|Me during my first visit to Carlo Hauner - |
Island of Salina, 1987- A kinder, gentler volcano
Memories have recently been rekindled, one as a result of having that conversation with the young wine salesperson, who is the same age I was when I started in the business. The other, as a result of the recent tragic events in Dallas, which have all of us here stunned and saddened beyond words.
As it turned out, I wasn’t suited for an urban lifestyle of that magnitude. New York in 1975 wasn’t nearly as fabulous (or expensive) as it is now. Nonetheless, I went back to California, tail between my legs, and set upon finding my path.
Six years later, I’m living in Dallas, a single father in need of a job where I could work during the day. I’d had years of working in the restaurant business - server, sommelier, wine bar manager - but I needed to get away from the nocturnal lifestyle as the parent of a four year old.
A salesman from the wholesale distribution channel suggested I try working for his company. I knew nothing about wholesale distribution, other than that’s where the wine came from that I bought for the wine bar I managed and restaurants I worked in. It seemed like a safe harbor, especially as my son was nearing school age, and it promised a more normal lifestyle in which to raise a child as a single dad. In those days, there were few of us.
|My first end-cap - Illuminati wines - Simon David, Dallas, 1985|
I had little understanding of the mechanism of the three-tier system. All I knew was I had a stable job, weekends off, more time with my son, flexible hours, health care and I had wines like Heitz, Gaja, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Schramsberg and Travaglini to sell. Dallas was booming with oil, even though there was still the shadow of the 1963 Kennedy assassination lingering over our town.
But also, something wonderful was set in motion, as a direct result of being in the wine business. After having been in love with photography since 1965, and dreaming of someday getting my photos to a larger audience, it's happened, thanks to Eric and the NY Times.
I recall a moment before I went to New York in 1975 when a mentor told me, “You’ll never make it in the photography world; you don’t have the grit, the hutzpah.” In a way, he was right, but isn’t it funny how the wine business opened up the world of photography to this late bloomer? It’s a bit ironic, but I’ll take it.
Over the years I have worked with large, medium and small-sized distributors. I’ve fought the good fight as a small and struggling distributor more than once. Four times, to be exact. I know their pain, I empathize and sympathize.
|Dana Overton and James Gunter - Pogo's, Dallas 1990|
And yes, I’ve worked (and do work) with large companies. There is nothing inherently malicious about large. There are people who work in both large and small companies whose intentions aren’t as pure as snow. But never have I looked into the face of evil during any meeting I have been in. There are good practices and there are shoddy ones.
|Andrea Ferretti, cantiniere of Fattoria dei Barbi and yours truly, Montalcino 1984|
I’m not in the position my 30 year old salesperson is, where her life is laid out ahead of her. But I’m also not dead, yet. And I’m not done. Looking in the rear view mirror won’t be my primary activity. Yeah, I’m doing it now, but if you think I’m frozen in time, you’d be wrong.
Wine always keeps us in the present moment, as it is always coming at us with new vintages, unknown grapes, unusual blends or types. No time to look back, only marching forward to a new O-N-D and a new day.
And now that my son is grown up and on his own, I have my nights for the other love, photography. And (with a bit of luck) more assignments, with the ensuing challenges in the darkroom, in the post-production room and behind the lens of the camera.
|Proud camera-slinging papa with grown up son|
written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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