From Passion to Business: Regine Rousseau of Shall We Wine

When it comes to wine enthusiasts, there are several types.  You have your hobbyists who casually enjoy dabbling in wine culture.  Then there are the professional sommeliers and vintners who are trained and knowledgeable in all aspects of wine service.  Finally, there are the oenophiles who are gripped in their devotion to the traditions, culture, and lifestyle around wine.  Regine Rousseau fits all three descriptions.

As the CEO of the Chicago-based wine, spirits, and beer tasting company, Shall We Wine (SWW), Rousseau’s business conducts in-store demos at many of Chicago area’s premier retail locations.  SWW also organizes fun and exciting corporate and private wine tasting events. It’s the perfect fit for a woman whose admiration for wine began at just 21-years-old.

While studying abroad in Bisel, France, one of the host parents in her study abroad program invited her to their house for dinner.  What happened next would leave a lifelong impression and forever cement Rousseau’s love of all things wine.  “I walked into one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen in my life,” she recalls.  “It was a modern home, nothing luxurious. It wasn’t even the biggest home I’d ever seen but you know how you walk into a space and you think, ‘this is me?’ That’s the feeling I got.”  If the ambiance was impressive, what she experienced next took her breath away.  “So, they took me on a tour of the house and we walked into this dining room and there was this big, modern European table with all these bottles of wine on it,” she continues.  “The host father sits down, opens these beautiful bottles of Bordeaux and starts talking about them in French,” she says.  Having grown up in Haiti to an affluent family, Rousseau had always been exposed to the finer things, but this was her first intro into the wine culture and she was hooked.  “That was it for me. That was the moment where I thought, ‘I know that this kind of experience and environment will be part of my life forever.”  And with that, her fate was sealed.

A few years later, while waiting tables at a high-end restaurant in Chicago, Rousseau was reminded of this experience when she came across a wine distributor. “They would bring in these wine distributors to give presentations to familiarize the staff with their brand so that we could then educate the guests,” she says.  “So, one day this woman named Jill Davidson came in to do a staff presentation and it was this great intimate setting and someone made this elaborate cheese dish, and she was educating us on this one particular brand. It was similar to the feeling I got in France,” she recalls. “Right then and there I got this idea of a business where you go into people’s homes and you create that experience and teach them about wines.” Rousseau went on to stage wine experiences in her home for a time before working as a seller with a wine company called Direct Imports. She left the wine industry for a period, holding high-level roles in Sales and Marketing across a number of industries from pharmaceuticals to litigation services. But, with such a romantic introduction to the wine culture, she kept finding her way back to her first love.

Rousseau has swung back full circle as the owner of Shall We Wine where she heads up a team of passionate wine specialists who enjoy sharing their knowledge and love of wine with customers.  These days Rousseau and her team have their hands full in preparation for the Shall We Wine Portland Takeover, August 31 through September 3. The 4-day wine getaway will take a group on a tour of the Willamette Valley wine country in Oregon. Why Oregon? The Willamette Valley has become one of Rousseau’s favorite destinations. “I love Portland, and it’s funny because you see this black girl who grew up in Haiti and you just wouldn’t think that Portland would be a place that gets me excited, but it does,” she says. “The wines there are just really magical. Portland is known for pinot noir, it’s known for chardonnay and sparkling wine, so no matter where you are or where your pallet is, there is such a diversity in Willamette that it appeals to everyone.”

If you’re in need of highly trained wine specialists to conduct engaging and educational wine experiences, visit www.shallwewine.com.  SWW offers in-store demos, brand-focused consumer events, and pop-up wine shops at restaurants, galleries, and other venues around the country.  Follow Shall We Wine on Twitter and Facebook.

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Ebony is a media consultant, editor, and writer for online magazines such as Cuisine Noir, Blavity, and Teen Vogue. She's a museum connoisseuring, hostel loving, wanderlust junkie who lives for new travel experiences. Learn more about her work at naomiteneaustin.com.