How to Find a Beverage Industry Mentor

A good mentor can be key to a successful career. Here are strategies for finding one and getting the most out of the relationship

Two coworkers interact amicably
Finding a good mentor is just as important in the beverage industry as it is in other professions. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

Navigating the beverage industry is a challenging feat, especially for professionals who are new to the field or those who are looking to advance. However, having a mentor in the industry can play a crucial role in professional development, and make learning the tricks of the trade a little bit easier.

A mentor can provide guidance that can shape a mentee’s perspective, sharpen their skills, and help them move up the ladder. “A mentor is a role model, an advocate, an ally,” says Emma Cauvy, a project manager for Souleil Wines. “They help you develop skills and self-awareness and self-realization.” Souleil Wines’ founder, Marianne Fabre-Lanvin, is mentoring her.

“But it’s a two-way street,” adds Fabre-Lanvin, who is also the founder of the boutique communications agency Marianne Fabre-Lanvin & Co., which specializes in lifestyle, wine, and travel. “It’s not that the mentor is above the mentee. We both bring things to each other. I find that I am learning as much as Emma is because I’m questioning everything I’m telling her and reevaluating how I get things done to instruct her on what she should do for her career.”

Finding an effective mentor in the beverage industry can be difficult, but there are things potential mentees can do to help them connect with the right person. SevenFifty Daily spoke with industry professionals about the best strategies for finding an effective mentor, and how to get the most out of the relationship. 

Mark Clarin poses with his mentee and winemaking assistant
Mark Clarin (right), who mentors his winemaking assistant, encourages professionals to maintain regular conversation with their mentors. Photo courtesy of Mark Clarin.

Identify Your Mentorship Goals

Before searching for a mentor, it’s important to identify short- and long-term career goals. “Most people think [the wine industry] is all about tasting wine and learning about the different regions, but there’s so much more to the business,” says Mark Clarin, the winemaker at McGrail Vineyards and Winery in California’s Livermore Valley, who currently mentors his wine assistant. 

Plenty of people currently working across the beverage industry have the experience, resources, and expertise to provide guidance as mentors. To narrow down the pool, “You should make an assessment of what your needs are, what areas of expertise you want to have, and what skills you want to have,” says Fabre-Lanvin.

Explore avenues of interest, read job descriptions and career-focused articles, and pinpoint the qualifications needed to do certain jobs. “You need to be prepared,” says Priyanka French, the winemaker at Signorello Estate in Napa Valley and the mentorship director for Bâtonnage, a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship and professional development for women in wine.  “No one’s going to write it out for you. You have to come with at least some sense of what you need help with.” 

Do the Research

Solidifying goals can also help determine what type of mentorship to seek out. Traditional one-on-one relationships can be flexible and take many different forms, while formal mentorships supported by an organization often provide a more structured format.

For those looking for a traditional one-on-one relationship, Fabre-Lanvin suggests researching professionals with specific experience and skills. “You need to understand what the person you want to mentor you does, and how that can help you,” says Fabre-Lanvin. “Be sure they have what’s needed to help you. And I also think that you need to be inspired by the person you’re going to choose.”

A headshot of Priyanka French with a vineyard in the background
Priyanka French suggests doing research and preparing questions for a mentor before meeting with them for the first time. Photo by Leigh Beverly, Bonafide Productions.

Tools like LinkedIn and social media can be helpful resources for finding folks with the right background. “What you’re looking for is someone who understands the landscape,” says Melanie Shelby, the founder of Enelalma Tequila, who was mentored through a career transition to launch her brand. “[You need] someone who can guide you, who has resources, and can help you figure out where there are pitfalls [and] opportunities.”

Alternatively, many formal programs exist to help foster effective mentorships within the industry. Bâtonnage was one of the first such organizations, but today dozens of groups help up-and-coming beverage industry professionals, including Wine Unify, Roots Fund, Brewers Association, and OurWhisky Foundation. Even wine and spirits brands like Silver Oak and Uncle Nearest have started offering mentorship opportunities. 

Going through an organization isn’t for everyone, especially for those who have a clear idea of what they want to do and who they need to reach out to. But groups like Bâtonnage can be helpful for people who are new to the beverage industry, or those who are making a big career change and may not be as familiar with the industry’s unique landscape.

“Do your research because this is a good time for mentorship in the wine and spirits industry,” says French. “It’s something that a lot of companies are thinking about and providing people with.” 

Reach Out to Potential Mentors

Asking for help can be intimidating for anyone, no matter where they are in their career journey. However, it’s the most crucial step in securing a mentor. A simple email, message, or phone call can mean the difference between having professional guidance or not.  “So many people don’t make that connection because they’re worried they won’t get a response,” says French. “But you’ll be shocked by how many people actually do respond.”

Applying for a formal mentorship often requires more work up front, but the more official process can help secure the right connections, and alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with cold calling. 

Once a line of communication has opened, Cauvy suggests connecting with a potential mentor offline. “You need to have a conversation before anything happens, before anything is official, just to see how you get along with this person and if you can be as invested as your mentor is,” says Cauvy. “You need to talk and be sure they can provide what you need, and you can provide the work they ask of you. And I think it’s best to have this conversation in person, if possible.” 

From left to right: Emma Cauvy, the project manager for Souleil Wines (photo courtesy of Emma Cauvy); Marianne Fabre Lanvin, the founder of Marianne Fabre-Lanvin & Co. (photo courtesy of Marianne Fabre Lanvin); Melanie Shelby, the founder of Enelalma Tequila (photo credit: BJ Colston).
From left to right: Emma Cauvy, the project manager for Souleil Wines (photo courtesy of Emma Cauvy); Marianne Fabre-Lanvin, the founder of Marianne Fabre-Lanvin & Co. (photo courtesy of Marianne Fabre-Lanvin); Melanie Shelby, the founder of Enelalma Tequila (photo by BJ Colston).

Be Open to New Perspectives

When a person agrees to a mentorship arrangement, the real work starts. At Bâtonnage, the organization helps mentees and mentors make the most of their time together. “We have some pretty amazing women that are a part of our program, so we encourage the women to … talk about their journey, the vulnerable moments in their lives, and how they addressed them,” says French. Mentees in the second tier of the program have a more structured agenda that includes resume reviews, help with job applications, and access to seminars that will give mentees more insights about the industry.

With or without the support of an organization, mentors and mentees should set times to meet regularly, whether in person, on the phone, or over video calls. Both parties should outline goals for the relationship, identify areas of improvement for the mentee, and tasks that can stimulate professional growth. “You should be talking to your mentor regularly, discussing things that need to be done, and how they need to be done,” says Clarin. 

“Be open to perspectives that are different from your own,” says Shelby. “Listen and garner the experience that someone else has. Allow yourself to walk in uncharted territory because your mentor has had an experience that will validate that uncharted territory and help you in your journey.”

There are so many people out there looking to help others in their careers through mentorship. “Don’t hesitate,” says French. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. So take those shots.”


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Janice Williams is a New York City-based freelance writer covering wine and spirits. Certified WSET Level II, her work has been featured in print and online publications, including Newsweek, Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Uproxx, and Thrillist, among others. You can follow her work on Instagram @browngirldrinkswine and website

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