It was like perfect chemistry for Julie Bollig.
From dreams and aspirations of being a veterinarian, the 40-year-old Brainerd native took a leap into a new career in 2003 and hasn’t looked back.
“I graduated from Brainerd High School and wanted to get out of here like everyone does,” said Bollig, who traded in her vet gloves for a wine glass, now working as a distributor for the St. Paul-based The Wine Company in the Brainerd lakes area and beyond for the past nine years. “So I ended up in Washington D.C. where I went to college with every intent of becoming a veterinarian but after seven years of working for a speciality surgical clinic, I decided it wasn’t for me.
“I missed my family, so I moved home and ended up in the hospitality industry and worked my way up to a management position and that’s where I was presented with wine tastings and started to really get in to it.”
Crediting her educational background in chemistry and an undying desire to learn, Bollig found herself investing every free moment she had in to studying wine.
From a wine and grape’s origin to the historical layout of the lands around the world, Bollig said there is never enough to be learned in the wine industry.
“I found with wines, it marries a whole bunch of subjects together, primarily chemistry and history,” said Bollig, whose friend mentioned the opportunity to become a wine distributor. “I just find it really interesting. You could study your whole life and not know the tip of the iceberg because there’s just so many tangents you can branch off.
“For instance I’ll learn about a particular region of wine and then learn about the native yeast in the area or some of the chemical processes that go in to making a bottle of wine. Not to mention there’s so much history in the estates that produce the wines we (The Wine Company) sell that are decades, if not hundreds of years old, which is always fun to research.
“I visited a vineyard and winery that had been around for 2,000 years and had made wine from that very spot for that long.”
And the travel opportunities presented to Bollig make the job sweeter than a glass of dessert wine.
“I am very grateful for all the places I get to go and see (because of this job),” said Bollig, who returned from a two-week excursion in France and is set to visit Italy in June. “The trip to France was a trip of a lifetime, very iconic estates and we spent whole days down in the (wine) cellar and sometimes we would taste over a hundred different types of wine in a day.
“The company I work for is very passionate about finding exactly the right wines and care about the taste, so we have to taste everything before we buy it, which actually is very daunting. I get worn out from it most days.”
And finding the perfect taste is daunting as well, said Bollig, who added that wines vary with each food and season.
Bollig said that entering the summer season, a crisp wine is a great thirst quencher and tends to complement the foods that are more commonly eaten during the summertime, like salads and foods that tend to be more acidic in taste.
“There’s a whole food pairing structure and there’s a wine for every food and really, they should complement each other,” said Bollig, who particularly enjoys wines from Italy.
And for now Bollig said, being right where she is as a wine distributor is complementing her.
“I never thought in a million years that I would be selling wine or working in sales,” she said. “But I needed to change gears and now I love it.
“I’m still interested in animals and science and maybe I’ll have a farm someday and who knows, I might end up being a wine maker. I have no idea where this is going to go but for now I am going to enjoy it.”