David S. Taub, chairman and CEO of wine importer Palm Bay International, passed away Nov. 8 in Long Island, N.Y., following a long battle with kidney disease. He was 72. Taub was not a household name to most Americans, but they knew the wines that he brought to market, from Cavit Pinot Grigio to Planeta to Jean-Luc Colombo.
Palm Bay started operations in 1977 by importing an obscure white wine from Trentino, a region many Americans didn't realize was in Italy. The winery was called Cavit, and Taub's aggressive marketing helped put Pinot Grigio on the map in the United States. Within five years, Palm Bay was importing 500,000 cases of wine annually. By 2009, the company's portfolio represented more than 5 million cases.
Part of Taub's success lay in his strategy—he looked for good producers and gave them the marketing and sales ammunition they needed in the American marketplace. Part of it lay in the team he built. But a large part of Palm Bay was Taub's personality, which he infused the company with. Even in his seventies, he was still brimming with new ideas. When he wanted something, he worked tirelessly to get it, occasionally smothering people with kindness.
As his son, Marc, Palm Bay's president and COO, told Wine Spectator in 2010, "When my dad wants something, he just pushes forward. When people explain why it can't be done, he just doesn't hear them."
David Taub was born into the wine and spirits business. His father, Martin, jumped into the industry three days after Prohibition ended, opening a spirits business in Jersey City. After World War II, Martin started a distributorship in New York because old clients, Ernest and Julio Gallo, needed a partner on the East Coast.
David started his career working at the distributor, but soon realized that his passion lay in wine imports. David enjoyed finding wineries, developing relationships with them and promoting their products. In 1977, Martin founded Palm Bay, putting David in charge. Soave was a big seller at the time, and David felt he could find new Italian wines for the U.S.
In 1977, on a trip to Trento, he formed a partnership with the Cantina Viticoltori del Trentino, Ca'Vit for short, which Taub changed to Cavit on the American label. The Taubs' history in distributing gave Cavit access to most major American markets. And soon enough, Americans fell in love with Pinot Grigio. Italian acreage of the variety doubled between 1990 and 2000. In 1998, Taub formed a valuable partnership with Olive Garden, and today Palm Bay provides multiples wines for the wine program, including the chain's house wines, produced by Cavit.
Taub's son Marc joined him at the helm of Palm Bay in 2005, but David's philosophy continued to spark the company. Today, Italy still dominates the 75-brand portfolio, but the company has diversified in the past decade to add wines from 10 other countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile. For many of Taub's clients, the relationships he believed in building are the chief draw.
Taub was a dedicated philanthropist, actively involved in charitable organizations such as the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the UJA Federation. Recently, the Taub Transplant Research Fund was established at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Taub is survived by his wife, Linda, three sons and six grandchildren.