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by Jennifer Curry

Sharon Kazan Harris, owner and director of winemaking at RARECAT Wines (a boutique winery producing wines in Napa, Bordeaux and Champagne), has an innovative vision for her Ambassador program: Creating opportunities for wine enthusiasts that fulfill lifelong dreams of working for a winery and experiencing the winemaking process.

Kazan-Harris launched the RARECAT Wine’s Ambassador program in February of 2016 with the goal of providing all kinds of wine lovers the opportunity to work for a fine wine producer in the Napa Valley, be they certified wine experts, job re-booters or wine enthusiasts. RARECAT Ambassadors are a network of wine stewards that sell RARECAT Wines and products. The most successful Ambassadors leverage their contacts and earn income on direct-to-consumer sales.

Ambassadors also enjoy a two-day Napa Valley harvest program that includes harvesting and sorting fruit, lunch and professional education on fermentation science. On October 8, 2016, RARECAT Ambassadors gathered in Napa; they marveled at their brand new harvest gloves and tools and eagerly grabbed their bins to start picking gorgeous concentrated clusters of Cabernet Sauvignon. Bin after bin, they hurried back to pick more, feeling a sense of accomplishment with their stained, sticky, tired hands. Next, they took their chilly grape clusters and hand-sorted them with precision and meditative repetitive motion. As they watched, the conveyor pushed their fruit into the de-stemmer and then stainless steel tanks for fermentation.

Britt Mendoza – RARECAT Ambassador, Washington DC:

“The Rarecat harvest was a terrific and unique experience – the perfect way to transform conceptual knowledge of grape harvesting and winemaking into real, hands-on experience. The opportunity not only provided a greater understanding of the process through real world application, but it also gave me an increased appreciation for the people and the effort required to complete this labor of love year after year.”

Carol Wolniakowski – RARECAT Ambassador, Chicago, IL:

“I had the most amazing harvest experience with RARECAT Wines! To step out into the vineyard in the morning sun was truly special. Harvesting the grapes by hand, carrying the bins, sorting the grapes at the winery – getting intimately involved in the process was not just a fantastic learning opportunity but a true bucket list experience.”

The RARECAT Harvest luncheon completed the two-day event featuring Joel Aiken, a respected Napa Valley winemaker. Aiken discussed fermentation science, answered Ambassadors’ technical questions and built their confidence in an industry that can be overwhelming.

Lori Nawn – RARECAT Ambassador, New Orleans, LA:

“After having spent a morning in the vineyard harvesting grapes, followed by an afternoon of sorting, de-stemming and preparing for fermentation, I have a much greater appreciation for the hard work and dedication necessary to make a fabulous wine.  The best part of the weekend was learning about wine-making techniques with Joel Aiken- definitely a labor of love!”

The Ambassadors were also able to partake in a blending exercise with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, sniffing, swirling and tasting gingerly, analyzing every step of the process. Theory and practical application make a perfect pairing!

The RARECAT harvest program is another way Kazan-Harris innovates in the wine world. Her vision fulfills RARECAT Ambassadors’ dreams of working in the wine industry. By connecting them to the art and science of winemaking, they are even more motivated to achieve personal milestones in the wine industry.

If you would like to learn more about being a RARECAT Ambassador, please email [email protected]

Jennifer Curry, WSET, grew up in New England and works full time at RARECAT Wines, splitting her time between North Carolina and California. She oversees the RARECAT Wines Ambassador Program and loves learning about the wine business and technical side of winemaking, having made her first Provence style Rose during the 2015 harvest internship. Curry has traveled around the world and loves to blog about her travel, food, and wine adventures.

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