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Playing Where’s Waldo with Fine Wines

When most of us buy wine, we’re in and out of our local H-E-B in a couple minutes. After a quick stroll down aisle eleven, we grab a friendly looking California domestic – keeping it above the belt and below the shoulders on the wine-shelf spectrum. Really, it’s quite the balancing act. Anything below the belt ruins the following morning while everything above the shoulders tends to make the Cheeze-Its we have paired with it feel just a little under-dressed.

But not for Rich.

As a professionally trained sommelier at a downtown Austin steakhouse, Rich deals with wines that most of us have never dreamed of buying. Oh, and they’re paired with award-winning signature dishes – not Cheeze-Itz. Consider a special request bottle of 2011 Bryant Bettina Red. The $650 difference in price tag isn’t the only difference between our aisle eleven Cabernet Sauvignon and Rich’s proprietary blend from Viticulturist David Abreu’s three estate vineyards. Tracking it down can be an uphill battle too.

“Time is incredibly important in my line of work. It’s the difference between a fully-stocked, custom-filled wine locker and the ordinary. When customers have special requests, it’s my job to bring the bottle of wine to them – regardless of how readily available it may be.”

So, on top of acting as assistant general manager and in-house sommelier, Rich plays a never-ending game of Where’s Waldo with custom wine requests. It ranges in difficulty from a leisurely neighborhood Easter egg hunt to a full-fledged, cross-country search for Carmen Sandiego. Coordinating with corporate sommeliers, finding lead purveyors, and pestering local distributors for a leg up is not your normal trip to the liquor store. We’re not on aisle eleven anymore, Dorothy…

But you won’t catch Rich complaining.

“I love it. It’s similar to my time as a fly fishing guide in Alaska. Instead of tracking down elusive fish for clients, I’m out fishing for bottles of specialty wine. And, well, I know I can catch them!”

In between juggling $1,600 bottles of wine, Rich can be found diving head first into a variety of #ATX Mexican food restaurants and swimming holes on the Greenbelt – with thirty minutes in between, hopefully. He’s wrapping up his first month with The Folde and is currently using his newfound free time to catch up on a little work and a little play – the perfect balance.


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