As brand manager for La Brea Bakery, I am entrusted with the stewardship of the brand and making sure it is protected at all times. The quick background on me is that I spent 10+ years studying, making, marketing and selling wine. Bread may be my current love but wine was definitely my first.
One of the things that I love about wine is the diversity. It is one of those subjects where you could spend a lifetime studying it and only scratch the surface on the depth and complexity of the subject matter. There are over 6,000 wineries in CA alone and they all make at least a few different wines every year. And every year is so different. There are hundreds of thousands of wines being made every single year around the world and nobody could ever try them all, nor should they try!
I may taste a few hundred wines a year, maybe a thousand on a good year depending how often I can get to tastings or what my bank account can stomach. I’m a self-prescribed wino and wine geek. I try to take notes on a wine, especially those special bottles, so I can go back and compare vintages, producers, grapes, regions and see what I actually like. I love chatting up winemakers and asking them about their style. To me, the details behind a bottle and how they translate to the glass is fascinating.
The funny thing about becoming a geek in any subject is that you reach a point where you have so much information and you have immersed yourself so deeply that it pushes past enjoyment and into obsession. For 10 years, everything in my life was geared towards learning about wine and how something as simple as a grape could produce something so immensely interesting. As I tasted more and more wines, I mentally catalogued so much information that the experience had become less enjoyable. I found myself always searching for the next thing. The next wine that was going to blow me away. The next grape that nobody had ever heard of. The next farmer doing something different.
Before long, I found myself at beautiful dinners picking apart beautiful bottles of wine because I wanted to find their faults. I wanted perfection and anything less just didn’t give me the rush that it once had. The rush of finding the perfect bottle with the perfect meal in the perfect environment.
Wine had been an epiphany to me early in my career but as I got more and more knowledgeable, I was always chasing that feeling of redefining what a wine could be or really, what a meal could be. It is one of the reasons I left the industry. I had turned my passion into my job and it was getting harder and harder to find inspiration it.
Fast forward to La Brea Bakery which I knew as a kid having grown up in Southern CA. I knew I loved the bread but had no experience in bakeries or baking myself. When the opportunity opened up to be brand manager I jumped all over it. La Brea Bakery became an opportunity for me to unleash that curiosity I had again and learn a new craft.
And the best part about our new La Brea Bakery Reserve is we are just starting to unlock the potential of grain diversity and origin. It puts La Brea Bakery, and selfishly me, at the forefront of a movement that we haven’t experienced before. That is the entire idea behind the Reserve line of breads – understanding your grain and flour and understanding where it comes from.
Wine has had its renaissance and will continue to innovate and excite, but in some ways, the major discoveries in wine are over and it is becoming more difficult to become new and differentiated. Bread is about to experience its rebirth. For thousands of years, it has nourished mankind, but there is so much that we don’t know about the thousands of different grain types out there.
I’m sure I’ll reach the point where I begin picking apart loaves of bread searching for their faults. For now though, I’ve got that rush again to find out more. And the more I understand, the more I realize I don’t know. But that is the exciting part. I’m starting to realize that something so trivial that maybe most of us don’t think too deeply on is actually pretty interesting and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.