IkaVina Wine and Spirits, LLC: How this came to pass

The Evolution/My Evolution

One could say that I would one day be involved in wine and spirits because my father used to put bourbon, scotch or whiskey on his finger and let me suck on it as an infant. In college, I had an affinity for microbrews and imported beers, and by that I am not talking Heineken. After college, I got more into imported and specialty beers [long before the whole American craft brew movement started] but it was at a wine tasting fundraiser where I was moved by both a Madeira and a Chenin Blanc. I will admit that for awhile I used to rock Sutter Home Chenin Blanc and their Moscato, but I also used to love Allegro Moscato. One girlfriend used to bring me Swedish fish and a six pack of beer and sometimes a bottle of Chardonnay.

Slowly, I started to move from being a novice wine drinker to really starting to get to know wines, not just the sweet stuff that are consumed in mass quantities by some US drinkers.

Along the way of tasting and drinking a number of wines from the Old World and the New World, I came up with the question of how to drink wines for free, and the next step was to build a website and start reviewing wines. And while doing this as well as still attending wine tastings on a weekly basis, I came to get to know people in the trade; importers, distributors, winemakers, label owners, sales reps, bartenders, restaurateurs, etc. Of course, some of them brush you off at first, but when they start seeing you consistently and other people say you're cool, it starts to open doors.

The next step was to put together some smaller tastings to expose some of the people I know/knew to different wines that were out there and easily found but that they might walk by. I started by holding one at Manayunk Brewery with a bevy of great wines from Nationwide Wine and Spirits. Following this, I did a couple over at Mantra, which was owned by goomba Chef Al Paris. From this, I realized that a television show would be a great vehicle featuring him with the food and me with the wine. This resulted in a couple of tapings at Mission Grille in Philadelphia and a couple of dinners upstairs at the Manayunk Brewery. In all of this, we got welcome assistance from restaurant owners, managers, other chefs and waiters who all came in and helped us out. And the television show ideas are still there and ready. (You can see pics by going here)

Between the first event at Mission Grille and also pouring for Quady Winery up at the New York Chocolate Show, it became obvious that marketing wine was something that was natural to me. As a result of the first tasting at the Mission Grille, another label owner approached me and wanted me to showcase his wines the way that I presented the first wines, which were from Vici Wine and Spirits (much love and thanks to Mike Gonzalez). This company was the Friday Monkey Wine Group and they had some seven or so labels in their portfolio, and my contact was Sid Patel. Sid and I became cool and I wound up putting him and Neri Wines together for a wine deal. That was when the light bulb went off. Between what I learned from Sid and what I learned at that meeting, I realized what it would take for me to start my own label.

This is only part of it, as the other part relates to not only what I see as the lack of marketing to certain audiences/potential markets, but the common practice of marketing them junk if they are marketed to at all. While much of the US wine drinking market really don't know much about wine(s), outside of those that drink sweet or hammer wines (those wines which you just consume in quantity to get blotted), there is a huge swath of folks who just follow what some marketing person has said or what some assumed expert has written. Malbec from South America; Sauvignon Blanc from Australia and New Zealand; Pinotage from South Africa. There is a lot more and it's usually a trend that will ultimately peter off in a few years anyway. That Italian Pinot Grigio that is so heavily rated and overpriced is actually total garbage and that Chardonnay from California that is the number one seller is really nastier than cat piss with cinnamon added! Yes, I said it.

I could easily choose to work for a wine and spirits company, but I wouldn't have my creative freedom in coming up with my own campaigns as they would still have to be signed off by bosses and the product owners, and I would have to occasionally sell stuff that I wouldn't drink at all. I do feel sorry when I see folks having to put a smiley face behind something that they consider crap and I never want to be that person or be in that position.

So here I am, seeing the opportunity to not only present quality product but also to present it to a demographic which is either largely ignored or not treated seriously. I laugh myself when I got to tastings and some schlub offers me some Moscato to taste because they have looked at me and erroneuously assumed that I must like that. If you're going to drink moscato, try the wines from Quady Winery.