When Palisadians Peter Kerr and Bart Lynn started Gourmet Wine Getaways in 1996, they may not have thought it would be still going strong 23 years later. Their success proves that personal service and customer care still matter.
The business partners met in the late 1980s, in the parents’ line as they waited for their respective children to emerge from the Kehillat Israel preschool on Sunset Boulevard.
Lynn has lived in the Alphabet Streets for 39 years; he enjoys it because “it’s not on the way to anything,” he told the Palisadian-Post.
Kerr was also a longtime Palisadian before decamping to the Venice Canals a few years back.
Kerr is a wine wholesaler, Lynn a travel consultant; why not combine the two into Gourmet Wine Getaways?
Their first event at Café Montana (now Margo’s) in Santa Monica set the template for the next couple of hundred dinners. The restaurant provides the space and the food; the winery sends the beverages and the winemaker; Kerr and Lynn coordinate the event and enlist the guests.
The partners seek out small-production wineries rarely found in stores, and they work with the restaurant to customize the food so that it complements the wines. This is a win-win-win formula: The winery gains some exposure, the restaurant gets new visitors and diners taste new wines.
The partners also work with local wine shops to offer the wines from each event at a discount to people who attend the tastings.
Their recent dinner at Cantalini’s Salerno Beach in Playa del Rey marked their third event at that well-known local restaurant. Owner Lisa Schwab praised the partners for bringing 60 people in on a Wednesday night. (She also recalled that she used the Palisadian-Post 20 years ago for originally filing her Fictitious Business Name statement.)
The libations that night came from Labyrinth Winery in Santa Maria, and winemaker Rick Hill genially guided the crowd through the paired courses: Chardonnay accompanied the arugula salad, duck agnolotti was washed down with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc paired well with stuffed chicken breast, while a rich Petite Sirah sailed alongside grilled lamb chops.
Most Getaway dinners offer four wines, but for this event, winemaker Hill uncorked a fifth mystery bottle, which turned out to be an elegant Zinfandel. The house style at Labyrinth seems to lean toward robustness, which drew attention at the table. The enticing quality of the wine became irresistible when customers used their post-dinner discounts to order wines for pickup at Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice the next week.
The partners use a lengthy roster of restaurants for staging their monthly Gourmet Wine Getaways; The next event, slated for June 10, brings beverages from Area 5.1 Winery in Santa Barbara to El Rincon Criollo in Culver City.
In the future, they plan to broaden the wines to include more from northern Italy, a specialty of Kerr’s importing business.
The partners also stage private events, including tastings in homes and winetasting road trips by motor coach for a day or a weekend. Recent clients have included many diverse groups such as the local chapters of Executive Women International and the Stanford Alumni Association.
When Kerr and Lynn began the business, everything was done through the mail and by phone; today it’s mostly online, a transition that they navigated smoothly. In the future there will be many more Gourmet Wine Getaways because, said Lynn, “It’s still fun.”
For more information, visit gourmetwinegetaways.com.