Cristina Milostan enjoys good vintage, but not the kind you might find at a clothing store.
Milostan has a passion for not only learning about wine, but for sharing that knowledge with others. She’s made a career helping people try new things and find wines with their favorite flavors, while also teaching them how to do it for themselves. She said she enjoys the memories people can make while sharing wine.
“I’m educating people about wine but I see the joy it gives them to socialize,” she said.
Milostan, 36, moved to Manhattan around 10 years ago. She now works as an instructor of wine in the hospitality management department at K-State and as the lead sommelier at Harry’s. A sommelier guides a restaurant’s wine selection.
She’s also assisted with events in the area to educate people about wine. Despite it being such a big part of her life now, Milostan didn’t always consider making wine her career.
“I never knew it could be an occupation,” she said.
Milostan, a native of Australia, studied biomedical science before getting into the hospitality field. She met her husband, Joe, while studying abroad in Spain, and when his job brought them to Manhattan, it was time for a career change.
Working in the restaurant industry felt natural to her because much of her family had. Her parents moved from Portugal to Australia when her father, a chef, got a job in a restaurant. Other members of her family still operate restaurants in Lisbon, Portugal.
She realized that developing her knowledge of wine could help her find work and she eventually started studying, including with master sommeliers, to get certified as a sommelier herself.
She’s now had the opportunity to pass on that mentorship to others. Milostan teaches Introduction to Wines and Advanced Wines courses at K-State. Students must be 21 or older to take the classes.
The most important message she tries to send her students, customers or others who might ask for advice is that it’s important to experiment. Simply trying different types of wine is the best way to find what you like, she said.
She also emphasizes that your tastes might change over time.
“At first it might be Cupcake Moscato and then it’s something weird that comes out of a conch shell,” Milostan said.
Developing your palate with wine starts with trying to identify flavors you already like, Milostan said. It can take time before you can pick up on subtleties in different types.
“When I first started, all I could taste was grapes,” she said.
She also tries to remind people that taste is subjective, and different people might pick up different flavors even when drinking the same wine.
“Somebody might pick up grapefruit and somebody else might pick up pineapple from the same wine,” she said.
One place to start is with flavors you already know you like. Milostan often asks people what fruits they like, or if they prefer sweeter or more bitter flavors.
Sometimes Milostan takes fruits, vegetables and spices to her classes to help her students identify some of the scents they might find in a wine.
“It makes you appreciate your senses,” she said.
Michael Ottenbacher, professor and department head in hospitality management at K-State, said Milostan is passionate about her work, and he said he thinks students pick up on that.
“The students realize if someone is burning for a topic, and she translates this into her teaching,” Ottenbacher said.
Milostan has helped with events like the Flint Hills Festival and the new World of Wines series at K-State as another way to share that knowledge.
“I love when people have no idea about wine and teaching them,” she said.
When she’s not teaching, Milostan said she drinks different wines depending on the situation. She might drink one if she’s with her husband and another with a friend.
She said she often drinks Sauvignon Blanc if she’s with her sister, and she loves drinking Portuguese wines with traditional dishes if she’s visiting family in Portugal.
If she could pick a final meal, she said she would probably have fried chicken and Champagne.
Milostan said she thinks many people choose their favorite wine because of nostalgia. They might associate a wine with a person or a time in their life.
Milostan said people laugh when she tells them she has a weakness for Shiraz, one of the major wines made in her native Australia, from a box. But it makes makes her feel nostalgic about drinking Shiraz from a box with friends when she was younger.
“If there’s Shiraz in a box, I’m probably going to have a little,” she said. “It brings positive memories.”