A Wine Lover’s Story: From Passion to Profession

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A Wine Lover’s Story: From Passion to Profession

by Jim Cash, Founder of Revel Custom Wine Cellars


“Wine to me is passion.  It’s family and friends.  It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.  Wine is art.  It’s culture.  It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.”

-Robert Mondavi

 I first read this quote in the early part of my wine collecting journey, and it has really stuck with me over the years.  It all started in my early 30’s when a group of colleagues at my office started having dinners together.  These gatherings were always hosted by our friend Sam, whose parents owned a small-town grocery store that boasted a pretty good wine department.  Sam would always get wine for the dinners from his parents at wholesale prices and we would all chip in to cover the costs.

Sam was already very knowledgeable about wine, and he had what I called a photographic palette.  So, Sam would be our master of ceremonies, and pontificate at length about each of the wines and how they complimented the various dishes being served.  I was a total wine novice, but had the presence of mind to embrace these events as important opportunities for personal growth.

About a year after we started our get togethers, Sam decided to open a wine shop in Austin, where we all lived and worked, and asked me if I would join him as a partner.  I was flattered and while considering the offer, followed his suggestion to fast track my wine education.  We started having weekly wine tastings and Sam gave me several books on wine, the first of which was Alexis Lichine’s Wines of France.

I ended up not getting involved in the wine shop, but I definitely caught the wine bug!  Alexis painted a picture of wine in all its history and glory, so vividly, that I learned before I ever read them that Robert Mondavi’s words were true.

I also quickly learned that the wines whose virtues were being extolled by the “experts”, were by and large beyond my means, so I adopted a practice of buying one bottle to age for every bottle consumed, the idea being that at some point I would be able to enjoy perfectly aged, mature wines for the price of newly released vintages.  In fact, I still have one of the very first bottles I bought under this philosophy, a 1970 Spanish Rioja, which I doubt I will ever open.

The most common advice I have heard when people inquire about how best to learn about wine is to first by a corkscrew, and then start buying wine.  I don’t disagree with this, but certainly took a more academic approach.  Reading about the 1855 classifications of the wines of Bordeaux, the phylloxera plague, the “terroir” factors that influence the character of the wines, the families that make wines generation after generation, the Napa Valley entrance onto the world stage, all proved fascinating to me.  Before I knew it, whenever and wherever I traveled, there were vineyards and tastings involved.

Over time, wine became an influence in all aspects of my life — personal, social and professional.  Wine became a passionate hobby; I started being asked to always choose the wine at restaurants with friends, any time I received a gift it would be wine related, and wine became a valuable business asset.  Many clients were aficionados, and those who weren’t were eager to experiment and learn.  Wine became my version of golf.

By the time I had the opportunity to build my own proper wine cellar, the proverbial horse was out of the barn.  I was a true passionista, fanatic, obsessively compulsive oenophile, and in that spirit, designed a wine cellar accordingly.  I gave no thought whatsoever to what it looked like, but it was a cellar that allowed me to immerse myself quickly and easily into the wines that I have experienced and will experience some day.

As it turns out, a market opportunity presented itself for wine cellars designed for wine nuts like me, hence the advent of Revel Custom Wine Cellars.  My cellar is full to the brim and has been for over five years now, but just yesterday, I placed an order for some wine I just had to have.

You can view Jim’s cellar here…the first one built by Revel.

Jim Cash, Founder of Revel Custom Wine Cellars