Rising Stars
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VineRoutes Video: Meet three rising stars of the wine world

September 28, 2022

My interest in wine developed quite accidentally. I was dating someone who was studying to become a sommelier and I learned by osmosis as he went from wine specialist to sommelier to advanced sommelier. Blind tastings were common at our table and it was fascinating to watch and participate in them.

Read Also: Women in Wine: Three women leading the way in Canadian wine

I spent much of my career interviewing talent in the Canadian film & TV industry, so it was a natural transition that I moved into doing the same with people in the wine world. I’ve always been curious as to what leads people down the paths they follow in life and I’m especially interested in those who are just beginning their careers.

All that to say, welcome to this profile series of rising stars in the wine world. You know that old saying, “kids these days”? Well, I am highly impressed with these first three inspiring and passionate kids I spoke with (at my age I consider them to be ‘kids’). You’ll find my video interviews with each of them below:


Natasha Samuels

Toronto, Canada

Rising Stars

Rising Stars: Natasha Samuels

Q: What age did you first develop an interest in wine?

A: I first developed an interest in wine at the age of 22 when I was in university. I thought about studying wine but at the time I never knew a career in the wine industry could be a possibility for me.

Due to the pandemic and having to go on leave as a Flight Attendant, I had time to place importance and focus on my passions. I began studying wine and absolutely fell in love with the world of wine and decided to focus on a career in the wine industry. Thanks to my professors and Vinequity, I’ve been able to branch out into the industry and can’t wait to continue to grow.

Q: What’s your favourite wine?

A: At the moment my favourite wine would be anything with Garnacha/Grenache. Over the past year I’ve had some Garnacha from Spain that was really enjoyable and I also love a good Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre blend from Southern Rhone in France, especially Chateauneuf-du-Pape when the budget fits!

Q: What’s your favourite wine region?

A: My favourite wine region always changes but currently I am loving wine from Argentina. I love the variety of Malbec that comes from different regions within Argentina. There are some really great value wines that come from the country and can display excellent balance.

Q: Have you had an “aha” moment where a wine just blew your mind?

A: My ‘aha’ moment where a wine just blew my mind was when I was taking my first wine course and had the opportunity to try Chateuneuf-du-Pape. It was my first time having wine from this region and it made such an impression on me due to the complexity and bold flavours and I’ve loved it ever since.


Cornelia Ponikvar (“but everyone calls me Cokie”)

Toronto, Canada

Rising Stars

Rising Stars: Cokie Ponikvar

Q: What age did you first develop an interest in wine?

A: I’m 21 and first developed an interest in wine when I was 17 years old. I did WSET 1 as soon as I turned 19.

Q: What’s your favourite wine?

A: I loooove Dr. Loosen Riesling, Kabinett (less sweet but not dry)—it’s probably my favourite. There is something about the refreshing acidity and subtle sweetness that reminds me of summer. I am also currently in Croatia and tasted the Plavac Mail from Grgič Vina today. At 16 percent, it packs some serious punch while still remaining in balance and softly exploding with complexity.

Q: What’s your favourite wine region?

A: I really love Burgundy. I used to be scared of Burgundy, but it’s really a bunch of small villages north to south with vineyards on a slope. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the main city Beaune, has a large book store dedicated to wine and complete with 3D topographical maps. 3D maps make me happy because they make wine regions’ climates and geology make sense when you’re otherwise studying from a textbook at home.

Q: Have you had an ‘aha’ moment where a wine just blew your mind?

A: Winston Churchill Pol Roger Champagne was fascinating to taste. The minerality was overwhelming but then there’s this citrus party going on with green and yellow apples to round it out. There’s somehow some salinity but then also aromas of toast, magical in their subtlety. I could sit back and hang out with that wine for hours, not drinking, just appreciating the aromas on its nose. You can’t say that about many wines.


Gianna Kozlović

Istria, Croatia

Rising Stars

Rising Stars: Gianna Kozlovic

Q: What age did you first develop an interest in wine?

A: Being that my family is into wine production I was surrounded by wines since a young age, but it wasn’t until late high school that I could see myself being a part of the industry. I was really interested in things concerning nature and I started to see how wine was the result of working with nature which really intrigued me. Now I’m studying for WSET Diploma and am loving every bit of it!! I’m hoping to apply to the MW program next Spring.

Q: What’s your favourite wine?

A: It’s really hard for me to choose just one favourite wine because there are so many outstanding wines out there. However, if I had to choose one that gave me particular satisfaction, it would be a fresh style Teran, which is a red variety from Istria with a spicy kick. I just love the character of this variety!

Q: What’s your favourite wine region?

A: It has to be the Mosel valley in Germany. I’ve been there many times so far and I love the combination of extreme steep slopes, the Mosel River and the small wineries that produce great wines with an unmatched freshness, minerality and ageing potential. I also like the approachability of the producers and how down to earth they are. It’s always a pleasure to visit them.

Q: Have you had an ‘aha’ moment where a wine just blew your mind?

A: Definitely. Some specific wines that I can remember of the top of my head were the Masseto from Ornellaia, Overture from Opus One and a macerated Malvasia from Damijan Winery in Italy. There are many more great wines that I could mention but the list wouldn’t end. One thing these wines had in common was the extraordinary harmony they exude, which is the most important parameter for me.


If you know someone who I should be talking with for this Rising Stars series, please drop me a line! Stay tuned for my next profile and until then, maybe try out one of the ‘aha’ wines that piqued these ladies’ interest in the world of wine.

 

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