Sep 27 • 41M

Marie Cheslik Reflects on Making Wine (and Coffee) More Accessible

Wine professional Marie Cheslik talks accessible wine education, unexpected career shifts, and which food professionals are the best tasters.

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Appears in this episode

Ashley Rodriguez
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Wine and coffee are a lot alike—up to a point.

In coffee, we frequently refer to wine to explain concepts like terroir (or the idea that crops like coffee taste different depending on where they’re grown). But for years, I’ve wondered if this comparison—what I’ve lovingly called “the wine analogy”—has hindered our understanding of coffee. Maybe it’s just that we’ve focused on the wrong similarities.

Marie Cheslik is the founder of Slik Wines, and we first connected through Slik Wines’ Instagram account. Marie focuses on making wine accessible and fun through short videos that break down common wine questions, and in this conversation, we dig into how to make things that feel esoteric and hard—like wine and coffee—more joyful and approachable. And there’s a lot of joy in this episode—Marie is really, really fun to chat with. We cover everything from Chicago-specific references to attempts to figure out who is the better group of tasters: wine folks or coffee people.

Here’s Marie:

Ashley: Marie, I was wondering if you could start by introducing yourself.

Marie: Sure. My name is Marie Cheslik. I am the founder and sommelier for my business, Slik Wines.

Ashley: Did you grow up with coffee in your life?

Marie: Well yes. I went to nursing school in the city of Chicago, at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Right when I turned 18, I moved to the city from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

They don’t tell you how much you need to study when you're in nursing school. So I ended up going to the cafe a lot—for any of you Chicago stans out there, it's Wormhole Coffee in the Wicker Park neighborhood. And I just remember going there all the time, just feeling like the vibes were very cool and I felt comfortable and I started getting to know the baristas more and they were turning into my friends.

I would go there and study and they were open super early and super late. So I would be there, like, 10 hours a day hanging out with these people, getting the most outta my $5 coffee. I'm sorry, but I was that person sitting in the coffee shop for way too long, but I talked to these people and know these people, I feel like that's okay.

They kind of showed me this really fun and great world of coffee. That was, yeah, a little bespoke, but definitely very accessible and professional. We got a lot of different kinds of people going in there and I just an overall great coffee experience while studying for nursing school in Chicago.

Ashley: I love a career changer just because I am also a career changer. And that's something that I've talked a lot about on the show. There's this interview with Nigel Price—if you folks are listening and haven't listened to that episode, please go back and listen to it.

He also talks about having this completely different career path for himself, and then having this moment where it's like, “Oh, this is actually not what I want at all. I want this completely other different thing.” And it seems like that's an experience that you had as well. So I was wondering if you could talk about the moment that things kind of switched for you?

Marie: When I went to nursing school, I felt like it was a very pragmatic thing to do. It's not like my parents shoved it down my throat or anything. I really just wanted a career where I get to talk to people, I had flexibility, and that I could make a decent amount of money and live comfortably.

When I was studying for my nursing boards exam, I worked in restaurants and that was just a way to sort of get by. I worked as a host in a restaurant called Hub 51. And again, for all the Chicago fans out there, it's pretty much a bro bar in the River North neighborhood. So it wasn't necessarily the clientele I would normally interact with, but I really loved the job.

I love just talking to people. I love, even for that brief moment, having an experience with a person and especially being a host at a restaurant, being the first person that you meet and that first person being really nice and just like there to help you. I felt like it was a powerful thing, and something I see in a lot of parallels in nursing.

When I started working as a nurse, it wasn't as pretty and shiny as I thought it was gonna be—it ended up being very okay. I was at Northwestern Memorial in Streeterville in Chicago, and it was a great job. I really liked it, but I felt myself thinking about working in restaurants again.

I remember working the night shift—usually where you start when you're a new grad in the hospital—and I remember just Googling Eater articles and seeing what the hot new restaurant was and Googling about places and Anthony Bourdain and different wines and things like that. And I just kept sort of daydreaming at night about these sort of things.

Eventually I worked at Northwestern for two years and I said, “You know, this is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, and I owe it to myself just to see what this is like. So let's pursue restaurants in whatever capacity that may be and let's just go for it.” So I started working in a Michelin-starred restaurant called Elske in the West Loop, and that's sort of where my restaurant and wine career began.

