A Winemaker dinner I performed about 25 years ago was held at the Embassy suites in Orange County. I should have been suspicious of the lack of preparation that went into this dinner but the manager, and our Southern sales representative both seemed confident that it was all on course, advertised and set to go. I flew in to John Wayne that afternoon on Southwest from Oakland, grabbed a cab to the hotel arriving about an hour and a half early.
I checked in, cleaned up and headed to the bar for a cocktail before dinner. The bar had one other person so I started a conversation. The gentleman was a computer chip salesman. When he found out I was the winemaker for Louis M Martini he exclaimed “Wow, it took me two bottles of your Merlot to get my wife to say she would marry me”. I decided he needed to join us for dinner and asked him, to which he quickly agreed.
When I showed up early at the restaurant the room was set for about 35 people. I had been paired with Codorniu Sparkling wine which was being represented by the winery’s US ambassador, Barry (it has been too long to remember his last name). There was one couple at a two top table and our Southern representative. When you add in the salesman from the bar it came to a grand total of six. Nobody else showed up. I thought what the heck I will probably never see any of these people again so let’s make a party of it. We pulled one big table together and did just that. Had a great time. End of story? No!
We all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. About two years later I walked into a restaurant in LA to have dinner with Robert Balzer who was the LA Times wine writer. The maître d’ greeted me with a big smile and questioned if I remembered him. I have met too many people at wine dinners in my life to remember them all. Of course I couldn’t remember him so he told me he was with his wife at the dinner I did at the Embassy Suites two years previous. He explained that because of that dinner he changed his career path and started studying to be a Sommelier.
A month later I was working the Denver market and was taken in to meet the new head of Western Davis’s wine division (our wholesaler) and there sat Barry, in his new position. We laughed when we saw each other and I was pleased our brand got special treatment for many years after that.
I don’t know what happened to the computer chip salesman but hopefully he is still married. The joy of this industry is that wine is its own best ambassador. Never underestimate that small gatherings can make an impact in your life or your business.