When Alexa LoGiudice, then a senior at Sacramento’s St. Francis High School, first visited Dominican, she immediately knew the fit was right.
“Dominican just felt perfect,” Alexa recalls. “It was far away from home – but not too far away. I knew I could spread my wings and take off here. I felt I could flourish at Dominican.”
And flourish she did, gaining the skills and confidence necessary to embark on her next adventure. This summer Alexa will bid her close-knit family farewell as she travels to spend the next year working toward her goal of becoming a Sommelier in Italy.
While her professors and advisors in Dominican’s Barowsky School of Business (BSB) gave Alexa the insight, support, and tools to prepare her for a career in the wine business, it was hearing first-hand from professionals about how they overcame challenges and seized opportunity that gave her the confidence to pursue her dream.
Her sophomore year Alexa participated in the BSB’s Mizel Executive Forum. Established by insurance industry leader and Dominican Trustee Barney Mizel, the 10-week seminar is designed for students to hear first-hand from business executives.
The intimate setting gave Alexa the opportunity to ask questions and bounce around her own ideas. She heard from people who had overcome challenges on their way to success. Their advice, she recalls, made an impact: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
“I remember thinking, you have to start doing things you are not comfortable with,” she says. “Otherwise, how will you learn from your mistakes? How will you grow?”
The seminar motivated Alexa to create a plan to start realizing a goal initially inspired by her childhood.
“I knew I must pursue my dreams in the wine industry,” she says. “I grew up in an Italian family and from an early age I was exposed to Italian culture – sitting at the dinner table for hours enjoying food and conversation. I’ve known for many years that this would shape my future and that I wanted to do something that involved food and wine.”
First stop was an internship with Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg. Working in the winery’s tasting room helped solidify Alexa’s decision to enter the wine business.
“My work at Bogle let me meet so many people and really pinpoint what it is in the wine industry I want to do, which is pick the wine for people to enjoy. At Bogle I love to see someone’s reaction when they take the first sip of a really good wine – their faces just light up as they talk about the wine’s characteristics. It just makes me so happy.”
The next stop was working for a local winemaker in Novato who specializes in Pinot Noir. There she learned about the technical aspects of winemaking and the bottling process.
“I started at 6 a.m. and finished at 8 p.m. We bottled 2-3 pallets of wine and I learned about the whole assembly line from gasses to corking to labeling. It’s a dirty, grimy part of the wine business that people often pass on. But even at its worst, I just love wine making.”
Third stop – Italy.
Alexa will spend the year – or perhaps longer – working for a chef/small business owner in the Piedmont region. She will help to run the family’s inn and self-catering units, while also working alongside the chef as he plans and prepares the daily menus for his three local restaurants.
“The family does it all, including making their own wine and olive oil. I will learn so much, from helping prep in the morning, selecting meat from the local butcher, and then pairing the food and the wine,” Alexa says. “My experience in the kitchen will be particularly amazing. I will be working with and learning from an award-winning chef and will be pairing beautiful wines with wonderful food.”
While in Italy, Alexa also plans to start work on the certification process to become a Sommelier. Once back in the US, she plans to complete certification and then work at a restaurant in either Sacramento, Sonoma, or Napa.
This coming year, Alexa fully expects to be faced with challenges and moments of doubt. Rather than dread those moments, she’s now ready to embrace them – again thanks to her experiences in the Mizel Forum.
“I heard so many times not to back away from doing something because you are worried about it not going well,” she says. “I’ll face many new challenges and I might feel vulnerable and nervous at first, but I know that it will be such an amazing feeling when I realize that I’ve embraced the challenge and succeeded. I feel so confident in myself.”