Tag: Las Vegas

The Wine Goddess’ guide on becoming a Goddess

It wouldn’t surprise me if I randomly flip open a woman magazine or take a dip into any online girl talk chatterbox, I’d stumble across a handful of “lighthouse” posts. These how-to articles seek to guide the many poor, lost single souls across the rough sea of love, share recipes on how to brew lasting relationships and, alas, in Asia particularly we like to talk about how to become a goddess. Yes, reboot your system and install OS Goddess for the 2014 perfect girl updates. 200 years ago women fit in by fitting themselves into corsets. Nowadays, they fit themselves into the ever-changing social formula of success that painstakingly adds together a virtual corset, unexpired beauty, brains and benevolence et cetera. Humpf.

And then I met the Wine Goddess. She’s no obscure Greek citizen from Homer’s Odyssey, rather she’s the proud guardian of Bin 702, a quaint, Midwestern-looking boutique wine and beer bar located in Container Park, a hip area in Downtown Las Vegas where young people, art and local designers congregate. Recently, Bin 702 joined an army of the restaurant industry’s elites and became one of 2014 Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence recipients. In just one-and-a-half year time, Kathleen Lilly aka Wine Goddess turns this off-Strip chic wine concept into an address for creative food and beverage pairings and guaranteed fun. Over sips of beers and ciders (not wines, surprisingly?), we set sail into Kathleen’s past, retracing her vinous voyage over the past years.

KathleenLilly-2

Kathleen Lilly is no Lighthouse post kind of Goddess. Becoming a goddess is not an achievement, instead it is a form of commitment, inspired by another passion of hers: belly dancing. In the belly dancing community, a goddess refers to a woman who lives to empower and enable herself and others. Feminism is at the core of the Goddess’ living philosophy; it motivates one to be fun, carefree, feminine, beautiful and exotic. This by no means is a recipe, the essence of becoming a Goddess is the ability to shape your own form, find your own zen and define your own being. This tribal definition of Goddess is little known outside the circle, and Kathleen has met curious faces, just as much as rolling eyes, when she exchanges business cards with others. Well, how many Wine Goddesses have you ever met?

“Wine saves my life,” Kathleen confessed. She credited wine as one of the things that helped her rediscover the purpose of life. Kathleen dabbled into the food and beverage industry when she joined the management programme at Bellagio Las Vegas. Upon graduation, she met Bellagio’s wine director, Rob Bigelow, who ushered her down the road of studying about wines. By year 2009, Kathleen has done her introductory wine training with Court of Master Sommeliers, and was offered a sommelier job at Bellagio. “During that time I was going through my not-feeling-like-a-goddess period,” Kathleen turned down the offer, thinking that she was not good enough to fulfill the expectations of the role. Same year, she moved on to Aria Las Vegas where she continued to focus on restaurant management.

bin702-2

When Bin 702 opened up in December 2013, Kathleen took the helm and gradually built an award-winning wine list with over 100 selections, featuring a wide array of quality producers and putting lesser-known varieties like Gruner Veltliner, Arneis and others on the tap! Whether you belong to the 60% loyal regulars or 40% curious first-timers that visit the Bin everyday, Kathleen will be there whisking you through an odyssey of 13 to 14 different wines, all conveniently on the tap so to make wine tasting a fun adventure that doesn’t hurt your wallet (too much).

I find myself secretly wanting to become a Wine Goddess myself, so I ask Kathleen what it takes to be a Wine Goddess. “You need patience, and commitment to your work. Even if you are having a crappy day, regardless you have to detach yourself from how you feel and try to give your guest the best dining experience. Oh, and you have to appreciate yourself.” No Greek-inspired chiffon breezy dress? For the record, on the day of the interview Kathleen was wearing a black sleek dress with a funky neckpiece, reminding me of an avant-garde version of the Valkyries from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.

“Every person is his or her own study case,” Kathleen pointed out. After all, the Wine Goddess denied me a conclusive answer on what makes a Wine Goddess. To Kathleen, Goddess is her optimal modus operandi of being a wine ambassador. Having faith in herself, embracing lifelong learning and respecting all those she comes across is Kathleen’s Holy Trinity. This is how a sassy, outspoken New Jersey girl evolves into a Goddess. We need more Goddesses like that, Amen.

