Kristi Delovitch travels the world selling wine, exploring exciting new cities along the way. Now if that doesn’t sound like a dream, what does? Read more below to hear how Kristi discovered a career in something she loves.
- You have followed your passion for travel and enthusiasm for wonderful wines. Tell us how your story of discovering your passion and turning it into a career.
- Revisiting your childhood, what did you love to do?
- Was there a defining moment where you decided to follow what you love?
- Do you have people in your industry or out of it that have inspired your path?
- What are your superpowers?
- Do you create a vision board? How do you stay inspired, and focus on your goals?
- Do you have any new obsessions or learning goals in the year to come?
No one in my immediate family had ever left the United States but I became fascinated with the idea of a year abroad. I spent my junior year of University abroad studying in Florence, Italy and fell in love with the Italian culture. I was (and remain) fascinated with the uniquely Italian perspective of appreciating beauty in all things. I absorbed their love of slow food and good wine. I’m from a big, loving family and I learned at an early ago that most good things happen around a kitchen table so I felt at home with the Italian obsession of long meals accompanied by great conversation. After that semester I backpacked around 15 countries in Europe and became consumed with learning as much as I could about other cultures while respecting a small budget.
I graduated Clemson University with a degree in cognitive psychology and a minor in journalism but wanderlust prevailed. I moved to Alaska and worked a summer on a commercial fishing boat in Cordova. It was incredibly hard, relying on my body to make a living. After moving home to the DC area I tried a number of different jobs within a few years: freelance travel and food writing for Fodor’s, writing educational comedy scripts for PBS and even running a wine tasting company.
By this time I had met and married my husband. His Father is a very successful businessman who owned an electrical supply wholesale business. I admired him very much, and was feeling a bit lost, not knowing how stop changing jobs and start a career. I asked for his opinion and he said I was born to be a salesperson. Then he made a powerful statement and asked a very impactful question.
“You should sell what you love,” he said. “What do you love?”
I replied that I love travel, wine and flowers. Travel was always in my blood. I didn’t know a lot about wine, but I loved all the romance that it represented (a slower, fuller more inspired life). And I grew up in my mother and grandmother’s beautiful gardens. I, like them, have always loved everything that grows and having dirt under my fingernails still remains a point of pride.
He encouraged me to cold call wholesale houses. I did and landed a position in sales for a traditional wholesale flower market. I would wake up at 4:30 am to go to work and get to open boxes of flowers from Columbia, Thailand and the Netherlands. I learned the hundreds of varieties of flowers, but most importantly I learned that I liked selling and my success in sales lies at the intersection of knowledge, enthusiasm, loyal relationships and a lot of hard, gritty work. After a year in this field, I made my jump into wine wholesale in the very same fashion: lots of cold calls but this time to the owners of wine distributors, a much more competitive field.
Luckily one gave me a shot. In the interview I remember saying that I loved wine and would work harder than anyone if given the chance. I wasn’t hired based on knowledge. I remember answering “Tempranillo”
when asked to name the most planted red grape in Italy (there’s no Tempranillo in Italy, a uniquely Spanish grape).
That was 15 years ago. Since then I have sold over 30 million dollars of wine from over 20 countries to independent retail and restaurants in Washington, DC. I’ve also travelled to over half of the major wine regions in world in pursuit of knowledge and fun.
My family is originally from the mountains of Western Maryland and I spent large chunks of my summer there with my sisters and Grandparents. I loved to pick black jewel raspberries at my Aunt Bea’s farm. I loved to swim in her cold pond and catch salamanders. I loved taking long walks in the summer with my cousins and sisters, picking brightly colored wildflowers on the side of the mountain.
I loved to sit at my two Grandmother’s kitchen tables as they talked and fed me sweet pies, cakes and banana popsicles on hot summer days. I loved to sit and have my quiet Mother rub my back and patiently listen to me talk and talk. I loved hearing my Dad read The Hobbit to me over and over as I drifted to sleep.
I had a very happy childhood. It’s because of my close friends and big family that my bucket overflows so much that I almost always have a little extra to give to those in my life.
I think it was when my Father-in-Law asked me aloud what it was that I loved. I don’t think I had ever considered combining my true loves with a career path.
