In the wine industry, the extreme is expected: sipping and spitting through hundreds of wines in a matter of hours, tastings in caves, scuba diving for wine. Successfully making and selling wine appears to run on adrenaline, intensity, excess.
But Cathy Huyghe offers a refreshing alternative: one that embraces the highs and lows of a life lived to its fullest, while also leaving room for the deep contemplation and creativity that spurs personal and professional growth.
“A common theme of my work and life is that it’s at both sides of the pendulum swing,” she says. “Both left brain and right brain. Both creative and quantified. Both this and that.”
Huyghe is an award-winning journalist; co-founder and CEO of Enolytics, a data-driven business intelligence provider to beverage alcohol companies; and co-creator of content at A Balanced Glass, which sets out to give members of the industry the knowledge and tools to manage their personal wellness. She is also a two-time graduate of Harvard University, and is certified to teach hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation, and Ayurveda. She successfully juggles and balances multiple careers, along with a busy personal life—all with apparent serenity.
Huyghe attributes her grounded, balanced approach to life and work to her upbringing.
“I come from a blue collar, coal country town in rural Pennsylvania,” Huyghe says. “I’m one of six kids. My mom is a logistical genius, because she stayed at home and had eight mouths to feed on my father’s blue-collar salary. It taught me the benefit and bounty in stretching a dollar early on. And thanks to both of my parents, my childhood was focused on pursuing education and opportunities, of finding a way.”
“He saw that the town was headed in the wrong direction economically and wanted to give the kids there a chance at a future,” Huyghe says. “Any graduate of the local public school who qualifies academically can get a full scholarship to Bucknell.”
Huyghe graduated from Bucknell with a double major and went on to earn prestigious scholarships at Harvard, fueled by the unquenchable curiosity and thirst for knowledge that continues to define her life and work today.
“I was literally the poster child for financial aid at every school I attended,” Huyghe admits, laughing. “I mean, there was actually a picture of me on the wall in the financial aid offices. But hat has always driven me is respect for where I came from. My parents aren’t what you’d call ‘global’ or ambitious, but they are good—truly good—through and through. They taught us how to love, and especially how to work. In both cases, very hard.”
They created a space where Huyghe and her siblings could honor their roots, while reaching for more. Huyghe’s discovery of wine, and the career that followed, reflects that evolution. Admitting that she will always have her “eye out for the working stiff in the kitchen who has been peeling onions for the last 10 hours, because those are my people,” Huyghe says her own discovery of “fine” wine happened in the restaurant kitchens she worked in.
Tapping her inner undergrad English Lit major, she began writing about wine as a way of tracking her burgeoning interest in and understanding of it; professional writing assignments soon followed, and the extreme globe-trotting lifestyle familiar to so many in the world of wine, began to unfurl.
But unlike so many of us, Huyghe’s roots keep her grounded. (Practicing yoga and meditating—activities she discovered in college—also helps).
That deep love of and interest in wine and her practical core also gave rise to Enolytics. Huyghe launched the platform in 2016 along with her husband Chris Huyghe, eager to harness the power of data for the wine and spirits industry. In a bid to accelerate growth of this $970 billion industry, Enolytics helps beverage companies and high-profile industry organizations analyze their e-commerce platforms and depletion data spaces.
“Enolytics is where my right brain-left brain crossover really kicks in,” she says. “It integrates storytelling and AI/ML [artificial intelligence/machine learning].”
Not everyone is fluent in data though, she admits.
“There’s a learning curve with this,” Huyghe says, which is why Enolytics offers a coaching matrix, master classes and a very robust support portal. “This year, also, we launched a data literacy initiative with Valerie Logan of The Data Lodge that’s specific to the wine and spirits industry.”
The extremes of the wine industry can be enjoyed, Huyghe says. But she believes all of us will enjoy them more, if we keep our feet on the ground.
“Meditation is my entry point for doing all things, and it gives me the ability to ride the pendulum swing,” she says. “It is my source of ideas, and enables me to metabolize everything, to use it all as fuel. Turning inward means tapping into the amazing resource that’s there, right inside of us.”
Contemplation and calm as fuel for the next big thing: sounds like the kind of extreme we all need heading into 2022.
About Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Each year, Wine Industry Advisor chooses 10 individuals within the wine industry who showcase leadership, innovation, and inspiration. For the first time in 2021, WIA opened up the submission process to the industry at large. With over 100 nominees, the editorial team selected the top 10 individuals who they felt has truly positively impacted the US wine culture over the past year. Read more here.