After completing his enlistment in the United States Army, with service in Iraq, David Grega moved back to California. His interest in cigars led him to the wine industry where he has since worked in a variety of capacities, culminating with winemaking for his own wine label, Carlotta Cellars, as well as consulting for other wine brands.
I didn’t know David until after he had started Carlotta Cellars, but we already had one thing in common, which was service in the Army. We also share the common denominator of being young entrepreneurs in the beverage industry who are thirsty for more. His story is particularly interesting when looking at the type of people he chose to surround himself with. Being rather new to the wine industry, he managed to blind test his way into a group composed of working sommeliers that were studying for the Master Sommeliers diploma, all of which are Master Sommeliers today. Determined, he surrounded himself with the best and excelled, and to this day he has continued to succeed with that same state of mind.
How did you get into the wine industry?
I was first interested in cigars, which lead me to port wine and then eventually to dry wines. When I got out of the Army I headed back to Northern California with this crazy idea that I would be involved with the wine business. I was 21, and started off in a tasting room but I wanted to get involved with the wine community so I jumped on GoDaddy and started a wine blog/website. I spent two weeks writing, articles and wine-bar reviews and in a few weeks I had a wine website with content. So in essence I sort of placed myself in the business by starting as an amateur wine writer.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your beverage career?
This is a tough one because I’ve had so many moments when I felt like the happiest and luckiest man on earth but if I had to choose it would be the two tasting groups I have been apart of. One group was all sommeliers studying for the Master Sommelier Diploma. Everyone but myself went on to earn their Master Diploma (I got into winemaking and cut my studies short). They pushed me to the limits and looked after me, I owe much of my tasting abilities to the two and a half years I spent with them weekly.
The other group, comprised of winemakers, still meets for tastings and I couldn’t ask for a greater group of winemakers to learn from. There are winemakers and vineyard managers from Screaming Eagle, Ghost Horse Cellars, Cliff Lede, Dana Estate, Buccella, Araujo and many other amazing wineries. The time I spent, and spend, with both groups has been the most rewarding (and humbling) part of being in the wine business.
If you weren’t making wine, what else in the beverage industry interests you?
I LOVE classic cocktails and spirits! I would definitely get involved with distillation and/or spirits writing.
If you had one piece of advice for a student considering a career in the beverage industry, what would it be?
Jump in! Learn on the job, get internships and study at one of the many wine programs around the world. Work a harvest!
What kind of projects are you involved with right now in the beverage industry?
I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and the best way to keep up to date is to join my mailing list at www.sandandsociety.com (my personal website/blog)
Carlotta Cellars is wine label I started in 2008 with a my buddy Aran Healy and it’s been going very well for us. Our wines are released in small lots and sell out quickly. www.carlottawines.com
I’m involved with a wine brand called “Honor Wine” which donates money to veterans charities that support families of soldiers killed in combat. It combines two huge parts of my life: the military and wine.
Back our Drink Careers 101 Kickstarter here.