Years ago,sitting in the conference room of a management consulting firm in Monterey, California, I noticed the founder of the firm had placed photos of his professional mentors on one of the walls. He called it his wall-of-thanks. "These people helped me become who I am," he explained.
As a sommelier, I don't have a conference room, but I do have many people to whom I am grateful.
So, this is my wall-of-thanks to those who had unusually large roles in shaping my life." —Richard
Keith Mardak showed me how to do deals, taught me how to communicate clearly, and how to trust my own instincts. He was and continues to be a significant influence on my life through his completely inimitable style. Keith and I have enjoyed many bottles of wine over four decades and I'm grateful that he remains my friend to this day. The photo shows Keith accepting his entry into The Songwriters Hall of Fame as a music publisher.
Laird Foshay introduced me to an all-new world: California. When I arrived, he gave me Kevin Starr's book, Americans and the California Dream. He taught me about Silicon Valley, about building wealth through equity participation, and how to make haste slowly. He is now making wine and raising cattle in Paso Robles, California.
Lutz Glandt became my model as a business strategist, an innovative marketer, and an executive with extraordinary personal charm. His ability to network and connect key players to accomplish important goals is something I've worked to emulate. He is advises clients from through his consultancy LutzGlandt.de, and our friendship is a warm and enduring "Atlantik-Brücke."
Philippe Thibault taught me the wine business. "We are not just selling wine. We are making memories!" His palate, enthusiasm, and guest relationship skills are unparalleled. I don't know anyone better at winery hospitality, or more loved by his guests. Philippe now leads hospitality and marketing at Stone Edge Farm.
Wayne Belding demonstrated to me, time and time again, the gracious manner and extraordinary knowledge of that characterizes a Master Sommelier. I benefited immensely from his guidance as I approached wine exams, and was privileged to work with him on Euphoria Greenville seminars and his book, Diving Into Wine.
Carl Sobocinski showed me what real restaurant hospitality looks like. Carl doesn't just teach; every day he displays the attitudes and behaviors that make him one of the most respected restaurateurs in the U.S. He is also a remarkable friend, incredibly loyal, with a huge heart. Don't miss his restaurants or his book, Soby's New South Cuisine. I miss working with him every, single day.
Finally, and most of all, Bob K. Peck made clear to me what a father is and must be. He loved unreservedly. He was my best cheerleader. He beat the odds in his own career and succeeded without the advantages he made certain I had. He taught me to listen, not talk. He was creative and talented — a writer and a musician. And his strength of character was incredible. One of his key principles, as he wrote in the book that was almost complete before his death, was "be persistent." My Dad never quit. If I do half as well at that as he did, then I'll be a credit to him. I hope he will be proud.