When it comes to seizing the day, Laurie Delk has got it down. Her endless intellectual curiosity led to a degree in cultural anthropology, an M.A. in art history, and viticulture studies at UC Davis. Among other adventures, she was a fashion designer in New York; and worked at a winery to Dogliani, Italy producing Arneis, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Barolo. Most recently, she was the national and international sales director for several wineries in Santa Barbara County.
She’s also the creator of PromiscuousPalate.com, where she is a “writer of craft beer, artisan wine, cocktails, and joyful living.”
Next on the horizon for this joyful Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Spirits is teaching the new Marketing Wine course in San Diego State University’s Business of Wine Professional Certificate program.
Delk answered a few questions about her course and her career.
Given your many talents — “writer of craft beer, artisan wine, cocktails, and joyful living” — how would you summarize your skill set?
It is quite a combo isn’t it? Between being in the beverage world for nearly two decades, a stint as a fashion designer in New York, living around the world, and studying multiple languages, I think the word would be … varied. But magically, each one of those experiences has taught me vital lessons for where I am today.
You have a B.S. in cultural anthropology and an M.A. in art history. What were your career aspirations at the time?
Looking back in retrospect, I pursued my M.A. in 2002 out of a sheer passion for learning and love of art and culture. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a full-time art writer and researcher, but as time progressed I realized how much I missed the wine world, and that there might be amazing opportunities there, if I gave it a try. And believe me, the concepts I learned in anthropology are still priceless in marketing and understanding social behavior, decision-making, and societal impact.
What was the catalyst for going to UC Davis to study viticulture?
I have always firmly believed that if you really want to know something, you need to live and breathe every aspect of it. I knew if I truly wanted to understand wine, I needed to study every part of its production, from grape to glass. That also explains why I went to work in a vineyard in Italy!
How did you come to be an instructor with SDSU’s Business of Wine program?
This will be my first semester with the Business of Wine program with a course I have custom created. I originally was slated to teach in the Business of Craft Beer program, from my extensive experience in the craft beer sector, but received a West Coast sales director position for several wineries that I couldn’t pass up.
What are some highlights of your course, Marketing Wine?
Students will go home with a wealth of information and understanding about the major tenets of wine marketing. My primary goal is that they go home each week with exciting ideas they can implement immediately. They will be producing their own custom marketing plan throughout the course and will leave the class with a plan of action in hand.
Who should take this class?
Anyone who is or wants to be in the wine business. Winemakers, winery owners, sales reps and directors, social media coordinators, distributor and importing reps, wine shop owners, buyers, managers, and beverage directors. No matter what angle you are coming from, knowing the other aspects makes you that much more successful in your position.
What’s your current favorite wine?
That’s like asking your favorite child! Impossible to answer, but I will always list Champagne, Italian Barolo and Brunello, and Northern Rhone Syrah as my favorites.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wasn’t one of those kids that “always knew” what they wanted to be. That initial lack of decisiveness has actually worked in my favor, and allowed me to be open to such an incredible range of experiences in a variety of fields. I feel truly blessed to have lived so many lifetimes!