Downtime: Pairing wine and real estate

JustinFerguson6a

Justin Ferguson sipping the wine he was motivated to learn more about from his day job as a commercial real estate broker. (Images courtesy Justin Ferguson)

To Justin Ferguson, the best wine pairing includes a touch of commercial real estate.

The investment sales associate at Marcus & Millichap has found that his day job advising clients on multifamily investment properties blends well with his taste for Bordeaux, Chardonnay and every other variety of red and white wine that he’s become a certified connoisseur of in his spare time.

Ferguson said the combination clicked when his personal interest in and enjoyment of wine carried over into his professional practice of presenting clients with a bottle to celebrate a deal closing.

JustinFerguson3

Ferguson said he often springs for a bottle to celebrate clients’ deal closings.

“It was kind of the thing that most people do: After your closing, you take your client out for a meal, celebrate, you order a nice wine for the table or you get them a bottle just to say thank you for your business,” Ferguson said. “I started saying, ‘Well, I’ll learn more about this.’”

Inspired by the 2012 documentary “Somm” and 2020 film “Uncorked,” the latter about a man pursuing his dream of becoming a master sommelier, Ferguson said he made it a goal to not only become wine-wise but to share that knowledge and introduce others to the wine world.

“That (film) was about a black male in an industry that was underrepresented, like commercial real estate and wine,” he said. “That night, I was like, ‘This is my calling.’

“My culture has truly not been introduced to wine the same way it’s been introduced to other spirits and beer, so I want to change that,” he said. “I think if you like sour beer, there’s a wine for you; if you like any spirits, there’s wine that has similar notes and flavor profiles. It turned into a passion project.”

Ferguson said he immediately booked his first certification exam through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, working his way up before earlier this year achieving the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines, an advanced certification that Ferguson described as the “this guy really knows his wine” test.

He also recently landed a side gig as wine director for The Underground Kitchen, a Richmond-based pop-up dinner group. Ferguson said the role is quenching his thirst to share his wine knowledge while keeping his day job in real estate.

JustinFerguson2

Ferguson leading a wine tasting.

“The Underground Kitchen represents the Underground Railroad. It’s the concept that food is something that brings most cultures, especially the black and brown culture, together,” he said. “We do about four (events) a month, so it’s a good balance so I’m not taking away from my full-time job of being a broker. It allows me to fill my cup of serving wine and educating people about wine with a company that meets my mission as well.”

Originally from Pittsburgh, Ferguson studied architecture at Penn State University and got into real estate after he graduated in 2010, initially working as a loan originator for single-family home mortgages.

After a stint in Birmingham, Alabama, where he got into property management and opened his own management and consulting firm, Ferguson moved to Virginia in 2017 and joined up with Marcus & Millichap, where he’s now a first vice president and represents investment clients in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

After seven years in Richmond, Ferguson said he’s found a smooth balance between his love of wine and his real estate career. Beyond the wine tastings he hosts on his own, last year he held a tasting at the Model Tobacco Lofts that doubled as a marketing event to help lease the apartments.

“Real estate is the career. It lets me live the lifestyle, it lets me meet great people. I do enjoy selling property, I do enjoy affordable housing. I really love what I do here, and wine turned into a hobby-turned-passion,” he said.

Using the Instagram handle “TheBlackSommRVA,” Ferguson acknowledged that the title of “sommelier” can be interpreted differently in different contexts.

“If you go by the definition of sommelier, that’s a wine steward, a person that’s trained and knowledgeable of wine. Usually they’re serving wine in a restaurant or kitchen or they’re serving wine to a guest,” he said.

‘There’s some people who may say, ‘Well, you’re not a sommelier, you’re not on the floor of a restaurant, you’re not working in a restaurant every day.’ I think it depends on where you’re at,” he said.

JustinFerguson1

“There’s so many types of wines. That’s why it’s intimidating,” Ferguson said.

For anyone interested in or intimidated by getting into wine or becoming more of a connoisseur, Ferguson acknowledged it can be intimidating but encouraged getting started a bottle – or two – at a time.

“There’s so many types of wines, there’s so many combinations of wine, and that’s why it’s intimidating,” he said. “You go into a wine store and there’s 1,000 bottles, and labels and terms and colors and flavors. I think when people walk into wine stores, and if they’re not in a store that has an educated staff member, it’s overwhelming.”

Along the way, Ferguson said he’s found his favorite wine: a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

His advice for finding your fave? Go into it blind.

“That’s what I would suggest: Go to the store and find a grape and get more than one bottle of that kind of wine, and then do a blind tasting. Because when you don’t know what you’re drinking, it’s much more educational if someone guides you through it, because you’re not pulling from memory, you’re not pulling from that time at a party you had some wine. It’s just truly understanding the wine in the glass there in the moment.”

This is the latest installment in our Downtime series, which focuses on business people’s pursuits outside of the office. If you, a coworker or someone you know around town has a unique way of passing time off the clock, submit suggestions to [email protected]. For previous installments of Downtime, click here.

JustinFerguson6a

Justin Ferguson sipping the wine he was motivated to learn more about from his day job as a commercial real estate broker. (Images courtesy Justin Ferguson)

To Justin Ferguson, the best wine pairing includes a touch of commercial real estate.

