When you spend nearly two decades “doing retail” in one location you observe, sometimes wistfully, the playing-out of a lot of human stories. From the sales floor at 641 Main Street we’ve watched customers’ kids grow up and move away, occasionally revisiting our mezzanine for a glass of wine with their folks. We’ve waved goodbye to retirees heading south or north or east of here, and some other lucky wine provider now handles their needs. Couples with whom we’ve shared great times have dissolved and our culture is adjusted once again. Some of our best friends have lost significant others during our watch, and - more happily - we’ve seen them discover new friendships. That this retail wine place has been more than that makes this TWS thing personal; it keeps ME engaged.
But can the product we provide be so inspiring? If only a wine’s intrigue survived as long as those human relationships! In our nearly-twenty years we’ve seen more wine names and crazes rise from nowhere then just as quickly dissipate to “so yesterday” than we can actually remember. Our connections with many brands too quickly cease to be for one reason or another and we wonder, “Can’t wine ever transcend trend?” Actually, it can - and more often than not PEOPLE are the reason why.
I remember Kent Sheldon and I long ago staring at an inventory we didn’t fully fathom – especially the foreign stuff. This was about two years into our wine shop adventure: An original staff member possessed of more wine savvy than we two combined had filled our shelves with exotically-labeled (and -priced) bottles before moving on to another wine job. California Cabernets flew off our shelves with Kent and I aptly representing these, but I’ll bet neither of us knew what a “Chablis” was. - A grape variety? A place? A sweet wine for old ladies? Yep, we were screwed.
Enter Daniel Madero, and I can’t for the life of me remember if we had the unusual wisdom to summon the guy, or if he was lost and wandering in by pure accident. What’s important is what he brought: Our first primer on French wine and a Bay Area importer’s excellent provision thereof. I do remember a breakthrough bottle of Savary ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Chablis, a drink Kent and I found delicious before we knew what it was. Once wine rep Daniel related its tale of source and maker we liked it even better. And then the lesson happened with tasty Cotes du Rhone. And mystical Cote Rotie. And electrifying Sancerre. Our wine world expanded at an accelerated rate thanks to Daniel’s guidance and a little open-mindedness of our own.
Predictably, Kent and I discovered Kermit Lynch wasn’t the only act in town. Other importers, some actually inspired by Kermit’s story (get a copy of his “Adventures on the Wine Route”), also had good foreign things to show. Business with our original “French Connection” ebbed and flowed based on these delicious distractions, but it never dissolved. Time after time, while Kent remained and after he too moved on, The Wine Steward remembered the importance of the Kermit Lynch portfolio AND the power of its name. Over the years many of you friends have become Kermit Lynch loyalists, inspiring us to nurture the relationship with tasting events at our WineBar or in classroom settings, or even in my own backyard. This wine campaign endures and resonates. Even as I write, six longtime Wine Steward patrons are in France, visiting Rhone Valley wineries represented by Kermit Lynch!
But even as this now-iconic importer has performed such a great service to our palates during his decades of wine-finding, the real surprise is Daniel Madero’s endurance as Kermit’s advocate. This rarely happens: After all these years, it’s still Daniel visiting us with his bagful of Kermit Lynch wines. It’s Daniel I’m visiting at the Kermit Lynch headquarters in Berkeley. It’s Daniel remembering many of YOUR names when visiting for a wine show. Like the relationships we’ve enjoyed with so many of you over the years, The Wine Steward is better for a more-than-just-business friendship with this guy.
Here’s to Daniel, life, and good wine . . . the way they all necessarily change yet – sometimes - endure in their provision of pleasure!