VinTura Tasting Room and Wine Rack
14 S. California St.

Everyone comes to wine a little differently. For some it’s a magical wine shared with friends, for others it’s because they had an amazing experience in a wine country setting, and then there’s Kristen Shubert’s experience.

Kristen Shubert, sommelier and owner of Vintura Tasting Room and Wine Rack

Shubert, owner of VinTura Tasting Room and Wine Rack in downtown, grew up in Olathe, Kansas, just 30 minutes southwest of Kansas City, and was the manager on duty at a fine dining place when a guest ordered a $3,000 bottle of Lafite-Rothschild. 

“I brought the wine out to serve, but was shaking so badly because of the price, that the bottle was shaking during decanting. The gentleman commented to me, ‘No one is going to die, it’s just wine.’ ” The guy was actor Joe Pesci, best known for the film Goodfellas. “I never wanted to be unable to discuss or serve wine to a guest again, so I learned all I could as fast as I could.” 

Shubert therefore built her career in the food and beverage world, eventually securing jobs in Las Vegas, including managing the fine dining restaurants Lawry’s, Smith & Wollensky, Eiffel Tower and becoming food and beverage director at the Sands/Venetian complex from 2004 to 2009. While working in fine dining, Shubert was responsible for writing several of Las Vegas’ best wine lists, no small feat considering the fierce competition there. But competition is something she welcomes. Shubert is a certified sommelier, and was a member of the U.S. Wine Tasting Team, who placed third in the world at the international competition in Provence, France, in 2016. She first came to Ventura for a jet-ski race while competing on the national tour. The area caught her attention for its hometown feel and accessibility to the ocean and she eventually moved here in 2012. In March of this year she opened VinTura Tasting Room and currently she presides over 52 types of wine served by the taste, glass, flight or bottle. So are there any challenges being a female-owned tasting bar?

“I have great sommelier credentials and am a member of the Guild of Master Sommeliers,” she says. “I have confidence in myself, so it never occurred to me what difference it would make to anyone if I was male or female.” And it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone who visits either. “People are responsive to a happy and smiling face who is passionate and knowledgeable about wine. I have had very positive responses from both men and women and I practice a ‘no-judgment zone,’ so I don’t believe in wine-snobbery or wine intimidation.”

Though some might think there are differences in how men and women taste and perceive wine, “palates are not gender-specific in my experience,” she says. What is specific is the thrill she gets when people make a connection. “I love seeing that aha moment where people are excited about a new region or new wine I have introduced them to while they are visiting my shop. I created a game called Wine Wars and we have several of those aha moments each day. It is very rewarding when someone tells me they are now in love with a Chinon, or an Albariño, or a wine way out of their comfort zone.”

Get out of your own comfort zone and visit Shubert and her staff. They offer live music Thursday through Sunday, and various specialized wine tastings.