Gillian Sciaretta ’03 has traveled extensively to wine regions throughout the world as Wine Spectator’s lead taster for France’s Beaujolais, southwest France, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence regions, Spain, Portugal’s table wines, and Israel. On March 30 at 7 p.m., she (virtually) returned home to Blair to discuss her career, the wine industry, and the current state of restaurants and the hospitality sector at the Society of Skeptics. To watch her presentation, please click below:
A 2007 graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Ms. Sciaretta began her career as a sustainable real-estate consultant in New York, where she helped to LEED-certify commercial buildings. Her shift to the wine industry was not out of the blue—during high school and college, she had worked at hotels and bars, and she had taken courses in wine and restaurants at Cornell. “When I moved to New York City, I was obsessed with going to restaurants and ordering (affordable!) wine from their wine lists,” she reminisced. “A few years into my first job, I decided that wine was actually a big enough passion for me to pursue a career in it.”
Ms. Sciaretta earned certifications from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and, in 2012, joined the staff at Wine Spectator as an assistant tasting coordinator, a job that involved decidedly unglamorous tasks such as organizing bottles in the cold wine cellar, moving heavy boxes, cleaning glasses and spit buckets, and taking out the recycling. Over time, as she learned more and more about wine and the company, she started to work her way up the ranks.
“My biggest breakthrough role, I believe, was becoming manager of the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Program in 2013,” Ms. Sciaretta said, referring to the annual program she has run since that time, which recognizes thousands of restaurants worldwide for their outstanding wine programs. “It was a great feeling to finally be in charge of something and also work directly with our executive editor and the owner of the magazine. It was a challenging role, but it allowed me to establish some credibility in the company.”
Ms. Sciaretta became a Wine Spectator associate editor in 2018, in which role she writes tasting reports for her assigned wine regions, as well as stories and articles for print and online publication. It’s a job, she says, that has its perks and challenges. Perks include interviews with wine, restaurant and hospitality industry leaders, dinners at the world’s best restaurants, visits to premier wine regions, and opportunities to meet “people whom I never would have met otherwise,” including rock stars, royalty and billionaires. “When I look back at my experiences, I feel eternally grateful and lucky,” she said.
As for challenges, Ms. Sciaretta noted that she had to quickly become confident in her writing ability and learn how to interview, research and write as a journalist. “I know I still have a way to go,” she said. “Writing articles for a magazine with such a big platform brings extra pressure and exposure. It can be very humbling when you make a mistake, but any setbacks or hurdles I have encountered and overcome have made me a stronger person. I am still amused by the fact that I work as an editor at a magazine, considering I was once terrified of writing.”
By sharing her experiences at Skeptics, Ms. Sciaretta hoped that participants realized that if they do not choose exactly the right career at first, they will be okay as long as they apply themselves and work hard. “The majority of people don't know what they want to be or do after college,” she reflected. “Figuring it out takes time, and sometimes you have to take risks. The journey to finding your career makes you unique and provides you with a distinct skillset that you can leverage down the road.”
“I also wanted audience members to look at wine differently, even if they aren't old enough to legally drink,” she added. “Wine is a topic that permeates into so many other subjects, including history, culture, science, business, food and art. It's way more than just an alcoholic beverage.”
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.