Meet Phil Castelluzzo, Associate Brand & DTC Manager of To Kalon Vineyard Company
If you have ever emailed To Kalon Vineyard Company with a question or query, you may have had the pleasure of communicating directly with Philip Castelluzzo, CS. A certified sommelier, through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and recipient of the Walter Clore Award for Highest Overall Score, Philip has worked as the Beverage Director for Corkbuzz in Charlotte, North Carolina and Beverage Director for the acclaimed Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. Philip’s passion for wine was bred from a combination of his Sicilian heritage and love for the natural world – he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a Minor in Oceanography from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Well aware of the legendary stature of To Kalon Vineyard, Philip was thrilled to accept a position on the To Kalon Vineyard Company team in 2021. “To utilize my background providing luxury level hospitality and fine wine experiences to assist the members of To Kalon Vineyard Company, which represents the purest expression of arguably the most historic vineyard site in Napa Valley, felt like the perfect transition”, notes Philip.
Read our Q&A with Philip to learn more about his journey through the worlds of fine wine and hospitality.
Q: Where was your “spark” for the world of wine ignited?
A: It actually began at a small restaurant called Surf House in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. I was looking for a job to pay my way through college and found an opportunity to start as a prep cook.
Q: Starting from the prep line, is it safe to say you garnished incredible experience working your way up?
A: Absolutely, I would come in everyday and not only give my best, but do my best to learn everything I could about the menu, the beverage list, the guests, and the community. By doing that, I was able to work my way up to barback, server, bartender, and eventually Beverage Director.
Q: That’s an incredible journey! Would you say it’s typical?
A: I don’t know that any journey in the realm of hospitality is “typical”, but I’m certainly happy that it’s how my journey began. By working in every role and earning my way to the position of Beverage Director, I understood the needs and responsibilities of every person around me on a personal level. It provided both perspective and respect between myself and my peers, and allowed me to be a more effective leader to this very day.
Q: What was your greatest takeaway from that experience?
A: Everything that my colleagues were able to not only teach, but show me. They taught me the difference between true hospitality and service. When I realized that hospitality was more than just taking an order, but culture, history, kindness, and a collaborative creation of everlasting memories, it became a passion instead of a job and was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
Q: Can you tell me about your transition from the Waldorf Astoria to To Kalon Vineyard Company?
A: Whether it’s continuing education or new opportunities, I’m always looking to expand my abilities and experience within the world of wine and hospitality. I was excited to bring my dynamic skill set to the direct-to-consumer side of the industry. Utilizing my Forbes 5-Star hospitality training and luxury-level fine wine experience to assist the members of To Kalon Vineyard Company alongside General Manager and Master Sommelier Jason Smith and world-renowned winemaker Andy Erickson is both an honor and a privilege that I couldn’t pass up.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to expand their passion in the world of wine?
A: One of the best things you can do immediately is get involved with your local wine community. Whether it’s a wine bar or local wine shop, finding a community that shares your passion will make every instance of the journey that much better. Also, don’t be intimidated. Everyone has to start somewhere, and even the most seasoned veterans within the world of wine once sat in the same position you are in now. Take the leap to turn curiosity into passion and I guarantee you will be happy you did.