A Story in Every Sip: Behind-the-Scenes with Sammy Lam & Austin’s Wanderlust Wine Co.

You may think fall is all about cider, tea, and hot chocolate, but we’ve got another beverage on our minds — wine! Fall signals the end of the grape growing season so it’s the perfect time to slip on those fuzzy socks, snuggle up under a cozy blanket, and sip that Chardonnay (or perhaps a Beaujolais Nouveau? 😉) or whatever your heart desires 🍷

To celebrate the harvest season, we teamed up with Wanderlust Wine Co. (*cough cough*, a member of our Business Arts Council and venue sponsor) for Beaujolais Nouveau Day, featuring live music by 8 1/2 Souvenirs, Julie Slim and RendezVous, and of course… wine!

Get a glimpse behind the proverbial curtain and get to know Wanderlust owner and sommelier Sammy Lam, what he loves about Austin, and why he thinks local music is essential 👇

MEET SAMMY & WANDERLUST WINE CO.
This is Sammy 👆

Long Center: Something we just like to do for fun — what song should folks put onwhile they read this interview?

LC: We’d love for our audience to know more about you and how Wanderlust got started right here in Austin, TX. What’s your story?

SAMMY LAM: Crafting the World’s Largest Wine on Tap Winery!

In 2020, amidst a global challenge, I embarked on a venture that would redefine the world of wine and hospitality, giving birth to Wanderlust Wine Co. The vision was audacious: to create a haven where people could embark on a sensory adventure, exploring wines from all corners of the globe.

This dream didn’t just stop at wine; it expanded to embrace coffee, food, and community-centric events and activations. These partnerships added new dimensions to our offerings, weaving a tapestry of experiences and community while ensuring that wine remained at our core.

The years brought remarkable growth. Wanderlust Wine Co. now proudly stands with 3 current locations, all of which are continuously working toward enhancing our offerings and elevating the collective experience for our patrons. Our mission remains clear: to provide a space where diverse flavors converge, where conversations flow, and where every sip and bite tells a story.

Our dedication to excellence has not gone unnoticed. Wanderlust has been honored with prestigious awards, including the title of Best Winery, bestowed upon us by the Austin Chronicle in both 2022 and 2023. In 2021, the wine-loving community embraced us with the People’s Choice Keggy Award by Free Flow Wines, a testament to the love and passion we pour into our craft as well as our mission toward sustainability in wine.

On a deeply personal note, I was humbled to be recognized as the Businessman of the Year by the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a recognition that goes beyond an individual achievement and speaks volumes about the collaborative spirit of the entire Wanderlust family.

This journey is a testament to the power of dreams, persistence, and the unwavering commitment to excellence. Wanderlust Wine Co. is not just a destination; it’s a celebration of flavors, a testament to diversity, and a reminder that every glass we raise is a toast to the extraordinary journey we’ve undertaken together. Here’s to the spirit of exploration, the joy of discovery, and the richness of every moment we share.

A patron pours wine from Wanderlust's signature wine taps at Beaujolais Nouveau Day, photo by Dusana Risovic.
LC: There’s a lot to love about the Austin community, but what about it brought you here and keeps Wanderlust here?

SAMMY LAM: The Austin community is more than just a location for Wanderlust Wine Co.; it’s an integral part of our story and identity. What brought us here and keeps us rooted in this vibrant city is a beautiful blend of factors.

First and foremost, Austin’s open-hearted embrace of innovation and entrepreneurship is what drew us in. It’s a city that champions dreamers and risk-takers, and that resonated with our vision of creating something truly unique in the world of wine. Austin’s spirit aligns perfectly with our own journey, where we turned a dream into reality during a time of global challenge.

The sense of community in Austin is also a driving force. We’ve been welcomed with open arms, and it’s this warm reception that keeps us deeply connected. The diverse and inclusive nature of the Austin community mirrors our values at Wanderlust. We believe that wine is for everyone, and in Austin, we’ve found a community that celebrates this inclusive ethos.

