Ally Burkett is a Navy wife, mother of two and a lover of wine. She’s new to the Ponte Vedra area, but has found the community warm and welcoming.
What can you share about your background?
I was born and raised in Rhode Island, but moved around a bunch after college for my career. Most of my family still lives up there and I try to visit as much as I can. I went to Flagler College and graduated with a Business Administration degree. As a senior, E&J Gallo recruited me for their management program and the rest is history. Aside from multiple distributors I have worked for Hess Winery out of Napa, Foley Family Wines out of Sonoma and Oyster Bay out of New Zealand, before landing here at Fess Parker, out of Santa Barbara.
How did you choose Flagler College?
My mother is a nurse, and a coworker’s daughter was one of the first graduating classes at Flagler once they turned co-ed. I visited once and fell in love with St. Augustine, the college itself, and the fact that it was a smaller school. Oh, and the fact that it’s so close to the beach helped, too!
What led to your interest in wine?
Coming from a large Italian family from New England, I think it’s kind of in my genetics. I have always appreciated how each bottle of wine tells a story. It’s still one of the reasons why I love this industry — I’m a natural story-teller, so delving into the inspiration for a wine, or why a certain wine tastes the way it does, or why a winemaker chose to do a particular offering or blend is fascinating to me. There’s always so much to learn and every vintage is a totally new story.
What was it like to be a wine steward on a private yacht?
Very eye-opening! It was hard work and a lot of fun. In 2011 and 2012, we traveled all over the Caribbean in the winter and in the summer we spent mostly in Newport, Rhode Island and Chicago. We weren’t a charter yacht so it was just our owners visiting here and there, and they loved wine. It gave me a chance to get creative with their wine cellar, gain exposure to wines I never would have gotten to experience, and also satisfied my need to travel. My favorite stop was St. Barthélemy and St. Maarten.
What led you to relocate in Ponte Vedra?
The Navy brought us here. I am proud to say my husband is a commander currently serving aboard the USS The Sullivans as executive officer, based out of Mayport. We moved here from Newport, Rhode Island.
Tell us about your current role with Fess Parker.
I am southeast regional manager, so my job is to act as a liaison between our distributors and the winery itself. The region includes Alabama, Georgia and Florida. I take Fess Parker’s goals and strategies and implement them through our distributor partners by managing pricing, inventory and incentive programming for their sales representatives. I make sure each representative is equipped with the knowledge and tools to present Fess Parker products to their accounts. I love spending the day with representatives and getting to know them and their customers. Here in Florida we are with BreakThru Beverage and they do a phenomenal job representing our brand.
Do you prefer red or white?
That’s a tough one! I’m a lover of all wines; I go through phases. My husband and I drink a lot of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon’s (we love 2012 and 2014 vintage) but if it’s just me, I love popping open an interesting white or rose from France. I love that crisp minerality you get from French Burgundies (Chardonnay) and Chablis (Sauvignon Blanc).
For someone new to wine, what’s a good way to get started?
Taste, taste, taste! If you can go to a tasting event, that’s a great way to find out what you like and most importantly, what you don’t like. That way, you can build what I call “wine bridges.” For instance, if you liked the sweetness in a Moscato, then you may like a Riesling from a warm climate. If you liked the crispness in that Riesling, then you like wines with a higher acidity, so maybe you can try a Sauvignon Blanc. You build the bridge that leads you to wines suited to your taste. And everyone is different, so there is no wrong answer. I always say wines are like people; you’re not going to like every person you meet, but there is a “wine” soulmate for everyone out there.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
The people! In my line of work I have the opportunity to be out and about a lot, and I meet tons of people. Everyone here has been so open, welcoming and friendly and I think it’s safe to say they’re wine lovers, as well.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have my hands full as a mom of a 1- and 3-year-old, a Navy spouse and a full-time working woman. In my industry it’s easy between the travel and events to burn the candle at both ends, so I make sure I take care of myself. I try to “put on your oxygen mask first before helping others,” so in my free time I make sure to slow down and recharge. My husband and I really enjoy opening up a bottle of wine and cooking every night we can, and we have become really good home chefs.
Would you like to tell us about your family?
David and I have been married more than four years, and we have a son Ben who’s 3, and a daughter Brooke who’s 1.