Meet the Vine Geek (Part One)

Editor's note: Today, we'll introduce you to Brian Reeder of AZ Wine Merchants, our new wine columnist and one of our Vine Geeks. Come back tomorrow for the second part of our introduction.

Life has a funny way of making you think you know what you're doing with it. I know I did. I grew up in Oregon, smack dab in the middle of the Willamette Valley. And while I may not have been born on a vineyard or injecting pinot into my veins at a young age, I was exposed to wine. My first experiences with wine, aside from the obligatory Catholic Church chalice, were working at a local country club pouring Crown Royals and cabernets for those who fancied themselves fancy. At this little country club, I realized one of my biggest attributes in the world of spirits, beer and wine -- I liked it all. Was it legal -- not exactly. Was it educational? You bet your ass.

After a few years of country club life, I helped start a small wallet company called db clay that would put me through business school and consume the next decade of my life. Don't get me wrong - I still had a foot in the world of hospitality, but on a more part-time scale. As the financial crisis hit, our wallet company (in rapid expansion mode up until that point) had extenuating circumstances that led to its ultimate hibernation.

Also, I met a girl. She wasn't the first, and as it turns out not the last, but one thing that made this girl special (along with many other redeeming qualities, I assure you) was that she lived in Phoenix. As the wallet company struggled for air, I took a job as the GM of a tiny restaurant in downtown Portland and did the long distance thing with said girlie. Fast-forward six months and it was time for me to give the girl - and a new city - a fair shot.

Upon moving to the Valley, I took a job at the Montelucia as a server and another in corporate sales for a bank that rhymes with Smells Largo. Three months later, things weren't working. The girl (an absolutely wonderful, beautiful woman whom I think very highly of) and the job (a hellhole from which is bred deceit, tyranny, and the true colors of corporate America) weren't what I needed for my life. So, I made a change. GM Pavle Milic offered me a job in management; I parted ways with the young lady and told the bank what I thought of them.

From that moment on, I was engaged to the food and beverage department at the Montelucia. And, God, was she sadistic. Thoughts of a life were lost among the responsibilities of an upscale resort still in its infancy. In my "free time," I was creating SOPs, studying wine and service manuals, and generally filling in the gaps to my haphazard F + B education. I studied, read, tasted, questioned, and generally force-fed myself wine (and food) knowledge.

Shortly into our tenure, Pavle decided to go and open his little gin joint, FnB. I wasn't upset with him; in fact, I helped in any way I could. That holiday season was hell -- my Christmas dinner was at Taco Bell (except they were closed, so I just drank water instead). But now it was my show. And the wine program was my baby. I continued to taste voraciously, keeping meticulous records of everything I drank. I began to understand certain identifiers in wine and appreciate certain qualities. I understood why some wines went better with food. I understood how different treatments while fermenting, in a barrel, or in the vineyard could affect the end product. I started to develop my palate and determine what I enjoyed.

After a few years of resort life, I decided the timing was right to move on to other projects.

Stay tuned for part two....

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Brian Reeder
Contact: Brian Reeder