Shayla Smith and her sister, Shaunna Cooper, share a passion for wine.
The siblings wanted to tell the world about their love of vino, so they created Wine Spencer, a contemporary wine brand to inspire people to decant and appreciate wine, in September 2019. Smith and Cooper host events, private occasion and social celebrations to help others imbibe.
Smith and Cooper, who pursued WSET Level 2 wine certifications, named the company after a well-used family moniker.
“Our dad, his name is Spencer,” says Cooper, who lives in Mesa. “His dad was named Spencer, so he is a junior. Then, our mom, her dad’s name is Spencer and then our grandfather on our mom’s side is named Spencer. It is a name that has been in our family, and we really wanted to pay respect to that.”
The wine blog was a steppingstone for the sisters on their journey to putting their business together.
“I think for me the wine blog was just an introduction to wine, but to really understand the way to taste wine, you need an in-person tasting. (That) was the best way to go about it,” Smith says. “Now we are doing virtual tastings, but it’s still having that conversation with people about the aromas, about how to properly taste wine, and I think you don’t really get the interaction in a blog, and so being really able to create that dialogue (is important).”
Wine Spencer offers eight specific guided wine experiences: Wine 101, Old World vs. New World, All White Everything, All Red Everything, Let’s Get Bubbly, South African Wine Tour, Black Winemakers/Wineries, and Rosé All Day. It also offers a create-your-own option along with restaurant partnerships and private event food and wine pairing consultation.
“I lived in South Africa for four months, and so the South African Wine Tour is really fun for me, because I can talk about my experience being in South Africa and some of the red (wines) that are native to South Africa, like pinotage,” Smith says. “It allows me to expose people to a new grape variety that they might not have tried before. Being able to introduce them to a wine that is pretty affordable and high quality is nice.”
Cooper adds, “I think Wine 101 is a great class to teach, because you are introducing people to wine, and I think that people that don’t drink wine don’t drink it because they don’t understand what type of wine to order.
“They just don’t really know what type of palate they have. Do they like dry wines? Do they like sweet? Just by them trying to break it down and have them understand what they like versus what they don’t like is something that I enjoy. It just kind of expands their knowledge in wine and gets them interested in the world of wine as well.”
The sisters agree that they enjoy sharing milestones with their guests.
“During the tasting it allows us to be part of other people’s milestones,” says Smith, a New York resident. “Helping to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and bridal showers and engagements. That has been nice to be able to help people celebrate important moments in their life.”
Their personal milestone was hitting 1,000 followers on Instagram.
“When we initially started you see all these large brands and they have like 15,000 to 20,000 followers and you think, ‘Oh, it’s easy to get to that,’ but it’s really not,” Cooper says.
She initially saw two or three people following per day, so she took it upon herself to better her Instagram skills.
“I started taking an Instagram course to get more educated on how to increase our following,” Cooper says. “Definitely hitting the thousand milestone was something that we are proud about and can hopefully continue to grow and eventually get to that 15,000 to 20,000 mark.”
A wine experience includes tasting between two to five wines under the specific category that was chosen. Each class begins with overall knowledge of how to get from grape to the bottle and then dives into the details of what people are tasting, smelling and seeing.
“(We are) trying to get them to understand what they are tasting in their mouth,” Cooper says. “Is it the acidity? The body? What types of aromas are they smelling? We really try to focus on the five S, which are see, swirl, sniff, sip and then savor.”
The hardest part of doing the classes during a pandemic is having to find places that sell the same wine in different states for virtual classes.
“Before, we were doing classes in Phoenix and New York, and so it was a lot easier to tell people where to get wine,” Smith says. “Now, because we are doing virtual classes, it is a little more complicated trying to figure out what the best places for people to get wine in the different cities across the country so that we all can have the same one.”
Virtual classes for up to five people are $150, and for up to 10 people it is $250. The sisters will continue hosting virtual classes but would like to one day be able to do events at wineries and vineyards locally and internationally.
“We are originally from Los Angeles, and so I think doing pop-up tastings in LA would be a fun thing to do for people who might be following us, but they want to do an in-person tasting post COVID,” Smith says.
Smith is interested in pursuing a Spanish wine certification, while Cooper would like an Italian wine certification. Both are hoping to plan seven-day international trips around getting their certifications that could include others to make it a full wine experience.
“With a wine tasting, I know that there are some brands out there where they bring specific wine, and you know they are really trying to get you to purchase the wine after the tasting. That is not our structure,” Cooper says. “It is really based on an unbiased opinion. We are not selling anything other than our services.”
For more information about Wine Spencer, look up the sisters on Instagram @winespencer or go to winespencer.com.