Ashley: When you said Elske—I also lived in Chicago; a lot of people who listened to the show might know that—you say Elske I'm like, “Oh, that's some real-deal shit there.”

How did you end up at Elske? Or did you work at other restaurants in between? How'd you end up there and how did you start developing your wine career?

Marie: Yeah, I had worked at some restaurants in between. In full transparency, you have to pass this nursing boards exam and I notoriously suck at taking exams. So it took me four times in a year and a half to pass. So I kind of was twiddling my thumbs after I finished nursing school but before I finished my boards exam, so I ended up working a few different restaurant jobs.

When I got to Elske, it's like, yes, I had restaurant experience, but then I also had this nursing experience. Then the man I interviewed with, Kyle Davidson, who is a gem and really someone who I consider a mentor and someone who really let me be in that space and be myself and try things, he was just very open about what he needed and I was very open about what I needed.

I could be honest with him of being like, “Hey, I don't mind starting as a server here, but I really wanna learn about wine.”

I had sort of decided on wine because I guess it's this pragmatic part of my brain again, the same thing that kind of led me to being a nurse was like—I really liked being a server. I really didn't see anything wrong with being a server. I really enjoyed it, but I felt like that I needed something else. I needed another edge to give myself more value and make myself more hirable.

And I didn't grow up with wine. I grew up in Milwaukee, definitely blue-collar beer town, but wine seemed like the easiest way to sort of beef up my resume. When I started learning more about it, I ended up just really enjoying it.

It's almost like being a bartender where you're kind of mixing with the back-of-house and the chef’s side and the front-of-house, which is the people side, right? So this was sort of my way of doing that. And I was just lucky that I had Kyle who let me taste things all the time and let me attend tastings. But I also was very vocal about, again, what I wanted, which I also feel like made his job easier to be like, “Okay, here's Marie, this is who she is, awesome. This is where she wants to go. Let me take her there.” So I think it was just a very good symbiotic relationship.

Ashley: Yeah, it seems very serendipitous. It seems like a lot of things lined up together, which is awesome because that obviously led you kind of down the pathway that you're on now, but at the same time, I love that you were able to say, “I know what I want—or at least I have an idea of what I want—and I'm gonna say these things out loud to you.”

Luckily you said them to a person who is safe and you could say those things too. I can see that kind of like going in a different direction for some other people. But I do wanna really highlight the idea that, like you said, of saying the things out loud. I'm a big believer in saying the need out loud, because you kind of never know who can respond to it.

Marie: 100%. There have been times in my life where I've said what I needed and yes, I get a negative response from it. It’s even sort of shocking when you tell people what you wanna do, and they say like, “How dare you,” or, “How stupid,” which is absurd.

But at the end of the day, I need to just follow my heart and trust my gut. I know that's cheesy, but it's just true. And it’s part luck too, right? It's like, yes, I knew what I wanted. It’s not that I always knew what I wanted, but I had an idea and I just needed to roll with it and just see where that took me as opposed to being unsure about something.

So I agree. It's a couple of factors there where I did get lucky, but I also knew.

Ashley: Did you have any transformative wine moments early in your career? That kind of affirmed, “This is what I wanna do,” or, “This is the path that I'm at meant to be on for right now”?

Marie: I can't say there's a singular moment. People call that the “aha moment” for wine. I don't know if there's like a similar thing with coffee.

Ashley: There's an aha moment. There's—I don't love this as as a term, but there's the God-shot moment where you have a shot of espresso that's so good that you're like, “How did it get so good?” Then you kind of like fall down whatever rabbit holes you need to fall down. But God-shot is a pretty common term.

Marie: Hilarious. Okay. So it's not called a God-shot, but it's called an aha moment, which it gives me a similar feeling of—I almost cringe where you're like, okay, is something like that really gonna change my life?

But it was the joy of the combination of what I was doing—where I was really proud to work where I was working, I felt like I had a goal and it was an achievable goal, but a challenging goal. And I loved that. I loved that I got to educate people and meet people and then shift my career from talking about diabetes and heart failure to talking about food and wine and culture, which just felt so right when I was working there.

