Name: Ellie Bartow, 32
Title: Wine importer, Ten Sisters Wine
Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median salary in 2010 for a purchasing manager, whose job responsibilities are similar to a wine importer, was $58,360. Right now, Bartow is working a second job and pouring all profits from wine sales back into the family business.
What She Does: Bartow makes sure that Ten Sisters Wine, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, is available for consumers in the United States.
In 2010, Bartow’s family converted their vineyard into a full-scale winery (before, they’d been growing their sauvignon blanc and pinot noir grapes for other wine labels). As one of the family’s sole representatives in the U.S. along with her mother (who is the fourth of the 10 real sisters for which the winery is named), Bartow became the de facto presence here.
Now, when she’s not working her day job as an editor at a think tank, Bartow spends most of her time doing paperwork for Ten Sisters. “I’m managing logistics, accounting, licensing, sales, marketing and communications,” she says. The effort has paid off. Ten Sisters wines can now be found on the menu at plush D.C. eateries such as Bourbon Steak and PS7, as well as in wine stores.
Would You Want This Job? Unfortunately, the glamorous stuff — such as flying around the world to taste wine — makes up only a small part of the job … less than 5 percent, Bartow says. Since each state has its own liquor laws, there is a massive amount of paperwork.
The wine-lovers in the business make it worthwhile, she says. “A lot of people in the wine industry are interested in enjoying life: good conversation, a good meal and travel. I like being able to go to new locations and learn about wine.”
How You Can Get This Job: Bartow had the family connection, but she still had to learn a lot before she could do her job effectively. “I did research online. I knew some people who knew people. I did informational interviews [with other importers] and asked questions, and those questions led to more questions.” An MBA would help, she says, but common business sense is just as useful.
If you want more education, it’s common to work for a year or so for a distributor or importer, or even work in retail at a wine shop. There are plenty of wine tasting classes available these days, but Bartow says the business side is usually learned on the job.