Meet Shiva Reddy, and you should probably sit down for this one, because her hustle game started at the age of seven. Before she could even legally drink, she was vying for her WSET qualifications, all of which she blew through. She’s part wine professional, and part magician apparently, mainly because I can’t figure out how she manages to fit everything into a day. With Wine Director titles lining her resume, and a serious hand in opening multiple new restaurants in Vancouver, she has moved up again and taken on a new position as Wine Director for Osteria Savio Volpe, Caffe La Tana, and Pepino’s Spaghetti House. Three restaurants doesn’t keep her busy enough though, so she also teaches WSET courses, and she just sat as a judge for the Made In Vancouver Awards. We all know magic isn’t real, but if I could put money on someone in this city who could turn water into wine, it would be Shiva.
Laura: Alright. Hi Shiva! It’s been a big year for you, with lots of changes! Tell me about what’s going on in your world these days?
Shiva: This year has definitely been full of change! After working in high intensity fine dining for the past couple of years, I needed to seriously chill out, wear some sneakers, and work a small fun room like Como. Unexpectedly, opportunity knocked and the offer was too good to refuse. I started at Savio Volpe & Pepino’s last month and have been loving it!
L: What an exciting move! You’ve certainly paid your dues in this city, too. How did all your previous posts (Royal Dinette, Boulevard, and Como Taperia) contribute to your experience with wine?
S: Each place was character building!
Royal Dinette was a great place to get started as a Wine Director. Having to curate a ‘Natural Wine’ list taught me how to listen to my gut feeling on what’s actually well made and tasty, and what isn’t. As we know, there is delicious natural wine and there is not so delicious natural wine.
Overall wine lesson: beware of the Kool-aid.
Boulevard was a once in a lifetime experience. There was blood, sweat and so many tears. I got to work with a seriously kick-ass world-class kitchen team. My Chefs were awesome, and man, were the wines incredible. Managing that cellar was insane…knowing the exact location, quantity and story of every wine on a 45+ page wine list at all times was something else.
Overall wine lesson: money can’t buy you happiness but it can buy you delicious wine.
Como Taperia: I’ve never built a list from scratch. It was great having a focus especially on a country like Spain. Spain is like the wild wild west. There is so much history but also so much rapid change. There isn’t that much information, which makes it pretty humbling. It was so cool being forced to become an expert on things like Sherry and Txakoli. Como was an awesome place to really become confident and do what I love, which is to share my excitement about wine.
Overall wine lesson: if you don’t get any wine you better get resourceful.
L: What do you anticipate (or what have you found so far) being the main differences between your previous roles in wine, and your new position as the Executive Wine Director for the Savio Volpe Group?
S: I have come to learn that there is beauty in an excel spreadsheet and a budget. I’ve never seen such a solid team and well oiled machine with such a big heart. I’ve also never worked with an all female leadership team. It’s pretty wicked having a leader like Paul Grunberg invest so much in the well-being and success of his team.
L: What’s your M.O. when putting together a wine list for a restaurant?
S: I want delicious wines that are well made. If there are wines that are organic and biodynamic, bonus! It’s great knowing that your grapes are well taken care of and healthy. I also want my staff to be well educated, excited and kind. There is a solid rule of no making things up or being pretentious when it comes to wine service.
L: How does the Vancouver wine scene hold up to other cities you’ve been to or worked in?
S: Vancouver is a young city in comparison to places like Toronto, New York and San Francisco. Our liquor laws and distribution make it pretty tough to compete with world-class cities. Thankfully this city is filled with a great somm community that has a big heart. Everyone’s collective passion moves this city closer and closer to greatness.
L: Who has the most underrated wine list in the city?
S: Restaurant: Pidgin – The team put together a very thoughtful sake program and enrolled a killer happy hour with 50% sakes.
Store: Jak’s (Dunbar or Granville) – Go see James Franey (Jak’s wine buyer). Not only does he have a wicked palate but his dad jokes are unparalleled.
