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Eric Solomon Selections

From Rock to Rhône... and beyond

If you would have asked a young Eric Solomon what he wanted to do when he grew up, he would have told you he wanted to be a rock drummer, or a classically-trained percussionist, in earshot of his parents. So at 18 he found himself in London as the understudy to the principal percussionist for the London Symphony Orchestra as well as a rock-drummer in several bands. Neither position paid well, so it was pure luck that walking into his neighborhood wine bar looking for employment, he would discover his true vocation. Starting as a bartender, the lanky yank caught the attention of the proprietor for his aptitude and eagerness to learn and soon he was making selections for the wine list. Eventually he was sponsored to the Institute of Masters of Wine where he excelled in its rigorous course of study. Unfortunately this was cut short when the UK government realized that he had overstayed his student visa.

Washing up on the shores of Manhattan, the young, wine-savvy twenty-something immediately found employment as the Director of Fine Wines for a Fortune 100 Wine and Spirits company learning much that would serve him well when he founded European Cellars in 1990. From the start, Eric championed unheralded wine growing regions and promoted young, innovative winemakers. His initial focus was France where he was an early proponent of the wines of the Rhône, the Languedoc and the Roussillon. His growing reputation in Europe as a new, dynamic and successful importer prompted Daphne Glorian to send him, unsolicited, a sample of her wine, Clos Erasmus in 1993. This wine would change Eric’s life professionally and personally.

Daphne had a similarly unconventional path to wine. Initially she trained in the law and while working in the Paris office of an English Master of Wine she met Rene Barbier. Moving to the Priorat in 1988 at the urging of Rene, she invested her life’s savings in 17 terraces of vines near the village of Gratallops thereby becoming one of the founders of the modern Priorat. Daphne would go on to establish her own cellar, Clos i Terrasses, and become the first winemaker in Spain to achieve back-to-back perfect scores for her wine Clos Erasmus in 2004 & 2005. In the intervening years she not only met her enthusiastic American importer but eventually agreed to marry him. With his allocation of Clos Erasmus secured, Eric began to explore the rest of Spain and has assembled a Spanish portfolio as innovative and distinctive as his imports from France.

For his pioneering efforts, Eric has been recognized by Robert Parker as his Wine Personality of the Year for 2002, remarking, “Solomon has a great talent for ferreting out spectacular wines from France and Spain. The quality of these selections is remarkable.” In 2006 he was awarded Best Importer of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine and he has been a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Writing in celebration of European Cellars’ 25th anniversary, Robert Parker followed on his earlier praise, writing, “I first tasted with Eric in 1991/1992, and I have watched him grow as an importer to the point where he may be the finest in the United States.”

Jon-David Headrick Selections

The path from fried chicken and cornbread while growing up in Tennessee to importing French wines was not an obvious one. While working in restaurants during college, Jon-David developed an interest in French wine and growing regions. Upon graduation, he moved to Paris to work on an MBA and took every opportunity he had to travel to wine country. It wasn’t long until it became clear that working with farmers made so much more sense than poring over spreadsheets, at least for him.

Finding a job in the wine business was not easy work but in 2001, Eric Solomon took a chance on a young man with little experience and made him his Director of Operations. Before long, Jon-David was the General Manager of European Cellars. After a few years of close work with Eric, Jon-David struck off on his own and created a portfolio of wines from the Loire Valley and Champagne, two regions with which he had long been intensely passionate. Perhaps it was destined from the start but in 2013, the two portfolios came back together under the umbrella of European Cellars.

His manifesto, which he wrote when he started the company in 2005, remains as true today as it did then, “Standing in a rocky, chalk-covered vineyard a few years ago, I listened as a winegrower friend talked about the current state of wine. “Fruit in a wine is easy”, he said. “Purity is elusive.” He was right, of course, but I’d never really thought about it in such stark terms. He continued, “Purity comes from hardship. It comes from the struggle of the vine’s roots through the rocks it is planted on, it comes from the fight against every other plant vying for the same water and nutrients, and it comes from the plant learning to fight for itself and not having man fight its battles.”

"In creating this portfolio, I was looking for these kinds of wines, and I found them planted on a massive swath of chalk and slate that runs from the Atlantic Ocean through the Loire river valley and into Champagne. This “chalk line” produces wines of extraordinary purity, minerality, and soul and represents the heart of my portfolio. The properties with which I work are consumed with making true wines – wines that are true to where they come from, true to the earth, and true to the winemaker’s obsession with quality. The vast majority of the properties with which we work practice organic or biodynamic viticulture and we wholly support winemakers who harvest by hand, use indigenous yeasts, and who vinify with little intervention. All are leaders in their appellations and harvest at dramatically lower yields than their neighbors. Above all else, they are farmers.

"In selecting properties for this portfolio, I seek purity first, eschewing heavy-handed usage of oak and opting instead for wines with excellent ripeness, minerality, and above all, balance. The presence of balancing acidity is absolutely crucial in my view to world-class wine and I’m not afraid to represent wines that have startling acidity if there is fruit to support it.”

Founded in 2005, Jon-David Headrick Selections was named “Best New Specialist Importer” by Wine & Spirits magazine as well as a “Wine Importer You Can Trust” by Slate magazine. Headrick’s work has been featured in French media outlets such as Radio France, La Nouvelle Republique, and TV Tours as well as American publications such as the Washington Post, Food & Wine magazine, and many others. In 2010, the government of France announced that Jon-David Headrick would be appointed a Chevalier dans l’Ordre du Merite Agricole, one of the highest civilian awards given by the government of France. The rank of chevalier (knight) is a lifetime appointment and is given to acknowledge outstanding service to French agriculture.

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