Friday, June 6, 2008


This past week, the local wine business lost a good friend and passionate soul in Todd Nikolai, who worked for Vintner Select, a renowned distributor/importer in Mason, Ohio. Todd was crazy about wine, and it showed in his exuberant approach to this industry that so many of us love to work in. I’d known Todd for nearly 10 years, ever since he became my wine rep from Vintner Select while I was managing the bar at CafĂ© Boulevard in Dayton. I was quick to discover that Todd and I were both going to Wright State during the day, frantically trying to get the degrees we were slow to work on back in our twenties. Todd was one of my favorite reps, primarily because I never felt pressured by him to buy whatever it was he was tasting that day. He was just exuberant about showing his customers something new – something anyone truly geeked about wine would appreciate. And he was always laughing and joking whenever he came into the restaurant, which made things much easier – it’s pretty tough to be a jerk in this business though there are a few out there. Todd was certainly not one of those guys.

As I moved on from restaurant schlub to retail cork dork, Todd and I kept in touch. I think we actually graduated the same year though I don't think either of us did the cap-and-gown thing (no time). Inevitably I settled in Cincinnati, here at Liquor Direct, and Todd became more of a brand manager for VS. The last time we spoke was at a party at our friend Eric Jerardi’s house. It was small talk, introductions to our wives, and a moment of catching up on things. He told me he was going to come by the store sometime, he had a few things to show me.

Unfortunately, aside from a few emails since then, I never spoke to him again. Todd will definitely be missed. My prayers go out to his wife, his daughter, the Nikolai family, and everyone at Vintner Select.

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