Photo of Tania Tomaszewska by Jon Adrian.
A banking lawyer turned Wine Professional, Tania specializes in “wine journey design” and leads small group, private wine tasting adventures in corporate boardrooms, private dining rooms, virtually or out in BC Wine Country. Tania started her legal career in Vancouver (she’s a Lawson Lundell alum) and then jetted off to Sydney, Australia where she lived and worked for more than a decade in the banking and finance law space. Tania returned to her native British Columbia about four years ago, re-immersed herself in our local terroirs and started her own wine-related consultancy here in Vancouver.
Tania's services include: leading tutored wine education tasting sessions, guiding small group virtual tastings, assisting with theme development for wine & culinary events/dinners, curating and rolling out corporate wine gifting programs, assisting with wine acquisition and providing marketing services to wineries.
She is WSET Certified (Level 3 Wines and Spirits) and has completed the Wine Executive Program at University of California, Davis. (Tania likes school and also holds a B.A. (English Literature) and MPhil in International Relations in addition to her law degree.) We had the opportunity for the following Q&A with Tania in 2020.
What inspired you to move from a career in law to a career in ‘wine exploration’?
Travel (actual or arm-chair). Wine is about geography in the broadest terms. It’s a vehicle to explore so many things: terroir (sense of place), history, science, nature and the human pursuit to create that liquid art in your glass. Wine connects us through clinking glasses, sharing our experience of vino over conversation or heading out to Wine Country for a day. When I think back to my years of study and lawyering, it was always important for me to be connected in a team through shared experience and to go to new places (be they across town, the country or world). These have been constant threads in my life which have kept me ticking. At a certain point I knew it was time to run with these passions in another way.
What advice do you give to other lawyers who are considering an entirely different career?
Be prepared to go through a few initial phases if you make the shift. Depending on what your next career is, you might have an identity crisis (what am I now if I’m not a lawyer?!). You may experience a change from a structured rules-based world where (for the most part) you’re dealing with rational actors, and you know your role in that world, to a place which is totally new, unpredictable and you feel like you’re starting all over again. If it’s possible in your circumstances, build a bit of an “emergency” fund before you switch gears to have a buffer if you’re no longer going to be getting scheduled pay cheques. There is no need to completely over-plan though. Sometimes life makes the decision to jump for you and there’s freedom in that!
What similarities, if any, exist between the practice of law and your work as a ‘wine explorer’?
Being a trusted advisor and understanding the power of relationships are key to both endeavours. Many people find it surprising, but there are actually a lot of similarities between lawyering and what I do now. As part of any “wine journey design” brief, I need to: understand what the client needs and where they wish to go; consider the audience/tasters’ perspective and imagine how they might experience the wine adventure I guide for them; prepare a “road map” of how to roll out that experience at a premium level; anticipate all related logistics; minimize execution risk; manage expectations; overdeliver…. Sound familiar? This is pairs well with a “getting to yes” transaction lawyer like me and applies to any kind of wine advisory project which I take on.
Have you applied any of your legal skills to your new career?
Absolutely! See above. In addition, the “issue spotting” skills which we develop as lawyers and knowing when to call in other experts has been invaluable to me as I forge my new path. My career shift has meant becoming more conversant in the regulatory regime surrounding alcohol, incorporating my own business, preparing various wine project engagement agreements, developing a brand and a website, and getting out there to build business and relationships. I’ve brought in my own trusted advisors to help me along this journey. Memory is a huge part of wine tasting and education, so I also rely heavily on my ability to retain large amounts of information and recall patterns.
I’m so proud to be part of the legal profession and strive daily to be a trusted advisor and deliver the client’s journey to the highest level of excellence I can. My years of experience in the retail and hospitality sector (going back to my first consumer-facing job at 14) and as a lawyer could not have been better training for this. I love being Wine Counsel to the counsels! It’s a great way to stay connected with a community which has been a huge and important part of my life (both here and in Australia). Although my career is in transition, I still get to hang out with lawyers - many of whom are fellow cork dorks who love taking a deep dive with me into wine’s multiple layers.
What aspect of wine interests you the most?
In addition to travel and connectivity, I think it’s that we can never know everything about wine. There’s always more to learn. It can be an academic pursuit if you wish it to be (or you can just drink it!). A glass of wine (and your experience of it) will never duplicate. So like law, even though you become familiar with patterns and more adept at dealing with certain situations through experience, there’s always a surprise on the horizon. That’s what keeps us on our toes and intrigued.
Besides the wines which we will be tasting during our upcoming virtual event, what other wines would you recommend for the holiday season?
Here’s my “go to” holiday wine shopping list: sparkling wine (white and rosé), dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay (whichever expression you like, be it steely lime, green apple Chablis-style or round creamy tropical), Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. These drops will pair nicely with most seasonal fare and palates. And for the dessert and post-dinner cheese lovers in your bubble, don’t forget a “sticky” (botrytis-affected sweet dessert wine like Sauternes or a New World take on that style) or an LBV (late bottled vintage) Port.
What are three of your favourite holiday goodies and what kind of wine would you pair with them?
Any kind of grazing board with gooey and aged cheeses; delicate smoked salmon atop a thin smear of cream cheese on a pumpernickel square finished with a squeeze of lemon and sprig of fresh dill; my Mum’s devilled eggs.
Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. They go with everything.
I lean towards dry Pinot Noir-dominant traditional method sparkling wine (like Champagne, Crémant, Cava or BC sparklers), but I don’t discriminate against any grape or fizz!