French Wine Importer Mary Taylor Interview
SD First off, thank you for taking the time, in the middle of dealing with importing during a pandemic and looming increased tariffs to do this little, “get to know you” interview. Even though we’ve only been working together for about a year we already have an eager band of, “I’m with her” customers, there are still bunches of folks that had not have the pleasure of tasting your wines so, hopefully, this little chat will let people know what you and your Mary Taylor wines are all about.
So, you mentioned to me that you showed up in New York September 4th 2001, what brought you there and did you bring with you a passion for the wines of Europe?
MT I worked for Elie Wiesel at Boston University and he needed an office manager in NYC, so I took the job! Was a very exciting time for me.
SD Do you remember the first wine that shook you? If so, what was it and do you still love it?
- 1990 Bonnes Mares from Roumier
- 1990 Bousse d’Or from Pousse d’Or
- 1990 Rousseau Chambertin
- Montlouis from Jacky Blot and from Stephane Cossais (RIP)
- Sancerre from the Mont Damnes
- The Cab Francs in Bourgeuil
- Barbaresco all day long, the taste of Nebbiolo – my GOD
- 1983 Chateau Palmer
- Every wine from Urziger Wurtzgarten
The list is LONG!
SD How long has Mary Taylor Wines been a thing?
MT I got the inspiration in 2009 when I was starting a NY NJ CT distribution company and in the midst of a terrible breakup --- I was in Bordeaux and I was tasting with a good Pessac wine grower whose labels were ATROCIOUS and I knew I had to create a consistent label through the AOP system.
SD How many states are Mary Taylor wines available in? And is that plenty or are you looking to increase that?
MT About 30… We would like to be everywhere. Missing HI, AK, WA, OR, ID, NV, UT, NM, OK, AR, KY, OH, MI, IA, MI, KS, Nebraska (?), ND, SD. We just started in Mexico and Sweden!
SD Playing rock star in your car right now, who are you pretending to be?
MT I am one of the Pet Shop Boys and I’m cruising on the Grand Central Parkway to meet my lover somewhere breezy. (this is all fictional).
SD For many of my importer friends new wines are sourced through other vigneron that they are already working with. How do you discover new wines to bring to the Mary Taylor label?
MT I go to the APVSA tastings, this little trade group out of Montreal. They really understand rustic EU growers. No sommeliers or retail buyers ever show up and the room feels quiet. Otherwise I go to trade shows in Europe. People send me wines (the post office knows me well). Sometimes I find one gem in a box of duds and I need to know more. That’s how I found Christophe Avi, my beloved Buzet farmer!
SD Criteria for selecting a wine to import? How many boxes need to be checked off before you pull the trigger?
- Wine must be excellent – uniqueness and terroir – can’t have ANY makeup on.
- Price must work
- Social Consciousness – no misogynists and there are many in Europe.
- Willingness to work together
- AOP/DO/DOC status only for white label
SD Ever have a winery that you really wanted to work with but couldn’t manage to convince them? If so, from which region….I’m imaging Italy because I’m French wine biased.
MT NOPE! We have some serious credibility. I feel like a secret celebrity at trade fairs. The word spreads quickly among the French farmers about which buyers are serious and who pays their bills. It would be cool if Jean Louis Chave would make us an affordable Northern Rhone appellation, but there is really nothing affordable.
SD Super fancy Euro food thing that everyone loves but you think is overrated or downright yucky?
MT I am so over micro cuisine. Sorry, give me a big pot of incredible stew and a baguette and a hunk of excellent cheese. I do not want your frozen miso watermelon with micro green and soy marmalade. Please no.
I won’t eat the Italian song birds, but I will dig into a bowl of Trippa alla Fiorentine.
SD Hangover cure of choice?
MT Pickle juice. I recently tried pickled jalapeno juice. A long ass nap!
SD Have you ever felt that your gender has worked for, or against you when sourcing wines?
MT YES! OMG, in the beginning especially. Now, not so much. Although the other day an Italian broker got in my face because he thought he knew more about tariffs than me and insisted Italy was NOT on the list. I found out he supports the [current administration]. I asked that he be removed from my relationship with my women-owned Sicilian winery. Brokers are the worst, but they come in handy sometimes.
Gender was a real liability when I was climbing the ranks in the NYC wine world. A lot of crazy inappropriate stuff. I’ve had my share. Thank GOD I work for myself now.
SD What has been the biggest obstacle for you to climb importing wine?
MT I put myself out there so much. I don’t have any investors. I am careful but this is all on my shoulders. At first the extremely arrogant NYC wine community laughed in my face and ignored my project – then I showed them what I could do, and I get a lot more respect.
I have to be careful about taking on too much. I tend to be a workaholic. Now, stuck in my secret cottage, I can just never leave and work 24/7. I have to get myself outside for exercise. It’s a struggle.
SD Any unexpected perks?
MT It’s like a puzzle. I am manifesting my own destiny but there are pitfalls. Like that Atari game, pitfall? I LOVE the puzzle, and I love the relationships I develop because of this. I am hoping and praying that this former colleague of mine comes aboard to be my CA brand manager! My life is so full of people I would have otherwise not known, here and in Europe where I get to be part of a dozen and growing families.
SD Your home consumption ratio of red to white wine?
MT Haha! I NEVER drink rosé alone. I probably drink 2 reds for every white.
SD Any new additions on the horizon? A little sparkler maybe?
MT YES! I have a Pet Nat Grolleau. I have a Prieto Picudo from Castilla Y Leon. I have a Cahors, a Corbières, and all of Italy to play with. Bardolino anyone? (When I ran a wine store in Manhattan, I bought 80% all Italian wine).
SD If you had to pick three wines that might explain, or help us understand your palate and passion for wine, what would they be?
MT Ha! Okay.
- Chinon from Philipe Alliet
- Savenierres from Damian Laureau
- Chateau Chalon from Domaine Macle
SD Is there a region, or variety, that you could never have again and be cool with it?
MT The NEW WORLD – (sorry)
SD Boxers or Briefs?
MT BOXERS – although depends who
SD I know you have been very involved in fighting the next round of tariffs on wines from Europe. Can you give our customers what kind of increases we are looking at and what that has the potential to do to your business?
MT If 100% tariffs pass, I sell through my inventory and either double my prices and see if I can eke out 25% of the sales I was doing before, OR I park a barge off the Connecticut coastline and bring in pallets by night. Seriously, if this passes, I will have to go full on into building out foreign markets and scrap plans for my American business. We’ve only been importing wine since 1650 – just a small insignificant industry right? Wrong! Why is the party of so called “Freedom” letting the government tell them what to drink?
SD Have you ever sneezed while peeing?
SD Finish this sentence, “The wines that thrill me...
MT...are crunchy, full of tension, minerality and have a sense of place.”