The 17th Reason I Like Being a Wine Importer -- You Meet Lot's of Famous People!Just this past Saturday, for instance, I was conducting a tasting at The Wine Connection, a fine store in Pound Ridge, NY. Who should walk in but Nino Magliocco! That's right, Nino Magliocco, the owner of Peerless Wines & Liquors, one of the largest wine and liquor wholesalers in New York!
Who is Peerless, you ask? And why should I be impressed by Joe Dressner meeting Nino Magliocco, Peerless' owner?
Peerless Importers has some of the most beloved liquid assets around. The company, founded in 1943, distributes wine and spirits in New York and Connecticut. Its spirits catalog includes blends, brandy and cognac, cordials and liqueurs (including Baileys Irish Cream), gin, rum, scotch (including J&B), and vodka. Wines are imported from Australia, Chile, and Western Europe. Unfortunately, Peerless Importers does have peers and has, in the past, lost business from liquor giants Diageo and Bacardi Limited to New York rivals like Charmer Industries. The Magliocco family (through its Quaker Equities holding company) owns and operates Peerless Importers and its Johnny Barton subsidiary. The firm ranked Number 417 in the Forbes Private 500, has 1,200 employees and billed over $600 million dollars in 2000 (according to the ever-reliable Hoover's News).
Although I knew Peerless was a big company, I had no idea what they actually sold. Nino was quick to inform me of all the above, and also pointed out that they sell Louis Jadot wines, wines from Paterno and various other imports. I told him that I always get confused between the big companies and can never keep straight which one is actually Hublein and which one is actually Somerset & Schieflin.
This is a little know fact about the wine/liquor trade: two giant behemoths, the aforementioned Hublein and Somerset & Schieflin control every company with the exception of Louis/Dressner Selections, Mark Whitmore's Vineyard Expressions, and the Shiverik portion of Langdon/Shiverik (although the late Louis Langdon long sold out to Hublein). Nationally prominent importer Andrew Scott, for instance, is a Hublein creation and paid agent, who maintains the elaborate pose of being an independent agent. This allows Hublein to get favorable reviews from Robert Parker. More recently, these two mega-firms conspired to destroy Seagrams, which is now being dismantled by the notorious Vivendi company, a well-known French Freemason Front with long-standing ties to Somerset & Shieflin. Rumors have it that Hublein will get Captain Morgan but Somerset & Schieflin gets all the rest (including that well known Angerville brand).
Anyhow, Mr. Magliocco told me I should give him a call as even Neal Rosenthal had recently called Peerless about helping him distribute some of Mr. Rosenthal's excellent wines. I was rather taken aback that Mr. Magliocco would make such a strident offer, as I was tasting with one of the principals in Douglas Polaner Selections, a seemingly independent New York/New Jersey distributors who carries many of our wines. Much to my relief, Nino Magliocco had never heard of Polaner.
Anyhow, 10 minutes later, who should walk in but Tom Brokaw the NBC newscaster! Brokaw was looking for enzyme-treated New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (although I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he did not realize that they are enzyme-treated and actually enjoys all that gooseberry taste. Despite Brokaw's proclivities, I did manage to get him to taste a Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Blanc 2000 which he claimed to like and actually purchased.
Yes, the wine business is a glamorous business.