CAREER PATHS: Spirits move young wine connoisseur to embrace her dream in the face of heartache


Life’s journey isn’t always easy or fair but it is often rewarding. Alyson Benoit, a 21-year-old Rockland woman and recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, has had more than  her share of it all this year.

On May 25, Benoit enjoyed one of her greatest achievement when she received her degree from FIT with a major in Advertising and Marketing and a minor in Economics, Cum Laude. Benoit wasn’t looking for a chance to relax just because she completed her degree. She was already halfway through a 10-week intensive Sommelier Program at the International Culinary Center in Soho.

She wrapped up that endeavor on June 22 and then went through two grueling days of Sommelier Certification exams, receiving her certification and thus joining the Court of Master Sommeliers at the tender age of 21. She kept pushing herself further, completing Levels 1 and 2 of the Wine and Spirit Trust (WSET) at the International Wine Center in Manhattan.

For the future, the Albertus Magnus grad wants to make wine more “millennial-friendly” by gaining a television presence, blog and a wine bar. “I’d like to bring pop-up fashion to the suburbs as well as wine classes and tastings,” she said.

Life did not bring only victories for Alyson in 2017, however. In the midst of the most productive period of her life thus far, she was forced to deal with a sudden tragedy that would shake her insides and break her heart.

“I lost someone that I loved to the current drug epidemic,” Benoit lamented. “It feels like a war that unfortunately we are not winning.” It was her sweetheart, Michael “Mugsy” McGuiness Jr., who perished at only 21-years-old on May 29 due to demons he had vowed to slay. Before he could defeat them he lost his life and now Benoit vows to use the tragedy as motivation to help others.

The loss of Mugsy shook Benoit, but she chose to persevere and continue to chase her dream.

After completing her sommeliers certification and the WSET, she now hopes to complete in the Wine and Beverage Graduate Certificate Program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif. We expect to hear more good things from Benoit in the years to come. Stay tuned.

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