Andre Mack and Mouton Noir: The wine world’s black sheep

— In a third-floor loft a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, the wine merchants at Banville & Jones are deciding which wines New Yorkers will drink. Andre Mack has been selling his Mouton Noir wine through these distributors for 10 years, but today they make him wait.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, Banville & Jones’ staffers swirl, sip and spit around a conference table as global winemakers pitch new vintages and hope that these experts will push their wares just a little harder.

First this morning is an Italian maker, with a new portfolio of Barolo and Chianti. Then, a French maker who runs way overtime. Next up is Mack. He sets out his bottles and begins to spin the tales of his own collection of “garage wines.”

The “Bottoms Up” white blend (75 percent riesling, eight percent viognier and the rest pinot blanc) has opening notes of diesel and kerosene with floral tones.

“It’s light, easy, not too angular,” Mack says. Then comes the Oregogne pinot noir (“My workhorse”). Mack details the source of the barrels and the location of the vineyard used for his 2013, and how he has the grapes picked early to yield less sugar.

Mack ends with “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades,” a syrah/cab/merlot blend that “Shows my creativity as a winemaker,” he says.

Mack’s stories compose his narrative. He gets lots of press for being one of the few blacks in the industry. But that’s not just marketing. He is a craftsman.

How important are Mack’s stories to selling his wine?

“Hugely important,” says Vincenzo Guglietta, Banville & Jones’ sales manager. “Andre tells a compelling story. Let’s face it, there are a whole lot of wines out there. Without a story, it’s just juice.”

For the rest of the day and the next several weeks, Mack tells his story again and again— at a food-industry incubator that afternoon, at that evening’s launch of eBay Wine— a new website that Mack is curating— a TV show taping at his house that weekend, then

tastings in Boston, dinners in Milwaukee, more distributors in Kentucky, and then a few days in Texas.

It’s a grueling schedule, but as Mack sees it, more fuel for the wine’s story.

“At some point, Robert Mondavi was walking from store to store carrying bottles in a bag, too.” Mack has no paid assistants, no sales staff. The wines are about a singular taste, a singular vision. So much so that Mack also designs the stark, black-and-white labels that vie for attention in a market where many drinkers judge wines by their covers.

“I wasn’t able to convey what I wanted to other designers,” Mack said. “So I taught myself.”

“For now, it’s just me, ” Mack says. “I’m the best person to tell my story and the story of the wine. So far, it’s working.”

And it’s a good story. Wine steward at The Palm in San Antonio; winner of the “Best Young Sommelier” competition and the first African-American to do so. Recruited by chef Thomas Keller to head the wine program at Manhattan’s four-star Per Se, where wines can climb to $24,000 a bottle. Then a calling to strike out on his own, a risky move from a safe gig, self-training, self-doubt, mistakes.

In just under 12 years, Mouton Noir (French for “Black Sheep”) has grown from 36 cases shipped in its first year to more than 33,000 cases in 2016. That puts Mouton Noir at the very high end of the small-winery business, a category in which most wineries sell fewer than 2,000 cases per year.

Mack also sells a lifestyle, a concept of fun and approachability backed by disarming quality.

“I’m trying to create something that is not just a wine company, but an experience. Something you can remember after the wine is finished.”

A husband and father of three boys, Mack says what he’s really doing— the hard work, the tough schedule, the constant hustle— is building a family business.

“My children taste my wine. I want them to know what I do and where it comes from. They travel with me to the vineyards, touch the grapes, walk the farms. That’s what it’s all about. “This is what I want to be remembered for. This is my legacy.”

Thomas Moorehead rolls into the world of ultra-luxury

— The world’s first African-American Rolls Royce car dealer got there through hard work and perseverance, but only after disappointing his family.

Thomas Moorehead’s parents thought the key to respectability was a Ph.D. Both teachers, they lived by an old-school axiom that the one thing you never can take away from a man is an education.

Yet, with just a few credits and a dissertation to go, Moorehead abandoned his doctoral program, and his parent’s wishes, for an uncertain shot at learning the automobile business from the bottom up.

