10 Minutes With LaFleur Senior Strategist Dale Engelbert
Dale Engelbert got her start in the wine industry as a wine-growing expert before she transitioned into healthcare marketing, where she worked in marketing communications and product development. From there, she made a connection with Chip LaFleur and joined the LaFleur team in 2019 as our senior strategist.
Dale’s diverse range of experiences, which include working as a graphic designer and publishing a cookbook in addition to her marketing and wine-industry experience, inform her work as a senior strategist. She brings tireless energy to the LaFleur team as well as an enthusiasm for managing complex, challenging marketing initiatives and constantly improving the strategic elements of campaigns.
Dale lives in North Carolina, where she enjoys surfing, paddleboarding, and taking in live music with her boyfriend, Ed. Dale also has two children: Lauren, who works as a regional director for a cloud banking company, and Kurt, a professional musician.
LaFleur: So, I have to ask about this because I think it’s fascinating — I’ve heard that you’re a sommelier. Is that right?
Dale Engelbert: I have a certification that’s similar to what would be a sommelier. I have something called WSET Level 3, which is Wine & Spirit Education Trust, level 3. A sommelier will train to understand how to serve a wine to people, and what I learned is more about growing the grapes — proper terroir and those sorts of things. So it’s a similar base knowledge, but I’m more trained to work in a winery rather than serve customers wine.
LF: So how did that come about in your life?
DE: I guess early on, in my late teens, I took an interest in wine. It all started with planning a dinner party in college and deciding we were going to cook this giant meal and pair each course with wine.
My uncle is also a wine expert, and later on, I started traveling with him and working for his company. I did the marketing and web design for his site, so it was all that coupled together with traveling the world on wine tours, which made me even more excited about it. So I decided to get certified because I thought I was going to work in the wine industry out in California.
LF: So, I feel like maybe 15 years ago, most people wouldn’t even have known that wine expert was a profession, but now that we live in the Food Network era, I think many people would see that as, like, a rock star job, and they would wonder why you would quit something like that to work in marketing.
DE: It just didn’t pay enough to sustain a living out there. It basically paid minimum wage, and California is so expensive. I think people do that kind of thing once they’ve retired and can afford to do it for fun, unless you’re just wealthy and you can just go buy a winery and do it. So I ended up working in healthcare to make a living.
LF: Were you a little disillusioned after you went through all that training and built up this whole career, only to realize you couldn’t make a living that way?
DE: I think I was a little disappointed, yeah. I truly thought it had to just pay a living wage at least, and that would have been fine. But this was not even a living wage. And I’m not at the point in my life where I want to have a few roommates sharing a house and all that. So I just thought, “Oh well. I’ll just keep doing it for fun.” Which is what I do, and I have a good time doing that. I have an interest in food in general and it complements that well. I even wrote a cookbook back in the day.
LF: Really. What’s the name of your cookbook?
DE: It’s called Sacred Spaces: Princeton Parties, Gatherings, and Celebrations.
LF: And how did that come about? It sounds like it came from a very specific vision, based on the title.
DE: It started out as a friend of mine wanted to write a cookbook and she didn’t want to do it by herself, so she called me because I had graphic design skills. She knew I also cooked and was into wine and things, and she said, “What do you think? Let’s meet.”
So we met and discussed it, and this book became more a book about the town that we lived in, which was Princeton, New Jersey, because she was going to be moving away. And we just wrote about our experiences there, and we met certain people there who were artists, so we decided to focus on the importance of how they entertain and the space we used.
And this all started to come together around the same time as 9/11 happened, and, unfortunately, we had friends who passed in that. So it just took on this sort of deeper meaning, that in the advent of this horrible thing, how do you still get together and share meals and memories? And we met some really cool people along the way.
LF: I bet. So, at LaFleur, you’re a senior strategist. What does that mean? What does your day look like?
DE: Well, a lot of it is what it sounds like: planning and organizing the overall marketing strategy for a client. So, it’s just trying to look at the campaigns on a large-scale level. So, if we do an event, what are all the pieces that have to come together to make that happen and get the most bang for the buck? It’s truly client-focused work, and it’s always about improving strategies and campaigns.
LF: And what do you like about this kind of strategic work? What about it speaks to you?
DE: I think because it’s always a new challenge — you finish one project or piece and there’s another one coming up right away, and you have to think about something new. I also like seeing things through from beginning to end and being able to walk away with a sense of accomplishment. And I also like the writing piece, and I still do plenty of that.
LF: OK, I’m worried this is a bad question for a true wine expert, but do you have a favorite wine varietal? Something you come back to or always find new dimensions?
DE: That’s hard. A lot of it depends on where you are, what you’re in the mood for, the time of year, the weather…
LF: I know. I wanted to ask because I don’t know much about wine, but it’s kind of an elementary-level question. Like, you don’t ask a music expert, “What’s your favorite band?” I don’t know enough about wine to ask a better question, though.
DE: I guess I’d say I do love the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France if I had to really focus in on a favorite area, and I think it’s partially because of the memories and the experiences I had there. That was one of my very first formal experiences traveling somewhere abroad for a wine excursion and was totally immersed in it, so I think that’s why it was super special.
That, and the wines are just fantastic. And who doesn’t like bubbles? Who doesn’t love Champagne?
LF: If they’re out there, I don’t want to meet them.