I was born and raised in Harvard, Illinois, a land of Manhattans, Pabst beer and Friday-night fish fries — wine was unknown. However, during a college semester spent studying in Europe I discovered wine and fine food, and there was no going back.
After graduating from Illinois State University, I worked as a photojournalist and food and wine writer for four years before my passion for food and wine overwhelmed my sense of reality and I entered the wine business.
In 1980, I joined Sam Leavitt as a partner in Direct Import Wine Company which grew to be recognized as offering the most elite portfolio of estate wines in the Chicago market. In the early 80’s we began importing the Italian selection of Neil and Maria Empson and the French wines of Rebecca Wasserman and Christopher Cannan. These people influenced me deeply and the many, many hours I spent with them in the vineyards shaped and developed my palate. I will be ever grateful to them for this extraordinary education.
In 1996 our company was devoured by Paterno Imports (who later fed it to Southern Wine and Spirits), but I remained at Direct as president until 1999. In a fit of sanity, prompted by an outburst of ethics, I left the corporate world of the Terlato Wine Group to return to the area of the wine industry that fueled my passion for wines to begin with: small estates making distinctive wines with a personality reflecting the vision of the people that created them.
Following a brief crash-and-burn as an importer, I spent several wonderful years in Italy, writing and doing a total immersion experience in Italian winemaking. This led to my creating VinoCibo.com to share these experiences and engage in an exchange of ideas with other like-minded “terroirists”. Now that I am back in the USA that project has been replaced by The Wine Camp Blog as I wanted my focus to go beyond the wines of Italy. During those years I was also a site manager and host of the Italian and Wine Forums on eGullet.org.
After three years working with Oregon pinot noir and guiding the former Chateau Benoit into its new incarnation as Anne Amie Vineyards I have moved south and taken up residence in the heart of the American wine industry, the Napa Valley. Today I am general manager of Cornerstone Cellars where I have the privilege of working with some of America’s most dynamic winemakers: our winemaker Jeff Keene and our consulting enologist Peter Fanus. So my winemaking odyssey continues starting with nebbiolo, then pinot noir and now cabernet sauvignon.