Certified Sommelier Dennis Conger has an incredible new wine course that is worth celebrating. Wine Educator Dennis Conger’s D. Lobo Wine Education, a program designed for wine novices, experts, and aficionados, teaches students the history, culture, and geography of wine while also offering applicable skills to those who work in the hospitality industry. Using his own experience and passion for wine, Dennis’s course boasts a personal touch that aims to strengthen Miami’s wine community and bolster the evolving industry. Unlike other wine programs, D. Lobo Wine Education adapts to the needs of its diverse clientele as well as guides and mentors its students during and after they have taken the fantastic course.
How did you get started in the Hospitality Industry?
In Spain, being a part of the hospitality industry is almost like a tradition in the family. You’re just following what your father did, what your uncle did, and what your grandfather did. It’s a career tradition inside of the family. My family and I always loved to go out and have dinner. Wine was the drink of choice for my mother. As far as I can remember, for example, when I went to my grandparent’s house, my grandmother always had a bottle of wine on the table, waiting for my grandfather and uncles. They would have a quick lunch, have three or four glasses of wine, and then go back to work happy, in a good mood. That’s just part of the culture and tradition in Spain.
How is the hospitality industry different in Spain than in the U.S.?
It’s not like in the United States where if you’re a waiter or a sommelier you can make really good money because you’re a tip-based employee. Over there, it’s one of the toughest jobs. Long hours, maybe one day off out of the week, five or six doubles…You don’t get a table gratuity. We don’t have that system. Spain is huge in gastronomy. It is huge in hospitality, the restaurant, and the hotel industry. There are tons of bars and restaurants on one block. Every family has a bar or restaurant that they have been going to for decades, in some cases, centuries. The oldest restaurant in the world is in Madrid.
What inspired your move from Spain to the U.S.?
I was living back and forth between Thailand and Spain. I moved away from the restaurant business and got into the importation business. I would sell clothes, art, furniture, anything that I could get my hands on and make money from it. My parents thought about moving to Miami and brought the idea to me. Spain was falling into an economic crisis from 2006 to 2010. We all decided to come to Miami and start a new life. I fell in love with the city because it was a city evolving when it comes to gastronomy. A few years after I got here, a lot of celebrity chefs were starting to come here from New York, Washington, and Chicago. Then, Wynwood started developing and making a nice neighborhood with a nice ambiance of art. It was very trendy and modern. There was a fusion of all types of cultures and cuisines. I fell in love with that. I’m here today after 10 years.
What was your journey as a sommelier?
I have always had a strong wine knowledge because I have always worked at high-end, upscale, fine dining restaurants. In these restaurants, you needed to know a lot about wines because these places had an extensive wine list or the guests required knowledge from the staff when it came to recommendations. In 2012, I joined a Spanish company called 100 Montaditos. It’s like fast food, an upscale concept with tapas and little sandwiches. I was a corporate manager. I got involved with wine at that point and little by little I found myself in the wine world.
What are some key characteristics of being a sommelier? Discuss your role as a sommelier.
I’m not just a sommelier. I am also a Wine Educator. I try to inspire upcoming sommeliers or just someone who wants to discover new wines. There are many knowledgeable people who keep their knowledge for themselves. They help themselves but they don’t help the industry. It’s a relationship. I build relationships with my clients and I keep in touch with them. I ask if they have questions and if they’re using what they learned in the class. The perfect or a professional sommelier should know that it is not about selling a specific wine or selling a glass of wine to make money. In my opinion, wine is the most perfect representation of a country, a region, and most importantly, the people who have lived and worked the land for centuries. These people are the ones who create the magic and transform those grapes into an amazing juice that you get to enjoy later with your family. For me, recommending or suggesting a wine to a table of guests is like taking them on a journey. Forget about how their day was and make them travel to the region and talk about not just the wine, but the history and culture of the region. That’s what I try to do. I try to take them on a journey and find the perfect wine that suits them, that will pair perfectly with their dinner, and that might make them say, “This is my favorite wine.”
Tell us about D. Lobo Wine Education in your own words.
We focus on providing excellent wine education. Our program is more than just a class or a course. It is full guidance through your career. It is mentorship. Miami was, and still is, a city that is evolving in gastronomy and wine. When you compare it to the wine world in New York, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, Miami is behind. These are much older cities that have a lot more culture. Here, I had trouble finding guidance and mentorship. D. Lobo Wine Education is a full mentorship that will guide you through the journey.
How do you distinguish yourself from the other wine courses? What do you offer that is different? How is your program more personalized?
When you join these wine worldwide famous organizations, they just prepare you for an exam. You cannot call your teacher at one in the morning and say, “Hey, I have an exam tomorrow” or “I just got out of work and I have this question”. It’s hard to have that guidance and mentorship and this is what D. Lobo Wine Education offers. You can text us or call us at any time. We also work with what works for you. For example, I had a client who just joined a new restaurant and it’s a Steakhouse. My course starts with Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Piamonte and then we go on from there. My client said that he didn’t see a lot of those wines on the menu and that he was at an American Steakhouse in North Carolina. I started with California wine instead which wasn’t part of the course. I added it for him and gave him a class on the big wines of Napa Valley and introduced that because that is what was going to work for him. That’s what he needed to know to recuperate the money he invested in his education. I adapt to my client. You don’t see that in any other wine program.
What else can be expected from these classes?
The classes include basic information about the most important regions and wines that you really need to know. In more advanced classes, we go through the regions of France, Italy, Spain, California. If you’re in Miami, we also go through tasting the wines, which is an additional charge. If it’s a virtual course, I send the client the list and we do virtual tastings. I strongly believe that you can love to read and learn, but when you bring in wines and start tasting as you’re learning, it’s more exciting and you get a better feeling of what the wine is. You’re not just listening, you’re living in the moment and experiencing the wine yourself. It is not just a class or a course about wine. I am teaching you how to sell the wine. I am teaching you what sells. I am strong in selling emotion and feelings. Create desire. I teach you to put all your passion and love into this and that is what will make you money. Sell history. Sell the emotions. My clients constantly receive information so they can keep training. Learning never ends.
What’s a significant goal of yours?
My number one goal is to be able to educate people so they can earn a living. I want to motivate them and allow them to be financially stable. I want them to set goals and make more money every year to provide for themselves and their families. It’s all about creating a bigger and better industry.
To contact Dennis Conger or to take his wonderful class:
Follow Dennis on Instagram @D.lobo_wine_education and @DennisCongerSomm.
*Classes start at $65.00 and the Introductory Course (comprising 4-6 classes) start at $300.00.
Photos Courtesy of Dennis Corgen