It all began in early 1975, but it seems like yesterday. I was a newcomer, not just in this town, but to the world of wine when I started working for this small and luxurious restaurant that just opened, next to a bigger and older establishment next door which shared a cellar with more than a million bottles of wine. My English was not nearly enough to get me around, and my French maybe just as bad for me to mix with “the rulers” in the wine business, French descendants, or at least French speaking sommeliers. So, how did it happen?
That little bit of French that I knew was certainly quite enough to read and memorize those wine labels. An enormous inventory of almost a thousand different wines, many of those wines being French, was my “induction” into the world of wine. By middle of 1976 I became a sommelier. Yes. In less than three months I quit my job as a busboy in the new place, to be the wine runner at the next-door humongous old restaurant, the well-known “The Forge”.
Gene Gasser, the head Sommelier, would be my new boss. I made instant friends with this cranky French who enjoyed my company so much that, not only he allowed me to sit down with him and eat together, but he shared his wine with me, a little Spanish wine called Marqués de Riscal. He had it with his dinner almost every day. Soon that innocent ritual became the norm. How important to me was this Marques de Riscal is something that I still wonder, but I must admit that somehow that modest wine marked the beginning of a long career, one full of excitement, achievements and recognition. No doubt of that as of today.