Wine Enthusiast’s list of the Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2018 came out last week, which the magazine hopes celebrates “the trailblazers who are shaping the future of wine, spirits, beer and cider in America.”
Instead of a list solely made of sommeliers from the most expensive restaurants in town, the magazine dug deeper, highlighting people who are trying to change the scene. That’s definitely true of the two Chicagoans who made the list, Derrick C. Westbrook and Shelby Allison.
Westbrook graces the cover of the issue, and is the first image on Wine Enthusiast’s website. He works as a wine buyer and sommelier with 57th Street Wines in Chicago, but that’s just the beginning. He also owns DerrickCWestbrook LLC, which consults with restaurants and hosts wine pop-up events. While Westbrook has worked at some very expensive restaurants, including Elizabeth and Next in Chicago, he never imagined getting this kind of recognition: “I never thought a kid from the South Side would make it in Wine Enthusiast.”
He’s also excited to be part of a feature that highlights so many women and minorities. “I feel that we all have an important story to tell,” Westbrook says. “The more perspectives, the more complete and complex the story becomes. When it comes to sommeliers, it’s really important to include people who have not always been accepted as being the right aesthetic.”
Westbrook is also working on a podcast called Vine Culture, which he plans to release very soon. “We talk about what it’s like to be in an industry that doesn’t look like us,” Westbrook says. “But we also want to have a good time. It’s like wine. If the wine isn’t yummy, what’s the point?”
Allison, co-owner of Lost Lake in Chicago, was highlighted for “stirring things up.” Along with working at the acclaimed Logan Square bar, she co-founded Chicago Style, a cocktail conference that took place in May that addressed issues like diversity and sustainability in the beverage industry. Plus, she also co-founded the Chicago Period Project, which helps homeless and in-need women.
“I’m happy that I was recognized for my work with Lost Lake,” Allison says. “But I’m especially proud about working with the community with Chicago Style and the Chicago Period Project.” And she couldn’t forget to highlight the people she works with: “Everything I do has ‘co’ in front of it. I’m so happy with all my partners. I don’t do anything alone.”
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