I just read that retailer extraordinaire, Michael Aaron, of Sherry Lehmann's in NY has retired. This comes exactly 50 years and one day after he joined his family's iconic wine shop. To me, this is a true signaling of the changing of the guard that I see happening all over the wine business.
I'll never forget the first time I made a sales call on his store. I was in my mid-20s and very excited about the prospect of landing this important account for our winery. Michael was very well known and extremely respected in wine circles, and I was just a wee tad intimidated to say the least.
I went to New York to introduce our 1985 Meritage, the first wine to carry this designation, and a wine that we were profoundly proud of. It was a big deal for us and required some out of the box thinking to really get people's attention. I decided to hire a limousine to take me to selected wine buyers so I could make an unforgettable sales call. It was in the late 1980s, and while it seemed like the competition was fierce, it was nothing compared to now! Nonetheless, I had to do something different to get noticed.
I arrived outside of Michael's shop, palms sweating and hands shaking. I was certain he'd laugh at me or worse, refuse to hop in and taste my wine. Much to my great delight, he happily came for a ride to taste our new release and to experience what I'm sure was his first sales pitch in the back of a limousine.
Years later, we laughed about our first meeting and reminisced about how much the industry had changed. And to this day, I'll never forget his graciousness and support way back when.
In fact just a year or so ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Sherry Lehmann store in order to introduce him to our new Bordeaux blend, The Mariner. As always, he made time to fit me in and politely tasted our new baby.
I am proud to have known this wine industry veteran who was well ahead of the times with his dynamic direct mail catalogue and classic Madison Avenue wine shop.
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