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Check Out Casleah Herwaldt’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Casleah Herwaldt.  

Hi Casleah, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
My dad grew up on a vineyard in Michigan so wine has always been a part of my life. When I was 22, I moved to Kansas City. I found a local wine bar where the sommelier walked me through the tasting notes of a Cabernet Sauvignon. She told me to imagine a campfire and to smell the wine. It was truly the moment I fell in love and became obsessed with wine. I found a local wine shop called Buckley’s Wine Market in Overland Park, Kansas that was always conducting tastings and doing fun wine events. I was here all the time because I became fascinated with learning about wine. I was there so much that they ended up offering me a job. I started working at the wine shop on nights and weekends. My day job was Occupational Therapy in rehabilitation facilities for the elderly. I became introduced to the wine world, meeting reps and exploring careers. I signed up for the Court of Master Sommeliers level 1. Then my husband got a new job in California, and we moved to Hermosa Beach. While I was working in healthcare, I continued to pursue the wine world by signing up for courses through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), conducting in-home wine tastings through a company called Wine Shop at Home, and joining a pretty exclusive tasting group at Spago in Beverly Hills. I eventually signed up and passed the Court of Master Sommeliers level 2 making me a certified Sommelier. I even got the top score in my group receiving the Walter Clore Scholarship. I continued to pursue a career in wine through many different facets. I even met a restaurant owner on a plane, and she hired me on the spot. I worked as a floor sommelier for a Michelin Star chef in Studio City for a while, but I quickly learned that the restaurant floor wasn’t where I wanted to build my career. I started my blog and Instagram page called By the Stem because it was a creative outlet for me to share about wines I was enjoying. I never thought it would grow to what it is today! While continuing to work part-time in healthcare and part-time in wine, I was doing wine sales on the side for a winery called Prohibido Wines. Then the pandemic hit. I remember it so clearly. I was working that Friday in my healthcare job in scrubs and changed in my car to a dress and heels to go sit on the 405 and attend a huge Italian wine event in Beverly Hills. I knew it was a bit of a risk to attend the event, but I figured if I used hand sanitizer it would be okay. I went to my healthcare job Monday since I was considered an essential worker while everyone else stayed home from work. The next day was Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day. People were posting on social media how they had to cancel their holiday plans, so I decided to host a virtual party on zoom. I was featured in the Huffington Post as one of the best virtual happy hours to attend. From there my wine career really took off. I started hosting more and more virtual events for large corporations like Google and Snapchat. I was able to fully quit my healthcare job and start working full-time in wine. I also launched my own wine label called Casleah Wine- a Pinot Noir and Rose from Sonoma Coast, and my own wine club called the By the Stem Wine Club. Fast forward to now, I’m working for Regal Wine Company as their sales representative for the South Bay of LA. It’s truly a dream job. I get to sell wine to nice restaurants by the beach! I’m also in the final level of wine education with the WSET which is their diploma course. I’m about halfway through the very rigorous 3-year program. I’m leading the LA Somm Community, a group of hundreds of sommeliers in LA, thanks to Cristie Norman who took me in her tasting group at Spago when I was such a newbie to the industry. I still have my wine club, featuring wines from Israel for the month of July, and my Casleah Wine is represented at several boutique wine shops across the state. I am working with several brands on Instagram and even doing some consulting for a luxury wine glass brand. I am very lucky to have the career I have now and it all goes to show that if you let your passions lead, dreams really can come true. 

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Absolutely not. As a young woman in the industry, it was definitely difficult to break the glass ceiling in the industry. The wine world has really always been a man’s world. I would finally try a bucket list first growth Bordeaux and I would get mansplained about how such and such vintage was better. The wine industry is an interesting place where people like to brag about wines they’ve tasted, who they know and who they’ve met, how many points such and such wine received, etc. I’m very proud of myself for overcoming these obstacles, although I still experience it when I go to industry events. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m currently selling the Regal Wine portfolio to on-premise accounts in the South Bay. (Along with my many many side hustles). What sets me apart is my wine education through several courses. My connections from leading the LA sommelier group. And mostly, being on zoom with regular wine consumers for 2 years, I learned a lot about how the average wine drinker thinks and likes. I think a lot of sommeliers just spend time with sommeliers and have a hard time relating to the regular wine lovers. I think having that time really sets me apart. And I’m most proud of receiving the Walter Clore Scholarship for my CMS level 2. It was such a hard and stressful exam. It felt so amazing that all of my hard work had paid off. 

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
There’s so many. I think a big one is humility. Wine can humble you very quickly. I always say, the more you learn about wine, the more you realize you don’t know. But also kindness. I think it really goes such a long way, and it’s a rarer quality than it should be! And finally, work hard. You can’t get anywhere without working hard. 

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Sylvanus Finney

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