How I Taste Wine — Todd Alexander, Oenolier La Jolla Wine Club

I was called to the world of food and wine around the age of 5, frequently seen atop the shoulders of chefs being returned to the dining room after having ventured-off to “inspect” the kitchen. Noting over the years that this love of food was not a fluke, my parents gave me an auction prize to attend a week-long cooking school one summer followed by another course in Chinese cuisine. During the summer of my 10th grade year, I traveled to Italy on The Experiment in International Living, where I lived with a remarkable family that took food and wine very seriously yet without pretense. This trip solidified my passion for Italy and its food and ultimately was the inspiration for entering Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration thinking I may want to become a chef one day.

While at Cornell, I spent a semester abroad in Florence and spent most of my time out of the classroom in the cellar at one of Florence’s finest wine shops; picking the brain of the cellar master and “tasting” on a daily basis. After returning to school and reading everything I could get my hands on regarding Italian wine, I knew I would spend the rest of my life in the wine industry.

After graduating from Cornell I went to work as a jack of all trades for Leonardo LoCascio at Winebow in New Jersey followed by a year on the sales floor at Sherry-Lehmann Wines and Spirits in New York. After a year of growing bunions at Sherry-Lehmann, I knew it was time to see firsthand how wine was grown and to observe what distinguished the great winemakers from the good ones. So once again I packed my bags and set out to Italy for 6 months with the intention of writing the definitive book on Italian wine. Driving my little maroon beater of a Fiat Uno from Puglia to Piedmont, I tasted thousands of wines, walked miles of vineyards, and shared countless meals and hours of conversations with Italy’s top wine growers. During the trip I met several wine growers interested in exporting their wine to the U.S. and after returning to Atlanta, I founded Vendemmia, a wine import and distribution company.

After nearly 20 years in the wholesale/import wine trade in Atlanta, I switched gears and moved to California to be closer to the grapes. My unwavering appreciation for wine and food has taken me down every major highway in wine country around the world and many a gravel road and through every region of Italy.

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