In coming blog posts, I will mention or make reference to my good friend and go-to wine guy, Didier Loustau from Napa Valley. I first came into contact with Didier many years ago through our mutual friend Herb Krumsick who lives in Wichita, Kansas. Herb is a long-time friend, real estate partner and, like Didier and I, passionate about wine. Herb will quickly tell you that he taught me everything I know about wine. Although the last two or three times we have had dinner together, I think, I was eagerly passed the wine list to order the wine.
Over the years, I have come to respect Didier’s palate and vast wine knowledge. He is greatly respected in Napa Valley for both. Allow me to share a little of his background before we discuss his new entrepreneurial ventures.
As you can easily tell by his name, Didier is a Frenchman. He was raised in Mourenx-Bourg in southwestern France at the foot of the Pyrenees near the border of France and Spain. He went to a private school outside of Bordeaux in Gradignan to study restaurant and hospitality management. He served an apprenticeship at the Hotel de France in Agen under legendary French chef Andre Daguin. Dider’s food and wine career has taken him around the world to such places as Canada, Guadeloupe, Senegal, Martinique and London. He landed in Chicago in 1989.
In Chicago Didier worked during the day as a European wine specialist for a company that later became part of the Chicago landmark Binny’s Beverage Depot. In the evenings he worked at the Evanston, Illinois, restaurant Oceanique, an eclectic French-American style seafood restaurant named #1 Seafood Restaurant in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. He moved to Southern California in 1990 and then to Napa in 1994. He soon became Maitre d’ at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley (now a renowned Michelin 3-Star venue).
In 1997 Didier switched careers from restaurants to retail and helped open the first West Coast Dean & Deluca, a purveyor of fine food and wine, in St. Helena. He remained at the company as a senior wine buyer until 2004 when he was overcome with the entrepreneurial spirit and opened two businesses back to back. First was DDC Shipping LLC an international shipping company catering to small Napa Valley wineries. Shortly after that he launched Loustau Wines & Marketing a company specializing in selling boutique wines of low production and great quality; wines that most people would never have the opportunity to purchase. A good deal of this wine was sold through the internet and then shipped by Didier’s shipping company to customers around the world: a true vertically integrated entrepreneur.
Loustau Wines & Marketing was how I came to know Didier. Taking advantages of his great palate and knowledge, I have purchased hundreds of bottles of wine from his company. These are wines that I would never have had the opportunity to experience if it weren’t for our relationship.
- 1938 Chateau Villargeil Rivesaltes – This is a sweet red wine made primarily from Grenache Noir grapes (70 percent). The wine was in oak tanks for 70 years and was bottled in January 2008.
- 2003 Chateau Margaux Bordeaux – This wine is rated at 99 points by Robert Parker and is one of the extraordinary Margaux made in the past 15 years.
- Colgin Cariad red wine – A six-year, multiple bottle vertical that included vintages starting with 2001 and running through 2006 – Colgin has become one of Napa Valley’s cult wines.
These wines are maturing nicely in my private cellar waiting for that perfect occasion to open with family and friends.
Early on Didier added a special twist to his wine company. He started a very private wine club with membership limited to 10 to 15 members. In order to be “member” you had to be asked by Didier and agree to an annual membership fee. As one of the “low level” purchasers, I was privileged to be a member of this group.
Being a member provided you the expanded opportunity to purchase such wines as cellar collectibles, the Napa cult wines and other, little known, wonderful wines. Further, if you traveled to Napa, he provided tastings and the opportunity to meet the wine makers of the wines he was selling. Our relationship grew to the point that I trusted his wine judgment. His understanding of my palate meant he could just send me wines and say “you will like this wine” or “you need this in your cellar.” And about 99.9% of the time he was correct.
But as was the case with many small companies, Loustau Wines & Marketing was a victim of the 2009 recession. However, a chance encounter in 2009 with technology entrepreneur Susan Quinn, the former founder and CEO of Wordcasters Inc., an early streaming media company, led Didier and Susan to create ToutSuite Social Club and Cork Wars. Both of these companies are unique and technology driven.
Now you know you a little more about how Didier’s background in food and wine has led to his recent transformation to being a technology-driven entrepreneur who is now delivering wine and information to you via your front door and the Internet. In the weeks ahead I will share blogs discussing both of his fascinating new projects: Cork Wars and ToutSuite Social Club. Both of these exciting new companies take the age-old cultures of wines and deliver them to you in new and improved ways.