After I left Frederick Wildman, I reached out to friends for guidance, insights and jobs. Some friends were friends of my dad’s, most were those I made along the way in my career. I called a friend of mine, who as am I, is a child of a parent who was in the industry (his dad is one of the most celebrated pioneers of our industry). He and I had a long talk. At the end of our conversation, he asked me if I thought of looking outside of the industry and I said in turn, “would you?” We both laughed and said an emphatic no.
I can think of no other industry where not only does our job center around wine and food, but so does our lives. In fact I can think of no other industry where it is so easy to make friends from all over the world. My mom used to remark, each time I went somewhere for vacation, that she was amazed that I usually said I had a friend there.
I am constantly reminded of how welcoming and friendly the wine and food world is. I just returned from an eye-opening trip to Brazil where I was hosted by Wines of Brazil to visit the wine scene. My invitation came via my good friend Waleska (a Brazilian living in Curacao and Venezuela). I met Waleska when we both worked with Trapiche in our respective countries. In fact I met many people through my working with Trapiche and am friends with many still today — folks from Venezuela, Spain, England, Ireland and of course Argentina. What a collection!
On this trip I was surrounded by other wine professionals from all around the world, and again we all bonded and became instant friends. At the end of the trip each of these new friends from Poland, Brazil, Russia, Ireland, England and Belgium invited me to come visit and I of course extended the same invitation to come to NY. We all bonded over our meals, enjoyed the wines and above all enjoyed meeting each other through the commonality of wine and food. I still laugh at the thoughts of the last evening when the wine flowed — of course we brought back bottles from the fair to share for later. As we are sharing and comparing and laughing, we were being served food that the Russians had brought with them. Yes, some how they packed a smoked chicken in their bags along with chocolate bars, and we feasted on them at our last evening together. Sharing culture, laughs, wine and friendship that’s how we spent our last night in Brazil.
My longest standing wine industry friendship is with Elena, whom I met when we were both teenagers. Our dads, both in the industry, worked together and also became friends. I can vividly remember spending time with Elena and her family in Rome and I still make sure that each time I’m in Rome I visit Campo dei fiori for my pizza bianco at Forno. During the summer, when all Romans flee the city, we went to their ancient house by the sea, where I can still taste the ripe tomatoes we’d have each morning for breakfast with fresh mozzarella. Elena, a fantastic artist who creates amazing installations, and I are still friends and I see her every time I am in Rome.
I would almost never approach a stranger in a restaurant or bar scene in my “civilian life”, but in the wine world I have no problem doing this. First night on the trip to Brazil at the welcome dinner, Waleska and I reached out to the table next to us and immediately we became friends. This crew — the English speaking group, took the party back to the hotel and continued bonding at the bar over what else, more wine — except for me, I had to have my palate cleanser which was a scotch.
Food and wine bring people and cultures together. In this industry we all have a unique bond in that we not only promote this concept to the consumer, but also benefit from it on personal levels. Nothing is more gratifying than sharing a great meal, served with great wines and conversation with friends. The wine world is a special industry for sure. We form lasting friendships based on our love of wine, food and life. Today I can count the countries in which I have “wine” friends, let’s see, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Curacao, Venezuela, Spain, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Poland, Ireland, England, Scotland, Israel, Italy, France, (probably missing a few) and of course the USA. Wine and food are the bonding elements; we live it, we promote it, we share it and friendships evolve from it.