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Wine on Instagram: One San Francisco Beverage Director’s Experience

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by Sam Viklund

The Bay Area sits at the shore of many powerful tides of influence in the world of food, wine, and spirits. In the dynamic cities surrounding the San Francisco Bay, game-changing ideas flow as quickly as the seemingly endless channel of capital that has funded nearly all the most profound socio-technological advancements of our contemporary lives. Our team in the Colangelo & Partners’ San Francisco office is here every day, walking up and down steep hills and meeting the “best of the Bay.”

We sat down with Austin Ferrari, a Cincinnati native and San Francisco resident who posts under the charmingly straightforward handle @restraurantman, to hear from another piece of the “wine online” puzzle. Though only 24, Ferrari has worked in top restaurants such as Alice Waters’ iconic Chez Panisse, participated in vendage at Domaine Gonon, and owns a series of coffee shops in both San Francisco and Cincinnati. By night, he is the wine director at Hillside Supper Club in charming Bernal Heights, an unpretentious but very popular meeting (and drinking) place for local and visiting sommeliers, importers, brokers, salespeople, winemakers, and collectors.

What does top trade in the ancestral home of “the Gram” have to say about the relationship between fine wine and the photo sharing app in late 2017? Read on to find out.

How do you see Instagram shaping the wine world?
It works well for marketing. When it comes to wine, IG is huge. People post a bottle label and the market goes nuts. A lot of people in the wine world have huge influence. If they end up posting something, then the hype on that wine grows. Sometimes, even myself posting something has a chain reaction. I wouldn’t say I have the biggest following, but it is amazing how many times people hit me up about certain wines I post, asking if they can buy some from me. It is almost at the point where I can sell wine solely through posting it on my IG.

What is your motivation to post photos of wine on Instagram?
My Instagram account is about what I do, it’s focused on my interests. Wine is a huge drive for me in my life. I don’t post every single bottle, but I post the ones that I am excited by. Some wines I drink are just astounding and deserve to be posted. I tend to drink more of one thing versus another, that’s just my choice and what I want to do. Example: I love the Northern Rhone and Burgundy so if you scroll through my IG you will see mainly [wines from those regions] … I like posting to keep people informed and updated.

How has Instagram influenced your career as a wine director?
I have been able to connect with a ton of friends and winemakers through it. One of my absolute best friends Jean Gonon writes me all the time on Instagram. I love it. I love that I can stay up to date with him through it. That’s helped me build relationships with these guys that work their ass off, and its helped me travel to places I want to see. Otherwise, when I am at the restaurant, I learn through mentors that work by my side, or by staging at other places. For me, that physical work is more influential than any app. 

Who are your favorite “wine people” on Instagram? Why?
Obviously I follow Rajat Parr (@rajparr). He is the biggest wine influencer anyone could know, but for me he is just one hell of a friend. He is super kind and humble and I love that. His door is always open If I need something, and that can be hard to find. It means a lot to me, especially because I am so young. I also love following Michael Sager (@michael__sager) in London. He has great pictures and obviously drinks well. I had the pleasure to finally meet him this year. I can’t wait to get to London to hang with him! My buddy Totte Steneby (@steneby_yes) in Stockholm is great. I met him through IG too and we have become good friends. We support each other and they have been so kind to respond back to me and share a meal, etc.

Those are the people I follow and surround myself with. I have met some d*****bags in this industry. For everyone that hasn’t responded to me or pushed me off then I don’t follow them and I stay away. I like following friends that have been through our restaurant or coffee shop, etc. It is amazing sometimes how much influence I have had in the way people drink or what they like. And then I like to follow them and see what they drink after their experience! I love to build that relationship and help people. It feels good.