Home Wine Business Editorial Sales & Marketing Turning the Tables on Carole McMenamy (aka Carole Mac)

Turning the Tables on Carole McMenamy (aka Carole Mac)

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By Carl Giavanti


Carole Mac
Carole Mac

Carole Mac is an executive producer, sommelier, author and speaker with more than 15 years of experience. According to USA TODAY, her series Somm School Insider, which appears on Roku globally, makes “A splash in the wine world.” Mac has produced and hosted more than 200 episodes including Follow That Somm, Somm Tips and Somm Tasting Notes on Wine4Food.com. 

She’s created and sold a culinary event company in Chicago, was the editorial director for the James Beard award-winning publication Rosengarten Report and was a columnist for publications including Edible Communities, Lapalme and Retreat magazines. Her 2014 food film short, Oh My Rødgrød!, was selected to appear in the New York City, Chicago and Devour Food Film Festivals, and she’s been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, USA TODAY, DAILYMAILTV and GLAMOUR.

Her educational background includes a BA in marketing with Academic All-American honors as co-captain of Michigan State University’s gymnastics team and an international MBA from Henley Business School in the United Kingdom. Finally, her Amazon bestselling children’s book, The Gift of the Ladybug, has raised nearly $100,000 for children with life-threatening illnesses.  Find her at CaroleMac.com and @Carole.Mac.

How did you come to wine, and producing video and written wine content?

I’ve been a food lover since I was a little girl. After I went to business school, I started a culinary event company with the intention of tasting the best food and wine in Chicago with the chefs who made it. I knew I was hooked on the food industry for life. Next, I began writing about food, and eventually moved to New York City to become editorial director and digital editor for Golden Ram Imports, a wine importer delivering food-friendly wines from around the globe. This is when I solidified my love of wine. As I progressed with that company, I began running video content and developed more than 200 episodes for our wine-loving audience including Follow That Somm, Somm Tips and Somm Tasting Notes

What are your primary story interests?

I’m now producing television content on healing emotionally through food, wine and once-in-a-lifetime food adventures.

Tell us about Somm School Insider.

The final series that I produced with Golden Ram was Somm School Insider, a 7-episode series following my journey inside the Sommelier Society of America, the oldest wine school in the country. The series highlighted my actual instructors and real lessons in an abbreviated, fun way to make learning about wine accessible to the everyday wine lover. USA Today says it makes “a splash in the wine world” and it’s available on ROKU globally as well as wine4food.com. You can binge the whole series in 40 minutes. This show was one of my favorite wine experiences ever! 

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I wanted to become a marine biologist when I was a kid, I’ve traveled to Cambodia and I love mangoes on a stick after a long bike ride. 

What haven’t you done that you’d like to do?

Write a book about all of the lessons and miracles that my son, TJ, has given me.

What’s the best story or video you have produced?

The best story that I have written is a children’s book called The Gift of the Ladybug. It came to me during the most difficult moment of my life — after hearing a doctor say, “Your son TJ may not see his second birthday.” I was reeling on the drive home from that appointment, and suddenly I saw an image in my mind that I can only describe as a divine metaphor. It was the image of cartoon horses in a circle. They stood exactly where my family stood in the doctor’s office. I was the momma horse, and there was a little ladybug in my hand. Somehow, I knew that horses represented my family, and the ladybug was TJ. All of the horses were crying because we just learned that the ladybug was going to live a short life. The ladybug looked up at me and said, “but I don’t know how to be a horse, I only know how to be a ladybug.” 

In that moment, I felt a blanket of peace wash over me and I realized that this metaphor was going to get me through this harrowing time. TJ went from being a sick boy to a perfect ladybug. And we were able to cherish him for exactly who he was from that moment forward. The day following that car ride, I sat down at my computer and wrote The Gift of the Ladybug for TJ’s Christmas gift. I was able to read it to him countless times. 

Two years following his passing, I published the book on his birthday in hopes of bringing peace to other families. My son, the paradigm shift that this story created, and the way that it transformed my entire life is the most divine experience I’ve ever had. This book is now considered bibliotherapy and used by counselors, doctors, teachers and parents to help families through difficult diagnoses and loss. It has started a movement, helped create the national “Gift of the Ladybug” holiday on January 28, and helped raise $100,000 for children with critical illnesses. 

