We highlight Coly Den Haan, owner of Vinovore, next as part of our Women’s History Month profile series.
Coly is one of Los Angeles’ first female sommeliers, owner of female-focused wine shop Vinovore, and vintner of the eponymous wine label. She is also a third-generation restaurateur and has the hospitality business in her blood.
Raised in Santa Barbara, her first after school job at the age of fourteen was as a busgirl. After moving to Los Angeles, she quickly accumulated experience in a myriad of capacities at Fred Segal’s famous Mauro’s Café, Farfalla on La Brea, and Barney Greengrass on the roof of Barney’s New York in Beverly Hills. She became a certified Sommelier with AIS & NASA specializing in Italian wines in 2008 and a certified beer specialist, in 2009.
Coly opened The Must in DTLA in 2008 to rave reviews and an enthusiastic welcome from the neighborhood. Coly, along with her business partners, went on to open Perch, which also received glowing feedback and quickly became a downtown institution. Like The Must, Perch earned several write-ups and awards, and required no operating capital whatsoever from day one. In 2017, Coly opened Silver Lake’s female-driven wine shop, Vinovore, which carries exclusively female winemakers across the globe. In the following years, she launched her eponymous wine label.
Read our Q&A with Coly, below!
Bar Business (BB): Tell our readers more about Vinovore.
Coly Den Haan (CDH): When the thought to open a wine shop with only female winemakers popped into my mind, I did some research immediately on whether the concept already existed. When from as far as I could tell it did not, I saw it as both a positive and a negative. It was a little sad to realize this had not been done, but on the flip side, it was exciting to do something first and it be something I felt so passionate about – supporting women in business. Vinovore is a Silverlake wine shop and online store specializing in naturally made wine exclusively from women winemakers and owners.
BB: What led you to launch Vinovore?
CDH: At the time, I had just gotten out from ten years of owning and operating bars and restaurants. I was really burnt out on the kitchen and bar side of things, but I still had a deep love for wine. Retail really seemed like an obvious transition for me. I wanted to open something that took my past experiences and condensed it into an awesome, fun, and approachable wine shop.
BB: What do you love most about the hospitality industry?
CDH: I love to see people happy. This isn’t as totally selfless as it sounds. I love knowing that something I’ve done, an environment I’ve created, a wine I’ve carefully chosen, or some cool bit of knowledge I’ve dropped has brought someone at least a small joy.
BB: What has been your biggest challenge?
CDH: Myself, probably like most people! I tend to think I can do it all and life has not always proven so. I have a million ideas a day and even though I may think they’re the best ideas ever, life has also proven that that is not always so. I’ve learned to check myself and also surround myself with people I trust to check me too. I’ve learned to also try and weigh out all of my options before diving in, but diving is still always my first instinct!
BB: Have you observed any recent trends in wine/wine-making?
CDH: I feel like the Natural wine movement with its funky, skin contact oranges and its fizzy and murky pet-nats is still very much trending. There is also a really interesting style of wines being made not entirely from grapes or sometimes not made from grapes at all! Wine can actually be made from many different fruits and botanicals. The flower wines are something I really am getting excited about, maybe to even make my own!
BB: Do you have any advice for other women in the hospitality industry?
CDH: The hospitality industry is male dominated from the bottom to the top. It’s not that I’m complaining or using this as an excuse for lack of opportunity, it’s just the facts. The fact is it can be a challenge. Business and hospitality in general are hard enough on their own, but always being outnumbered in the metaphorical room can be tiring. Do your best to accept these facts then forget them! Always treat yourself as an equal even if others do not. Stay your course, rise above the crap, and you will rise to the top of wherever you want to be.