a Master Sommelier and expanded my wine knowledge even more by becoming Advanced Certified with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. I’m a member of the Society of Wine Educators and have also taken wine classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, CA.
Learning from a book is great, but even better is experiencing wine first hand. I make it a priority to travel to new wine regions in the U.S. and abroad every year. My travels have taken me up and down the East Coast, to Oregon, Washington, Italy, Austria, France, Australia, and New Zealand.
I’m the author of the award-winning book, “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine,” and wine columnist for several magazines. I make regular appearances as a guest expert on radio and television stations across the country.
What makes you different from other wine educators?
I like to think of myself as an “Edu-tainer” because I’m just as passionate about educating my clients on wine as I am about making the event entertaining. As an accomplished speaker, I have worked across many venues and am as comfortable addressing 10 people as I am addressing 400. I can easily adapt to the particular group I’m working with and my approach is one that engages the audience by bringing a sense of humor to the event. I have found that people feel more comfortable when they are able to connect with something that promotes camaraderie, stimulates conversation and makes them smile. I like my events to include food because let’s face it, who doesn’t like to eat? Many of the concepts that are important to understanding wine are very similar to what we already know about food. As people who have attended my seminars have heard me say, “Having wine on the table should be no different than having salt and pepper on the table!”
Who are your clients exactly?
My clients include corporate and hotel meeting planners, associations, public relations professionals, law firms, insurance companies, financial institutions, non-profit charities, software firms and cosmetic companies. They hire me to create a unique and total experience that has real impact in areas such as team-building, fundraising, marketing and sales. I also host wine dinners, receptions, and am a sought after speaker for wine festivals and culinary shows around the country. Want to see a list of my past clients and read what they had to say about The Wine Coach® experience? Visit http://thewinecoach.com/client-testimonials
May I contact some of your former clients?
Yes, of course! I encourage you to visit my client page where you will find thoughts from some of my clients. If you would like to speak to any of them, I’d be happy to put you in touch. Just give me a call at 410-820-4212.
With what type of clients do you work best?
I work best with the client who is looking to invest in my services to create an experience—wine education, entertainment and personal connection. My clients are looking to create a results-driven event, which is more than just having someone pour wine and talk about it. Typically, my clients are looking for an innovative experience to drive sales, strengthen customer relationships, improve team dynamics or raise money for a worthy cause.
The theme, flow and content of my events are designed to achieve my client’s specific objectives. Over the last 10 years, I have spoken to thousands of groups and have learned what works and what doesn’t. I use this depth of experience to help my clients create unique events targeted to their needs. I ensure that we are connecting the wine tasting to their business and in the end the events we create are the ones that people will talk about long after it’s over!
What types of clients are not suited for this?
I’m very selective about whom I work with in order to make sure that my services are the right fit for the client’s objectives. It is essential that my clients get the results they signed up for - the WOW experience I can provide for their event. This goes far beyond the traditional pouring and chatting that is experienced at other wine events.
My mission is to create amazing events where people connect with wine in a way that is approachable, fun and interactive. I highly recommend a “get acquainted” call in advance so together we can gauge if your needs and my services are a good fit. If not, I’ll be happy to refer you to other resources that may work better for you.
What results can I expect?
Each event is designed and structured according to the client’s specific objectives, ensuring that expectations are consistently met. One common thread at all my events is that participants will have the opportunity to connect with one another, have fun, and learn about wine.
What programs do you offer?
The Wine Coach offers several attractive packages, all of which are structured to meet the needs of each client.
The Vintage Package – this 90 minute event package is designed to create a wine tasting with impact. This session can be used for an ice breaker tasting to kick off a conference, as a spouse outing or for a leisure outing. My clients also receive an electronic brochure with their logo to promote the event to attendees.
The Reserve Package – similar to the The Vintage Package, however this offer is a more extended event (up to three hours). It is designed to create the same impact many times over a meal–lunch or dinner. In addition, I include 30 signed copies of my award-winning book, The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine to be used as turn down or take away gifts.
The Grand Cru Package – includes two high impact events (up to 3 hours each) that may include receptions, client dinners or a combination of events. With this package, you will receive 50 signed copies of The Sipping Point and 50 copies of Laurie’s audio CD “The 7 Secrets to Flawlessly Ordering Off Any List” to be used as turn down or take away gifts.
For each package, I will work with you on the preliminary planning and structure the wine-tasting to complement the event. Every element of your event will be designed to fit with its content so that the theme and objective is reinforced throughout the program. And having fun is guaranteed!
How much does it cost?
It is hard to say which package will best fit your group until we have a chance to talk. When we have our “get acquainted” call, I will get a better sense of your goals and your objectives and I can then guide you toward the package that will be the right fit to ensure we achieve your goals. My goal is to deliver the value my clients are looking for by designing a program for their particular needs. This way the results will far exceed the cost!
Do you sell wine?
No. I do not sell wine. I am hired to create a highly interactive wine experience that is as educational as it is entertaining. I call this my unique brand of wine edu-tainment. I will select the right wines for your specific event and pair them with your menu. The wine itself is typically purchased from the hotel, restaurant, or facility where the event is held.
Do you offer discounts?
Rather than provide discounts, I offer several packages designed for different budgets and objectives. I will work with you to design an event that will create the results you desire and fits the investment you are willing to make.
Do you accept credit cards
Yes, I accept all major credit cards, as well as checks and PayPal.
I want to sign up! How do we get started?
Great! You can start by sending an email to Marianne@TheWineCoach.com to let us know you want to get started. My assistant will send you our Event Questionnaire which will ask you about your event needs and the results you are looking for.
Next, we will talk over your responses and determine if my services are a fit for your organization. and we will decide together how to move forward. In order to book me for your event, an agreement that outlines your specific needs is created. A 50% deposit is required at signing to hold the date on my calendar for your event. Once this paperwork is complete, we will begin planning your high impact event—one that will create the outcome you desire and of course deliver on my mission to Demystify Wine, One Glass at a Time!
I’m not sure if I’m ready. How can I get a better feel for you and your work to see if it will be a fit for me?
Actually, there are several ways you can do this. There is a wealth of information on my Speaking & Corporate page. You can learn about my events and the results you can expect. You can also view my demo video in order to get a feel for my style and approach.
You can also sign up to receive my free audio CD “The 7 Secrets to Flawlessly Ordering Wine off Any Wine List” This 40 minute audio CD will give you everything you need to outsmart any wine list and impress your clients or friends! You’ll also automatically get a free subscription to my high content e-Zine with wine tips and suggestions that will save you time, money and help you pick the perfect wine every time! Click here to place an order for your complimentary copy.
When you are ready, email Marianne@TheWineCoach.com to set up a get acquainted call where we’ll discuss your specific event needs.
I’m ready, but still have a few questions. Can we talk?
Absolutely! I’ll be happy to talk with you and answer any questions you have about creating a fun, results-oriented event. Just send an email to Marianne@TheWineCoach.com and we can set up a time to chat.
I look forward to the opportunity to work (and wine) with you!
Photograph © Paragon Light Photography