Saturday, January 12, 2008

Just another byline...

Women of Spirit:Raising a Cheer for Charity by Natasha OrtizFortier
Published November 2007 Woman's Scope Newspaper (Food & Wine section)

The reception area was a buzz with professionals sampling Belgian Endive with Blue Cheese, Tuna Tartare with diced tomatoes and avacado and Jumbo Lump Crabcakes. The hor’doves were served with a Rioja Blanca 2006 (Spain) and Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Arbodela (Chile). Downed in a corporate blue suit, Monyka Berrocosa casually enters the in private dining room at Mortons in downtown Baltimore with confidence and elegance. She was selected as Baltimore’s “Women of Spirit” by Morton’s The Steakhouse in partnership with the American Red Cross to recognize women in the wine and spirit industry at exclusive wine dinners to be held at Morton’s restaurants in 38 cities from coast to coast. The event seeks to honor women in their local community who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to volunteerism and community service.

Ms. Berrocosa holds many titles to include serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, single mom, small business advocate and author to name a few. Ms. Berrocosa explained that while she’s being honored, tonight wasn’t about her. “I feel almost uncomfortable with the focus on me. I have the opportunity to shine the light on a greater purpose. The American Red Cross is like your parents. You don’t appreciate them as much as you should but there are always there when you really need them.”

In 2000, Ms. Berrocosa founded The Women’s Wine and Dine® as an opportunity for busy professional women to come together and network in a comfortable relaxed environment. Following the credo instilled by her mother “ to whom much is given, much is expected,” from the beginning a portion of each Wine and Dine event proceeds supported women, children and family focused charities. “Monyka embodies the qualities of Morton’s Women of Spirit,” said Judi DiGioia, sales and marketing manager of Morton’s The Steakhouse in Baltimore. “Her commitment to local nonprofit organizations that need and deserve support is unparalleled. Each of her business and personal ventures is designed to also serve our community
and nonprofits.”

Her initial wine club started with 17 women has grown into a network of 7, 000. Owning several businesses has it’s ups and down. Ms. Berrocosa takes it in stride. “Every failure brings you a step closer to success. It’s important to provide perspective. It lets you know there’s still more work to do.”

She encourages women who want to start their own business to examine carefully their motivation. She believes people focus solely on the financial gain and flexible schedule. What they don’t consider is that “when you are sick or don’t make that sales call or your are not continuously working, you don’t get paid.” She offers this advice “really find something you can do where you are not counting the hours of the day” until quitting time.

Tylor Field, Morton’s vice president of wine and spirits, has secured America’s top female winemakers, sommeliers and proprietors for each of these Women of Spirit dinners. The Baltimore event hosted Odila Galer Noel, Vice President of Frederick Wildman & Sons, Importer, as the expert for the wine dinner in Baltimore.

Ms. Galer Noel chose wines for the evening to include the Western side of Spain and Chile. The wine retail ranges from $9 to $80 per bottle. During the course of the evening, she shared her personal philosophy on wine, discussed some of her own achievements in the highly competitive –male dominated wine industry. Ms. Galer Noel has been with Wildman & Sons for nearly 12 years. She’s worked in the wine industry for more than 25 years.

After finishing college with a degree in French and no desire to teach, she landed a job promoting food and wine for the French government. As Vice President, she is responsible for the public relations, sales development and brand management of nearly 50 brands Wildman distributes. “ l love my job. I get to eat, drink and get paid for it!”

A chef friend once told her that only 11% of the population get to do what they love for a living, “I am lucky to be one of those people.”Her advice on tasting wine are as follows: “Swirl to mix the aromas together; Sniff for subtle nuances; Taste with the entire tongue. After a minute, a well-balanced wine will come into full effect.”Ms. Galer Noel plans to continue in the wine industry. She believes if you are going to spend 3/4’s of your life doing a job “you better make it a fun ride.”

A hostess of several wine-centered events, Ms. Berrocosa recommends “stick with a style of wine you like and expand from there.” For example if you like Zinfandels from the Napa Valley try one from another region to compare and contrast the taste, aroma and vintage.The Rioja Rosado 2006 (Spain) while initially paired with the salad course was a perfect compliment to the chocolate covered strawberries. Ms. Galer Noel’s was especially excited about the Sena 2003 (Spain) and Carmenére , the first icon wine of Chile, 2005 Abroleda (Chile).

In 2005, the Sena will be the first biodynamic wine with the Wildman portfolio. Biodynamics, a farming technique that raises organic agriculture to a higher plan.The 38-city wine dinner tour will conclude in late September with an “all-star” gala event honoring America’s “Women of Spirit” and the American Red Cross, to be held in Washington, DC, at the Morton’s in Georgetown, which will also be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Natasha OrtizFortíer is a writer, educator and creative marketing
communications consultant living in Baltimore City.
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