And it was a really special time for me.

People need to experience joy as much as they need someone to be there during a hard time. I feel like they're an equal amount of power even though people don't always see it that way. After working both, I get enjoyment out of doing both. But I get more enjoyment out of working and wine and sharing that experience with people.

Ashley: I had a very similar experience when I was a teacher. I think I got into teaching with this altruistic idea in my mind that I was making a difference. And perhaps I was a little more myopic about that when I was in it, because I don't think that I had like the emotional wherewithal to actually say, “What do my students need from me?”

It was very much like, “I'm 22 years old and I'm gonna change these kids' lives.” I wasn’t like, “Oh, I need to respond to the situation and actually do some assessment about what's happening around me,” and that's one of the reasons that I left teaching, because I just didn't think I had the emotional wherewithal to do that kind of work at that time, at that age, because I was 22.

But I think you're echoing a lot of those similarities that I started to see as my career in coffee evolved and shifted—is that the way that we impart meaning into people's lives happens all the time. There's no more important job than another, and it happens in different ways.

So I love that you mentioned that—I just wanted to highlight it.

Marie: Oh yeah. I mean, real recognizes real. I feel like nurses and teachers are like, we are in this together. That's some real in-the-trenches kind of work. So I feel that.

Ashley: I often reflect on the lessons I learned as a teacher. I probably think about the things I learned as a teacher every single day, which is surprising for the fact that I only did it for a year and that was 12 years ago.

I was wondering: Are there lessons in nursing that you take with you to the restaurant or to a virtual class, or just even like your everyday work, the content creation that you're making on Instagram and TikTok and all the other apps—every app!

Marie: All of them!

You know, it really tells me that life isn't fair, for better or for worse, however you want to view that.

It's just like, what are we supposed to do? How do you possibly navigate that when you know that life is dramatically unfair? And I view that from now a business perspective in the most interesting way where it's like—I do post a lot of content. I do create a lot of things. I do think I work hard, but sometimes people work hard and they don't get the results they want.

Is that fair? No. There are people on TikTok for half the time that I am and they see more success than I do. Is that fair? No, but it just is, right? So it shouldn't stop you, you shouldn't look at other people's cup—it's sort of one of those idioms where you just need to set these goals for yourself and then not look at other people all the time. It's okay to do it sometimes, but it really just teaches me that none of this is really fair, but you should just do exactly what you wanna do and if it helps people, awesome. If it doesn't, that's also okay.

It's a little bit nihilist, I suppose, but I find it very freeing in a way.

Ashley: I do too. I think you're not wrong. And I agree—I think that you're right, in a way, like the nihilism is a little bit freeing.

The idea that like, you can really only focus on you. I certainly feel that too, as somebody who makes stuff and puts it out there and hopes, fingers crossed, that it'll land with somebody. And if it lands with one or two people, that's fine. It did its job.

Marie: Right. Or even just being like, “I'm gonna put this out because I think it's good. I put out this great video. I thought it was awesome. Only seven people liked it. Okay. Who cares?” I'm just gonna do the exact same thing tomorrow. It doesn't matter.

Ashley: What inspired you to start Slik Wines?

Marie: I was working this great restaurant job and then of course, COVID totally ruined it. I found myself jobless—only briefly because I have this nursing plan as a backup, which is a pretty supreme backup plan.

I worked as a COVID nurse for a little bit, and during that time I was like, “I can't be a nurse again forever. I don't want this future for myself, so I need to do wine in a way that feels right, and it feels like that I can interact with people, but it needs to be not associated with restaurants. It needs to be in a different capacity.”

So I started Slik as fun and approachable wine education and mostly virtual events, because that was the thing that made the most sense in August of 2020. Then it sort of drifted from virtual to in-person. Once things started clearing up a little bit. Now, most recently it's been turning into content creation and marketing, which I totally did not expect to happen, but has sort of just worked out that way.

Ashley: Let's talk about the education part of it, because I think that that's probably the most lvisible—you go to your TikTok or your Instagram, or you look at Reels, and it's a lot of you talking about like how to taste a wine, how to pick a wine, how to pair it with this, how to do that…

What were some of the goals that you set for yourself when you were thinking about the educational aspect of this?

