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From Aviation to the World of Wine: My Journey to Launching Somm Zero.

My name is John Glenn (yes, like the astronaut) and I grew up in small towns across Saskatchewan in an RCMP family, at times in remote communities in which an airplane was our only way in.


Moving often, meant I needed to make friends and adapt quickly to new environments. Perhaps this was why for over a 30 year time period my career was focused mainly on the Canadian aviation industry. Always moving was a way of life, one which I must have enjoyed. Aircraft were a passion of mine from childhood, which is perhaps what drove me to succeed through my many roles over the years. From loading baggage and cargo, to building flight schedules and eventually senior leadership with WestJet Airlines. With WestJet, I enjoyed a career of building teams and relationships around the world, most specifically on the logistics end of the business, which I will come back to later.


With family and friends stretched across both Canada and the USA, aviation was my ticket to maintain connection with a standby price tag. I will leave out the joys of standby travel for another time!

 

Discovering the next passion


During the many trips for business, came a few mixed in for pleasure. One such trip to Burgundy, France was the catalyst to my entry into the world of wine. Without really knowing at the time, the flame was lit, and I was destined to transition my career to my new passion. The trip to France was a 40th birthday gift from my wife, Shara, and she would be the first to attest to the fact that when I get focused on something I am interested in there is no going back!


This drive led to a move from our longtime home in Calgary, Alberta to beautiful wine country of the Okanagan Valley.


It was here in the Okanagan that I was fortunate enough to work in the wine industry for the past 15 months, learning both what to do, and of course what not to do when building a new career in the hospitality sector.


While working in the industry, I was also interested in learning more about wine through formal education. I started my journey with the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) back in 2019 anticipating the career change and have continued these studies to this day as I am working through my diploma with my fellow co-founders.


Connecting it all


I've heard you never really leave your previous roles, which in many cases remains true for me. While the world of hospitality and wine has a front of house aspect, much of the success in wine comes from successful logistics. With that, I have seen my previous role coming back to life in many ways.


Wine is passion, relationships, travel and most certainly logistics.


While that part may seem very dry (which it can be), it is the lifeline of any winery wishing to showcase their product to the world. My WSET Diploma classmates can attest that proximity to market as a key factor in the success of a winery. This is most certainly the most important factor when starting an e-commerce brand focused on wine, enter Sommzero.com.


I will undoubtedly be working with former colleagues once again, but this time representing my own brand.

 

Learning Curve

 

Variety of pics including man and woman in various locations with sunglasses, raincoats on, hats and with a bottle of wine
Snapshots of John G and his lovely wife Shara

You have to be bad before your good… another saying I have clung to over the years. I grew up in aviation, so it came somewhat naturally over time.


Learning the world of wine has been an interesting challenge and I can say I have dropped my fair share of expensive glasses and have broken several perfectly good bottles of wine!


Developing a palette for wine was the fun part, but any Sommelier can admit that when you are in a formal education for wine, there is such thing as a wrong answer… I continue to be humbled daily.

 

Inspiration Strikes - Enter Somm Zero


As for Somm Zero, many have asked why I have moved into the world of non alcoholic wines. Honestly, it started because we were tasked (as a WSET class) to do an essay on the up-and-coming trend in dealcoholized wine.


OK, many will admit to thinking this was not really our first choice, including me. That said, it has enlightened me to an entirely new way of thinking about wine and its access to a much broader group of consumers. In recent years, friends and family alike, have made the decision to remove alcohol from their lives. The reasons are many, of which a healthier lifestyle is certainly one.


Our culture is deeply routed in drinking, which is tough to admit out loud. From weddings, birthdays, corporate functions, holidays and more, it has become extremely difficult for those who have chosen to remove alcohol to feel included.


If you haven’t heard the term FOMO, then let me explain the Fear Of Missing Out is a real thing. Feeling included holds importance very early on in life, and as we get older it becomes even more difficult when you add in the many stresses of adulthood (kids, money, health, stress management, pregnancies) to name only a few. Getting together with friends can only add stress if alcohol is involved, somewhat defeating the purpose of that fun experience with friends you were looking for.


Up until recently, I have simply dabbled in non-alcoholic wines, quickly disappointed in the product. This relatively recent emergence of premium products has allowed me to realize through many tastings, that good wine can be found in this sector. You simply need the passion to find it. Maybe we can start to celebrate together, without the stress and FOMO.


Mission & Vision


Somm Zero is our platform as Sommelier’s to search out and find these amazing producers who have taken the leap into the world of dealcoholized wine. For many, it was a risk, just as it is starting a brand that focuses on quality above all else. These producers are out there, and I am fortunate enough to be on the journey with some amazing partners, to connect and share their hard work with those who wish to join us.


Navigating New Territory


Our team will undoubtedly go through growing pains, while we operate a local non-alcoholic wine and cocktail bar (SOBAR), while managing our online store of sommzero.com. Sourcing the highest quality product takes time and investment.


If you are willing to be patient with our growth, I believe it will pay off in the longer term.


 

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