Katie here! When thinking about this month’s article I considered that May is significant because of Mother’s Day. When thinking about what it means to be a mom – especially as a wine professional and also a business owner – I thought of the conversations about these challenges I’ve had with Carson Demmond, founder of Rive Gauche Wine Co., a purveyor of mindfully made wines based in Atlanta. 

Carson came into wine the same way that most of us have – the restaurant business.  Born in Atlanta to “restaurant parents,” Carson says she was “trained to carry no less than three plates at a time as a child.”  After graduating from Skidmore College and moving to NYC, she landed a job at the Modern, and under the tutelage of Belinda Chang, a James Beard Award-winning sommelier, she became immersed in the wine scene. Carson credits this time and her ability to speak French as the natural progression into her next foray as a sommelier in tasting panels.  

Carson Demmond

A little wine nerd sidebar: Tasting panels are groups of wine professionals who come together to taste through a series of wine flights, blindly and sometimes up to 40 wines a day. Tasting without any preconceived notions allows a truly unbiased opinion. They rank them by quality, flavor, and if they are an overall correct representation of the wine. Tasters are not told the producers or price of the wines, but simply the theme: Chenin Blanc, 2019 vintage for example. The group ranks and reviews them and Carson says that in almost every tasting, a benchmark producer is knocked out and a value wine is strongly rated.  

These sessions led to Carson’s appointment as tasting director for Wine & Spirits Magazine and eventually the lead critic for South African and Alsatian wines. After several years writing for the publication, she moved into a role with Duclot, a Bordeaux wine importer.  Through this role, she learned firsthand the logistics of wine importing and how to navigate compliance with the government. Next, she was fortunate to work a harvest in Arbois, France, furthering her education with an immersion into production. She then moved back to NYC and continued writing freelance for multiple publications, and then on to Food & Wine Magazine as assistant wine writer.

In 2017, after becoming pregnant with her first child, Carson moved back to Atlanta and began the process of building her own company, Rive Gauche – which translates to ‘Left Bank.’  With her bevy of contacts from her previous career and “friends met along the way,” Carson built a distributor with the intent of working with small companies and small wines. The ethos of RG focuses on “mindfully farmed wines” that naturally are small production. Carson explained that if “wines are made with low intervention it is difficult and labor intensive. When wines are hard to make, there isn’t a lot of wine made.”  

Carson’s challenges that come with building a company, especially when importing alcohol, were many – everything from leasing warehouse space to licensing to navigating Georgia’s law, all while caring for a newborn. Then came COVID. The logistics of every aspect of the supply chain were affected, from the labor shortages at ports to the fact that wineries could not get supplies; it took months to just get bottles. The delivery cycle that normally takes four to six weeks after an order was placed was now taking four to six months. And on top of it all, new tariffs on international wines increased pricing and import costs. These obstacles still exist. There are still labor shortages, transit times have increased, fluctuating dollar values and lack of supplies have yet to be regulated.

As Carson and I spoke, we came back to the original conversation about motherhood and business ownership – “trying to juggle lots of balls and being ok with dropping one when you have to.”  Keeping up with payroll and logistics but putting a healthy meal on the table while continuing to have a positive, “do it all” mentality is impossible. There is a need to be decisive but also prioritize when it comes to being a busy mom.

Carson and her family.

“There is less freedom to dwell on your decisions – like sending an email, you aren’t able to spend 10 minutes going over it before hitting send,” Carson says. “You just have to let go, not overthink and forget about perfectionism and it has honestly made me more proactive and quick!”  

A second point that Carson points out and I strongly agree with: “Our particular industry is a very social one, and many customer-facing events happen in the evenings when it’s also the most important time to be spending with the kids. I rarely get the occasion to participate.” 

Trying to prioritize family over work is a challenge in any regard.  Being a mom is hard.  What I took away from our conversation is that I am not alone.  We all must remember to slow down, give ourselves grace and cherish our time with family. After all, our business revolves around a beverage: one that comes from deep family ties.

Katie Rice

Katie Rice owns VinoTeca, a wine shop in Atlanta and is a regular contributor to Atlanta Intown.

Sarah Pierre

Sarah Pierre owns 3 Parks Wine Shop in Atlanta and is a regular contributor to Atlanta Intown.