Meet Whitney Adams. This girl knows a thing or two about her vino. As a sommelier, blogger, and now the best wine accessorizer your bottle has ever met, she’s giving us the skinny on how she got into the wine biz and launched Bottle Stock, her stylish line of unique wine goods.
When did your love affair with wine begin?
As an actress for most of my life, I worked in restaurants and bars to support my “theater habit” while living in New York. I started working at a little Italian restaurant called Gusto, and already having a love for Italian food, I became obsessed with the food culture in Manhattan. But it was really the first time I went to Italy when I was 19 that a career in wine and food struck me, and I haven’t left it since. Fast forward a couple years to 2006 when I moved to Los Angeles – I was working at the restaurant Cut in Beverly Hills, and it was a really exciting time to be there. It had just opened, and “anybody who was anybody” came to dine. Dana Farner was and still is the beverage director, and it was the first time I had worked with a female in a position like that, which was really inspiring. Living in LA also meant I was closer to wine country. I would take trips to Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Los Olivos, and I started tasting more wine. I left Cut for my first-ever managing position at a restaurant called Cube, which, after got their wine license just a few months after I started. Through various circumstances, I became the wine buyer, and that’s when it really started to click for me – I remember thinking, "I really love this wine thing!" I decided to leave LA behind for a bit and head to Italy to work a grape harvest at Viticoltori De Conciliis, and I traveled around for three months by myself afterwards, falling in love with the country and tasting as much as possible. When I got back to LA, I began the process of studying for the Certified Sommelier exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers. I also started working at Domaine LA, which had just opened. I knew retail was a good place for me to be exposed to many wines, not just the Italian ones I was familiar with. Domaine LA has been a huge resource ever since. For now, I’m continuing to work in retail as well as on the floor of a restaurant [as a sommelier for Terroni] to keep learning and growing in this industry.
What led you to start Bottle Stock?
I’ve always loved art and interior design, and as a wine lover, anytime my birthday or Christmas came around, people felt compelled to give me wine-y things. God bless them, but most of it was pretty tacky. Also, as a buyer for wine retail in LA, I ran into the same problem when I tried to find stylish wine accessories. Why do wine gifts and accessories have to be so lame? It became increasingly harder to find anything interesting I wanted to put on the shelf. One day, I was journaling and getting myself to think about the next five years of my life, and I had an aha moment. What if I made wine accessories? I wanted to make accessories for all the young, modern wine drinkers out there who are really embracing it as a culture. It’s a great time to be drinking and learning about wine, and I want to help cater to that desire. That whole thought process started about a year ago, and I finally launched Bottle Stock in May. It has been quite the learning process. Jill Bernheimer, who owns Domaine LA, was also a huge help. She has given me so many business tips: what my margins should look like, how I should price things, and she's answered a plethora of my questions. I learn something new every day, and I know I will continue to.
How do you come up with your designs?
I often think of designs when I’m just going about my day. Anything could spark inspiration: being at dinner or having a glass of wine with a friend. I also think about artists and makers I like, as well as people that specialize in a particular craft – indigo dying or leathermaking – and how I can try to bring what they do into the wine culture. I met a fantastic artist who makes brass jewelry and cool lighting fixtures and does furniture design. I wanted to come up with a way to bring in some of her pieces into what I’m trying to create, and we were able to brainstorm and come up with a handful of awesome ideas. It’s been so fun to collaborate with each artist. Every new product is a new collaboration, which not only makes it exciting for me because of the different challenges and exploration, but for the customers as well because there will always be something new.
Before designing the wine wrap papers, I thought, "There has got to be a sleeker way to present wine as a gift instead of just throwing it in bag." I wanted to show off the shape of the bottle, which is sexy, and I knew I wanted a bold graphic print, so I think they ended up being really fun. For the leather wine totes, I wanted to bring a bit of a fashion element to the line. I wanted something that felt designer, something that you could take to a fancy party or nice restaurant when bringing a bottle of wine for a client or friend.
How do you find the artists and designers you work with?
I read a lot of design blogs, check out Pinterest and Etsy, and network as much as possible. There are a lot of local fairs that I like to check out, too – especially on the weekends in LA – where you can go and be exposed to a lot of under-the-radar creatives and people that are highly skilled in their craft. I really like working with local designers as much as possible.
What's next for Bottle Stock – any new or fun projects you can talk about?
There are a lot of fun new products and collaborations for the holidays! Limited edition coasters from The Coastal, some new letterpressed greeting cards with illustrations from the super-talented artist Robin Watts, new wine wrap paper designs, corkscrews, and so much more.
Sabina Yannone is another artist I’m working with on this idea that will be our take on temporary tattoos, but applied to wine glasses. It’s our version of a wine charm because I hate those little things. They’re a way to embellish your glass in a classy way, and they almost make the glass look etched or handpainted from the watercolor designs that we’ve transferred.
Another exciting collaboration for the holidays is with Jennifer Parry Dodge from Ermie. She's a very talented indigo dyer and textile designer. She uses a lot of natural dying techniques, and she’s going to make some exclusive textiles for wine bottle totes and corkscrew pouches. She’s also dying a batch of fabric for a line of Furoshiki (a traditional Japanese cloth used for gift-wrapping or transporting small goods) that can hold two bottles of wine when wrapped.
And for some inspired wine savvy, what are you looking forward to drinking this fall?
When the weather cools down, I start to crave spicier reds. They can be on either the lighter-bodied or fuller-bodied end of the spectrum. I love lighter wines like Trousseau, Poulsard, Gamay, or something with a little more body, Northern Rhône Syrahs – so savory and aromatic. Around the holidays, I also really love an elegant Champagne because there’s always something to celebrate. A nice, aged Champagne – when you can afford it – is always a treat. Summer, for me, is all about rosés and crisp whites, so it will be nice to dig into some reds and bubbly as the season changes.