It may have been a roundabout route, but Scott Reiner ’90 is now in his dream profession: buying wines for high-flying clients, including athletes, celebrities, and even Taft alumni and employees. His company, Eat, Drink and Be Happy, sources specialty wines from around the world, which means Reiner travels much of the time, discovering new wines and matching those with the right client.
“Every individual client is different,” he says. “You have to become very nimble…trying to read the customer to find what’s right for them. The sourcing of the material is the most fun part. You get to travel around the world” seeking out new wines.
“I worked in finance for five years, then followed my dream to work in wine. I was confident that I knew a lot about wine at this time, a notion of which I was quickly disabused,” he says. “Initially I imported and distributed wine in New York. I learned a lot about the business, and even more about wine, but wanted a new challenge. Next, I opened a wine store in the East Village in New York City with fellow Taftie Bill McCarter ’67 in 2004. Retail was a grueling but fantastic experience. Long hours, but I learned so much about human nature, sales, business, city government, and yes, wine. I also had a blast.”
After six years, however, Reiner was ready for a new challenge.
“I then started consulting for other retail stores, helping people open new stores, and helping people who were unaware of small production wines learn how to buy the good juice. After about seven years of this I opened up my present company, Eat Drink and be Happy. I buy wine for individuals, initially professional football players, but eventually really anyone, including a number of Tafties and members of the Taft faculty and administration.
“Since I’m not working in the confines of a retail space…I really have a much bigger product base from which to deal. The nice thing about what I’m doing now, compared to retail, is retail is tied to a physical location. Now, the way I do it, is I can do the work from anywhere.”
Sourcing new wines and matching them to the right buyer is a challenge Reiner enjoys.
“You really have to read the person and…hope you’ve done enough sourcing. You want the right wine for the right person. It’s fun just to introduce people to new wines that they didn’t know existed. I deal with smaller, handmade stuff. I provide wines no one knows about to the people who will enjoy it. It’s an interesting challenge and very satisfying when it works.
“There’s always cool stuff coming up. For years, Argentina and Chile were making boring wines, and now they’re really cool,” he says. “As the space for vineyards dries up, people have to find less expensive land. You have young people with new ideas and different ideas. They buy land inexpensively, and 10 years later they’ve got great wine.”
By traveling the globe, Reiner is able to sample up-and-coming regions and wines and discover the next new trends.
“As established regions become more expensive, every generation has to find a new, cheaper way to do things, especially now that you can buy good wines everywhere all over the world,” he says. “It never ends: every year you have a new vintage, with new weather patterns, new wines. Some success stories and some failures.”
Understanding the client’s palate is also key. Reiner initially met his clients through his contacts in the financial world and then grew his business through word of mouth. Reiner has a conversation with new clients about their likes and expectations, followed by a few cases of carefully-chosen ‘test’ wines to really hone in on what the client is going to enjoy.