What’s your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?
I’m the Wine Club Director and Customer Service Manager. I have been with K&L for a little over a year.
What did you do before you started working here?
I began my wine career in 1989 as a 16-year-old bagger at a grocery store called Falletti’s in San Francisco. By the age of 23 I was running the wine section for the store and had moved to help at other various store locations. From there I went onto manage Coit Liquors in North Beach, the Wine Club Santa Clara and, finally, the Wine Club San Francisco until I accepted the position here.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My spare time is spent either watching sports(SF Giants, 49ers, Warriors), going to the gym or going trying out the many new and great restaurants in SF.
What’s your favorite movie?
That’s a tough one, I think it needs to be broken down by genre. Star Wars (the original) would be my Sci-Fi choice because it represents my childhood and has withstood the test of time. Tommy Boy as a comedy because I can watch it everyone time it is on and still laugh and then in the drama category either the Fugitive or Shawshank Redemption because they are so well made.
What was your “epiphany wine”—the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine? Is there a current wine that you consider the equivalent?
I think the first two wines that truly sparked the thought that this was something beyond just fermented grape juice were 1994 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon and 1970 Mouton Rothschild, both wines were sublime. Lately a few wines that have really resonated with me have been a 1929 Montrose, which was super cool because of how old it was and how amazingly it showed there was still ample life—the wine was delicious! Another standout I had recently was the 1990 Krug; I love champagne and this bottling was outstanding.
Describe your perfect meal (at a restaurant or prepared at home). What wine(s) would you pair with it?
My perfect meal would be at home with my family because both my mother and her boyfriend are great cooks, the latter having run several restaurants. The meal would start off with his potato leek soup, which I would pair with a nice Vouvray or Champagne and then we would have a fish course of poached salmon or ceviche followed by beef Wellington with potatoes and vegetables that I would pair with either an aged Bordeaux or nice bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For dessert it would be crème brulee or a fruit crisp/tart paired with a nice Sauternes or dessert wine from Alois Kracher.
How do you think your palate’s changed over the years?
I think my palate has changed and evolved in much the same ways as it has for most people in the wine business. I started out drinking big California wines that were high-octane— losts of oak, sugar, alcohol and flavor—that tended to be great as a first glass but quickly lost their appeal as I got to the second glass. Plus, these wines don’t seem to pair well with food. Now I drink mostly French wines, whether from Champagne, Alsace, Rhône or Burgundy. I sprinkle in some German, Italian, Spanish and a few choice American wines that still resonate with me.
What do you like to drink?
I love wine but don’t drink it as frequently as you might think. As a single guy, most of my meals consist of a burrito on the run, not exactly wine-friendly dining, so I only drink wine about once every two weeks when I go out to a nice dinner. Luckily for me I am more curious than thirsty, so getting to taste wines everyday is part of what I love about my job. I look for balance, complexity, purity and a wine that is both true to its place of origin and year. I want a wine to taste different vintage to vintage and producer to producer, because if wine doesn’t have these variations we might as well drink Coca-Cola for mindless consistency.
What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?
If you decide to get into the wine business realize that you will never be able to retire at a young age, however our work (travel, dinners and drinking great wines) is what many people aspire to do when not working.
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?
I would choose Theodore Roosevelt, the most underrated United States president in our history and a man who was far ahead of his times in both environmental and economic ideas. Joe Montana the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL, he oversaw the greatness of the 49ers when I was a teenager and, last, my maternal grandfather who died when I was two. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about him I would love to have a chance to get to know him over a nice dinner. I think I would serve a nice bottle of vintage Champagne to start, maybe the 1990 Krug and follow it up with a 1989 Pichon-Baron (one of my favorite Bordeaux of all-time) and finish up with a vintage Port, possibly the 1963 Croft, which I was lucky enough to taste when I was in Portugal on a trip in 2007.