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BACKRGOUNDER

Devin Parr is the Wine Country Marketing Director for Visit Temecula Valley and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. In 2007, Devin left a career in video game public relations to study wine at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. After nearly two years abroad, she returned to the U.S. to begin her career in the wine industry, including doing sales for an Italian importer and distributor in New York City, running several wine stores in Manhattan, and overseeing national food and wine programs for Bottlenotes, a media company in the beverage space.

Since landing in Temecula in 2015, she has worked with over 35 different wineries to tell the unique story of the region, focusing on quality wines, the laid back spirit of Southern California, and the winemakers and winery owners who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the region every day. Devin has been named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers, and holds her WSET Level 3 award in wine. Devin lives in Temecula with her husband (Tim), two sons (James and Luke) and two Shih Tzus (Betty and Owen).

 

PARR FOR THE COURSE

I grew up drinking wine with my family from about the age of 14. In my teen years, wine was mostly just a means to an end, and I often found myself rolling my eyes at the whole ritual of it all – selection, presentation, uncorking, pouring, swirling, sniffing, lots of solemn nodding.

But over the years, something about it stuck with me. I grew to love the ritual. Perhaps it was the passion my stepfather had for it, which he shared generously with me, despite my know-it-all teen angst. I had also grown up cooking, as both my grandmother and my mother believed that all things could be healed by a day spent in the kitchen, creating deliciousness. Whether or not I knew it, this culture of the senses was shaping me in important ways.

Six years into an exciting career in public relations in the interactive entertainment industry, I felt restless. Not unhappy – just not complete. I happened to be reading a book by Bill Buford called “Heat,” which painted a dreamy picture of a culinary life in Italy. It reminded me suddenly of so many things that felt true and real to me and how I was raised. And so, I traded my video game controller for a set of very sharp knives and a corkscrew and headed off to Florence to attend culinary school.  

While there, I fell far more in love with the wine classes I was taking than the actual cooking classes, and refocused my studies accordingly. Wine was so cerebral, and so full of stories…it became no longer a means to an end, but a way of life for me. I was hooked (in the best possible, non-intervention-warranting way). It’s been nearly a decade since I boarded that plane to Italy and I can honestly say that I not only get to do what I love every day, but I am also lucky enough to be able to continue an endless education in a field that changed my life.  

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You wake up in the morning — what’s the passion that drives you?

Everything in my life comes back to family. It’s what interested me in food and wine in the first place – so much of my life has taken place in the kitchen, around the dinner table, over a bottle (or two) of wine, and so much of what makes the wine business so interesting to me is the families and traditions that are behind the bottles. My day starts with my little ones and my husband, and ends with them… over a glass (or three) of wine. They propel me forward and keep me grounded.

So many people are into wine today — what’s the most common mistake people make when buying wine?

Relying too heavily on prices, scores, pretty labels and big brands. Don’t get me wrong – these factors aren’t irrelevant. But none of them should govern your buying decision alone.

What’s the best way for people to learn about wine?

Get out of your comfort zone! People tend to stick with the wines, brands and grapes they are familiar with. Develop a relationship with your local wine merchant so that they begin to understand your palate, and can make recommendations that encourage you to try new things. Go to local tastings. Join a  wine club. Oh, and smell everything – it really helps with aroma recognition and description.

A number of key golf facilities have opted to include a major wine element in their food  and beverage presentations. What separates the most successful from those considerably less so?

It’s tricky – there are some truly stunning golf clubs out there – in particular in California. And yet I do see some of the best only offering sub-par (I couldn’t help it) food and beverage options. I have lived on two golf courses in my life – one in Toronto and one in Los Angeles, both in very upscale areas – and neither of them had an exciting dining or beverage program. They were focused on pub-type food and beer options and generic, mass market wines. This seems so counterintuitive to me. Wine is often part of a greater lifestyle that includes dining, wellness, entertainment, culture… you name it. I see golf the same way. The facilities that recognize this trend, and build smart, exciting wine programs to keep their customers engaged beyond the course and long after their last putt, are the ones who will stand apart.

If you were advising golf clubs interested in moving ahead on the wine front what key advice would you give them?

Try working with some of the smaller boutique distributors with more eclectic portfolios. Develop a really exciting by-the-glass list. Experiment with wine flights and pairing menus.

Name several top golf facilities which prominently feature a solid array of wine choices?

Unfortunately with a full-time job and two small children at home, I don’t get out golfing (and dining) nearly as often as I’d like! But locally, Temecula Creek Inn has a fantastic wine list with a lot of great Temecula Valley selections at their accompanying Cork Fire Kitchen. Journey’s End at Pechanga also offers some nice options.

Wine production in California is well regarded globally. What makes the Temecula Valley area so special in this regard?

Temecula is Southern California’s wine country. We are not only ideally situated 60-90 miles from all major Southern California cities and airports, we boast a climate that is perfect for both growing grapes and vacationing. Think long, sunny days moderated by afternoon breezes that blow in from the Pacific ocean through gaps in the coastal mountain rage, and crisp, cool nights. We have varying degrees of elevation, allowing for immense diversity among meso- and micro-climates, and well-draining soils ideal for grape-growing. We also offer something for everyone – with dozens of different grape varieties that thrive here, all achieving their best expressions in the hands of the talented winemakers that have chosen to call Temecula home.

Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?

I have received so much great advice in my career from various mentors, my family and my husband, who always reminds me to “remember the why” and “solve for the right problem.” But my guiding mantra is actually tattooed on my arm – “no grit, no pearl.” I apply it at least once a day, from breaking up wrestling matches between my kids to working out at the gym to navigating tough work situations.

What’s the short and long term challenges facing the wine industry overall?

There are inevitable challenges surrounding labor shortages and the current political climate as it pertains to the wine workforce. I also see really interesting challenges pertaining to emerging and competing parallel industries – think craft beer, spirits and, of course, marijuana. However, a challenge that I always have an eye on in the short and long term is the impact of the antiquated regulatory system of the alcohol industry on new and exciting innovation in the wine business. As we continue to evolve and integrate new technology and potential e-commerce channels, will liquor laws – many of which are prohibitive and outdated – finally bend to keep up?  

If you had one specific thing yet to do on your wine bucket list what would it be

Launch my own line of wines! And ultimately become a Master of Wine. You heard it here first.

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