Austin’s thriving food and beverage scene, including its vibrant coffee culture and food truck delights, has allowed us to expand our offerings and provide a richer experience to our patrons. The collaborative spirit of the city’s culinary artisans and partners has added an exciting layer to our journey.

Moreover, the recognition and accolades we’ve received from Austin, such as being named the Best Winery by the Austin Chronicle, have been truly heartening. It reflects the appreciation and love we’ve received from this community.

In Austin, we’ve not just found a place to do business; we’ve found a home. The eclectic energy, the warmth of its people, and the spirit of continuous reinvention are the forces that keep Wanderlust firmly rooted here. Our commitment to excellence and the joy of sharing flavors are amplified in this incredible city. So, in many ways, we believe that we didn’t just choose Austin; Austin chose us, and it’s a choice we cherish every day.

A group of friends toast to Beaujolais Nouveau Day at Wanderlust's East Austin location, photo by Dusana Risovic.
LC: We teamed up on an event to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Can you tell all of us what the day commemorates and why we celebrated?

SAMMY LAM:  Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a delightful holiday that commemorates the release of the first wine of the season from the Beaujolais region in France. It falls on the third Thursday of November every year, and its significance lies in the celebration of new beginnings, the joy of the harvest, and the anticipation of something fresh and exciting.

This day holds a special place in the hearts of wine lovers around the world, including us at Wanderlust Wine Co. It symbolizes the art of winemaking, the journey of the grape from the vine to the glass, and the moment when we can savor the fruits of the harvest. For us, it’s an extension of our commitment to sharing the world of wine with our community, be it the classics or the novelties.

We celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day as an ode to the tradition of winemaking and the sheer pleasure of indulging in a wine that’s just been born. It’s a reminder that every glass we raise is a toast to the beauty of exploration, the joy of discovery, and the richness of the journey. Just as we embrace innovation and diversity in the world of wine, we celebrate the traditions that make wine an integral part of our lives.

This celebration was not just about a single day; it was a reflection of our ongoing journey at Wanderlust Wine Co. A journey marked by dreams turned into reality, deep connections with the Austin community, and the commitment to excellence in every sip. Beaujolais Nouveau Day resonates with the essence of what we stand for: embracing new beginnings and cherishing the timeless traditions in the world of wine.

Long Center Members and friends enjoy Thanksgiving-themed charcuterie provided by H-E-B Catering before kicking off the Beaujolais Nouveau Day celebrations. Photo by Dusana Risovic.
LC: What made you want to partner with the Long Center on this event?

SAMMY LAM: Our partnership with the Long Center for this event is deeply rooted in our shared appreciation for the arts and the belief that great performances and exceptional experiences deserve to be celebrated. The Long Center, as a hub for the performing arts, has a rich history of hosting incredible events and performances throughout the year, and we are deeply humbled by the opportunity to co-host and celebrate the arts, be it in the form of music or the artistry of winemaking.

The Long Center’s commitment to creating a space where the arts can flourish aligns perfectly with our own mission at Wanderlust Wine Co. Just as we curate experiences that blend the magic of music and wine, the Long Center fosters an environment where creativity, talent, and the joy of art take center stage.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day, with its celebration of new beginnings and fresh wine, was a perfect occasion for this collaboration. It was a moment to revel in the arts, savor the flavors, and create memories that resonate with the heart. Our shared dedication to offering unique, exceptional experiences makes this partnership a natural fit.

Together with the Long Center, we had the privilege of bringing together the worlds of music and wine, bridging the gap between art and indulgence. We were excited to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day with an event that not only pays homage to a remarkable wine tradition but also adds an artistic layer to the festivities.

In essence, our partnership with the Long Center is a celebration of the arts, a toast to creativity, and a harmonious blend of culture and flavor. It’s a reminder that art, whether in the form of music or wine, has the power to unite, inspire, and create moments of pure joy. This collaboration was our way of raising a glass to the magic of art and the beauty of shared experiences.

Oliver Steck, accordion player, roams the crowd during set breaks at Beaujolais Nouveau Day, with French-themed music from 8 1/2 Souvenirs and Julie Slim & RendezVous.
LC: Why is it important for you and the Wanderlust team to make a space for local music?

