Starting out, my first wine mentor was my boss Tim. We sometimes had to travel to see clients, and he introduced me to the miniature wine bottles offered on the plane, as well as enjoying wine with dinner. He also liked to go to the wine stores in the towns we visited, seeking out rare finds that were not available at home or were just priced lower because the shop owners didn’t know any better.
Next, living in San Antonio in the mid-80s, my wife and I made the acquaintance of a private wine broker who introduced us to the wines he was importing from Europe. I regret that I cannot recall his name.
Moving back to California in the late-80s, we spent a lot of time traveling the coast. And approximately mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the town of Cambria, we met Calvin Wilkes, who probably had the greatest influence on me of anybody in terms of my enthusiasm for wine.
Calvin ran a combination wine shop and tasting bar in Cambria, and I received the benefit of his knowledge, both in terms of local wines and wines from around the world. For a short time, he also had a small restaurant in the shop, which local winery employees would frequent.
Bringing in bottles from their wineries and sharing them just enhanced our own experience. We visited him often, until he moved to Pacific Grove, where he and his wife Michele run Fifi’s Cafe Bistro. We like to visit him there as well, and he professes to remember me from the old days. I recommend you stop in if you are in the area. Tell him “hello” from me.
We met DiMaggio Washington in the 90s, when he ran Select Wines. I think this was the first combo wine store and tasting bar in Santa Clarita. His Zinfandel tastings were a big influence on my ultimate focus on this grape, and the blind tastings were fun but challenging. It was only later, after reading more about DiMaggio, that I realized how patient he was with us newbies and how deep his own expertise goes. I haven’t seen him in a long time — I hope to rectify that soon.
Gary R., who has tried diligently but unsuccessfully [albeit expensively] to get me interested in older Bordeaux style wines.
Victor Herstein at All Corked Up. who seems to have a palate similar to mine and has shown me the pleasure of mixing wine and rock and roll.
And, last but not least, Eve Bushman, who has allowed me in a small way to feel a part of this incredible industry.
To all of my mentors, past, present, and future, I raise my glass and say “thank you”.