July 23rd 2010
Tom spotted this on Bloomberg earlier this week. We haven’t tasted the wines, but it is such a brilliant story.
“Ray Walker was happily employed as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch & Co. in San Francisco until a gulp of wine coerced him into leaving for France to buy $140,000 worth of grapes with a dream to rival powerhouse Burgundy domaines such as Romanee-Conti and Corton-Andre.
“My wife thought I was drunk,” the 29-year-old Walker says in the cool of his wine-making cavern beneath the celebrated slopes of the Cote d’Or town Nuits-Saint-Georges.
“I’m a skinny black kid from Berkeley who’d never been to France,” says Walker, siphoning his inaugural 2009 Maison Ilan Le Chambertin Grand Cru from an oak cask into a row of glasses. “What did I know about wine? On a good day back home, my beer- drinking mom and dad opened a bottle of Carlo Rossi.”
To make matters worse, Walker says, “I spoke only one word of French: “˜oui.'”
No longer. Some 19 months after first setting foot on Burgundy’s 177 square miles of tightly knit vineyards known for making some of the most expensive wines in the world, Walker has emerged as something of a local hero: The first black American vintner to be embraced by the coterie of distributors and growers who rule 600 separate “appellation controlee” wines.
And they reckon Walker’s wine is pretty good, too. ”