We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Hands down, humility is the most important factor behind our success. People with my credentials in the wine industry tend to be focused on Michelin star restaurants and multi-million dollar inventories. I come from a working class family. My mom loves wine but will never spend more than $15 on a bottle, and she represents the majority of drinkers in the U.S. So we wanted to offer wine education and personalized retail services for people like her. In order to get people like my mom to trust us, we can’t have an agenda. Humility is not a trait associated with my profession, but it’s our ultimate core value. We named our company Uplifting Wines, because we want to validate preferences before making unbiased suggestions for your budget. Our wine tastings are designed to give casual drinkers practical information that will raise their comfort levels while shopping retail shelves or wine lists. It’s easy to take yourself too seriously in this industry. But, that’s not really our style. We’ve taken a light-hearted and fun-loving approach to social media, a pretty big departure from most wine marketing. Call it Peter Pan syndrome or whatever you want, but I just couldn’t do this job if I wasn’t having a good time. And sometimes you look ridiculous when you’re having fun.Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Like most restaurant people, I didn’t aspire to do it for a living. You kind of fall into it and before long, you’re a lifer. But I ended up loving the work and saw plenty of opportunity to apply the skills and life lessons one tends to learn in the industry. I noticed the most ambitious people in the business tend to be attracted to wine. It’s the most academic knowledge set and takes a long time to learn. So I started working in wine-focused restaurants and bars with people that knew more than me. I listened to how they talked about wine and how guests responded to their approaches. I started pursuing certifications and successfully passed one of the hardest wine exams in the world. Along the way, I realized that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Which is probably why in all my years in the business, I never really came across anyone that taught about wine in a way that felt genuine and honest. So I saw the gap in the market and I knew how to fill it. Just be real and don’t take yourself too seriously.Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love showing off Houston, especially the food scene. My go-to’s are Himalaya, UB Preserve, Rosie Cannonball, and the original Carrabba’s on Kirby. We have to eat BBQ at least twice so we’re going to The Pit Room and Corkscrew. Breakfast at Baby Barnaby’s. Wine at 13 Celsius. Hermann Park. The James Turell Skyspace at Rice. MFAH. I have 3 kids, so we’d probably have to do a zoo trip. Oh! And Gilhooley’s in San Leon for grilled oysters!The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The PX Project is a non-profit startup out of St. Lukes that is focused on teaching life skills to young adults through a culinary-based program while helping feed the Gulfton/Sharpstown community. When we found out about the good work that Meredith Davis and Adam Garcia were doing there, we wanted to find out how we could participate. They were doing Zoom cooking classes to raise awareness and they started having us on to walk diners through the wine portion. Long story short, that opened a lot of doors for us and we couldn’t be more grateful to be a small part of the important work they are doing there.
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Youtube: Uplifting Wines
Kirsten Gilliam Photography