Jörn “Joey” Kleinhans is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Sommelier based in Newport Beach, CA. He is the founder and owner of The Wine Elite, which creates sommelier-guided wine tasting events across the country.
“As an independent sommelier, seminar instructor and professional speaker on wine, I have worked with leading hotels, restaurants, destination managers and meeting planners to design engaging, interactive events for clients,” he says.
Partners include The Ritz-Carlton, House of Blues, Live Nation, Newport Dunes Resort and Patina Group, among others. Corporate clients include Boeing, Warner Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Visa, MassMutual, Edwards Lifesciences, Life Technologies and more.
We asked Kleinhans a few questions to learn more about what has to be one of the greatest jobs around, and how group wine tastings can best build engagement among attendees.
Prevue: How can knowledge of wine tasting improve someone’s professional life?
Jörn Kleinhans: Wine is a hobby that many business executives enjoy. A lot of companies realize today that wine knowledge and the related culinary polish enables their client-facing staff to be better social hosts, and more confident in business situations that often include a dining environment.
Wine is uniquely positioned to serve as a means of entertainment and useful businss education, providing a key to foreign languages, locations and cultures, and exploration of the senses that allows for strangers to become friends and business partners.
How do your events specifically improve networking among a group?
Kleinhans: We are approached by many corporate and private groups who ask about playful ways to engage productively with each other, but avoiding any of the awkward teambuilding exercises that investors or clients would find wasteful. Combining useful education with social goals is an important requirement for appliying corporate teambuilding activities and retreats.
Our wine blending workshops and blind-tasting seminars are a huge hit because they allow individuals to enjoy themselves without fear of embarrassment. Many Fortune 500 companies come to us, as we can combine their networking objectives with usefulskills that can be used in daily life, and provide higher levels of etiquette. It is important that wine is not really the most important focus here, but it is an extremely effective agent to conveying a larger set of desirable experiences and information.
How do you maintain a level of intimacy with larger groups?
Kleinhans: We have a two-step process for larger groups. A shared wine tasting experience is delivered by one of our wine educators to the whole group, but in the second part we break out in small groups of 8-12 people who all work with rotating workshop leaders and wine experts. Each of them are experienced to interact with business executives and understand their mindspace. With that approach we have received top attendee reviews for groups of up to 800 attendees.
The Wine Elite Sommelier Company can deliver very large events nationwide, due to our extended network of sommeliers, speakers and wine educators that have been trained in my philosophy of conveying interesting wine knowledge and making it business relevant to every person in the room.