For those of us lucky enough to live here, SLO County’s wine country speaks for itself (you can even stop by the SLO Chamber Visitor Center to check it out). For everyone else, there’s Heather Muran and Jennifer Porter.
The two women promote the area’s wine regions—Muran as executive director for the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association, and Porter in the same role for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance—spreading the word about SLO’s world-class wines, welcoming hospitality and enviable lifestyle.
Both coincidentally have entertainment in their background: Muran was involved with theater and the performing arts growing up, and Porter’s previous marketing gigs include Sony and Comedy Central. And both are delighted to have landed in the world of wine marketing—as they both would say, a pretty awesome job.
The pair recently took some time out from planning harvest festivals to answer our questions about favorite varietals, wrangling winemakers and dream dinners and destinations. Cheers!
Let’s start with an easy one: Red or white?
Muran: Red, white, sparkling and rosé! I enjoy so many varieties, it is very hard to narrow it down to one. For whites, I love albariño and chardonnay. Reds—it’s got to be pinot noir. It’s a variety you can taste throughout the world and is so different from region to region. I also enjoy cool-climate Rhônes such as grenache and syrah.
Porter: Wow, that’s not so easy! I love variety. In addition to food pairing, I tend to pair wine with weather – red with winter and white/rosé in summer. However, if absolutely forced to pick, I’d probably go for a lovely grenache.
What super power would you like to have?
Muran: I think being a mom is a super power within itself! It’s both the most challenging and rewarding experience, but it’s the agility to be able to balance it all. If I had a superpower, it would be to make time slow down, as it all goes by so quickly!
Porter: Now that’s easy. Since I was a kid I always wanted to be invisible, but commuting from Shell Beach to Paso Robles, a pair of ruby slippers would be a nice accessory.
Promoting wine country seems like a fun job — what’s the hardest part?
Muran: That’s the question I get asked the most. People think it’s a glamorous job, but really it’s a lot of heavy lifting, both physically and mentally. The hardest part I’ve found this year is balancing multiple projects and maintaining good communication with members while staying nimble to move onto new opportunities as they arise. I love the challenge, and I learn something new everyday. SLO Wine Country is really gaining momentum, which is very exciting and rewarding.
Porter: I’ve always managed to have glamorous-sounding jobs, but trust me, they’ve also been a lot of hard work. The biggest challenge comes with representing nearly 500 businesses. I take members’ investment in the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance very seriously and truly want to make them all happy and help their businesses, which is no easy goal.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Muran: I grew up loving the theater and performing arts and was involved in commercial work as a kid. I always wanted to perform for a living but knew after many years in the profession that I would need an education if I didn’t get that big “break.” I didn’t have funding for college, so I worked my way through community college, then worked three jobs to attend San Diego State and earn a BA in journalism. Having a performing arts and communication background has definitely helped in the work I do today.
Porter: Oddly enough, when I was a kid I wanted to be Speaker of the House – talk about an impossible job making everyone happy!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Muran: Awesome! Everything is awesome! 🙂 I grew up in the ’80s and it never rubbed off.
Porter: Probably best to ask my staff, but all I can think of is “awesome.”
Who would you invite to a fantasy wine country dinner party?
Muran: My family and lots of friends with wines from all over the world!
Porter: I love girl power, so I think it would be a blast to host Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dame Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, Reese Witherspoon. I’m sure there are others that I can’t think of! The better question is: Who’s cooking?
What’s your dream wine destination (other than your own of course)?
Muran: I’ve always wanted to go to Burgundy, France. My husband traveled for work there earlier this year. There’s a connection with the people and the land that is very intimate, and it is also very beautiful with so much history. I belong to a small tasting group and we’ve been studying Italian growing regions this year, so I’d also love to travel to Trentino-Alto Adige and Tuscany someday.
Porter: I’m lucky to have visited many wine regions across the globe (Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Champagne, Napa, Sonoma, Long Island, Willamette from what I can remember). I’d say Piedmont, Italy, would be top of my list for great wine, food and scenery.