But even after entering the wine business I have continued to hone in on what it is about this business that I love. After 6 years in the wine business I found myself with an energetic two year-old son and was pregnant with my second. My passion was now equally split between being a successful wine professional and a connected and enthusiastic wife and mother. At the time I was working for a very large, corporate company that sold a lot of large brands and I was finding that my interests were drifting to family owned and operated wineries. It was a huge leap of faith to leave that company to go with a much smaller one, aligning my family-centric lifestyle with my work. I made the change when I was pregnant and ended up having a one-pound baby boy a few months later.
Though it was a dramatic time full of change the baby is now a thriving 8 year-old and I still work for The Country Vintner, having created an unofficial business within their business. Though we are now a much larger company (the largest fine wine importer and distributer in the United States) we remain committed at the core to family owned and operated wineries from around the world.
It is rewarding to me that I can use the skills and discipline I learned at a large company to promote and sell family-owned wines to family-owned businesses in Washington, DC. I think of myself more as a match-maker than anything else.
And many of my co-workers and customers have become an extension of my husband and my family. It’s very rewarding for me.
Oh, so many. I am inspired by the women who quietly and gracefully balance family and the pursuit of excellence in wine (Sarah Bryant Walsh and Molly Finnegan). I am inspired by many of the winery owners like Francesca Vajra of G.D. Vajra in Barolo, Italy; Janie Brooks Winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon and Giampaolo Venica of Collio, Italy who believe that wine is love and relentlessly pursue a beautiful life.
But my original inspiration was and remains my Mother and Father. My Dad wanted to become a dentist and changed careers at age 30 moving us out of Western Maryland and into Baltimore to pursue his true calling (with little money and three young children). My Mom went back to work to support our family. It took a lot of bravery, guts and partnership.
I am also inspired by my husband Ross. Because of his ability and desire to 50-50 parent I get the chance to pursue my dreams, inside and out of our family life. We both provide for our family financially, emotionally and with our time. He’s my rock.
A few weeks ago my husband got a violent strain of the flu and was very sick for two weeks. He was unable to help with our 3 boys (ages 6 months, 8 and 10). He joked that most people have a 5th gear but I have one after that (he called it a “K” gear). But I don’t think that’s anything any Mom around me doesn’t have; we just get it done.
There is one superpower that I have that is so, so powerful. If I want something I imagine exactly what it would feel like and look like when it comes true. This could be a goal at work, a third child, new garden, or pretty much anything. It almost always works for me.
I also love the superpower of optimism. My eldest son and close friend joke that I am a “10 giver”. You know, one of those people who isn’t afraid to say that something was awesome, be it an experience, a meal, a trip or a wine. I don’t think we have a limited number of 10s in our lives. I let myself really fall into something and it often ends up being its own kind of perfect.
I also am absolutely, positively not afraid of setting a goal and failing. I’m a runner and I can’t tell you how many marathons and half- marathons I sign up for and don’t run. But I’ve done a bunch and having a goal and doing the training keeps my head clear.
It’s funny that you ask. My awesome now not-so-little sisters taught me how to do vision boards many years ago. They both do them religiously. I have created vision boards like the experience. I had a tradition for a few years of doing massive vision boards on poster board in the first few days of a new year and I always thought it was magical how things came true one at a time. But mostly I visualize the life I want and can see things pretty vividly when I focus. I also a big fan of daily lists because I feel empowered when I see all the check marks at the end of the day.
In terms of wine I am currently energized by learning more about the Burgundy region of France. I pick a new wine region every few months and immerse myself in tasting and reading to keep my knowledge fresh. There’s so much to learn in my field you can spend a lifetime learning and there’s always more to know.
But the big obsession at the moment is my newborn baby boy. All three of my boys and my husband are an ongoing obsession of mine—I’m pretty shameless when it comes to them. I’m a very, very proud Mama and wife.
I turn 40 in July and my husband and I are taking all three boys on an old-fashioned road trip of Northern Italy (Florence, Lake Garda, Barolo and Montalcino by car). I like that we start in Florence–the place that opened my eyes to the beauty of this big world while making me appreciate “home”. I can’t wait to show them my Italy, and hopefully it will light their fire as it has mine.
Do you have a passion you’d like to share? Email me at email@example.com and you could be featured in our next blog and email newsletter!