Meet Hayley O’Brien, a First Bottle legend.
- How long have you worked in the wine industry and what drew you to it? Was there an epiphany wine that hooked you?
I have been in the wine industry since 2019. I lived in Chaumont, France on and off for two years and while living there and traveling through the surrounding areas I started reading the Wine Bible. I was hooked after visiting the regions of Champagne, Burgundy and Provence and having my fair share of wine tastings while visiting wineries and seeing all the beautiful vineyards!
My epiphany wine is Domaine Jamet 2011 and I tasted it during my Wine Management course. The aromas of the wine just stopped me in my tracks!
- I hear you were a college athlete. What sport did you play?
I played soccer for 16 years of my life, most of which was at a club or competitive level. I was on the soccer team for the University of California, Irvine for four years.
- Did competing at a high level in sports help at all to prepare you for working in the wine business?
I believe being in competitive sports and becoming a college student athlete taught me many lifelong lessons. Training every day and dealing with college courses helped me to learn how to manage my time and it really shaped my work ethic. I believe these lessons helped me to become a hard worker and enabled me to push myself and work full time while continuing to study for my wine certifications.
- Are you studying for, or have you achieved a wine certification or degree?
I’m currently studying for WSET Diploma but I have also taken the Court of Master level 1 Certification and studied Wine Management at UCLA Extension.
- How long have you worked at First Bottle Wines (FBW) and what is your role?
I started in February of this year, so I’m a newbie. I work in customer service but I also research a lot of the bottles that we’re bringing in and write up some of the content on the website.
- What do you love about your role and what is its biggest challenge?
I really enjoy helping a customer with their issues or answering any wine related questions. I feel sharing the excitement and interest in wine is so enjoyable and so much of what the wine industry is all about. I also believe that this comes with some challenges as well. The challenges include satisfying all of the customers’ needs and wants in a timely manner. I also enjoy the opportunities of learning more about the industry while working and of course tasting wine – it really helps with my studies!
- What are some of your favorite wines that have sold on FBW?
I have a few favorite wines that I have enjoyed at FBW. My everyday drinker is Daniel Conterno Langhe Nebbiolo 2018. I love Langhe Nebbiolo because they are “ready to drink now” Nebbiolo. You don’t need to age it for 20+ years. I also love Escalada do Bibei Valdeorras. It’s so unique and made from indigenous grapes. The wine just transports me to another place where I’m sitting at a Spanish cafe eating delicious Spanish fare. The last wine I will talk about is Equipo Navazos, Palo Cortado, the palate just explodes with flavor unlike anything you have ever drank before. The sherry winemaking process is so fascinating and I think sherry is so underrated!
- What is the coolest ‘WOW’ wine you’ve had the chance to taste while working at FBW?
The coolest wine I have tried so far was Jaboulet Hermitage “La Chappelle” 2017. It “knocked my socks off.” I LOVE Rhone wines and this one is a natural beauty! I’m so appreciative to be able to try this wine at FBW because I would probably never get the opportunity to taste it otherwise. I love all of Jaboulet’s wines, just so clean and well done.
- What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings?
A few of my favorite wine pairings are Oysters and Chablis, a Gruner Veltliner and vegetables and anything italian with Barolo, Brunello or Etna wine!
- If you could open one wine bottle in the entire world, what would it be and who would you share it with?
If I could open one bottle it would be one of the famous Thomas Jefferson bottle’s and I would want to share it with Thomas Jefferson. The bottles are dated 1787 and etched with “Lafite” and “Th. J.” I love history and I love the story behind the bottles of wine. It would be so cool to try something that old. There is so much skepticism on those bottles due to Hardy Rodenstock and Rudy Kurniawan, who are the most infamous wine fraudsters. Check out Billionaire’s Vinegar; it’s a captivating read and one of my favorite wine books!