There and Back Again – Meeting the Family CentanniJonathan Zeiger
Not long into my time at Lavanda Blu (that story here) we needed to head over the hill to the Centanni family property to fill up at the wine station (quite literally like a gas station, see below). Hans, the tall Dutchman with a wolf’s look of gray hair and blue-gray eyes (and a wild sense of humor you could only attribute to a true Dutchman), took me with him to fill the wine jugs at Cantina Centanni (cantina, Italian for winery). It was here that I first met Giacomo Centanni, the young winemaker and heir to the family business. About 26 at the time, he seemed genuinely happy to see us. Little did I know just how much this encounter would change my life.
With Hans translating between us (Giacomo spoke about as much English at that time as I spoke Italian), it soon came to light that I was seeking a career in the wine industry. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I only knew that my future was to be soaked in fermented grapes. This immediately seemed to interest Giacomo. After speaking at length, Hans eventually turned to me and translated for Giacomo: “I’d like for my wine to be in the US. Would you like to be an importer”?
I couldn’t believe it. Here I was in Italy, only hoping to get some work experience and see what kind of connections I could make, and all of a sudden my career falls into my lap. “Yes, definitely” I said. As I was still technically in college (the whole reason for the trip was to study abroad in Spain in order to finish my classes), I did let him know, “It will take some time for me to get it going”. He told me that was fine, and we sealed it with a handshake.
I saw Giacomo one more time on that trip. While I was awaiting my train in Pedaso, I decided, as I often do in unknown areas, to wander around the little coastal town. He was washing his car across the street when we noticed each other. I waved and traversed the coast highway. We had no idea what the other was saying, but I think the message was clear: this would be a long-standing business relationship, and it would soon become a close friendship. My train arrived not long after, and I was on my way to work on the vineyards at Chateau Brandeau, in the classic wine region, Bordeaux, France (another awesome story, coming soon). I returned exactly one year later, business plan in hand, ready to build an empire (yet another awesome story, coming soon). My career as an importer, the only US specialist of The Marvelous Marche, began.