For Yuri Vanetik, wine has turned business into a cultural experience

Yuri Vanetik has been appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as California Lottery Commissioner. And before that, the famous governor appointed the Ukrainian-American lawyer to serve on the California Criminal Justice Commission. Vanetik is a political operative and Washington insider who sometimes lobbies congress and represents foreign companies and political leaders, some of whom have become lifelong friends. But with all the people he’s met and all the places he’s seen – having traveled across the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Caucasus – Vanetik says his most fascinating encounters have been with people he met through a shared love for wine. .

A wine collector for over 22 years, Yuri Vanetik has tasted wines in Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Ukraine, Poland, Turkey, Moldova, Germany, China, Republic of Georgia, Canada and in twenty different regions that would never come to mind when you think of wine.

His winemaking prowess isn’t exactly a secret – having been featured in the Robb Report – but aside from the occasional magazine interview, Vanetik is private about his wine preferences, places he he visits and the relationships he maintains through mutual insurance. passion for wine.

Vanetik says wine has not only led him to new business ventures, but also helped him solve complex problems for his clients.

“Whether I meet a candidate for the presidency of a country in Eastern Europe in difficulty or a business leader from the south of France, the discussion often turns to wine”, smiles the lawyer-political strategist.

“The reason is simple,” he explains. “Many alpha-type people who are looking for meaning and want to have an impact on the world around them drink and collect wine. It’s a magnet for the curious and the passionate. I remember an encounter I I once had with an influential religious leader in Israel. He was stern, difficult to fathom and understand, and negotiations were going nowhere, until the subject of Israeli wine came up.

Vanetik clearly remembers the tangible shift in energy when his commercial “opponent” fondly recommended a 2016 Gva’ot Masada Bordeaux-style blend, fondly describing its notes of chocolate ganache and cigar tobacco and hinting, as at a close friend, that the blend can age better than a red Bordeaux.

“We instantly connected.” Vanetic laughs oddly.

“Discovering wine with someone or sharing a passion for a certain region or even a vintage is like discussing your puppy playing with your grandchildren,” continues Vanetik. “People are smiling and their guard is down.”

But to win a place at the most exclusive table, a simple love of wine is not enough. You have to have the taste — and the know-how — of a fine sommelier. Vanetik makes it clear: you will be measured by the type of wine you drink.

“I was recently discussing the terms with a potential client from Eastern Europe,” Vanetik recalls. “He promised that if our work together was successful, I would receive a case of 1992 Screaming Eagle, a rare California cult wine that many believe is prohibitively expensive. The businessman who bragged about drinking “Screagle” as he called it, was surprised that I liked the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or DRC as it is called for short, and began to treat me as an equal rather than a service provider. ”

Vanetik asks me if I know the DRC. No. But rest assured, I am not alone. The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which prices its “entry-level” Corton wine at more than €1,000 and the Monopole La Tache at more than €4,000, selectively opens its doors to exclusive importers or to the most demanding fine wine journalists. sharp. and only produces a few thousand bottles a year to maintain its rigorous quality standards.

“If you’re thinking of stopping at the cellar, don’t waste your time because you won’t get in,” he smiles. “Ironically, the adjacent street is called Rue de Temps Perdu, the street of lost time.”

Wines like these become the story of legends. Property alone is a provider of status. For this reason, some who buy do not intend to drink, but to collect or acquire to invest, often to the dismay of producers.

“Wine in business can make you equal and can turn your rivals into collaborators,” the oenophile tells me, describing the “old guard” of Eastern European businessmen and bureaucrats, who consider often professionals like “a janitor with a graduate”. diploma.”

For the authentic few who share the passion and palate of exquisite wine… its stories and its history… the joy of sharing it with others… the heights of collecting it… When they meet again, it breaks down walls and creates connections… it’s the great equalizer and transforms “doing business” into a cultural experience.

“I remember visiting Moldova and meeting various business leaders there,” shares the passionate storyteller. “The businessman who later became a client showed me around the famous cellars and told me about the historical genesis of his favorite wine, Negru de Purcari. He told me how the baptismal certificate was established in 1827, when Tsar Nicholas I issued a special decree establishing the first specialized winery in Bessarabia at Purcari…”

He keeps on.

“Some time ago I negotiated the acquisition of a hotel in the Caucasus. The opposing lawyer – an Austrian lawyer – started talking about Georgian wine and how the unique way of making wine in Qvevri is the oldest known method of wine production… Well, we talked for a moment and it turns out he’s collecting a rare California wine popular with followers of wine critic Robert Parker’s preferences and ratings. The rare concoction is called Sine Qua Non… Once the partner at the big law firm learned that I also collected his favorite wine, he melted with excitement. Now we are returning business.

This love of wine… It opened great doors in the business world for the Ukrainian-American. It has been a superior negotiation tool and a way to show gratitude and respect to those with elastic resources, who are not easily impressed.

“Wine in business transcends culture,” he says.

Elisha A. Tilghman