Once a ballerina, Pamela Margaux now imports fine wines

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Once a ballerina, Pamela Margaux now imports fine wines

When Pamela Margaux moved here from California in 2003, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, only that it had to be different from what she’d been doing. A native of Washington, D.C., she attended school in Los Angeles, and ended up staying, progressing from waiting tables to co-owning three restaurants. When her husband, Champagne native Claude Thibaut, accepted a job as sparkling winemaker at Kluge Winery in Albemarle County, Margaux sold the restaurants and moved with him to Charlottesville. She decided to reinvent herself.

Independent distributor Pamela Margaux carries 17 producers and 90 wines, including three from Virginia.

Margaux, petite and elegant, has one of those accents that sounds like an amalgamation of several others. Sitting in the tasting room/foyer of her warehouse, she talks about her new life as an importer and distributor of fine wines. It started innocently enough when she discovered that the Champagne her husband’s good friend Manuel Janisson made wasn’t available in the States. So she decided to just go ahead and import it herself.

She describes the process of getting her importer’s license as “a lot of jumping through hoops, filling out paperwork, and then them saying, ‘O.K., now jump through the hoops backwards and we’re going to set them on fire.’” Once all that was taken care of, there was still the question of making money. Selling one small Champagne producer, in a country like the U.S. where Champagne is generally ignored save for celebrations, didn’t cut it. So she grew her company, until now, roughly three years later, she has a portfolio of 17 producers and 90 wines, including three from Virginia: Gabriele Rausse, Pollak, and her husband’s sparkling wine, Thibaut-Janisson. She supplies wine to a dozen area restaurants as well as establishments in D.C., Maryland, Indiana and throughout Virginia. Illinois will soon join that list.

Margaux looks for small producers with good land, she says, and though not at all strident about those standards, she sticks to them. That might be expected from one who so easily seems to balance casualness and professionalism. Not lacking in industry cred, thanks to her restaurant work and her husband’s 30-year career, she easily passes as a passionate wine drinker who simply opted to cut out the middlemen.

Margaux is no stranger to new lives, however. Talking over a glass of Chablis, she discloses that before she sold food and wine, she was someone else entirely.

“I was a dancer,” she says. “I was with the American Ballet Theatre in Washington D.C. …I thought I’d end up probably teaching dance.” She gives a strong, sparkling laugh, much like the Champagne she loves. “And that’s still maybe something that I will do in my lifetime!”

But for now, she runs a small importer/distributor business from a warehouse in Charlottesville. “I do everything, whatever’s necessary. I definitely make deliveries, I’m not the prima donna that can’t lift a box,” she says.

Indeed, I’ve spotted her delivering cases of wine in high heels.

The laugh again.

“Yeah, it’s my signature. I’ve got to have my pointy shoes on!”

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