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Conversations with Claire Goldberg

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire Goldberg.

Hi Claire, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I (Claire) have always been passionate and interested in wine but never had someone who shared those feelings so I was never able to truly dive too deeply into the exploration of it. Wine is much more fun when it’s being shared with people that you love. That all changed however, on our honeymoon. Sebastian and I were married in May 2018 and immediately after our wedding, we packed up our life and two dogs in Los Angeles and moved to Berlin Germany. Sebastian is originally from Germany and we wanted to spend this time as newlyweds exploring his roots together. His job at the time allowed him to work remotely and I was fortunate enough to be able to take time off from work and throw myself into fully immersing myself in the German culture. I went to school five days a week to learn the language, got a job in a little cafe and spent our time their traveling and building relationships with his friends and family on that side of the world. We spent our honeymoon traveling through Italy. One portion of our honeymoon we spent in Tuscany, more specifically Chianti. During that time, we spent five or so days tasting the same grape, Sangiovese, made the same way, under the rules of Chianti, and Sebastian was hooked. He found it so fascinating the differences and nuances that we’re able to be expressed by a grape being grown from one hillside to the next. From that point on every time we traveled throughout Europe we always made a point to explore the wine culture of the regions. Wine tasting was always on the itinerary.

After spending 18 months living in Germany and traveling throughout Europe, we were feeling a little homesick for our life in California and decided to move back home. Once coming back, we realized we were missing alot of the wines that we fell in love with on our travels so we got the crazy idea of deciding to import those wines ourselves. We were both truly bitten by the wine bug and could barely think of anything else. We began writing with people we had met on our travels about importing their wines and got all of our ducks and licensing in a row and then as well all know the pandemic hit in march of 2020. With the limitations of the pandemic and the inability to travel, we were feeling discouraged because that would be a big part of our importing business. Rather than letting that stop us, we decided to start small in our own backyard and we were lucky enough to get the trust of four California winemakers who decided to take a chance on the little guys and work with us. Since then, we have expanded our portfolio to 8 producers. Seven from California and now our first imports from Austria are on the water scheduled to arrive in mid-April. This past year was really crazy and a time that I think a lot of people look back on negatively but I truly see a lot of silver linings from Covid. If it weren’t for Covid things wouldn’t have played out for us the way they did and we wouldn’t have had all this extra time to get our business off the ground so for that, I’m thankful.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
We have truly been lucky. I don’t think of myself as an optimistic person at all, I see myself as a total realist but we have been really blessed. Our experience working with the ABC which can be notoriously difficult was surprisingly easy. It was definitely a huge blow when we realized we wouldn’t be able to start the business the way we planned (importing wines from Austria. Italy, and Slovenia) since we weren’t able to travel but I am now thankful for that because we found all of these amazing producers who we now even consider friends here in our own backyard. Another struggle, which will continue to be ongoing is we both made the decision to go into business with our spouse which provides its own challenges. Finding a work-life balance and learning how to work with your significant other professionally has definitely been an interesting experience to navigate and we are still figuring it out every day.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am extremely proud of the small business my husband and I have built together. We are wine distributors and importers working out of Los Angeles. We are a husband and wife team and a distributor of low intervention wines from small producers. We represent just eight small wineries that are handcrafting some truly incredible wines. All work with Organic, Biodynamic, or Sustainable farms and when it comes to the winemaking, less is more. Our wines are fermented with native yeasts, unfined and unfiltered and have very minimal sulfur additions with some having none at all. We are small but mighty. The wine industry is a particularly hard one to break into as it is very relationship-based. Being new to the industry, it was very hard to get in front of some buyers and be taken seriously. It was also challenging to build relationships during a pandemic in which we were meant to be socially distancing from one another. Another thing that sets us apart from your typical distributor or wine rep is that we offer a very small and boutique experience allowing us to give our producers and our customers the attention and focus they deserve. As I said, we represent just eight producers and we are growing our book slowly, organically, and consciously. We never want to be this HUGE company representing hundreds of wineries because I truly don’t believe that can be done well. Wine is an art form and every wine tells a story.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
I would say we have to give the most credit to the producers who have decided to sign on with us. They took a chance on the little guys and trusted us to represent their brands in a way that not only benefited them financially but we were also trusted with their stories and reputations. We also have to thank the buyers who met with us in the early days and were open to tasting with us and looking through a book they had never heard of. We feel very thankful to our customers for opening their doors to us and giving us a chance.

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Group shots by Thom Arizmendi

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