It’s probably unsurprising that someone growing up surrounded by wineries would later go into business in the industry, in more ways than one.
Cassandra Schaeg is the owner of SIP Wine & Beer, a tasting room in Escondido highlighting wine and beer made by women and people of color. Now, she’s the co-creator, producer, and host of “Fresh Glass,” a program that premiered this month on KPBS, also featuring the stories of women and Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) in the food and beverage industry.
“Creating a television program around the food and beverage industry broadens the perspectives we see in our communities and shows that women and BIPOC leaders exist in industries traditionally overlooked,” says Schaeg, who grew up in Temecula. “Women and people of color are underrepresented in food and beverage industries. Representation matters and this series is proof and motivation for women and BIPOC individuals to see themselves achieving their dreams.”
With Fresh Glass Productions LLC, the production company she co-founded with Theresa Hoiles, the show is being nationally syndicated in January 2023. It airs at 8:30 p.m. each Thursday through Oct. 20, with the next episode scheduled to feature Timothy Parker, co-founder of Chula Vista Brewery.
Schaeg, 42, lives in Escondido and took some time to talk about her own experiences as a Black woman in the wine and beer business and why contributing to this kind of representation is important to her.
Q: “Fresh Glass” is a show you created with your co-founder, Theresa Hoiles, which premieres on KPBS this week (along with the Fresh Glass Productions LLC you founded together). Tell us about this program.
A: “Fresh Glass” is a deep dive into food, beverage, and entrepreneurship with guests whose backgrounds, personalities and journeys symbolize empowerment, grit and perseverance. “Fresh Glass” brings awareness that women and BIPOC leaders exist in industries traditionally overlooked. Guests embody a unique work ethic, purposeful business practices and proof that the pursuit of the American dream runs through the veins of every citizen, no matter their color or gender. “Fresh Glass” is our first project through Fresh Glass Productions LLC. We created our production company to amplify the voices of women and BIPOC entrepreneurs. Our mission is to be the conduit to representation through storytelling, community engagement and advocacy.
Q: As the founder of your own tasting room, what has your own experience as a Black woman in this industry been like?
A: When I started, I was an anomaly. There were few people I could lean on, so doubting my abilities as an entrepreneur was common. However, events like COVID reveal your grit, perseverance and ability to adapt. That experience is a reminder of my purpose, passion and dedication to believing in myself.
Q: As you think back to the beginning of your own journey in the business, what are some things that would have been helpful to know or understand?
A: It would have been helpful to be firm in my instincts and trust my intuition. People will have opinions, suggestions and thoughts on what you should do with your business. Understand and know your worth, follow your path and trust yourself.
What I love about Escondido…
Escondido is a charming town with endless opportunities. It’s a hidden gem attracting attention for its wine presence, and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s a great city to lay roots, and I am proud to call home.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the people being featured on the program this season and why you wanted to highlight their stories?
A: The first episode features the first Native American woman winemaker and her wife, who is a Spanish winemaker. The only Black brewery in Inglewood is highlighted, and the first Creole women to own a winery in the United States closes out the season. Our guests are trailblazers and rising stars who sacrificed everything to chase their dreams.
Q: Your show material mentions you highlighting “innovators disrupting entrepreneurship by creating their own rules.” What are a couple of examples of this disruption with their own rules? And is there anything you’ve learned from the folks you’ve featured that you can see yourself applying to your own life?
A: Do you, and the rest will follow.
Q: Why is it important to you to amplify the voices and stories of women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color, particularly those in the food and beverage industry?
A: Ask yourself if there is a show that depicts women and BIPOC people in a positive light? Is there a show dedicated to celebrating people who achieved despite the odds? Representation matters and this show embodies adventure, awareness and education around food, beverage and entrepreneurship.
Q: What kind of difference do you think this kind of representation makes?
A: It’s a game changer. It’s a call to action to look at mainstream media and address the blind spots.
Q: What does it mean to you to have this show debut on KPBS, and to also obtain national syndication with PBS?
A: It hasn’t hit me, but it will once I see it on TV! It’s unreal, but I am ready and leaning into the blessing and opportunity.
Q: By the time of publication, the first episode will have aired and I’m guessing there has been some ability for select individuals to see the program? What kind of response/feedback have you received so far about the show?
A: We’ve had a few opportunities to preview the first episode. We did a sneak preview a couple of months back and were met with a standing ovation. We solicited feedback to make sure that we were hitting all the right notes. We took any feedback or suggestions to heart. A couple of nights ago, we had a premiere, and were just blown away by the reception — the joy, the laughter, the sense of adventure. People could really feel the human emotion and, for me, it was really rewarding to feel that.
Q: What do you hope people get from watching the show?
A: My hope is they enjoy the adventure, awareness and the education. This show is multi-layered with necessary discussions around generational wealth, the Black wealth gap and societal roles with women. These topics are heavy, but we were able to shed light on them through our adventures and conversations.
Q: What are a couple of wines you like to recommend, give as gifts, or unwind with when you’re at home? And what is it about these wines that you prefer?
A: I love Champagne and always recommend it as a celebratory gift. “Fresh Glass” also has a commemorative wine and beer created by our first season guests and make great gifts as well.
Q: What are some of your favorite food and drinks spots to frequent in San Diego County, and why?
A: Sunnyside Kitchen (they are my neighbors and have the best breakfast), James Coffee, Shadow Ridge Distillery, Realm of 52, and any of the wineries.
Q: What’s been challenging about your work on “Fresh Glass”?
A: Raising $175,000 for production, and producing and hosting the show while maintaining SIP leaves no time for sleep. It’s been 16 months of long days and sleepless nights.
Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?
A: Being entrusted to share the stories of women and BIPOC trailblazers. I wear this responsibility and thank everyone featured for giving me and Fresh Glass Productions the opportunity to share these historic stories.
Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?
A: I am enough.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Stay true to yourself and remain rooted in your path. When you follow your GPS, you see the world and yourself in its true form. I live by this advice every day.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I was born in Philly! I was raised in California, but my East Coast roots shine.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: Sunday is my day to explore San Diego. You’ll catch me at a local restaurant, winery, brewery, or concert with friends. It’s the one day I leave my phones at home and enjoy myself.
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