Picture 1:Kathleen Lilly brings the concept of “Goddess” from belly dancing culture to the world of wines
Picture 2:Bin 702, a hip wine and beer bar located in Container Park, Downtown Las Vegas

Credit:
Kathleen Lilly
Vegasseven.com
Bin702.com

我又要做女酒神

翻開任何一本女性雜誌,或跑上女性話題網上平台蹓躂蹓躂,不難找到「救世文」。所謂救世文,並不是傳教,而是一堆以拯救一眾單身苦女的文章,如何脫離苦情海、如何拴住男人的心等,近日,「女神」一詞冒起,今時今日我們以諸娛樂版「女神」為整治外至外表、內至處事接物之道的模範。重新開機,安裝OS女神的最新更新,這是今日社會吹起的媚風。二百年前,維多利亞社會的標準美女,要把腰肢擠進那標準令人氣都透不過來的束身衣。今天,美女的定義、女神的定義、成功女性的定義,束身衣的身材、長期保鮮的容貌、聰慧與仁善並行等。女神,不易當啊。

娛樂版以外的世界,我遇上了女酒神。她不是作家荷馬《希臘神話故事》筆下的眾神之一,她守護着的是美國拉斯維加斯下城區,一個走嬉皮風的小區 Container Park裏,一家裝潢走美國中西部風格的葡萄酒及手工啤酒酒吧:Bin 702。最近Bin 702贏得了2014年美國葡萄酒觀察家頒發的卓越大獎(Award of Excellence),一個全球不到3,000家餐廳擁有的榮譽。一年半的時間,Kathleen Lilly頂着Wine Goddess的名銜,把這家下城區型格葡萄酒酒吧打造為一個標榜創意酒食搭配和年青人聚集享樂的地方。我一邊淺嚐不同啤酒及蘋果酒(居然不是葡萄酒呢!),一邊聽Kathleen娓娓道來她這酒意盎然的女神故事。

KathleenLilly-2

Kathleen這女神,不是九頭身、也不賣花容、風霜不侵,她不是娛樂版的「女神」。自命女神,並不是在自炫,而是源自她的另一興趣 ─ 肚皮舞。肚皮舞者的信念,與女性主義同轍,鼓吹女性在定義自我的過程中,尋找趣味、自由、美麗、品味、個性等。這並不是甚麼女神秘訣、每一個人模塑自我的過程也不同,你是誰,完全視乎你眼裏的自己是誰。肚皮舞文化對女神的定義,並不多為外人所知。Kathleen把Wine Goddess編印在自己的卡片上,跟別人交換卡片的時候既遇過好奇之眾,也遇過臉帶不屑的。畢竟,你這生人遇上過多少個葡萄酒女神啊?

「葡萄酒救了我。」Kathleen 坦認。葡萄酒讓Kathleen再度找到人生的意義。Kathleen踏足餐飲業,始於她參加美國拉斯維加斯Bellagio酒店的管理人才培圳計劃。完成計劃後,她認識了Bellagio的葡萄酒總監Rob Bigelow,在Rob的鼓勵下,Kathleen開始了學酒的旅程。2009年,Kathleen完成了世界侍酒師公會(Court of Master Sommeliers)的基本侍酒師課程,也得到了酒店給她一份任侍酒師的聘書。「那時候,我正經歷一段老是懷疑自己能力的時間,沒半點『女神』精神啊!」她覺得自己未能勝任,於是推掉了那份工作。同年,她轉到另一家五星級酒店Aria Las Vegas工作,專注負責餐廳管理。

bin702-2

Bin 702於2013年12 月開業,Kathleen從零開始,把酒吧的葡萄酒及手造啤酒酒單慢慢打造成一張逾100個不同選擇的酒單,裏頭有不少優質酒莊,而且Kathleen也把一系列較鮮為人知的葡萄品種如Gruner Veltliner,Arneis等葡萄酒,以貯藏生啤的器材侍用,普及且大眾化葡萄酒的文化。現在Bin 702每天招呼近60% 熟客、40%慕名而來的首次訪客,Kathleen 最享受的是客人對她的信任,有了生啤侍酒系統,Kathleen讓客人一夜裏試逾13至14款葡萄酒,好玩但不需大破慳囊。

我心底癢癢想着,我又想做女酒神!我問Kathleen,怎樣才能當葡萄酒女神呢?「你需要很有耐性,且對工作長期保持熱誠。不論你每天過得怎樣,你必需把自己心情好壞隔離,面對客人的時候,你只有一個任務,就是為他們創造一次難忘的經驗。還有,你必須懂得欣賞自己。」不須穿希臘風雪紡長裙嗎?哈哈。回想當天跟Kathleen見面,她的一身「女神」打扮,看來要請來德國作曲家華格納來欣賞,黑色緊身裙襯上粉頸上潮味十足的紙製衣領頸飾,讓我想起了華格納史詩式歌劇「指環」裏的女戰神!

