Posted by Adam Lee
I’ve been in the wine business, in one position or another, for 19 years now. I’ve worked in wine retail, in wine wholesale, selling wine in a restaurant, in tasting rooms, as a wine writer and now as a winery owner and winemaker. In some of these positions, I was very successful; in others, definitively less so, and in some, my level of success is perhaps still open to judgment. But there is no doubt which position I look at and remember the most fondly, and that is my time selling wine retail.
Now some of you might be surprised at that remark and comment that it is sad that what I am doing now isn’t what I hold dearest. Please don’t get me wrong: I love what Dianna and I are doing at Siduri and Novy, and it is undoubtedly the most deeply satisfying job I have ever held. In fact, it isn’t even my job so much as it is my career and my calling. But it is also full of challenges and stresses. I respond pretty well to these, I think (ask Dianna or the other folks who work at the winery and you may get a different answer), but they do weigh on you sometimes.
Contrast that with my time working in wine retail in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was hired as assistant manager at the third Austin Wine & Spirits location by Sam Kindred, owner of the stores—largely because I had been going to wine-tasting events that he organized, and I always showed up early and helped the terminally late Sam pull things together before the other tasters showed up. For someone who was indecisively floundering on what to do after college, the job was Eden. We tasted the world of wines – comparing 1985 and 1986 first growths, drinking the 1985 Burgundy wines imported by Bobby Kacher, popping bottles of the new super Tuscans to see what they were all about. We assembled an amazing team of employees, folks like Dave, Chuck, Rick and Eric, who were equally passionate about wine.
Together, we sold a boatload of wine, becoming Austin’s preeminent fine-wine store, all in a time of economic uncertainty and savings-and-loan failures. We sold this wine to a remarkable group of customers who bought the wine, not to try and flip it, but because they wanted to drink it. Oh, and did we help them drink it! My head still hurts when remembering the “Bring Your Own Magnum Party” at my apartment where every bottle had to be a magnum or larger and we cooked (not without incident) tequila-marinated steaks. We slept on each other’s couches when we indulged too much or, more famously, when a girlfriend kicked one of us out. We became a family rather than just coworkers.
|The Austin Wine & Spirits team reunion: from left to right, Rick, Chuck, Adam, Dave and John.|
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