Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with smelling and tasting. I always smelled every bit of food before I put it in my mouth. I’m very aware of scent.
In 2005 my life changed dramatically…I had been managing a restaurant in Santa Barbara and became unhappy in the job. I decided to submit my letter of resignation and promptly searched for a new opportunity. I had no idea that the opportunity I found would change my life and course forever. The Wine Cask Wine Store was hiring for a wine sales position, and growing up in Santa Barbara I was always very aware of my proximity to the wine culture. Friends of my parents had vineyards neighboring their property, my previous employer did catering events at wineries and wine festivals up in wine country. A job in the wine industry started to look very appealing…I e-mailed my resume and the next morning I received a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. In college I had a roommate who’s father gave me a proper introduction to FINE WINE AND SPIRITS. Grand Cru burgundy, Vintage Champagne, Madeira from the late 1800’s, Marc de Bourgogne, Armangnac, Cognac, Calvados…everything I tasted during the visits to their house trumped the previous experience as the most exceptional taste to ever dance on my tongue to date. I used the small bit of knowledge he passed along to me in my interview, his influence proved to be timely. Next thing I knew I had a job in wine sales at a world famous wine destination. Not to mention! I started working in wine right about the same time the movie “Sideways” came out. It was an exciting time for grapes to be grown, fermented, and put into bottles to be sold.
Now it was time to learn about wine. Being thrown into a world-renowned business has its advantages, but also comes anxiety. My first task on my first day of work was to assimilate a new shipment of French wines into the already established inventory in the “French Room” of the store, everything by geography. I was given a map of wine regions in France and thus began my education. Wine labels are so intricate. There is so much information. My love for French wine blossomed in the coming months. Being so close to Santa Barbara Wine Country played a big part in my wine education as well as shaping the vision I have for myself in the wine industry. Walking among the vineyards, barrel tasting young wines, speaking with local winemakers about the process. It was all at my disposal. Then I decided to move to Los Angeles.
I came here for music, not for wine. For years I tried to establish myself as a guitarist, singer/songwriter, and tour manager. I had some success but thankfully I was able to learn about wine. I moved to L.A. in October of 2006 with a few small tours on the horizon and new contacts for tour management gigs but life doesn’t always pan out as you expect. Members of bands were kicked out, labels yanked all funding, I was not as happy on the road as I thought I was going to be. Then a simple twist of fate occurred.
When I moved to L.A. I found a sublease situation on Craigslist – the guy offering his room was going to Europe to teach a screenwriting course for a few months and needed someone to fill his room while he was out of the country. I took the room. He left a postcard on his desk. It read “Silverlake Wine”, described wine tastings, and gave a website address. I Google mapped the address and realized it was right around the corner from where I was now living. Wine had become a huge part of my life, and it made me happy to know there was a wine store so close to my new home. I went to the store and fell in love with the design, the selection, the way the place felt. Most of the wines were familiar to me from my days at the Wine Cask, and I liked the fact that there were a lot I was unfamiliar with. This was a good sign. I found a bottle I wanted to buy for a dinner party, brought it to the counter, and did when the lady behind the counter told me my total, was surprised to hear that it was the exact amount that was advertised on the bottle. I said, “There’s no tax?” To which she responded, “the tax is included in our prices.” That was it. I was in love with this place. A few days later I e-mailed a resume and asked if they needed any help. A couple weeks later I had a job three days a week while I was still touring.
Fast forward a year later…another defining moment in my life occurred which helped me realize the attraction and necessity of doing wine as a career. I made friends with a guy who is a lawyer by trade and owns an indie record label on the side with a business partner who is well connected in the music industry. I was invited to a dinner party at his loft and much to my surprise many of his heavy hitter music friends were there. Now, imagine if I had been introduced like this: “Hey guys this is my friend Matthew Kaner, he is an aspiring singer/songwriter.” There is an implied agenda. People in the music industry in L.A. are always leery and with good reason! Instead, I was introduced like this: “Hey guys this is Matthew Kaner my friend who works in the wine industry.” Everyone’s ears perked up. Next thing I know everyone is trying to get some time with me to ask questions about wine. That was a red letter day.
Now approaching 2009, I am the manager of Silverlake Wine where I work with my close friends and consider myself so lucky to be able to talk about and learn about something so special on a daily basis. The Week In Drink will be a weekly post about all things alcoholic. I’ll talk about wine, I’ll talk about liquor, I’ll talk about beer. It may be about a specific vineyard, a certain cocktail, dispelling myths. I look forward to sharing my passion for alcoholic beverages with you.