“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you, becomes your trademark.”
I cannot credit those words to any particular person but I wish I knew who first said them. They are the truth of my personal ethos for success in business. Fancy dinners, considerate wine choices, expensive gifts emblazoned with corporate logos, flashy buzzwords, [and really] all things aside, authenticity can not be forced. It is needed from every level of your organization, from every entree on the table, from every soul and every touchpoint present in the intersection of your dealings. When it happens, and everyone shows up – the synergy of winning takes flight.
One look at this table and I thought, where else would I want to spend an evening with my colleagues and precious clients? Avant Table 65 inside the Rancho Bernardo Inn is set behind glass doors at the entry of the restaurant, so you feel a bit like shiny salt water fish in an aquarium. Notably, the prized feature is the circular table located inside a professional chefs kitchen. Regardless of how large the private space behind glass walls was, the feel is surprisingly intimate and we quickly forgot for the night that we were fishes being gawked at. Offering personal time with the service team, prix fixe personalized menus, a dining space separate from restaurant floor noise, it was the ideal location to host clients for what turned out to be the most fun business dinner that any of us had ever had. We hooted, we hollered, we plotted April Fool’s jokes, we lingered over two hours to our delight. More below, but first, the wine:
A quick survey of my guest preferences at Table 65, and with guidance of the Sommelier onsite at Avant, I was led to select an organic, light bodied red wine against the California fusion fare that Avant specializes in. I expected all the perfumed aroma, translucent color, ripe fruit, easy body, and cool climate cranberry that I got from my table pleasing bottle of Penner Ash Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. The northwest wine region of the United States is characterized by fruit forward wines, and if you associate Cab as King in Napa, you can deduct that Pinot Noir is King to the Willamette Valley. If you’re ever in position to select wine for a table of people, Pinot Noir is a finicky grape, but a beautiful wine with wide appeal; a safe choice for anyone new or old to the spectrum of red wine. A number of my guests had fish entrée meal preferences at the table, everybody having wine wanted red, and I had one specific request for organic wine, so the Penner Ash fit the bill nicely.
Generally pleasing, the disposition of Pinot Noir is like your easy-going, no drama best friend, who is reliable and can always be counted upon when meeting new friends for the first time. The Penner Ash has no stage fright either; the bottle appeared on stage at appetizers through to desert and was a crowd pleaser until the end. A last-pour, standing ovation came during the encore performance – a vanilla bean salted caramel cheesecake adorned with pumpkin puree.
Now that the technical of wine is aside, I must apologize. Apologize for having TOO MUCH FUN at dinner so much that I can’t articulate the magic in fairness to you or to the quality of time spent crying tears of laughter at dinner that night. We ended up staging pranks in the parking lot, traveling the property like a college frat house. If I ask for time with my clients at dinner, it is time away from their families, it is time away from their regular resting patterns, time that deserves the respect and effort of forging a real bond with them. Wine and excellent food alone cannot do the trick. You have to bring YOU to the table, and I think that is the ultimate secret of the best Sommeliers. The search for business relevance is constantly on my mind when it comes to my professional, non-wine student life. Finding success in the boardroom is much like finding success at a dinner where your guests are your clients. You can’t fake your way through a wine list any more than you can fake your way through a sales pitch, or an investigative deep dive into mutual business operations.
Winning at both business, and business dinners, involves the crafting of a client experience that matches their needs, tastes, and preferences, with your talents, your understanding, and a strong individuality of your personal brand.
Take the time. Master that. And above all else, have FUN. Enjoy the souls you share your table with!