Selling wine is not for the faint of heart. The travel schedule is grueling; the competition is fierce; and the customer base varies wildly—from masters of wine to … well, the uninformed.
However, Christina Hammond makes it looks easy. She shows up energetically to dozens of appointments and tastings and trade events each week, always touting her Red Car Wine.
Good wine needs good people fighting the good fight—and Hammond is one of the good ones. She’s not a wine snob, but she knows her stuff. She cut her teeth working for a big wine distributor (where, in her words, she learned to “show up” to her accounts each week), then transitioned to a finer wine distributor, Henry Wine Group. Red Car is distributed by Henry, and after four years at Henry, she began to work for Red Car directly. Now she travels the country, extolling the virtues of the special Sonoma Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area) and the deliciousness of Red Car Wine.
Hammond and I chatted and sipped a Red Car rosé. We followed up by phone. And texted. And e-mailed.
You get the picture—she’s a busy woman!
When did you first start getting into wine?
My family always loved good food and wine. Vacations were centered around where we were going to eat. My dad did client liaison, and took clients to eat and drink a lot, and loved the finer things. I personally got into wine, embarrassingly enough, when in college at (the University of San Diego). It was a dry campus, but I would buy a whole case of two-buck chuck, and it would be party favors for anyone who came to parties. I got into good wine when I was in restaurants in San Diego, then through working with Henry Wine Group.
What was your first wine love?
Grenache. It reminded me of my grandmother’s strawberry rhubarb pie. It was more than the wine; it was that moment that made me realize the way I taste and experience wine is very different from many people. I smell memories and visualize the entire situation I was in, and see the food, place and item, and break it down from there.
What’s exciting about wine to you right now?
Transparency and access to information. Producers and consumers are giving and getting more information than ever before. So many people freak out about what’s in their food, down to knowing the name of the animal their meat came from … yet with wine, we have a long way to go. I think we are getting there and unveiling the mystery. I applaud those who inform and give information and seek out truth about what’s in their wine, because there’s so much crap in wine. … Let’s not forget to mention the arsenic:Kevin Hicks, a former wine distributor who started Beverage Grades, a Denver-based lab that analyzes wine, tested 1,300 bottles of California wine, and found that about a quarter of them had higher levels of arsenic than the maximum limit that the Environmental Protection Agency allows in water.
Why did you decide to go to the distribution side? What do you like about it?
The hours, and connecting to the producers and to the vineyards. Traveling and connecting with people throughout the country, after I had really only traveled internationally, gives you perspective, good and bad. I love it when people and places surprise me by doing good work and pursuing great wine.
Your desert island wine?
Desert islands are hot, and I am pretty simple. You’d find me sunning on my MacGyver’d chaise lounge, with some bamboo-speared fish and cold rosé! I’m not sure how it would be cold, but we’ll go with that. … One of my favorites is the Clos Sainte Magdeleine Rose AOC Cassis. … Or, you know, Red Car rosé would do just fine!
Your favorite food pairing?
Champagne and potato chips, and if I’m really lucky, there is caviar and crème fraîche around for those chips!
Your favorite wine book?
For beginners, I always say Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. … But there are many I love and recommend: The World Atlas of Wine, Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise, The Wine Bible and so on.
What are you drinking now?
Lots of rosé. I’m trying to will the weather into full-swing spring. Actually, I drink rosé year-round and think everyone should offer it year-round.
What do you love about the desert?
The sun and the pools. The vibrations are totally different there, and I love the energy of the natural desert; it’s beautiful.
Favorite places to go in the desert?
Dead or Alive, or course. I love the Sparrows (Lodge) and the soon-to-be Holiday House Hotel. Mister Lyons and the back bar, Seymour’s, is top notch.
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.