- Wine Lover
- Small Business Owner
- & Chief Bottle Washer
CHAPTER 4 is as about my journey with wine as much as it is about life itself.
Like anyone reading my story I experience evolution, maybe even revolution. We learn, we develop, we extend ourselves, we evolve.
In the beginning, fresh out of university, I travelled abroad for a period. Living for a time in Bordeaux, Frankfurt, and ultimately a spell in Stockholm. At each juncture, to the best my income could accommodate, the hedonistic pleasures of adult beverages played their part in my young adulthood. Upon returning to California I was fortunate to realize a career in the wine industry, in some capacity, was possibly a rewarding one. The travel, the tasting experience, the people, the stories behind every label were immensely intoxicating to me. Now with some 25 years experience behind me I look back at these moments as CHAPTERS in my life.
CHAPTER 1: Learning
In the mid-1990s I started my career as an Assistant Manager at Cost Plus World Market as a wine buyer for their newly opened West Los Angeles store and again at Woodland Hills.
My formative years of accelerated wine study came when I accepted a Senior Salesman role at The Wine House in West LA. Mastery of a 17,000 sq.ft. sales floor with over 8000+ wine skus was how one cut their teeth back in the day. We tasted 5-6 days a week, purchased wine from all the major and minor distributors - we were one of the largest accounts in all of California, by far the largest wine market in the U.S. I was their youngest hire in a Senior position at age 27, my mentors in the business were among the most accomplished in the business: wine mavens like Nate Chroman, Steve Wallace (Wally’s), Roy Kavin (Greenblatt’s Deli), Dave Breitstein (Duke of Burbon), The Hanson Family (Hi-Times), and mentors such as Dan Fredman, Jamie Koren, Mike Greene, Jim Knight and legendary duo of Mark Estrin and Chip Hammack were among those who helped me learn this business. That latter group helped many of LA’s soon-to-be most experienced wine professionals launch their career - The Tasting Group That Launched the L.A. Wine Scene. My capabilities eventually rose to the level of managing the store’s old & rare consignment business.
CHAPTER 2: Refining
In 2001 I accepted the Lead Specialist’s role at Christie’s, Beverly Hills. Back then Christie’s had a 50+ staff supporting multiple sales categories in Beverly Hills. Wine was one of four major sale categories back then. I often say it is at Christie’s where I learned how to be a true professional in the wine business. My second day on the job was at the home of Paul Anka in Beverly Hills and learning at the feet of an auction legend, Fritz Hatton. I was running a team of four back then and the job sometimes required long hours - it took twice the volume of wine then to generate the same $$ as auctions by the end of that decade. We held four auctions per year as well as helped to fill eight sales per year held in New York. My travels in search of great wine took me from the Holmby Hills to Berkeley Hills, from Houston to Chicago and eventually to the cool chalk cellars outside of London and the sticky humidity of Kowloon. Over this time I worked with some of the largest buyers and sellers of wine on the planet.
CHAPTER 3: Application
By 2009, living in New York has Head of Sales for Christie’s when an opportunity to learn the burgeoning online wine trade at Benchmark Wine Group in Napa, California came across my desk. I came on board as their first Vice President. My charge was to help grow sales and revamp their acquisitions model. I spent the better part of a year researching the potential to launch their online auction division. Over my tenure our team achieve its longest growth period to that time. My wine acquisitions helped increase sales by 66 percent over my 17 months there and helped the team achieve five straight quarterly bonuses, a record. Benchmark was a period of exponential maturation for me and I was extremely proud to help spur that growth for them.
Christie’s came calling...
In 2010 the Hong Kong wine market was on fire and Christie’s asked if I would return to the team. I was offered the opportunity to run their new Hong Kong Wine Department. I was in the middle of a $2M deal for Benchmark and I didn’t want to let the team down...after some soul searching I politely passed on the offer. But that wasn’t the last I would hear from them, 6 months later Christie’s inquired about my interest again...but this time they offered me my old office in Beverly Hills. I accepted and helped them to launch their first ever online wine auctions called Signature Cellars.
Over my years at Christie’s I participated in many landmark auctions: the original California Only Auctions, The Extraordinary Private Cellar of Doris Duke, The Quintessential Modern Cellar, the first Los Angeles Evening Sale, the first (2003) & second (2011) Historic Chateau Latour ex-cellars auctions and Grand Crus Part II: The Collection of Christen Sveaas. I was proud to be part of the team that invented The Evening Sale concept (100 lots/$1 million+) that was copied by all our competitors and set many US and World Records and I helped launch the online strategy that remains as a model for high quality, high value online auctions.
I’ve had great fortune to advise some of the most famous clients in fine wine (Nicole Kidman, Nicolas Cage, Paul Anka, Henry Kravis, Tom Siebel) and some of the most prolific (Aubrey McClendon, Baron Hans von Staff-Reitzenstein, Christen Sveaas). My long career spans the most notorious (Rudy Kurniawan, Mark Anderson, Elliott Broidy and others) and I studied at the homes of some legendary collectors, consumers and winery owners. (Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, Nancy Reagan, Jerrold Perenchio, Hewitt Crane, Fritz Hatton, Joan Kroc, George Caloyannidis). Each of these experiences and legendary collections have been the basis of a long and storied career.
I’ve arrived at the next evolution.
It’s time to take the leap and do for myself and our investors what I have long provided for my clients and employers. The time has come to turn the page and start…
CHAPTER 4: Becoming An Owner
Chap4, LLC | Fine + Rare Supply
Chap4, LLC | Wine Asset Advisory
Help me to write the next chapter…
I hope to meet you and get to learn of your interests soon.