Because, like coffee, wine is hard. It's hard to understand. [Laughs]

Marie: 100%, totally.

I think it was maybe much like coffee, fighting against this pretension that's always been there. I think of the hipster barista memes, there's just like stereotypes that exist both in coffee and in wine, and very much like the sommelier stereotype—it's even a hard word to say for people.

It's like all these French words and it's very easy for it to feel not relatable, because it feels like there are so many barriers up. I have been lucky with my career that I have been accepted with open arms and even Kyle Davidson over at Elske, he was a bartender. He worked at The Violet Hour, which is a great cocktail bar in the city, and so he approached this with this cocktail sort of mindset.

I always had this alternative path, which I think is fabulous and I think was what made wine so approachable for me and so easy to get into for me. If I can do that for other people, I feel like that'd be a very powerful thing. And wine is a place where people need to be educated to explore new avenues with it.

Like you don’t need to be educated to drink it. You can, of course, just buy a bottle of wine and drink it. And of course, people do that all the time and I'm totally there for that, but there's a whole other world and there's a whole other level of enjoyment and, I think similar in coffee, a level of like hobbyism to it as well, where people either want to just explore something new or they wanna be proficient or they wanna impress their date or their boss or whatever.

If I can make that as easy as possible for people, I love doing that within Slik. I think about situations that I always thought about when I was first learning and I try not to lose that perspective—things that I think to my colleagues seem really basic and really 101 are the things that people need to hear and need to hear over and over again. It's worth saying more than once.

Ashley: What do you think some of those things are?

Marie: Just even how to pick a bottle of wine off the shelf.

I really like to push labels for people because it's usually the first thing people see and usually what people make their buying decisions off of, right? Whether it's a cute label or it gives you information—and of course, a cute label is cute, but doesn't really tell you anything about the wine, unless when you look on the back label and you see the importer and you go, “okay.” But you have to know what an importer is.

So then there's another video, right? And it's like, what kind of importers? If I like natural wine, what kind of importers would I like? If I'm going to my in-laws’ house, what am I picking? I think a lot about situations for people where I felt like it was very intimidating. So whether it's a restaurant, whether it's in a wine shop, or gift giving—I find that's very popular too, where people are like, “I need to give something to my boss” or whatever—I try to just re-remember what it felt like to know nothing and help my past self with that.

Ashley: I love that. I love that you mentioned that we need to remember those moments of being a learner ourselves or that we're all still learners. We're all constantly learning, but going back to those moments where it's like, “Oh, I didn't know anything about this. What questions would I have had at that moment? What questions did I find frustrating that I didn't know the answers to? What questions did I find it really hard to find information on?”

I even had one of those questions come up recently. I was looking up information about what to do with really old coffee. Let's say you find—we've all been there—you find a bag of coffee that you're like, “Oh, I forgot I had this. This is eight months old. How do I brew this?”

And I found so many conflicting narratives online and I was like, “How do we not know this?” And I think that there's this idea of knowledge that's assumed that you just kind of pick up or it's passed through experience or passed through, I dunno, sommelier to sommelier, barista to barista, but we don't really codify it.

Not to say that there's an end-all-be-all way to do things, but we often don't think about how the information that we're seeking out is going to be information that others are seeking out too. So that's what I love about accounts like yours.

It's almost like record-keeping in a way, like putting things down and having a record so that people can say, “I have a question about this. Oh, there's an answer somewhere.” And maybe this isn't, again, the end-all-be-all. Maybe this opens up more questions, but at least somebody is addressing this question that I have in my head.

Marie: I think you made a good point about it being a catalog, because yeah, I even go back to look at the content I've made because I am human and I forget these things all the time. What did I post a month ago—because I try to post every day. So it's just a lot of stuff that's coming out.

People don't always know what they wanna learn, either. You can tell me if this is something that happens in coffee too, but like, I will ask my audience, “What do you want to learn?” And that's kind of the worst question to ask people sometimes, because people freeze. People are like, “Oh, well, uh, I don't know, whatever you want.”

So it's like, I'm creating a lesson plan and teaching it at the same time.

Ashley: You're really hitting all the notes for me.

Marie: Yeah, it's hard. I mean, it took some getting used to, and usually these things just come to mind. I still do events and I find that those are the most helpful for—like the Q&A at the end, the common questions that people ask.