The investment sales associate at Marcus & Millichap has found that his day job advising clients on multifamily investment properties blends well with his taste for Bordeaux, Chardonnay and every other variety of red and white wine that he’s become a certified connoisseur of in his spare time.

Ferguson said the combination clicked when his personal interest in and enjoyment of wine carried over into his professional practice of presenting clients with a bottle to celebrate a deal closing.

JustinFerguson3

Ferguson said he often springs for a bottle to celebrate clients’ deal closings.

“It was kind of the thing that most people do: After your closing, you take your client out for a meal, celebrate, you order a nice wine for the table or you get them a bottle just to say thank you for your business,” Ferguson said. “I started saying, ‘Well, I’ll learn more about this.’”

Inspired by the 2012 documentary “Somm” and 2020 film “Uncorked,” the latter about a man pursuing his dream of becoming a master sommelier, Ferguson said he made it a goal to not only become wine-wise but to share that knowledge and introduce others to the wine world.

“That (film) was about a black male in an industry that was underrepresented, like commercial real estate and wine,” he said. “That night, I was like, ‘This is my calling.’

“My culture has truly not been introduced to wine the same way it’s been introduced to other spirits and beer, so I want to change that,” he said. “I think if you like sour beer, there’s a wine for you; if you like any spirits, there’s wine that has similar notes and flavor profiles. It turned into a passion project.”

Ferguson said he immediately booked his first certification exam through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, working his way up before earlier this year achieving the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines, an advanced certification that Ferguson described as the “this guy really knows his wine” test.

He also recently landed a side gig as wine director for The Underground Kitchen, a Richmond-based pop-up dinner group. Ferguson said the role is quenching his thirst to share his wine knowledge while keeping his day job in real estate.

JustinFerguson2

Ferguson leading a wine tasting.

“The Underground Kitchen represents the Underground Railroad. It’s the concept that food is something that brings most cultures, especially the black and brown culture, together,” he said. “We do about four (events) a month, so it’s a good balance so I’m not taking away from my full-time job of being a broker. It allows me to fill my cup of serving wine and educating people about wine with a company that meets my mission as well.”

Originally from Pittsburgh, Ferguson studied architecture at Penn State University and got into real estate after he graduated in 2010, initially working as a loan originator for single-family home mortgages.

After a stint in Birmingham, Alabama, where he got into property management and opened his own management and consulting firm, Ferguson moved to Virginia in 2017 and joined up with Marcus & Millichap, where he’s now a first vice president and represents investment clients in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

After seven years in Richmond, Ferguson said he’s found a smooth balance between his love of wine and his real estate career. Beyond the wine tastings he hosts on his own, last year he held a tasting at the Model Tobacco Lofts that doubled as a marketing event to help lease the apartments.

“Real estate is the career. It lets me live the lifestyle, it lets me meet great people. I do enjoy selling property, I do enjoy affordable housing. I really love what I do here, and wine turned into a hobby-turned-passion,” he said.

Using the Instagram handle “TheBlackSommRVA,” Ferguson acknowledged that the title of “sommelier” can be interpreted differently in different contexts.

“If you go by the definition of sommelier, that’s a wine steward, a person that’s trained and knowledgeable of wine. Usually they’re serving wine in a restaurant or kitchen or they’re serving wine to a guest,” he said.

‘There’s some people who may say, ‘Well, you’re not a sommelier, you’re not on the floor of a restaurant, you’re not working in a restaurant every day.’ I think it depends on where you’re at,” he said.

JustinFerguson1

“There’s so many types of wines. That’s why it’s intimidating,” Ferguson said.

For anyone interested in or intimidated by getting into wine or becoming more of a connoisseur, Ferguson acknowledged it can be intimidating but encouraged getting started a bottle – or two – at a time.

“There’s so many types of wines, there’s so many combinations of wine, and that’s why it’s intimidating,” he said. “You go into a wine store and there’s 1,000 bottles, and labels and terms and colors and flavors. I think when people walk into wine stores, and if they’re not in a store that has an educated staff member, it’s overwhelming.”

Along the way, Ferguson said he’s found his favorite wine: a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

His advice for finding your fave? Go into it blind.

“That’s what I would suggest: Go to the store and find a grape and get more than one bottle of that kind of wine, and then do a blind tasting. Because when you don’t know what you’re drinking, it’s much more educational if someone guides you through it, because you’re not pulling from memory, you’re not pulling from that time at a party you had some wine. It’s just truly understanding the wine in the glass there in the moment.”

This is the latest installment in our Downtime series, which focuses on business people’s pursuits outside of the office. If you, a coworker or someone you know around town has a unique way of passing time off the clock, submit suggestions to [email protected]. For previous installments of Downtime, click here.

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Jon Wheeler
Jon Wheeler
1 month ago

Great story of “blending” business & wines. Being in real estate myself, I know all too well the celebration of closings over a nice meal and a good bottle of wine. Following your dreams, passions & hobbies with the common denominator of business and real estate couldn’t “taste” better. Well done Justin.

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 month ago

Great story! I love wine and real estate, so it resonates.

justin ferguson
justin ferguson
1 month ago

Thanks for celebrating my story!

Robert Jones
Robert Jones
1 month ago

Justin is fine human and a welcome part of the RVA wine scene !