Emilie Lariviere ’23

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Emilie Lariviere ’23

Alumni Spotlight: Master’s in Wine and Beverage Management

How CIA Helped Emilie Lariviere ’23 to Land a Dream Job and Launch a New Channel Within an Acclaimed Winery

From the first day of class, Certified Sommelier Emilie Lariviere ’23 knew pursuing her master’s degree in Wine and Beverage Management at the Culinary Institute of America was going to help her to stand out among other candidates and expand her career options within the hospitality industry. The hands-on, up-close-and-personal experiences she had during her time with CIA were unsurpassed by any other coursework she had participated in previously.

Standing Out and Leveling Up

In 2020, Lariviere passed her Court of Masters Certified Sommelier Certification and completed the California Wine Appellation Specialist Certification through the San Francisco Wine School. But even with sommelier credentials, Lariviere wanted to distinguish herself from others in the field. Lariviere decided to attend CIA’s School of Graduate Studies in 2021, enrolling in the master’s in Wine and Beverage Management program that emphasizes the business side of wine—a critical education she didn’t receive as a sommelier.

It wasn’t until the master’s program at CIA, which gave her real-world connections and business insights to elevate her expertise in wine, that she was able to land her dream job in her dream location. As the newly appointed Private Client Wine Specialist at the esteemed Brasswood Winery Estate—a wine and food village in St. Helena, CA—Lariviere is responsible for delighting guests by curating bespoke wine tastings, cave tours, and vineyard experiences.

The Perfect Fit and Finish

The decision to pursue her masters was not made lightly as Lariviere juggled two jobs and studied for her Court of Masters Advanced Sommelier Exam at the same time. But because the master’s courses at CIA are online and asynchronous, she had the flexibility to attend class on her own schedule, learning from home with the assistance of wine-tasting kits specially designed for remote learning and delivered to her door. She honed her time management skills and used scheduling tools to create a timetable for studying, completing homework assignments, and work. Without having to put her entire life on hold, Lariviere found a way to pursue her master’s degree and maintain a work/life balance.

Connections for Life

Even with the challenges she faced, Lariviere truly enjoyed her experience with CIA courses. Her favorite parts of the program were the residencies and field trips, which she maintains were a unique way to learn firsthand, gain invaluable experience, and establish meaningful connections that would not have been possible otherwise.

“[These] experiences are potentially a once in a lifetime moment: tasting verticals with the winemaker from Opus One, touring the property of Frogs Leap with founder John Williams, touring Domanie Carneros and getting to taste their wines, including a 1993 Brut Sparkling. Each one was so special and unique! Moments like that would never happen just going there on my own to taste.”

Additionally, she found inspiration in meeting some of the legends who helped curate Napa Valley into what it is today and went on to learn more about the history of the regions. “There is a difference between reading and studying about a wine region, compared to seeing it firsthand. [I gained] a vast depth of knowledge that is unlike any other program.”

For her capstone project, Lariviere partnered with Westerly Wines to make a Malbec from Santa Ynez Valley. She had met the owner, Mike Speakman, through a previous position and remained in touch. “Mike Speakman was excited for the opportunity to help me out with this. He was supportive and encouraging for me pursuing my master’s degree in Wine and Beverage Management [at CIA]. Lariviere never expected that in only two short years, her own wine would be available for purchase. But CIA’s master’s degree program opened the door for this new opportunity, allowing one of her dreams to come true.

For anyone in the hospitality or wine industry that is looking to advance their career and grow their professional network, Lariviere firmly believes they will find the education and experience gained from CIA to be the perfect pairing with success.