Like, “I don't have a wine fridge. How do I store my wine?” Things like that, doing these classes again and meeting these people again and having this time at the end of each class to just hang out with them after I teach about whatever they wanted to learn about. Then that's when all the real questions come out, when people have been drinking a little bit, people are a little more comfortable with you and they go, “Oh yeah, by the way, what's your favorite glassware?”

I kind of get the same 20 questions, so I'll definitely make content based on that.

Ashley: There's something to be said about being in front of people and having at least a little bit of time to get familiar with your surroundings, get comfortable with the person leading the conversation. I imagine conversations look very different at minute one to minute 60, if you're doing an hour-long presentation.

I used to lead, we call them cuppings. So we'll do tastings of just different cups of coffee. And I used to lead one every single Friday and I think the most powerful thing for me to witness other people do is just taste different coffees side by side, which we don't do a lot of.

It’s kind of the same thing in wine too—it's not like you're ordering three glasses of wine to have next to each other. The only time you're really tasting comparatively is in this kind of setting. I wonder if that's been powerful for you as well?

Marie: 100%, and I love that's the connection that you've made with that too, because I see that all the time and consumers also recognize that.

I've taught classes where we've tasted three Sauvignon Blancs, three of the same grapes right next to each other, being like, “What is this one? What is this one? What is this one?”

People are interesting in that they think they know what they want, but they probably don't. And I'm exactly the same way, right? This is a very human attribute, where you think you like a Chardonnay, or you think you don't like a Chardonnay—more likely—and then you try one, you don't know what this is, but we just pour it in a glass and we assess it together.

It's a really powerful thing. I think people find that, like you said, to be a very powerful thing. I think it's a lot of fun.

Ashley: I worked in a wine store for like, 20 minutes, if that. I only worked there like on shifts where they called me in and they were like, “We need someone to help us put bottles on shelves,” and I was like, “Cool, great. I'm very grateful for this opportunity.”

Marie: You were like, “I can do that.”

Ashley: One of the games that we would play at the wine store when it was kind of slow is that I would pick a bottle of wine for one of the owners, and I wouldn't tell him what the bottle was. He had to ask questions to try to figure out what the bottle is, and he got it right every single time, but it took hours—hours!

And it was great though. We'd be at kind of like our regular work day, we'd pour it. He'd look at the color and kind of make an assessment. He's like, “I think it's from this region of the world,” and then he'd stop. Then he'd come back to it and he'd be like, “Okay, I think it's from this region of the world. And I also think it's from this country specifically,” and then stop and then keep tasting the wine as the day went on.

It was really interesting for me to witness him ask questions and be like, “This is how you are making assessments.” I think just like the process of—it sounds intimidating to say—testing ourselves, but it is! It’s like doing an experiment, changing a variable…

I will die on this hill: Coffee is like the coolest science experiment I think you can do because you can change a variable and with that, have a totally new set of things to try. But wine seems to invite that too. Maybe not in the same way where you can brew a cup of coffee and then brew another one a little bit differently right next to you, but the idea that it’s one big experiment that you can just play with and see where different variables kind of lead you…

Marie: Have you ever thought about getting into wine? Like as a barista?

Ashley: I think that I'm just—okay, so this is my PSA right now. I'm gonna say it for everybody.

I think baristas are the best tasters that exist.

Marie: Ooh, those are fighting words!

Ashley: I know, I know I'm inciting something. But I think—okay, so if you go to a new city, for example, I would not ask a restaurant person where to go eat. I would ask a barista. Just because baristas—yeah, I'm going there.

Number one: We spend so much time tasting and manipulating variables to taste. So if I get to the cafe in the morning, I'm tasting espresso. I'm making changes. I'm constantly tasting over and over and over. And I have absolute control over what's actually happening in front of me—not absolute control. I don't control the beans or whatever. I'm getting a roasted product delivered to me.

But two: I think baristas are also seeking out those experiences at other places. I lived in Oakland, California for a while and I worked at a coffee shop in my neighborhood. And there's this wine store that's like very well-known, it's called Ordinaire, and you've probably heard of it. The only people I would see there are baristas. I would see all my barista friends there.

