What We’re Drinking Right Now: Shayla Smith & Shaunna Cooper of WineSpencer

What We’re Drinking Right Now: Shayla Smith & Shaunna Cooper of WineSpencer 400 400 Taylor Tobin


Sisters and certified sommeliers Shayla Smith and Shaunna Cooper devote their lives to teaching wine enthusiasts (both newcomers and long-time drinkers) how to find and enjoy bottles that suit their particular tastes. Their company, WineSpencer, conducts virtual wine classes and seminars, with a particular focus on female winemakers, Black winemakers, and underrated wine regions. 

Due to their deep knowledge base and their commitment to sharing their love of wine with the public, we hoped that Shayla and Shaunna could tell us about what initially drew them to the wine world and what they hope that their clients will gather from their digital tutorials. Luckily, they were very game to share their sources of inspiration and their future ambitions.

Shayla’s passion for wine began while she was an undergraduate at Stanford University. Shayla hosted holiday dinners in her dorm for dorm-mates when they couldn’t get back home to their families. It was over these dinners when the people she lived with became friends and she saw how food and wine bring people together. Her passion for wine intensified as an undergrad while studying abroad for four months in Madrid, Spain, traveling to several wine regions to attend wine tastings.

Shaunna’s love of wine started shortly after graduating from college. She attended a sales meeting and all her colleagues were ordering wine. Unsure of what to order, a White Zinfandel was recommended as a good starter wine. From there, she started buying different types of wine to try so that at future sales meetings, she would know what type of wine to order. 

“We both have a strong desire to redefine what wine means and give it a modern significance, especially among minority communities, ethnicities, and cultures that have been traditionally not been catered to by the wine industry. We have a Black Winemakers and Female Winemakers class that highlight winemakers not often discussed. Our future goal is to continue to expand our wine knowledge and develop partnerships with winemakers.” Shaunna would like to take the certification to become an Italian Wine Scholar, and Shayla would like to become a Spanish Wine Scholar.

Thanks to their strong dedication to wine scholarship and their love of the social aspects of wine tasting, we figured that Shayla and Shaunna would be ideal sources for fun, flavorful, and reasonably-priced wine recommendations. Below, you’ll find the bottles that Shayla and Shaunna are especially enjoying right now, ranging from food-friendly suggestions to picks perfect for solo Netflix bingeing.

Favorite Bottle of All Time: Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino 1990 ($130)

If you’re looking for a memorable splurge bottle that plays well with food and also stands strongly on its own, then this gorgeous Brunello- Smith’s absolute favorite bottle- may make a perfect fit. “[My] favorite wine of all time has been the 1990 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino. It’s made with Sangiovese grapes, and when the wine is young, it has high tannin and high acidity. The tannin and acidity is what makes this wine perfect for aging. It’s from my birthday year, and I got to share it with my parents, which made it even better,” Smith tells us.  

Favorite Value Bottle: Mumm Napa Sparkling Rosé {$20)

A juicy and refreshing sparkling rosé exhibits surprising flexibility where food pairings are concerned, and Cooper and Smith especially favor this “California sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir grapes.  There’s a crisp acidity [in this rosé], with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and lemon. The wine has a little bit of sweetness, so it goes well with foods that might be a little spicy. [Consider] pairing it with Asian dishes with strong flavors, like curries, vegetable spring rolls, or dumplings.”

Favorite Bottle To Bring To A Party: McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Riesling ($20)

When selecting a party wine, many buyers look for easy-drinking bottles that can appeal to a wide range of preferences. For Cooper and Smith, “Black Girl Magic Riesling is a favorite party wine. Riesling comes in sweet and dry styles, and this wine has just the right amount of sweetness to make it compatible with a variety of foods and palate preferences.”

Favorite Bottle To Pair With Food: Brown Estate 2018 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($45)

Some wine drinkers shy away from California Zinfandels, believing these red wines to be heavy, oak-forward, and too robust to collaborate well with many dishes. Luckily, Cooper and Smith are happy to dispel those fears in regards to this particular Napa Zin, describing it as “a food-friendly, medium-bodied red wine produced in Napa Valley by the Brown family. The wine has aromas of mushroom, black cherry, plum, and pepper with a nice acidity.  This wine pairs well with grilled meats like lamb, chicken, [and] pork, or even [with] roasted vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers and squash.”

Favorite Seasonal Bottle For Early Spring: Whispering Angel Rosé ($17)

Whispering Angel didn’t earn the unofficial title of “Hamptons Water” for nothing; it’s a quintessential sipper for warm-weather enjoyment, and Cooper and Smith urge drinkers to consider breaking out their bottles of pale-pink rosé well before Labor Day. “Whispering Angel Rosé is a great wine to kick off Spring. It’s made in the Provence region of France, [it’s] easy to drink, and it goes great with food or by itself. If you prefer a dry-style, food-friendly wine, this is perfect for you,” Cooper and Smith insist.

Taylor TobinTaylor Tobin is a Brooklyn-based food, beverage, and lifestyle journalist with bylines at HuffPost, Insider, Wine Enthusiast, Observer, and Chilled Magazine, among others. When she isn’t eating, drinking, or writing, she enjoys riding her bike, hanging out with her dog Marty, and watching reality shows (the sillier, the better!). Twitter: @teetobesInstagram: @tee_tobes