The bed was an island in a sea of open wine bottles and sloshing spit buckets crowded into a room in a modernist high rise in Paris. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and outside, tout le Paris seemed to be enjoying the weather. Inside, however, three Virginians were following their dream, a dream that had led them from the restaurants and wine shops of Charlottesville to this Parisian hotel room, where, shunning the daylight, they hunkered down to taste wine. Two hundred and twenty five wines in three days. It was not, strictly speaking, fun. “It was a lot of work,” Nicolas Mestre tells me, “and a lot of work for the maid.” Welcome to the wild and crazy life of a wine importer.
Mestre and friends Andrew Greene and Ted Burns, (who, I must add in the interest of full disclosure, are all my friends as well), are taking their passion for wine to another level, by starting an importing company called Williams Corner Wine. This entrepreneurial venture is an ideological one, too.
The three guys that make up Williams Corner Wine, Andrew Greene, Ted Burns and Nicolas Mestre (left to right), have some wild, crazy and really cool ideas about how to run their business.
“We have a no-Spoof philosophy,” Mestre explains. That’s “Spoof” as in “Spoofulated,” a real wine-geek term for overmanipulated Franken-wines that are carefully constructed with the consumer in mind. The wines that the three of them spent those beautiful days tasting in that Paris hotel room are the exact opposite. They’re hand-harvested, unadulterated and unique. They come from wineries where the owners, Mestre says, “don’t come into the wine business having already made it…they’re born into it.”
Ninety percent of the wines that they’ll be bringing into the country are organic or biodynamic—a kind of über-organic method of farming that involves planting via astronomical charts. And it doesn’t stop there. Williams Corner Wine LLC uses recycled paper, is looking into a tree planting program to offset its carbon output, and hopes to find a biodiesel van to use for deliveries. Above my head in the cold warehouse where the wine is stashed, one of the lights has a compact florescent bulb. Word.
And so, Mestre, Greene and Burns, the Three Amigos who met because of wine and who share a secret wine cellar in a labyrinth underneath the Downtown Mall (I have been know to lurk there), are now jetting off to France and Austria to taste wine and meet winemakers. But starting a wine-importing business at a time when the Euro is kicking sand in the dollar’s face and the American economy is staggering around like John Belushi at the Chateau Marmont—doesn’t that seem more than a little crazy?
Maybe not. Williams Corner Wine is the third wine importer to locate in Charlottesville, behind Simon N Cellars and Margaux & Company, and to me this is a great sign. Every new winery, wine bar, wine column, or private wine guild that opens in Charlottesville brings with it a few new wine lovers. The wines that Williams Corner Wine wants to bring to town are not big names and don’t have big scores. Many of them are unusual, lesser known, and not “perfect” by the standards of the mainstream wine industry. But where better to open up a niche wine company than Charlottesville, Virginia, the new wine capital of the East Coast?