I wouldn't see them at other coffee shops. I would see them at Ordinaire. I would see them at breweries that had really great and interesting beers—not IPAs, mostly Lagers, just also putting that out there, more fighting words.

But I think that baristas often get underestimated by how powerful their palates are.

Marie: I wanna test this. How do we test this?

Ashley: I don't know. I don't know. What's neutral ground between a sommelier and—our equivalent would be maybe a Q grader, but even that's much more specific to green coffee quality, but those are pretty powerful tasters, too.

Marie: I mean, could we even do a whole different medium, like, can we do like cocktails or something?

Ashley: Maybe?

Marie: Or like—or like a liquor or something, but sometimes the alcohol can be like too much…

Ashley: Yeah, that might be. That could be, huh? Anyway, if someone's listening to this and they have a challenge that they could set up for coffee people versus wine folks, please.

Marie: I would love that.

Ashley: Send it my way.

Marie: Maybe I could do a coffee and you could do a wine?

Ashley: That might be the challenge, but I do think that baristas are actually, secretly some of the best tasters that get underutilized.

That's kind of a hurdle that a lot of baristas face, I think. A lot of baristas have this romanticized idea of being bartenders—or at least that was a very hot thing in like 2014, and maybe I'm thinking of a very particular time in my barista life, but I would see a lot of my friends not even get considered for these jobs because people didn't really understand how taxing it is to be a barista.

Marie: I think about some restaurants have dedicated baristas, especially the upper echelon of the Michelin world, because I think they understand that. But I think much like, especially right now, in many restaurants, everything is just being consolidated. The DM is now the wine director, it's just like people are wearing so many hats just for the sake of survival.

I don't think an in-house barista for restaurants will probably be relegated—I mean, I was making coffee drinks, being the server and the wine director, and I'm also pulling espresso shots and making hearts and cups of coffee and people love that. People never get sick of that.

Ashley: People never get sick of hearts. Everyone just make hearts.

Marie: Don't make anything else.

Ashley: That's another hill I'll die on. But no, you're right. There's this idea of like servers having to do everything, or like your server is the one that's supposed to have this extensive wine knowledge too, which can be really taxing and overwhelming, I have to imagine.

Marie: I mean, yes. You bring up a really great point where you're like, yes, you’re more equivalent to a bartender or a chef than you are a server because you can dial in all these things. [But as a server] I have to be a treasure trove of knowledge and sometimes you get people coming in who will just know more than you, especially for some regions like Burgundy.

I can't afford to drink Burgundy all the time. I'm a wine director for a Michelin-starred restaurant, and I don't even drink Burgundy all the time. Some people are just gonna know more cause they have the resources and the particular time to spend on that. So I'm not always gonna know everything: much like healthcare, much like [anything], there's there's specialties, right?

There's fabulous Italian restaurants in Chicago. And if I signed up in an Italian restaurant to be a sommelier there, I would need a big learning curve. It's not necessarily my strong point. So I think it totally just depends on where you work too. You're not always gonna know everything and that's okay too.

And this is not a time where you fake it ‘til you make it, because people can smell that a mile away and you just end up losing trust in people.

Ashley: Something that you mentioned in some of the Reels and the videos that you make is climate change, and how that's affecting different wine regions. And that's something that we talk a lot about in coffee too. Climate change is absolutely changing where you can grow coffee and how that coffee's being grown in particular regions.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about like what climate change is doing to wine-growing regions.

Marie: Oh, can I.

Ashley: Did I open a can of worms? Perhaps I did, but maybe we can give people just a little bit of a taste because something that does happen—just to give you another kind of wine/coffee comparison that a lot of coffee people make—is that we do talk about elevation and temperature changes in coffee growing.

So we talk a lot about—so, coffee grows between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. It wants to grow in hot, humid places, but it wants to grow at high elevation so that it can experience that shift in temperature. It almost stresses the beans out. I think that that's something we borrowed pretty much directly from wine as a way to talk about this.

Marie: Just saying that there's certainly parallels.

Yes, we can briefly touch on this. I won't dive in too deep, but I'm just gonna take a point for my most recent experience. I did a couple weeks of wine harvest in Napa, California. And I've never been—I kind of felt like a poser talking about Napa, but never actually being there.

