After customers, the people I interact with most, wine-wise, are reps—the people who sell wine for a living.
I’m not afraid to play favorites, so meet my fave, Kristin Ryall. Tasting with her is like getting together with an old friend—it’s easy, comfortable and fun. She’s incredibly knowledgeable, but you’ll get no snobbery or condescension.
Ryall is originally from New Hampshire, and has worked with wine all over the place—including her native state, plus Chicago and now the desert. She started out working at a well-known New Hampshire wine bar, Michael Timothy’s, where she cut her teeth. She’s worked in restaurants and retail, and has sold for brokers, importers and distributors. These days, she’s an account manager for The Estates Group, the fine-wine division of distribution behemoth Young’s Market Company. She has access to a world of wine—a book as thick as a wrist. Yes, Ryall knows her stuff.
Beyond Ryall’s expansive wine knowledge, she is a relationship person—she loves to get to know about her customers’ lives, businesses and families. Wine can be very personal, and that’s what she likes about it—bringing a human component to sales.
On a recent afternoon, we sipped a 2015 Domaine Saint Nicolas “Gammes en May” and talked about moving West—as well as, of course, wine.
When did you first start getting into wine?
Twelve years ago, when I was working at a little wine bar in southern New Hampshire, where I am from.
What was your first wine love?
Like most people, when I started getting into wine, I liked big, rich wines—specifically, red zinfandel. As my palate changed and evolved, I fell in love with pinot noir.
What’s exciting about wine to you right now?
Wines that over-deliver for the price. Everybody expects a wine that costs $100 retail to be amazing. But what about that $15 Italian white that you can’t stop drinking because it is so delicious?
Why did you decide to go into the sales/distribution side? What do you like about it?
I had been working in the restaurant industry for quite a few years, and was tired of working late nights, weekends and holidays. I wanted to take a love for wine and find a new career related to it. I like the flexibility, and the fact that I don’t have to work out of a cubicle. I also enjoy the fact that in sales, your job changes every single day.
Your desert island wine?
That is a hard one, but a friend bought my husband and me a case of J. Lassale Champagne for our wedding, and I love the producer. It’s maybe not the best producer out there, but wine has power to bring you back to a place and time—and that is what this wine does.
Favorite food pairing?
Brachetto and Indian food.
What are you drinking now?
I drank a lot of Champagne over the holidays, but Rooster and the Pig has this vermentino right now that I just love.
What do you love about the desert?
Many things: The landscape, the weather and the proximity to everything. My husband and I enjoy hiking, and we have plenty of that here. Coming from a major city, I appreciate the pace here. Overall, my quality of life has improved.
Your favorite places to go in the desert?
Any place I can get away from it all. I love Joshua Tree National Park. After a nice hike, Pappy and Harriet’s is a sweet respite for a cold beer.
Palm Springs native Christine Soto is a co-owner of Dead or Alive wine bar in Palm Springs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.