Paula Woolsey, CSW, aka “The Wine Witch,” is the owner of Cellar Door Unhinged, helping Arizona wineries in the fields of sales, marketing and business operations. She consults in all areas of the wine industry, restaurant wine programs, tasting rooms and Liquor Compliance.
Although she was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has long called Arizona home and played a major role in shepherding the state’s wine industry to newfound growth over the past couple of decades.
Paula’s also been a member of the Society of Wine Educators since 1998. She became a Certified Specialist of Wine in 2000, Italian Wine Specialist certified in 2004 and Gallo Wine Academy certified in 2007. She has also been Cellar Master Certified by the Master Court of Sommeliers since 2001.
Paula has sat on the Board of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium since its inception in 2008. This month in September 2021, she’s looking forward to hearing Arizona’s Verde Valley named a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) after years of hard work to gain approval for this wine-growing region.
After extensive research and collaboration with colleges and universities in California and Washington, Paula helped to create the first viticulture program degree program in Arizona at Yavapai College where she’s served as an instructor for the past eleven years. Now wineries from across the country come to her when looking for advice or to fill a position on their staff. She says that watching the growth of the Southwest Wine Center has been a true privilege.
As we delved into our conversation on the show, Paula gave us a master class in Arizona wine: Will Arizona wine regions become the new Napa? What’s the biggest lobbying impediment to the success (and distribution) of Arizona wines? How is teaching viticulture now different than it was a decade ago when she began? How do Arizona wines stand up to California wines? (The latter we can answer easily – Arizona wines come out on top in competitions and reviews!)
Tune in to get the answers to all of these questions and much more. As co-host Lisa Adams Walter said in conversation with Paula: “It’s never too late to learn!” (In all fairness, that was in reference to learning that one of Paula’s current viticulture students at Yavapai is 79 years young!)
In fact, Paula said one of her favorite things about teaching now is what she learns from her students, who average 35-48 years of age. Many of them already have advanced degrees in other fields and are practicing or retired attorneys, doctors and other professionals. Yet they’re just as excited about earning their Associate’s Degree in Viticulture!
In addition to all of her credentials in the wine industry, Paula’s also served as a national wine sales director, expanding the reach of Arizona wine in 40 states and a few countries. And she’s also a Licensed Event Planner, serving to head up the upcoming Sedona Wine Fest, September 25-26, among several other wine-related events she oversees.
Now in its 12th year, Sedona’s expecting thousands to descend upon the high desert town in a few weeks to enjoy wine tasting from 28 Arizona wineries, music, food trucks, a Plein Air Painting demonstration, the Sugar Thieves band, and a variety of artisan vendors. What an epic event! Tickets are still available if you’re venturing to the southwest. All CDC guidelines regarding COVID will be adhered to for the safety of all attendees and exhibitors.
When asked to reflect on current challenges and advice, Paula grew wistful as Arizona had just lost one of their beloved winemakers to COVID. And to those just entering the wine industry workforce (in and out of the wine industry)? She offered great advice: “Ask for help when you need it,” and, “Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer.”
We know where we want to go to get our answers on the Arizona wine industry! This was quite a treat for the WineWomen team. We hope you enjoy the show with Paula Woolsey as much as we did!
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