Making It

By Margaret Webb Pressler
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Two or three times a week, Kelly Magyarics conducts wine tastings at private parties, such as bridal showers, alumni events and birthday celebrations. She'll bring the wine herself or suggest what to serve, then give guests basic instruction in its complexity, how to drink it and what to notice.

It's her first job that "doesn't feel like work," she says.

Kelly left her tech support position at a telemedicine company in the spring of 2005 to follow her passion for wine. She'd done tastings for friends and knew there are plenty of people who think wine is esoteric and intimidating.

"When I see people's faces light up with understanding, or try something and have an 'aha' moment, it's really satisfying," she says.

There weren't a lot of "aha" moments in her former career. Kelly majored in communications and French at the University of Pittsburgh, and envisioned a career in training or public speaking. But when she went to work in New York for ExecuTrain, a large training company, she was asked to teach people how to use a software system that she hadn't mastered herself. She learned it and discovered she had a knack for technology, so she made computers her career, even though her "touchy-feely" personality didn't fit the mold.

"I've always been good with language," she said. "Tech support was like a different language."

Kelly and her husband, Mike, moved to Herndon in 2001 because they wanted to start a family in a smaller city. She took an $80,000-a-year job as a network administrator, but when her daughter was 15 months old, Kelly looked at her life of technology training and gasped. "I said to myself, 'How did I get here?' "

So, at 32, Kelly started thinking about what she really wanted to do, and she kept coming back to wine. She had taken several wine education courses in New York because she and Mike, an engineer, are fans of food and cooking. "I'm very passionate about good food, good wine, good conversation -- it's the whole European, French mentality of eating and drinking that, to me, is very appealing," she says.

After getting numerous wine certifications, she has a deep knowledge of the subject and loves to spread her enthusiasm. It's also an easy career to blend with motherhood.

Kelly typically charges $300 to $450 to do a wine tasting for a group of 15 or fewer, depending on the number of wines and the length and depth of her presentation. She also reviews wines for her blog, at

TryWine.net, and churns out wine-related articles for magazines. The writing helps generate business for her tastings, and she advertises on Web sites such as Craigslist, but most customers find her through word-of-mouth referrals.

While her income is building, it's still not quite half of what it was in tech support, and she has had to adjust to a leaner lifestyle. "But I'm doing something that I like tons better," she says.

Margaret Webb Pressler wants to hear how you have fulfilled your financial ambitions. Her e-mail address is presslerm@washpost.com.


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