Can you describe your approach to content creation?

I begin by getting still and figuring out what content makes me feel most excited, joyful and alive. Next, I ask myself, “what is my next dream show?” Once I come up with that concept, I make sure that it’s something that my audience wants. Then I hire people better than me, and together we make the best and most beautiful show possible while maintaining the intention of making the show with bliss, heart and soul. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my dream show at the moment. It’s so exciting! My idea for this show came to me more than a decade ago during another tough time of my life. It was the year after TJ died, and I was miserable. I had constant nausea, insomnia and a wretched aching of every cell of my body. I was not living in the peaceful and powerful way that TJ had taught me to live. 

I decided that I had to do something drastic. I asked myself, “What is the most exciting thing that I could possibly do?” with the thought that, perhaps, this would help me feel 1% human. I decided to go to Italy for 3 months, work on organic farms in exchange for room and board, start a blog and shoot my first series. I would harvest olives, make cheese and wine, and make pasta with Italian families. 

Guess what? It worked. I actually began to feel better! This larger-than-life food experience helped me heal. I called it my food bliss moment, and it inspired me to move to New York City and follow my dreams of having my own food and wine shows. I promised myself that once I learned how to make good TV shows, I would make the show “Food Bliss” to help other people feel joy after hardship. 

Now I’ve done it. Last summer, my team and I made Food Bliss in Sicily with a very special first guest, Kelly Cervantes, who also lost a child. We made sausage with Michelin-rated butchers, tasted Etna wine with winemakers, filled cannolis with award-winning pastry chefs and sucked down infamous Mazara red prawns while overlooking the Mediterranean. After Kelly’s Food Bliss experience, she said that she finally knew that she could be happy again. It was a success in every way. This show is coming soon to a well-known channel near you. 

What are your recommendations to wineries when interacting with journalists?

Make your visits and/or conversations with journalists personal to you, your story and also to the journalist. Do your research and understand your journalists. Give them an experience that is special, unique, juicy to write about and gorgeous to photograph. If you make the experience memorable for them, they will make it memorable for their readers. 

What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?

Wine publicists are deeply entrenched in the current market, and they have the advantage of understanding wineries as well as journalists. Because of this, they do an exceptional job of matching wineries with perfectly suited journalists to make stories pop. 

Which wine personalities would you most like to meet and taste with (living or dead)?

Eric Asimov, Lettie Teague and James Suckling

If you take days off, how do you spend them? 

I definitely take days off! I think that rest, play, fun and silence are just as important as work. I spend days off traveling, spending time with people that I love, going on food adventures, biking and being active. 

What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?

My most memorable wine tasting experience was when I went to Italy with my family. It was the trip of a lifetime and also my wine awakening. We visited the Tuscan winery Dievole for lunch and a tasting. I remember sitting outside as we waited for our food at a stunningly dressed table with lemon trees in the foreground and vineyards as far as I could see. The air smelled like lemons and jasmine. The breeze was warm with the sun. 

The vintner brought us their signature Chianti Classico in an enormous glass along with a fava bean and pecorino salad. I had never tasted anything so remarkable. The fava beans were sweet and buttery. The pecorino was sharp and nutty. The olive oil was spicy and fresh. And then we tasted the wine. It was like liquid euphoria — dark cherries, violets and chocolate in a glass. I could not believe how insanely delicious it tasted. 

I felt the flavor permeate my cells, and I remember watching it slide from my mouth all the way down to my toes as if I was in an out of body experience. It made me think that I had never really tasted wine before. My family and I looked at each other with huge, wide-open eyes and awe. I could tell that each of us had the same experience. It was a wine revelation.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world?

Burgundy all the way.

Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing? Favorite recipe/pairing?

I’ve got some typical ones that I can’t bring myself to play with. They are just too good. Cape May oysters and Muscadet. Tagliatelle alla Bolognese with Barolo. Dandan noodles with Riesling. Champagne with everything. 


Carl Giavanti

Carl Giavanti is a winery publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s celebrating his 14th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.

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