Lorraine Hems started teaching a course called Wines of the World I part-time at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2001, but did not take a traditional route to becoming a teacher. She grew up in the Rochester, New York area and both of her parents were teachers. They would travel to different parts of the state, especially during the summers. This was the foundation for her on-going exploration for all that this state and the world has to offer. Before graduating with her B.S. in Social Work from Nazareth College, she started working in a small wine and liquor store. She did not drink any alcohol, so she guesses they trusted me to be alone in the store! She got “bit by the wine bug,” started reading, asking questions, and sampling as often as she could. After graduation, she continued in the industry. She’s been a full-time lecturer of many alcoholic beverage courses and has really enjoyed getting students involved in local events, certification programs, and the industry.
Since she did not have a degree in education or wine, she needed to work on obtaining certifications that would show that she was qualified to teach at RIT. She is now a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She’s also a Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators. In addition, she’s served on their Board of Directors and the Executive Board. Presenting on Finger Lakes wines at their conferences around the country has been quite rewarding. She’s started the Diploma through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. She also teaches WSET certification courses, industry training classes, and classes to the public at the New York Kitchen (formally the New York Wine & Culinary Center) in Canandaigua, NY. She offers the WSET certification exams to RIT students and has taught the courses to Constellation Brand employees. She received a degree from RIT too – a Masters Degree in Service Leadership and Innovation in 2012.
After years of judging many amateur and commercial wine competitions, she enrolled in American Wine Society’s Wine Judge Certification Program. After passing, she became an instructor in their program. In 2017, after year of judging their competition, Camp Good Days and Special Times asked her to be the Head Judge of their fundraising Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. She helped start the local chapter of Women for WineSense in 1999. She is still involved with them and received the WWS National Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The New York Wine & Grape Foundation gave her their Consumer Award in 2016 that “recognizes individuals who enthusiastically support New York wines and enjoy wine in moderation as part of a healthy and happy lifestyle.” She became the Head Judge of the New York Wine Classic in 2019 and continues in that role presently. She contributes to radio, print, webinars and social media platforms including being a marketing influencer.
She really enjoys working with the great people in the New York State wine industry, especially since it has become an internationally recognized wine region. Her passport includes stops in Canada, Chile, Australia, Germany, France, Bahamas, Argentina, Croatia, and Italy. She loves trying all kinds of wines and hopes to pass her passion for exploration on to you. Let’s fill up your passports to the world of wines today!