Two sommeliers and a gym owner walk into a recording studio ... There's no punchline, they are the actual voices behind the locally produced podcast, "Through The Grapevine".
While the true origins of the show were a little more complex, the organic chemistry between hosts Jeremy Troupe-Masi, Savannah Vento-Chun and Matt Souza certainly gives listeners the sense that it was that simple.
The trio is regularly joined by chefs, farmers, winemakers, community leaders and small business owners based in the Tri-Valley and the greater Bay Area for in-depth conversations about all things hospitality and entrepreneurship.
They spotlight the movers and shakers of the region while helping to bridge the gap between the historic wine country and the newer, bustling downtown business community. "In a lot of ways hospitality touches so many different businesses, it doesn't have to exist in just food and beverage," Vento-Chun said, noting that small business in particular relies heavily on building relationships with consumers.
"When you are a small business you care about the community around you. It's what separates you from a big corporate entity, is that you genuinely give back to your community and you care about it," she said.
First launched in 2019, the podcast has featured several guests well-known to the Livermore community including Aimee and Bryan Wingen of Wingen Bakery, Phil Long of Longevity Wines, Karl Wente of Wente Vineyards, Aurora Nava of Flaca's Salsa and more recently, AJ Wright of AJ's Bike Service, among many others.
Troupe-Masi -- who is also the director of hospitality for Darcie Kent Vineyards and creator of the JTM In The Kitchen line of spice blends -- is one of the founders of the podcast and the only one of the current hosts who has been involved since the very beginning.
A Livermore resident, sommelier and hospitality professional, Troupe-Masi told the Weekly the show started out largely focused on the Livermore Valley wine industry and aimed to expand the region's reach and establish a stronger identity as a destination for wine enthusiasts of all types.
In the early days, Collin Cranor, winemaker and owner of Nottingham Cellars, was a founding host of the show along with Troupe-Masi and former Nottingham brand manager Jason Montero.
It was the first podcast venture for all three of them, according to Troupe-Masi, but they felt passionate about telling the stories of the Livermore Valley through this medium.
"Generally as a region of makers, we have a lot of brilliant and amazing craftsmen and women," Troupe-Masi said. "We are one of the few regions that still produce things and relative to not getting our spotlight -- the Napas of the world and particularly wine country and hospitality-centric destinations -- what builds those are the stories they tell and we didn't feel like anyone was telling our stories."
While the hosts have rotated over the years, storytelling has remained at the heart of the show's mission. But once Souza -- who owns CrossFit Livermore -- came on board, the conversations evolved from mostly food and wine culture to small business overall.
"If I'm being honest, I was super hesitant about it because I just didn't know how it was going to play out. But it's worked out really, really well in my opinion and we've had some great conversations and it's really gotten us closer to where I think we want to be anyway," Vento-Chun said of the show's progression.
The show has both audio and video components and is recorded at Livermore-based video production agency Advance Creative. The visual element of the show was introduced in an effort to increase accessibility. Vento-Chun said a friend of hers who is deaf brought the idea to her attention which has helped the show grow even more.
With the support of Advance Creative, the three hosts have found their rhythm and despite the previous turnover, Troupe-Masi said he feels like Souza and Vento-Chun are "here to stay".
Producing a successful podcast doesn't come without its fair share of challenges.
Troupe-Masi and Vento-Chun agreed that one of the biggest obstacles they face is scheduling -- and not just guests to be interviewed but actually making time within their individual schedules to record while juggling regular jobs, families and other obligations.
"This is something that we're taking the time out for because we really believe in and we're really passionate about it because I think the messaging and what we're trying to accomplish here is very important to all three of us," Vento-Chun said.
Troupe-Masi also reflected on the challenge of remaining consistent with the podcast during the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to Vento-Chun and Souza joining the team.
"I never wanted to stop the podcast because I never wanted to stop the habit," he said. "Whether it was a 16-episode season or just recording the podcast, it was important that I stayed doing it so I forced myself to make time and quite frankly, during the pandemic there was a lot of time."
Another element of time involved editing the podcast, which Troupe-Masi did himself for the first few seasons. He said it would take him around three to four hours a week to get it ready for distribution. Since connecting with the production company, he's been able to hand over those responsibilities to their team.
"Without Advance Creative, there's a good chance the podcast would have died just because of how time-consuming it is," Troupe-Masi said, noting that he's glad he learned the editing process but he's happy to no longer have it as a task on his plate.
Souza is the only Livermore native among the trio, with Vento-Chun originally hailing from Patterson and Troupe-Masi from Fremont. However, the two transplants have planted roots in Livermore with their respective spouses in recent years and have made numerous local connections largely through their work in hospitality and wine.
"I truly can't imagine any other place in the Bay Area where we would be this happy," Troupe-Masi said of himself and his wife.
"Through The Grapevine" recently kicked off its sixth season and the hosts celebrated the show's growth and success with their first-ever live event last month.
The event sold out, with more than 120 people gathering at Almost Famous Wine Lounge in Livermore to network and mingle. The mixer brought together listeners and business leaders -- many of whom have been guests on the podcast -- for an evening of entertainment, connection and of course wine.
Vento-Chun and Troupe-Masi said they see themselves hosting more of these in-person experiences in the future, including recording a podcast episode with a live audience.
Other goals for the show include securing sponsorships and monetizing the podcast as well as growing the brand into a larger media entity. While Souza is already his own boss, Troupe-Masi and Vento-Chun both said they hope to eventually reach a place where they can also work for themselves.
In the meantime, they plan to keep recording. "If we win, if the podcast wins, then we all win because we are the sum of our parts," Troupe-Masi said of the community.
"Through The Grapevine" is available on all major platforms including Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Google Podcasts and Amazon, among others.