It was a leap of faith, an offer from a fraternity brother and mentor, James Bradley of Bradley Automotive Group, who promised to make Moorehead a millionaire in five years — if he took the risk. But it wasn’t the promise that attracted Moorehead: “Teaching was a guarantee of a long career, but I always had a passion for business,” he says.

His road to success required two years of apprenticeship with Bradley, the mortgaging of his home and the depletion of his savings to enter a training program, then eventually owning his first dealership, selling Buicks in Omaha, Neb.

Moorehead built a strong reputation as someone dedicated to customer service, an essential value of the Rolls Royce brand. That reputation, and his sales record as owner of Sterling BMW in Virginia, sparked an invitation from Rolls Royce Motor Cars to join the exclusive club of only 33 dealers and 130 dealerships around the globe, an opportunity he accepted without hesitation.

The new store, Rolls Royce Motor Cars of Sterling, is the sole Rolls Royce dealership in greater Washington, D.C. and covers much of the mid-Atlantic — from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania. It sits just across from Sterling BMW and Mini, his other successful dealership, a fact that fills him with immense pride.

“These are the best cars in the world, and I’m honored to be able to bring them to my customers,” Moorehead says as he looks across the lot.

His dealerships thrive in one of the region’s wealthiest communities, filled with prosperous government contractors, newly minted millionaires from tech start-ups and the Washington Redskins’ nearby training facility.

But the opulence that Moorehead markets is a long way from his roots in Monroe, Louisiana, a town of 38,000 with a historic poverty rate twice the already poor state’s average.

During his youth, Monroe Colored High was the sole choice for black students in that segregated city. It was a time when, according to Moorehead, families like his could “offer you their good name, but not money.”

That upbringing drives a sense of humility that led Moorehead to keep his own name off the dealership’s logo. “I always say the boss is the customer, not me. I don’t get caught up in having my name on the door,” he explains. “Actually, most customers who come in think I’m just another salesman, and that’s fine with me.”

In a world where demanding buyers have been known to add millions of dollars’ worth of custom details to their cars to reflect their personalities (fur-lined shoe-holders, built-in picnic baskets, crystal cufflink holders), Moorehead’s low-key manner is a studied contrast – a contrast he believes helps him sell more cars. “I can talk about the features of the cars all day but, ultimately, people are buying good service.”

At age 71, Moorehead still relies on the daily advice of mentors, who include Hall of Fame home-run great (now car dealer) Hank Aaron and former National Urban League president John Jacob. He calls them “instrumental” in shaping his business’s success. “They marked their careers by quietly getting the job done, but also being the best at what they do.”

While giving a tour of his office, Moorehead seems slightly embarrassed as he points to pictures of himself with presidents Obama and Clinton and an array of famous business leaders. That changes when he points out two items of which he’s most proud: the Laurel Wreath Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s highest honor for lifetime achievement— and then something much less distinct: a small cardboard sign that lists more than a dozen vendors who, he says, have contributed to his achievements — architects, decorators, contractors, cleaning-service owners and even the guy who printed the sign.

All are African-Americans, and fraternity brothers, people for whom he has paid forward the gift that Bradley gave him.

“This is really what it’s all about, bringing other people up and giving something back.”

For more information on Thomas Moorehead’s philanthropic efforts go to www.themooreheadfoundation.org

Eleven steps to better money management in 2016

— Savings, bills, plans and budgets. These things rarely appear on Yuletide shopping lists. Yet, the days and weeks after Christmas and into the New Year often yield a frightening wake-up call.

For many people, getting their finances in order is second only to losing weight among their New Year’s resolutions. But as with dropping those pounds, somehow watching those dollars and cents rarely happens.

Fortunately, experts say, it’s never too late to start improving your financial health. This task is as much about changing the way you think about money as adjusting your saving or spending habits.

Urban News Service asked leading authorities Ben Carter and Guy-Max Delphin how readers can dedicate 2016 to bolstering their personal finances.

Ben Carter, the host and producer of “Manage Your Damn Money,” a YouTube series designed to help millennials make personal economics a part of their culture offers these 11 steps to better money management in 2016.