「說到底,每個人性格不一,所謂怎樣當『女神』,還得自己度身訂造一套『規條』!」在Kathleen而言,女神的身份,讓她可以自如地擔當葡萄酒大使。對自己的一份自信、緊守終身學習的精神和尊重她生命中遇上的每一個人,三位一體,成就了Kathleen這位Wine Goddess。這就是一個潮味十足,有主見的新澤西女孩,經年磨練和自我發現後,成為女神的故事。能有更多這樣的女神,多好啊。

圖上:Kathleen Lilly 把肚皮舞文化中的「女神」概念帶到葡萄酒文化中
圖下:美國拉斯維加斯下城區葡萄酒吧 Bin 702

Credit:
Kathleen Lilly
Vegasseven.com
Bin702.com

Ms M.S.

The juxtaposition of Ms and MS is intentional, in combination they make an accurate reference to only 21 accomplished women in the world to-day. This pair of prima facie identical prefix and suffix is a nature-nurture alignment attained by the resolution and very hard work put in by each and every female individual whom have passed one of the toughest tests in international wine world: Master Sommelier. The Master Sommelier examination is a strenuous triathlon itself, involving three key disciplines in the study of wine and hospitality: theory, tasting and practical service. The lowest pass mark of all modules is 75%, and average annual pass rate fluctuates around a meagre 10%. At present there are 219 Master Sommeliers around the world, among which only 21 of them are women. Today’s post highlights the story of Lindsey Whipple, one of the four newly-minted Master Sommeliers, and the only female, whom have just passed their exams last month in Aspen, Colorado. No doubts her professional story makes the international wine world proud, yet behind all the accolades and achievements, it is the story of a girl born to half a family of Italians all passionate about food, wine and friends; and a journey through which she learns to balance between comradeship and independence, struggles and perseverance, stress and motivation.

DSCF2279

Lindsey had an early start with wine. With half of her family being Italians, Lindsay got used to entertaining friends and families over food and wine every Sunday. At ten or eleven, she started putting away wines in her own closet, and that’d probably be her first wine collection! At university, Lindsey entered United States’ top hospitality school University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she dabbled into the professional world of alcoholic beverages beginning with a semester on distilled spirits. Attending various tastings during university life led her to her first crush, 1985 Chateau Margaux, a sip that pointed her down the road less traveled by. A pursuit in the career field of wine and beverage brought Lindsay to a rotation of restaurant and wine portfolio management roles in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Over the years she has worked in Las Vegas for restaurant outlets Mark’s, Cut by Wolfgang Puck, and in Los Angeles for Campanile. In 2003, she took her Introductory Sommelier, first step along the ladder that leads towards the esteemed title of Master Sommelier. Over 10 years, she took the other two progressively harder examinations on the way and finally obtained her Master Sommelier accreditation in May 2014.

“Sounds like a pharmacist.” That is Lindsey’s two cents on the role of a sommelier in a restaurant. The concept of a heart-winning sommelier has always been coined as the knowledgable wine person who humbly applies what s/he knows to find the wine that the diner seeks, without superimposing his/her personal preferences and opinion on the matter. Lindsay’s pharmacist metaphor is accurate, with a touch of Tim Burton’s sense of quirky humour. On sommelier exam techniques and tips, Lindsay credits her friends and study groups for their help and assistance, citing peer support one of the cardinal pillars that underpins and evolves the profession of sommelier. “But the pursuit is a lonely journey,” Lindsey added emphatically. She had distanced herself and stayed away from friends and families during the last stage of preparation, so to find her internal zen and calmness through isolation. Going through the examination itself is an exhilarating experience, as you are given more or less half an hour’s time to show people what you’ve got after years of preparation. Those moments overwhelm one too many brightest individuals with tsunamis of stress and anxiety. To Lindsey, the trick’s all in the mind. “It’s always about fun, walk in there and don’t be terrified, be ready to take it down and show them what you got,” she waxed lyrically, “…make it fun for the people testing you, and for yourself too.”

Master Sommelier results announcement differs from the practice at more junior levels of examinations. Candidates are individually led to different locations within the complex by the examiners and be informed separately whether they’ve made the mark. Lindsey was brought to the corner of a function room where she was told that she passed this gruelling examination. There were no overjoyed tears, no angry throw of chairs, no pants stripping (these bizarre behaviours have all allegedly happened in the past). It was pure happiness, it felt like her graduating from college once more, it was “the world is her oyster” kind of moment. Lindsey spared no tears for that life-changing moment, knowing full well that she has already shed enough tears on the way. Now a one-month-old Master Sommelier, Lindsey is busy reorganising her career and life objectives, ready and excited to embrace changes and opportunities yet to come her way. What remains unchanged is her willingness to share her passion and knowledge of wine. “I am never unapproachable”, Lindsey serenely remarked.

DSCF2361

Picture (above): Lindsey Whipple receiving her Master Sommelier pin after years of hard work
Picture (below): Lindsey Whipple Master Sommelier

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: