If you work in wine in New York City, you know exactly who I am talking about.
If you don’t or you haven’t, please allow me to give you some background.
Ed Lauber was one of the first people in the country to bring wine from Bordeaux into New York. A wildly successful entrepreneur, Monsieur Lauber created Lauber Imports, one of the best wine suppliers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, carrying domestic icons such as Hanzell, Au Bon Climat, Lewis Cellars and Dunn as well as beautiful vino from Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, you name it.
When I lived in Manhattan (circa 1998-2002), I met Ed several times upon introduction at trade tastings. Tall, handsome and ever-so-charming, Ed was almost surreal in the way he conducted business. The owner of the company, he was very hands on, talking to his customers as if they were his dear friends and traveling all over the world to meet with the wineries his company represented.
I will never forget the day Lauber Imports hosted a tasting at Tribeca Grill in Spring of 2001.
Stephen and I walked uptown from the World Trade Center, and decided to eat lunch at the popular restaurant before going upstairs to taste hundreds of wine.
We were seated at a booth, and chatting over lunch when Ed spotted us from afar. Stephen and I looked at each other, and nervously realized he was coming over to speak.
We both stood up immediately, greeted Ed, and thanked him for inviting us. Without hesitation, he asked could he sit down at our table to chat.
With that, an instant friendship developed before my eyes over the conversation of wine.
He asked us what trends were popular at Windows, what we liked to drink, where we were in our studies, and he happily told us about where he was going next (I believe, at the time, it was Italy).
This 70-year-old, famous, CEO sat down with Stephen and me and learned about how we felt about the wine world. It was something that touched us then, and something we still reminisce about today.
All of the fantastic wines we later tasted that afternoon were nowhere near as incredible as the 10 minutes we received speaking to Ed.
After he left our table to return to the tasting, we asked the server for our check. Unbelievably enough, there wasn’t one. Ed had already taken care of it.
This coming April will be the 10 year anniversary of our first sit down chat with Ed Lauber.
I am delighted to say our chats didn’t end there.
Even after Windows, even after Blue Fin, even after Borgata, Ed Lauber continues to be a friend, a dear friend to Stephen and me.
He traveled to Tarboro to attend our wedding in 2003, sending us three incredible prints of Mouton Rothschild labels that are hung in our house, forever reminding us of a friendship that grows despite the barriers of age and distance.
The few times I visit New York, I eat breakfast with Ed and his wife Marsha, and we share pictures and stories of my children and his grandchildren.
Ed keeps me in the loop of his never-ending wine visits to Bordeaux and California, intermixed with bike tours to Vietnam and the Loire Valley.
Ed exudes class, charm, elegance and love. He always has an open ear, and he is a true, loyal friend.
As my wine career continues to develop, I cannot help but remember a man who taught me so much about the elixir as well as the way to treat people in business.
Be a friend to everyone, and stay true to your values. You aren’t just selling a product, you’re selling a passion and a story. Someone else worked very hard to make that wine you are drinking. Don’t disrespect it in anyway.
Lauber Imports was bought by Southern Wine & Spirits about five years ago. Ed stayed on for a while, but he has since retired from the wholesale business.
He has not, however, retired from the business of relationships. Still checking up on his close friends he met in the industry, he travelled to Abruzzo, Italy this past harvest to help be a part of a new wine named after him, Edoardo.
All the world over, people acknowledge and respect this genuine gentleman who has done so much for the world of wine. I consider myself truly blessed to be his friend and a student.