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Interviews

Know Your Sommeliers: Larissa C Dubose

Photo for: Know Your Sommeliers: Larissa C Dubose

03/10/2023 Elevating Wine Experiences, One Pour at a Time: The Journey of Larissa C Dubose

Meet Larissa C. Dubose, a transformative force in the world of wines. As the leader behind Vino Volo’s airport wine bars and the founder of The Lotus and The Vines, Larissa is reshaping wine culture. Recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and actively contributing to wine education, Larissa’s story is one of passion, innovation, and inclusivity. Join us as we explore her remarkable journey in the world of wines.

Your current place of work.

Paradies Lagardere/Vino Volo

Image Source : Paradies Lagardere/Vino Volo

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Larissa C. Dubose, a dedicated wine educator and experienced professional in the realm of wine and spirits. Currently, I lead the beverage department for Paradies Lagardère’s Dining Division, where I curate enriching wine experiences, notably at Vino Volo wine bars in airports.

My passion extends to The Lotus and The Vines, my brainchild aimed at transforming the wine culture. Through this platform, I empower individuals to appreciate wine by focusing on the nuances of knowledge and etiquette.

Honored to be part of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Future 40, I am deeply committed to reshaping perceptions. I contribute my expertise as the Director of Media at SommFoundation and as a member of SommCon’s Advisory Board.

My credentials include certifications as a Sommelier, a Specialist in Wine, and a Champagne Master Level expert. Currently pursuing the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma, I continue to deepen my knowledge in this captivating field.

I'll share some fun facts:

1. I'm an only child.
2. My Husband and Daughter are also only children.
3. My father was in the Air Force when I was a child. After moving up and down the east coast we settled in Rochester NY.
4. I've lived in Atlanta Georgia since 2014.
5. I lived in Baltimore for 13 years prior to moving to Atlanta.
6. I have 6 names. They include my first, three middle, maiden, and married names.

Why did you want to become a sommelier?

It gives me the opportunity to create and share the "aha moment" that I received many years ago in wine with others. For me, wine is a connector and a wonderful way to elevate an experience. I get to help our teams do that every day.

Image: Larissa C. Dubose (Source - Sid Patel, CEO, Beverage Trade Network)

Questions you would ask a customer who doesn't know anything about wine?

Do they prefer white vs. red wine?
Do they prefer dry vs. sweet?
What kind of fruits do they like?
Do they prefer tea or coffee?
How much sugar and cream (if any) do they put in their tea or coffee?
What are they eating?

What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier?

Humility, a servant's heart, and passion for continuous learning.

What methods do you use to grow wine sales - top line? Please explain with examples.

We buy in volume and allocate the cases to our locations based on their volume and market. Operating in airports creates a unique dynamic. Just because we have a contained guest doesn't mean that we shouldn't curate experiences to elevate the beginning or end of their trip. We also offer features that entice intrigue and curiosity. By highlighting the stories of underrepresented producers and regions, our guests know there will always be something new to discover. Our Behind the Vines wine flights highlight BIPOC &/or women-owned, grown, made, and led producers.

How do you self-learn and improve your skills?

I try to incorporate a growth mindset in all of my experiences. Acknowledge failure as feedback and learn from it.

What's the best part of your job?

Connecting with our teams throughout the country and Canada.

How do you elevate the guest experience? Please give 4-5 examples and insights here.

By highlighting the stories of underrepresented producers and regions, our guests know there will always be something new to discover. At Vino Volo, our Behind the Vines wine flights highlight BIPOC &/or women-owned, grown, made, and led producers. Our passport flight program takes our guests on a journey through wine to known and not-so-well-known wine regions.

An unforgettable wine experience for you - tell us the whole story!

My first trip to Napa and Sonoma was in 2012. I was working for a distributor at the time as an on-premise sales representative and it was an incentive trip. That trip put together all the missing pieces from the wine books I read. Standing in the vines and smelling the fermentation in the wineries all led to my "aha moment". I knew during that trip that my career would eventually lead me to wine and further my wine education. At the time, the territory I was in was spirits-driven. I never looked back.

Image: Larissa C. Dubose (Source - Sid Patel, CEO, Beverage Trade Network)

What are the biggest faux pas that customers tend to make when ordering and drinking wine?

Sticking to the same thing and not stepping outside one's comfort zone to try something new.

Any favourite food and wine pairing suggestions for drinks enthusiasts?

Blanc de blanc champagne and oysters, champagne & fried chicken.

Your favourite book?

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green.

What's your personal career goal? And how are you investing or planning to get there?

Success to significance. My goal is to continue my wine education by completing the WSET Diploma. I want to take all of the tools I've been given and share them with the next generation of wine professionals.

Give us one good story that you remember of a customer and you.

I always get a spark of joy when I see a passenger share one of our features on social media.

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

Wines that tell a story and have a sense of place.
Hidden gems
Transparency on pricing and inventory. Actively working with the distributors to get ahead of any issues.

Can you share with us an example of a solid wine program?

One that has diversity, value, hidden gems, and sustainability-minded producers.

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What are the four main things you focus on daily?

Growth mindset, find joy throughout the day, embrace the new adventure that will find me, and make the world a better place no matter how small the impact.

What are the points you look at when selecting a new wine for your wine program?

Typicity of the variety, sense of place, balance, and the discovery of something new for our guests, oversells for the price.

According to you, what makes a good sommelier, and what qualities do you look for when hiring a sommelier?

Humility, a servant's heart, and passion for continuous learning.

What do you look for when you have to evaluate the effectiveness of the wine program?

Diversity, value, hidden gems, sustainability.

A unique opportunity to present your wines to America's top sommeliers. The wine scores are benchmarked for on-premise channels by top sommeliers, master sommeliers, wine directors and restaurant wine buyers. Enter Your Wines Before March 15, 2024, To Save.