L: Where did you start in the hospitality industry, and what was the progression to get you where you are now?
S: Humble beginnings. Our family went through some hard times. I started hustling when I was seven. My Mom was and is an awesome cook. She made curry and samosas, and I sold them to my teachers, friends’ parents, and to my hockey team growing up, to help make ends meet. I then started working at a golf & country club, which is where I started learning about wine. I was barely legal when I was determined to learn more and I enrolled in the WSET program with Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. I went through Level 1-3 as fast as I could. I was such a keener, I showed up to every class two hours early just trying to learn a little bit more everyday. Eventually my teacher Tim Ellison got so sick of my showing up early, he hired me. I ran the baking and pastry sales program during the day and then quickly switched hats to run the WSET program at night as a Teacher’s Assistant. Over time I was able to start teaching WSET. I realized that I needed to actually work in restaurants if I was going to teach about wine. I began my journey at Hawksworth as a Commis Sommelier, then to opening up Juniper, which was then followed by Royal Dinette, Boulevard, Como Taperia and now Savio Volpe & Pepino’s… I’m also back at PICA teaching WSET again.
L: That is quite the climb! Do you have anyone you would consider a mentor? Or perhaps someone who just always knows what to put in your glass?
S: Absolutely. Leeann Froese, Tim Ellison, and now Lisa Cook.
Leeann Froese runs Town Hall Brands and is also a part of the wonderful organization, Les Dames d’Escoffier. This woman is seriously my rock and cheerleader. She’s honest, has the biggest heart and is such an amazing human.
Tim Ellison started off as my teacher and then boss. He has always believed in me. He taught me that it’s okay to be different. He is extraordinary in that every guest that he meets leaves so happy, well taken care of and thoroughly entertained.
Lisa Cook is new to the role of mentor but man is it cool to see a bad ass woman be so sure of herself and her work. She always gives her honest opinion.
L: Any sage nuggets of advice for someone wanting to pursue wine as a vocation?
S: Get ready to hustle. Be honest, if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay: go find out. Never lie to a guest, you never know who you are talking to and at the end of the day it’s just grape juice. Our number one job is to be hospitable and to take care of our guest.
L: You recently sat as a drinks judge for the Made In Vancouver Awards. What was this experience like? And is there a big difference between judging cocktails and judging wine?
S: It was a great experience. We had a very wide range of beverages! At the end of the day it’s all about balance and whether or not what’s in front of you is tasty or not. Also…wine tasting vs. spirit tasting: the main difference is that you are not going back to work after a spirit tasting that extensive.
L: What do you think is the most misunderstood part of working in the wine industry?
S: Strengthen your core, bend at the hips. You’re going to be moving a lot of wine boxes. Also, learn to love an excel sheet.
L: Do you have a go-to wine?
S: Chateau Musar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lebanon.
L: How about the most memorable wine you’ve tried?
S: Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo from 1994. I was standing in a very hot, cramped office at the end of service. As soon as I tried this the hair on my arms stood up. It was wild I could still taste it after two minutes. Every sip was so different.
L: Do you think we will see you one day running the line for the MW pin?
S: I haven’t made up my mind yet.
L: Well, wherever you go, it seems you get right up to the top. Thanks for giving up a few minutes of your time, Shiva, and kudos to your relentless hustle!
Dog or cat? I love them both. They’re the best, we don’t deserve them.
Negroni or Boulevardier? Boulevardier
Most overhyped wine trend? Natural wine
Most despised wine term? Can it be an action? When your pouring wine and people put their hand on top of their wine glass. Use your words people.
Most underappreciated grape? Palomino Fino and Marsanne.
What grape would your mom be? Cabernet Franc
Go-to hangover cure? Bed, Greys Anatomy, Oceans 11, Pizza, Noodles
High school prom song? Vitamin C – Graduation
Flute or coupe? Coupe
WSET or CMS? Both. Why not learn more.
@ Vitis Magazine