  1. Budget Your Time First— Consider places where you’ve been wasteful with your time, energy and resources, not just your money. Often, life can overtake us with things we’re not obligated to deal with, pay for or spend time on. Ultimately, in oneway or another, that costs you money. Take the time to consider what mundane tasks might be avoidable and how you might be able to make better use of your valuable time.
  2. Audit Your Lifestyle— How we live determines how much we spend. So, how much does your daily lifestyle contribute to your financial health? Do you really need cable TV? Has eating out become a daily occurrence? Do you really need to go to brunch every Sunday? Do you have more invested in shoes than stock? One of the easiest ways to keep money in your pockets is to stop finding ways for it to leave in the first place.
  3. Go Automated— Three words: automatic savings plan. One of the most effective ways to save (and invest) money is by opening an account and setting automatic debits to put money away in a separate savings (or investment) account you don’t look at often. The day after payday, a portion of your automatic deposit should be headed to this separate account to ensure consistency and saving of the largest percentage of your income possible. This trains you to get comfortable with living on only a portion of your income and makes saving a task you don’t have to think about.
  4. Learn More/Read More— It sounds like a no-brainer, but finance confuses some people so much that even reading about it feels like a chore. Commit to learning something more about how to make your money grow. The true key to building wealth is creating multiple streams of income. Consider committing to finding new ways to put your money to work so it can be fruitful and multiply.

Popular writers about money— such as Robert Kiyosaki, Michelle Singletary and Napoleon Hill— are popular because their strategies are sound. Reading gives you the opportunity to see your life, your goals and your finances through an alternative lens.

Apply the strategies and shifts in thinking that align with your perspective and are likely to have a positive impact on your pockets.

  1. Celebrate Small Victories— Take a weekend to get all your online accounts and account statements in one place and take a look at your victories— money you’ve earned, saved and invested, or goals you’ve met in the past year.

If you’ve made contributions to your 401(k) at work, celebrate! If you were able to pay off that nagging debt, celebrate! If you were able to save $750 for that trip you really wanted to go on, celebrate! Looking at the big picture can be overwhelming and sometimes prevent you from recognizing small steps you’ve made toward your goals.

  1. Add Your Financial Goals to Your Regular “To-Do List”— Many people put these things on separate lists. Write your financial goals down and put them on your list of things to do every day as a reminder of what you’re working toward.

Guy-Max Delphin is the CEO and president of Delphin Investments, a hedge fund management company based in New York that focuses on balanced investment strategies. Here are his words of financial wisdom:

  1. Have a Money “Vision”— If you’re a small investor, be a contrarian. It can be hard not to follow the crowd around the water cooler, especially in good times. But if everybody is talking about a stock, chances are you’re too late. Have a unique vision for how you want to invest that matches what you believe in. If you’re relatively new to

investing, a conservative strategy that minimizes your risk is always best. Then make small-size investments to limit short-term pain. Don’t bet the farm.

  1. Adjust Your Plans for “Right Now”— Review and re-evaluate all of your insurance policies— homeowners, auto, rental, life and health. You may have started the policies a while ago, but do they adequately protect the life you live now? After that, check to see whether there are new deals or new products that will save you money on your premiums while giving the same protection.
  2. Review— If you’re a more experienced investor, review your portfolio to make changes that reflect new business trends or the current economic environment. Technology, especially, is changing rapidly. Do you think the same way about the industries you invested in as you did when you first invested?
  3. Plan for the Worst— Nobody wants to think about dying, but the major difference between wealth in the black community today and that of other communities has almost everything to do with what we leave behind for the next generation. Make a will or review the one you have and make sure your wishes are very clear about the management of your money and belongings.
  4. Watch Financial Television (But Only Sometimes)— In general, you should avoid taking investment advice from a TV pundit. But channels such as CNBC can be very helpful in learning the lingo of Wall Street, stocks and finance and new developments in business and finance. That comfort can go a long way to making it easier to discuss money and planning with a spouse, your family or a financial adviser.