On Sunday, May 19, there was Celebration of Rand Sealey's Fifty Years in the Wine Industry. Over seventy guests attended the event, held at the Foundry Vineyards Gallery on Abadie Street in Walla Walla. Food from Hattaway's was served and lots of wine, mostly French and Italian with some German and American ones, were poured. Sheets were handed out with my story about how I got into the wine industry in 1969. Here it is:
How I Got into the Wine Industry
I spent the summer of 1968 in Europe. I bought a Triumph Spitfire roadster which I picked up in Coventry. I drove around England and Scotland, then took the car ferry to Calais and drove through France where I visited Burgundy and the North Rhone. I continued on to Italy and Germany and along the way, visited wineries and drank wine at restaurants. That trip is what initiated by interest in wine.
The following years, the Washington State Legislature passed a law allowing retailers to sell out of state wines as well as those of Washington. My father and I became interested in exploring the wine business. I was a graduate History student at the University of Washington, but the idea of selling wine seemed more appealing than an academic career. In May, we visited Esquin Imports in San Francisco and one of the owners, Karl Petrowsky, asked us if we would be interested in opening an Esquin store in Seattle. Sure, we were! One thing led to anther and in June, 1969, we reached an agreement to start an Esquin store in Seattle.
My Father had his eye one a building next door to his medical clinic on First Avenue South and Atlantic Street in Seattle. It was a five story building which had an underground basement - perfect for wine storage. The San Francisco store also had underground storage. We went through the incorporation, liquor license application and lease agreement processes and just six months later, we opened in December of 1969.
Another model adopted from Esquin-San Francisco was the publication of newsletters mailed to customers describing wines I offered. That's how I became a wine writer. Esquin-Seattle's marketing, though, was not limited to newsletters. There were numerous attention-getting newspaper and magazine ads created by David Horsfall and Terri Nakamura.
Over the ensuing years, I was a wine merchant at Esquin-Seattle. Initially, I had a partner, but two years later, I bought him out and ran the business solo, churning out those newsletters and selling wine. Many trips to California, Europe and once to Australia were involved. Karl Petrowsky left Esquin-San Francisco and I continue to work with the other owner, Ken Kew, who eventually sold his store. For a while, I had another partner, Jim Kunz, help me until he sold his interest.
After 27 years in the business, I sold Esquin to Chuck LeFevre in 1998. For the following 10 years, I worked as his consultant, writing the Esquin newsletter. The 2008 recession necessitated laying me off. After that, I decided to begin an on-line newsletter about Washington State wines. By that time, my wife, Lynn, and I moved part-time to Walla Walla, and then in 2013, full-time. Wine writing, therefore, became a continuing career in the wine industry. It is still a rewarding endeavor - with the encouragement of Lynn, many friends consumer and wine industry people. I am highly grateful and I thank you all.