Ruben Moreno, Wine Importer

When I first savored the volcanic soil, delicate cherry notes, and hints of aromatic herbs in a 2002 Pinot Noir from Oregon, I was hooked on wine. This wine opened my eyes to the beauty of "terroir," I was a student at the Culinary Institute of America at the time, and after graduation, I worked as a restaurant manager in Manhattan. Because of my passion for discovering and sharing wine, I was promoted to wine buyer shortly after we opened.

Moving to California was a tough but fateful decision for me. I received a few job offers, and one was in Napa Valley at a world-renowned restaurant called The French Laundry. If I accepted their offer, I would have to start at the bottom and work my way up. A demotion didn't seem too appealing. But one night, as I was pondering my next move, my mother called to tell me that she had found a tiny lump in her breast and that she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked. My mom was a tough lady who never asked for help, but she would be starting chemotherapy soon and wanted to tell me. I knew I had to move closer to home. I took the job at The French Laundry, determined to prove myself as quickly as possible.

I excelled at The French Laundry, and during this time, I honed my palate and wine knowledge. Working with Master Sommelier Paul Roberts, I found a taste for mineral-driven wines, and wines that showcase not only their "terroir," but are also perfectly crafted, expressive, and concentrated. I soon realized that most of the wines I liked were incredibly rare. Little by little, I became friends with winemakers in Burgundy, Alsace, and Piedmont, where I was introduced to a whole network of fellow winemakers in other regions. Every time I tasted a new wine that I loved, I was disappointed when I came home to find out that the wine was either unavailable in the U.S. or prohibitively expensive.

After almost a decade of working for Thomas Keller, I felt it was time for a change. I had been a Captain and Sommelier at the French Laundry for 7 years and was ready to strike out on my own. I decided to travel as far as I could and for as long as my savings would last. I built a loft in my house and rented out all the rooms to help cover the mortgage. For 7 months, I explored the world of wine. I hiked mountains, drove beneath cliffs, and walked through vineyards overlooking the Alps. I did this all to share my discoveries with you, wine lovers and enthusiasts, so that you can access these fantastic wines.