Jay Murrie: I was born in North Dakota, which makes me nearly Canadian. My hobbies include not having very much time for hobbies because of all the reading about, writing about and drinking of wine. But I do like to run (nobody really likes to run) and to cook, particularly when my kid helps out.
I had a meal in Rome when I was 15 that changed my life. Carbonara, at a sidewalk restaurant. I had no idea food could taste like that. I remember it vividly and never make Carbonara (or really ever order it) for fear of being disappointed.
I started collecting wine after getting stuck in an isolated farmhouse for a week with only one bottle of Chilean Merlot. Nature taught me a lesson. Having abundant good wine at home is essential.
I go to Europe because I do not think you can learn about a wine or a person and their land and food and culture from across an ocean. The people I meet and the conversations we have in fields, on farms, at tables are my education.
Luc Suèr: I was born just outside of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Yes, I spent my youth below sea level. Though, I never had my turn keeping my finger in the hole in the dike. After a childhood in a relatively idyllic and safe suburban environment I went to the technical university in Delft (Netherlands) to become an Industrial Designer. Great fun but during my second year I dropped out to help a friend organize punk rock shows. More fun! I must have had enough of that education stuff. We drove a small beat-up Mercedes van packed with sound equipment around the Netherlands and Belgium, made a lot of noise and a lot of friends (probably some enemies too but they must’ve been old and grumpy already). We made a little money, too!
I decided to be a sound man. The best job in the world. Geeking out with electronics, good music all the time and traveling (and getting paid! I couldn’t believe it)
I still had an apartment in Amsterdam when I realized that I spent more time in the US than anywhere else. That’s when I decided to give up my place and spend my breaks house sitting in different places in this country. Actually, just two places; Long Beach, CA and Brooklyn. Brooklyn became my home for about five years. Then I fell in love and moved to North Carolina. Since then not much has changed except for that I’m married, have a daughter, own a house, have friends that speak “southern” and haven’t been on the road for about seven years…..
It’s time for something else. Time to get into something I know very little about. I’m going to do this with a good friend who knows this business so well that just spending time with him makes me feel like I’m absorbing knowledge.
My first taste of wine was when I was a wee little blonde haired kid on summer vacation with the family in Brittany. “Moule-frites” and a sip of Muscadet.
Ben Davies (from the perspective of Jay Murrie)
Ben is our instigator, catalyst, almost-outside observer and nearly-silent partner. He is a participant who also gives us a necessary view from afar, and is up for improving many of our big ideas. Below is the story of his role in our creation.
We spent a week in a ramshackle 18th palazzo, minimally maintained by a Florentine academic and his aristocratic partner. The crumbling structure and scattered outbuildings covered a hilltop surrounded by olive trees… but there was no olive oil for us to use on the property! There was wine. We did our best to drain the cellar’s stockpile of Sangiovese, in retribution for the lack of oil.
On cool mornings Ben and I would run up rutted dirt roads through the vine-covered hills of Rufina, gasping past churches and Lamborghini tractors, our penance for exuberantly bacchanalian evenings. We looked ridiculous to the clusters of American WOOFers and their Albanian overseers deep in legitimate toil during the waning days of harvest.
As a stalling tactic during a really nasty ascent Ben said, “Tell me why we aren’t importing this wine?” I had no answer.
That night we heated the kitchen’s ancient bread oven to volcanic temperatures using piles of ripped-up, gnarled old grape vines as fuel. Over wood-fired pizzas (some successful: porcini, some not: Margherita), delicious branzino and a scrawny tough old local hen that we never should have roasted, our little importing company was born. We washed down the terror and excitement of new ideas with bottles of biodynamic Sangiovese from Rufina and sfuso demijohns of the farm’s cloudy, mustard-yellow Trebbiano. We’ll become wine importers: sounds so simple!