This feature is part of our 2023 Next Wave Awards.
Kristin Olszewski started her sommelier career in Nantucket, in wine-focused restaurants that catered to older, established wine lovers. But when she moved to work at hip, of-the-moment restaurants in Nashville and L.A., she noticed that the younger demographic of drinkers gravitated toward other beverages. After witnessing guest after guest order cocktails with dinner, Olszewski wanted to find a way to make wine more appealing to younger consumers.
“It always bothered me that the only people who ever wanted to talk to me as a sommelier were older men,” Olszewski says. “Young people, especially young women, would come in and just order cocktails.” To counteract this phenomenon, she would often swoop in on a table that was about to order cocktails and convince them to try a new wine, and usually they would love it.
Olszewski delighted in the feeling of introducing people to wine in the restaurant setting, and wanted to replicate that on a larger scale. So in 2017, she created Nomadica, a canned wine company that aims to make easy-to-love, sustainably farmed wines accessible to drinkers who would normally shy away from the category.
The wines are expertly curated by Olszewski so that each of the brand’s offerings is meant to appeal to a broad range of palates. “Ten years on a restaurant floor has made my palate razor sharp,” she admits. “Let me give you a wine that 99 percent of people will enjoy and over-delivers for the price.”
Before Olszewski fell in love with wine, she was actually on a wildly different path: on track to attend medical school after earning a degree in sustainable agriculture and gender studies and completing a postgraduate program at Harvard. She was working in restaurants to help pay her way through school, and when she started as a sommelier at the iconic Straight Wharf in Nantucket, something just clicked. “The whole time I was in school it felt like pushing a rock up a hill,” she says. “But once I got into my energy path, things just started happening.”
Though Olszewski was drawn to wine, her interest in sustainability never faded, so she created Nomadica to be environmentally friendly. “I was shocked when I found out how bad glass bottles were for the environment,” Olszewski says. “The recycling rate is only 30 percent.” The can format was the perfect way to achieve the goal of lowering the wine’s carbon footprint, while making the package more approachable to consumers.
“Six years later, canned wine finally feels like it’s catching on a bit,” Olszewski says. “We’re bringing young people back to the category — our largest demographic is people between the ages of 25 and 35. Nomadica is bringing the White Claw and tequila drinkers back to wine.”
Nomadica made a successful splash with its original sommelier-curated offerings of canned white, red, sparkling, and rosé wines, all sourced from sustainability-focused vineyards in California. Half of the brand’s sales are direct to consumer from its online shop, but it can also be found at small retail shops in 25 states across the country. Recently, the brand released an orange wine that took off in popularity and was just launched in Whole Foods across the U.S.
Now that Nomadica has established a foothold in the industry, Olszewski is hoping to take more time to use her platform to educate consumers and give back to their local communities. Rather than touting its wine at star-studded events, Nomadica is now partnering with like-minded companies to support shared community causes and empower other women in business. The brand also works closely with Lift Collective, a community-centered platform advocating equity and inclusion in the wine industry. (Nomadica’s newly appointed head of sales, Cara Bertone, previously worked as the organization’s vice president.)
“We really want to focus more on the content education piece,” says Olszewski. Nomadica’s mission has always been to introduce wine to a new audience, so the brand hopes that by creating this content and establishing these partnerships, it can continue to be an entry point for all consumers into the vast and wonderful world of wine.