So I felt like this was a good time to not only see Napa, but to try making wine in the cellar, which, spoiler alert: is really hard. You're pretty much a farmer. You work consecutive 12-13-hour shifts. I was just like shocked. I underestimated how much work it was gonna be. And of course me I'm like, “Well, I was a nurse, well, I worked in restaurants. I can handle this,” but I just … these people work weeks at a time, months at a time, without a day off. Because the grapes don't take a day off.

But in California, [climate change] is a big problem. And there's two major factors happening with wine growing around there, which is water conservation and wildfires.

I was asking people, “What are you gonna do?” California is on fire every other year. 2020 was a horrendous fire year and it affects the wine.

And people do clever things where if they're growing red grapes, you can make rose to reduce the amount of smoke taint in the wine. But you're kind of just putting a Bandaid on a gash, right? It's not actually helping. So I’d ask people and every single person I talk to, they’d go, “Yeah, it's fucked up.”

And I was like, okay—there's no real solution. There's things like water conservation where people recycle water within wineries. I was also shocked to find out how much water it takes to make a bottle of wine. I'm sure coffee is a very similar thing, but, at the end of the day, it seems like you're just not gonna be able to make wine in California anymore.

It's just too inclement. There's too many droughts. There's too many fires. There's not enough water. So we're just gonna have to move or make crops that are more resistant to heat, which some people are doing. But in places like California, where it's getting exponentially worse every year, it seems like there's not really gonna be enough time for it.

Ashley: Is there anything that you want people to know about you listening to this, or to think about when they're purchasing their next bottle of wine?

Marie: I'm just gonna take this opportunity to bump my stuff. My name is Marie Cheslik. I am the founder of Slik Wines. So if you are interested in fun, approachable wine education in tiny digestible video format, give us a follow on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and even on Twitter, I'm on all of it, just seeing what's up, so I'd love to meet you, interact with you.

When you are out buying a bottle of wine, I would say the most important thing would be buying from small wineries, buying from people who don't make a ton of wine, spending a little bit more on a bottle of wine—probably much like coffee—really goes a long way.

I mean, on average as a wine professional who doesn't drink fancy Burgundy every day, I probably spend on average $25-35 on a bottle of wine. So just that little bit can really go a long way for farmers, but I know people don't have the resources for it, and there's a lot of good reasons for that.

But if you have the resources and you like buying organic produce or things from farmer’s markets, or nice coffees, then buying nice wine is another way to expand that way of being sort of environmentally conscious and labor conscious, which I feel is very important. And I think you do too, Ashley.

Ashley: I went to an event, it was a coffee event, and we brought in Martha Stoumen to talk about wine and she's this amazing wine producer. And one of the things that she was telling us was that for her to be profitable, the cheapest she can sell her wine is $27-28, which I thought was super interesting.

As you were saying, that $25-35 range feels like, even when you said it, I was like, “Ugh!”

Marie: I know!

Ashley: But then I was like, “Wait a minute. I feel the same way for coffee,” and I can make a whole argument for coffee that you get more cups of coffee, blah, blah, blah, whatever.

But regardless, the thinking is still the same: that the prices don't come from us trying to market this as a luxury item. The prices come from, this is the bare minimum. We can sell this for—this is a steal, actually. And it's hard to convey that.

Marie: It is. Because food is underpriced right now


Ashley: Just in general, just always.

Marie: 100%. The people you hear from the most are restaurant owners saying food costs are growing up, but we go to the grocery store and we think now that $6 is too much for a dozen eggs, but it's like—maybe it should have been $6 10 years ago, right?

For it to be livable for farmers or livable for somebody. That's a whole different conversation about like subsidies and who deserves good food and why. Governments will either do the thing that will benefit the economy the most, like subsidizing corn, or benefits the culture the most, which they do in the EU.

There you'll see more bespoke cheese dairy products, or whatever their country is proud of. But here in, the U S of A, we love corn, we love soy.

And people need to have cheap options! That needs to be a possibility for people. But if you have the resources to spend a little more money, I encourage it. I would like you to consider it, at least.

Ashley: Thank you for taking time to chat with me. I appreciate it.

Marie: Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.