So come birthday time, it’s a little difficult (at first) to decided what to get as a gift. There is literally no more room for objects or clothes.
One evening a few nights ago, she came home from a party she had been to, helping our friends at Canelé with a catering job. She remarked that the hosts had some awkward wine paired with the lamb, but one astute guest brought a bottle of Williams Selyem Pinot Noir. She went on about how much she liked it, and I was a bit jealous to have not tasted it.
Then I decided that we would start a new tradition. On our birthdays we will buy one another a nice bottle of wine that we will not drink until subsequent birthdays. It seems like a good way to build our collection and have something more to look forward to on birthdays.
Now if I could just figure out where we are going to keep this….
In my early 20′s wine meant whatever was on sale (and in a jug) at Food4Less. But in 1993 there was a shift; in broad strokes my interest and love in drinking and collecting wine follows the jobs I’ve had and the places I’ve lived. Beginning with Postrio and Restaurant Lulu in beautiful, cosmopolitan San Francisco during the dot com boom. I then moved to Los Angeles and became the assistant to Manfred Krankl, who with partner’s Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel, owned Campanile and La Brea Bakery. Manfred is also the proprietor of the then new wine label Sine Qua Non, a wine which has since become incredibly successful and sought after. By this time I was hooked and was given the chance to run my own wine program. I became general manger and wine buyer at Les Deux Cafés in Hollywood. After three years at this hot spot, I moved to Yountville in beautiful Napa Valley where I worked a year at Robert Mondavi Winery and spent nine years enjoying the wine, restaurants, and people of this gorgeous place.
Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio was my first restaurant job, and it was a great place to start. The restaurant was elegant and bustling and had a winelist that could intimidate even the well versed. For a novice like me it was a a big book of exotic names and flavors that I wanted to try. And I was lucky enough to do so; bartenders and the wine buyer gave me a sip whenever something was opened or leftover by a customer. My love of wine and fine dining had begun. One of our regular customers at Postrio, Sally Jordan, invited the staff to her winery for a tasting and dinner. The deal was sealed: I was overcome by the beauty of Napa Valley and the wines our generous host served us.
Later I went to work at Restaurant Lulu, a hip place that had just opened in the industrial SOMA neighborhood. The list here was much different than Postrio’s, less fussy and expensive, with a wide range of lesser known growers from Spain, Italy, and South America. More names to pronounce and sips to savor. I no longer shopped at Food4Less for wine and began ordering it by the glass at restaurants with growing confidence.
In 1995 I got the best wine job I’ve ever had: assistant to Manfred Krankl, managing partner of Campanile and La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. Campanile’s winelist was renowned, complicated, and exciting. Each morning at 7 a.m. I would meet Manfred at the restaurant and we would go straight to the chilly cellar to take inventory, rearrange the stock, and rewrite the list. Manfred would challenge me to read the labels out loud and often speak about the winemaker or the particular characteristics of the wine. The more interest I expressed, the more he included me in this aspect of the job. I would sit in on wine tastings (and there were a lot of them–by this time Wine Spectator had acknowledged the list as one of the best in the country and wine reps were scrambling to be on it) and occasionally he would have me sub for him when he was busy. It was exhilarating and challenging.
Simultaneously, Manfred was also developing his own wine label: Sine Qua Non. Those who follow wine and it’s superstars will know that this has been an incredibly successful and lauded venture. As Manfred’s assistant I was involved in the early development of the branding and bottling of it’s first vintages, which were done at Alban Vineyards. This was a completely transforming period in my wine education, to be at a winery, hand corking bottles, tasting from tanks, walking through the vineyards
Luckily for me, I was also in charge of the database for SQN’s mailing list, so I promptly added myself to it. I have since received nearly every wine Manfred and his wife Elaine have released. It also marked the beginning of my interest in collecting wine. I now have a strong and eclectic cellar of 1,500+ bottles.
Through my restaurant connections, I was recommended for the job as wine buyer and general manager to Michele Lamy, a fashion icon who was opening a new restaurant in Hollywood called Les Deux Cafés. Michele gave me a generous budget to create a French heavy winelist of my choosing. The restaurant was a runaway success. Following the ways of my mentor, I began each day in the cellar, restocking, taking inventory and rewriting the list. Wine reps were now clamoring at the Cafés’ doors for appointments to get on the list.
After three fun and hectic years at Les Deux I moved to Napa Valley. Although I was new to the rather cliquish place, I didn’t have many concerns about getting a restaurant job–let’s face it, my resume looked good. But I also realized the blank spot in my credentials was working for an actual winery. I applied at the iconic Robert Mondavi and became an executive assistant to one of the very large corporation’s VP’s. It was a completely new phase of my wine education. The corporate atmosphere was not as exciting as the restaurant one I was accustomed to. Although I admire Mondavi (both the man and the business), I stayed at the position only a year.
My stint in the corporate world didn’t last long, but I did spend nearly nine years in the valley, owning a home in what I believe to be its sweetest town: Yountville. This is the home to the Thomas Keller empire, Bistro Jeanty (both of whom were neighbors), and Domaine Chandon. With old connections and easily made new ones I enjoyed many friendships, bottles of wine, and incredible meals all of which are the essence of this beautiful place.
Back in Los Angeles, I am revisiting my love of wine; brushing up on my knowledge and enjoying it daily with my co-founder/partner of the design firm Somewhere Something.
I was a professional skateboarder throughout my 20′s. My drink of choice in those years was whatever would get me and whomever was with me the most drunk for the least amount of money. Skateboarding allowed me to travel the world; I am pretty sure that when I was in Bordeaux I drank an American beer, not knowing or caring about the wine that was surrounding me.
As I got older (and perceived myself as very wordly) I began drinking wine. I pretended to know exactly what I was talking about when ordering and drinking. It was easy to fool my friends at that time, as most of their favorite varietal was Bud Light.
Now an architect in my 30′s, I don’t have quite the pretense I had in my 20′s. I have drunk some good wines, but I realize I know almost nothing about the grapes, regions, wine-making processes, or the wines I am drinking. But I want to. It has become almost an obsession.
When not drinking and reading about wine, I am a co-founder/partner of the design firm Somewhere Something, recently completing the design/build of The Gorbals, the first restaurant for Top Chef winner Ilan Hall.
Follow us as we chronicle the beginning of his education in wine, guided by his teacher/girlfriend. Her posts and insights speak more to those who already have some history with wine, while his punctuate the frustrations (and delights!) of those beginning to wade in the very deep waters that are the wine world.
[This post was copied ad nauseam from our About Us page to introduce ourselves. Hello, nice to meet you.]