Day in the Life of…Sheila Flaherty

Day in the Life of...Sheila Flaherty

Day In The Life Of ….. Sheila Flaherty

by Krystina Roman, The City Wino

Wino. Brand Manager. Bon Vivant.

With over 10 years in the wine industry, we sat down with Sheila Flaherty, Brand Manager at Halpern Enterprises to learn about her incredible journey. Today Sheila helps manage the high end portfolio of wines for the top agency. Sheila first started working on the floor in restaurants, moved onto working with wineries and finally found her home working with Halpern Enterprises.

Here’s a day in the life of Sheila Flaherty.

How did you end up in the wine industry ?

Largely by accident, actually. I started in restaurants at a very young age. While tobogganing in 2008, I broke my back badly, so was forced out of restaurants and worked for the non-profit War Child for a while. I wasn’t good sitting behind a desk from 9-5pm so I went on an Irish Adventure.

I returned a few months later and returned to Mercatto group where I slowly began to manage their Toronto St. location. From there I started getting into Italian wine and eventually became the Wine Director for the group. I started getting a little obsessed with it and of course Italian wine. I went on a few wine trips and that’s how I got hooked.

How? It’s like any industry anyone that’s engaged and hungry can do well.

What are you up to these days?

Originally I was hired as the Brand Ambassador for Louis Jadot. I’m still managing the Louis Jadot portfolio while looking after 20+ suppliers including Marchesi Antinori, Pol Roger etc., while managing the retail team and supplier operations.

What is your current role and title?

Not too sure, I think it is Brand Manager.  Depends on the day.

Before Halpern where did you work?

Momofuku as a Sommelier and selling for Norman Hardie. Sales + Marketing for Pearl Morrisette and of course manager and Wine Director for Mercatto.

Any fun wine finds these days?

A lot of bubbly. Anything from Ben Hardy at Groupe Soleil.

Take us through a typical day of yours?  

Morning is dealing with the Europeans because of the time change. I wake up to a lot of emails from our European suppliers. I review and deal with offers, POs, submissions and LCBO applications. Most of the morning I spend in the office then in the afternoon I manage the social media, eblasts, write up the offers etc. In the afternoon 2-5pm I typically leave the office to go around to taste, see clients, visit LCBO stores. And then there are always the supplier visits. Still not good at sitting still.

Best part about the job?

Access to wines.  In the last 3 years I have had the most remarkable access to wines.  Also the travel, as I try to get to Burgundy a few times a year. It’s funny, when it comes to high end Burgundy, it’s like being an art dealer. When interesting wines come through, it’s mayhem in the office, like a trading floor. The energy is high, everyone’s on the phone selling and allocating and then all of sudden it’s quiet. It’s unbelievable. And there’s no shortage of interesting customers.

Whats next for the Toronto wine community?

It’s nice to see France coming back. The old school classic wines are coming back. The younger generation is crushing wine. People are more inquisitive, interested and engaged in wine. There is more a sense of community these days and agents are supporting each other more than I have ever seen.

Any words of advice for anyone looking to start working in wine?

Don’t listen to people that say that there are no jobs in wine. If you have a good palate and are engaging, there are opportunities. Work in restaurants. Don’t be shy but be humble. Keep learning. You will never know everything and that is perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing, just keep learning. Being able to blind taste Vaudesir from Preuses is not what is going to set you apart.

Who inspires you within the wine community?

Our private clients. There are some unbelievable customers out there who aren’t in the industry but their knowledge is so deep and impressive. Also my boss. He’s extremely  focused and a genius with numbers. I love the romance in the wine industry and he grounds me with his business sense.

Skills needed to succeed in the wine industry?

Good at numbers. Also be open to trying new flavours. And not just wine, but new spices, foods etc. I don’t think people are born with a great palate. You have to work at it.

Favourite wine moment?

First time I went to Romanee-Conti, I was shaking and the colour was drawn from me, I was so nervous. I got to meet my rockstar, Aubert de Villaine and he said “You are here with all these men? You are a brave woman.” He then put his arm around me, and said “Come, lets drink some wine.”

That was cool. 

Wine region you’d like to visit?

Napa. I’ve spent so much time in Europe. Also, Sicily.

Region that took your breathe away?

Piedmont. Standing in the Amphitheatre in Barolo. It was truffle season. In the fall. Everything was orange. It’s a very special place.

Most underrated grape varietal?

Riesling.  It used to be the wine of kings and queens. It was the most expensive and sought after wine. And now it’s difficult to sell in the LCBO.

Most underrated wine region?

Wines from Lombardia. Franciacorta and the Nebbiolos from Valtellina.

Go to House red wine?

High acid French

Go to House white wine?

Provencal Rose – cold and tasty.

Go to House bubbly?

Pol Roger

Whose cellar would you raid?

Geddy Lee’s

Where would you want to do harvest?

Chianti Classico. Rada. It’s beautiful, the people are beautiful and the food is spectacular.

If you could pick to drink wine from one region from the rest of your life what would it be?


What winemaker do you respect? What winemakers inspires you?

Remi Cohen of Cliff Lede & Audrey Braccini from Domaine Ferret. Examples of 2 incredible women who have made a significant impact on the wine industry. And very highly respected.