Life at Breakthru

An Unmatched Passion for Fine Wine: Breakthru’s Aya Nomoto

Aya Nomoto header

Sep. 3, 2021

By Kyle Trompeter, Content and Corporate Communications Manager, Breakthru Beverage Group

When we launched our ASPECT Fine Wine strategy in early 2021, we set out to build a best-in-class team of seasoned wine professionals that would be well-prepared to provide concierge-style service for businesses looking to make the most of the growing fine wine trend. 

One of the standout ASPECT associates is Aya Nomoto, an industry veteran whose comprehensive list of wine and sake certifications is almost as impressive and inspiring as her infectious passion for wine. 

“I can’t imagine my life without wine,” said Nomoto, Account Development Manager, ASPECT Fine Wine, Breakthru Beverage Nevada. “Wine has offered me a way to experience so much culture and travel. Wine has allowed me to broaden my knowledge of the world and grow as a person. At the same time, through wine, I’ve found my closest friends and a career. I truly am who I am today because of wine.”

Her first foray into the world of wine was in Chicago when she worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant with a 20-course tasting menu. The vast variety of luxury varietals paired with the exquisite fare opened her eyes to all the amazing possibilities of wine. 

Nomoto joined Breakthru in 2011 as a Portfolio Manager, and from there has mastered a variety of different roles in sales, logging time as a Business Development Manager, Regional Business Development Manager, and Fine Wine Sales Consultant before being elevated to her current post. Now, she oversees the sales and education of 50 fine wine suppliers and 200 wine-focused businesses in Nevada and manages ASPECT specialists in Northern and Southern Nevada. 

We were thrilled to spend some time with Nomoto to learn more about her expansive skill set and get her take on the growing fine wine trend. 

Aya Nomoto tasting

What types of wine certifications have you earned? Describe the process, if possible. 
Aya Nomoto: I’ve worked very hard for the numerous beverage certifications I have earned, and they’re a source of pride for me. I have the Level 2 Award in Spirits, Level 3 Awards in Wine and Sake, and I am a Certified Educator of Sake, all with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. I also served as an instructor for the WSET in Sake for Breakthru, providing training for our associates throughout the network. 

Additionally, I am also an Advanced Sake Specialist with the Sake Education Council, a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators, a Certified Beer Server with the Cicerone Program, an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, an International Kikizakeshi (Sake Sommelier) with the Sake Service Institute, and a Certified Sherry Educator with Consejo de Regulador de los vinos de Jerez Sherry. I recently started working toward the WSET Diploma in wine and I am pursuing the Master Sommelier Diploma with the Court of Master Sommeliers. 

What excites you most about our business and our industry? 
Right now, consumers are more educated and interested in fine wine than ever before, which increases the interest in quality wines. So, as someone passionate about fine wine, it’s exciting to be able to work with products that are easy to get behind, and our ASPECT portfolio is well positioned to address this trend.

What is your current assessment of today’s fine wine space?
After the recession, the 2010’s saw restaurants downsize their lists, with many having no sommeliers. Consumers were trending towards affordability when shopping for wine. The most recent trend prior to the pandemic was toward luxury fine dining, like supper clubs, and returning to large lists with sommeliers on staff. As we move toward this recovery, the trend of going big appears to be holding. At the same time, we’re seeing an increase in restaurants based around specific regional cuisines, and I’m repeatedly tasked with sourcing specific region wines to meet the needs of those businesses.

Aya Nomoto Fine Wine Breakthru Beverage

How do you see fine wine evolving in the coming years? 
Wine clubs have been growing in popularity, and a lot of these clubs are fine wine focused. I think it is a natural fit. Lately, I’m seeing our fine wine retail customers establishing their own clubs very successfully. The club provides consistent sales, which then opens new opportunities for us to serve them, especially in the fine wine segment. It’s a great model and I really see this as an important part of retail sales going forward.

How do you best serve our fine wine customers?
By offering a level of expertise and customer service that supports the customer in achieving their goals. Our ASPECT division possesses the expertise that allows us to impart a deeper understanding of our products, providing them the relevant information the customer can successfully put into action. We make ourselves available as a resource, and we work to understand each customer’s particular situation to identify and anticipate their needs.

How do you balance being an expert in fine wine and drive sales? 
The two go hand in hand. My expertise is in service of driving sales by using my unique insight to assess the account and identify opportunities. I can effectively identify holes in the list, or I can help structure the list. I can make the most appropriate substitutions for out-of-stock items, or perhaps suggest replacements from our portfolio that better fit the account. I’m able to advise on the latest trends as well. Essentially, my expertise allows me to offer the most appropriate suggestions and solutions to the customer’s needs, and that translates into sales.

Aya Nomoto pouring sake

You have extensive sake experience. How has that experience helped you in your fine wine role? 
Sake is such an important part of my wine career. Beyond being its own category, I believe sake is an extension of fine wine, and my familiarity with sake broadens my overall wine expertise. Sake is arguably even more versatile with food pairing than wine, and I can bring those opportunities to my fine wine customers. 

You are passionate about music. How has music influenced your view on wine?
I love music and initially pursued it as a career, having earned a Masters in Music Composition. I see parallels between music and wine. Like music, winemaking is a combination of creativity and technique. Each aspect can be appreciated on its own, but it’s ultimately how they work together. With both music and wine, part of the enjoyment comes from discovering the subtitles, and with both, the deeper you go the more of those subtitles you discover.