SAMMY LAM: At Wanderlust Wine Co., the fusion of music and wine is not just a concept; it’s a deeply ingrained part of our identity. We have consistently made space for local music because we believe that these two art forms, when paired together, create something truly extraordinary.

Music has an innate ability to touch the soul, to evoke emotions, and to bring people together. It’s a universal language that transcends boundaries and connects individuals on a profound level. In many ways, it’s similar to wine, which carries its own stories and emotions within every glass.

Our commitment to local music reflects our dedication to creating an all-encompassing experience for our patrons. When they step into Wanderlust, we want them to not only savor our wines but also immerse themselves in the magic of live music. Whether it’s Winechella, our signature event, or the days when we had live music seven days a week, it’s about curating moments that linger in the heart and memory.

Local music, in particular, holds a special place in our hearts. It’s a celebration of the talent that surrounds us, a tribute to the Austin community that has embraced us with open arms. By providing a stage for local musicians, we aim to amplify their voices and contribute to the cultural tapestry of this remarkable city.

Music and wine share a unique synergy, enhancing each other’s flavors and melodies. Just as different wines evoke different moods and sensations, music sets the tone for an evening of togetherness, celebration, and joy. We believe in the power of this combination to create unforgettable experiences and lasting connections.

In essence, making space for local music at Wanderlust Wine Co. is not just about filling a physical space; it’s about enriching the space in people’s hearts. It’s about fostering a sense of community, of shared moments, and of appreciation for the arts. It’s our way of saying that, like the perfect wine pairing, the blend of music and wine is a harmonious symphony that elevates life’s moments to something truly extraordinary.

Wanderlust Wine Co. founder Sammy Lam addresses the crowd at Beaujolais Nouveau Day, photo by Dusana Risovic.
LC: Any other future events or projects in the works at Wanderlust that you can tease?

SAMMY LAM: At Wanderlust Wine Co., the journey never stops, and we’re excited to offer you a tantalizing preview of what’s in store for the coming months.

First up, we have something special in the works for early 2024. We’ll be introducing retail packaging, allowing you to take a piece of Wanderlust with you wherever you go. This means you can enjoy the flavors and memories of our unique wine experiences from the comfort of your own home. We can’t wait to share this new way to savor the essence of Wanderlust with you.

But that’s not all. We’re also expanding our beloved speakeasy wine cave tasting experiences. Prepare to be delighted by new menus, including the exquisite pairing of champagne and caviar. These experiences are designed to elevate your wine journey, offering a touch of sophistication and luxury.

Behind the scenes, we’re growing and solidifying our Wanderlust family, including our team of talented sommeliers. With their expertise and passion, we aim to provide you with the highest level of service and knowledge in the world of wine.

And last but not least, we’re enhancing each of our venues to offer so much more for your day-to-day events and activations. Whether it’s an intimate gathering, a celebration, or a moment of relaxation, our spaces are evolving to make every visit a truly memorable one.

And there’s one more exciting announcement. We’re hard at work planning a food and wine festival scheduled for May 2024 at the prestigious Long Center. This event is a celebration of National Wine Day on May 25, and we can’t wait to share this extraordinary experience with you. It’s an opportunity to savor the finest wines, indulge in gourmet delights, and create unforgettable memories.

The future of Wanderlust Wine Co. is brimming with exciting developments, all centered around our commitment to providing you with exceptional wine experiences. We can’t wait to embark on these new adventures with you and continue creating unforgettable moments together. Stay tuned for more details as we journey forward. Cheers to the exciting times ahead!

Wine lovers end Beaujolais Nouveau Day with some celebratory dancing, photo by Dusana Risovic.

COME JOIN US NEXT TIME

If this looks like a lot of fun… it was! Long Center Members and our Business Arts Council enjoyed early Member Hours and more at this event. Consider joining the Long Center as an individual or as a corporate partner for ticket presales, Member Nights, and so many more perks all year-round at the Long Center.  Here’s one last shout out and thank you to our venue sponsors, like Sammy and Wanderlust Wine Co. — cheers! 🥂

KEEP IN TOUCH

At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

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