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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Alex Milligan Co-Owner, Partner at David Milligan Selections, a Boutique French Wine Importer Our Coverage Sponsored by Flavors of Lonato

Alex Milligan

Flavors of Lonato, a purveyor of fine Italian fare, was started by two very dear friends, each on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. As the world has grown smaller separated only by distance and culture, these friends took an idea to bring a select part of Italian culture with its rich history and passion for healthy cooking to a world that is now increasingly interactive. With trust and determination, this friendship over the years inspired these culinary products of excellence: “Flavors of Lonato.” A little taste of Northern Italian fare is represented by the finest products from the small villages exclusive to the Garda region of Italy. This region is known for the exceptional high quality of products produced by small family-owned growers with over a millennium of expertise that has been passed down from generation to generation. The mission of Flavors of Lonato is to provide the eating public with authentic Italian Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegars, and gourmet Italian fare. “Flavors of Lonato” now proudly brings this rich historic culture to the USA for American consumers to enjoy.

Alex Milligan is Co-Owner and Partner at David Milligan Selections, a boutique French wine importer based in New York City. They represent 12 phenomenal wineries across France in the Rhone, Loire, Provence, Languedoc, Champagne and Burgundy.  David Milligan was interviewed as a Mover and Shaker on Whom You Know in 2012.

A born and bred New Yorker, Alex started his career in wine in 2004 at the famed wine store Sherry-Lehmann in Manhattan just a few miles from where he was born. He spent two years working his way up from a Christmas time sales person to Assistant Director of Advertising, where he helped develop the well known Sherry-Lehmann catalog as well as implementing the store window and guiding the stores placement of advertising in major publication. He also helped develop their beautiful website as the onsite photographer cataloging the vast selection of wines available. Along with the thorough education in wine gained at the store, Alex continued his studies at the International Wine Center.

In 2006, Alex left Sherry-Lehmann to join his father at David Milligan Selections. Starting at the bottom as a sales person, over the last 8 years Alex has taken over the majority of work in the company leading it to new heights. Since Alex joined the company, it has more than doubled sales and introduced several new wineries across the United States.

Alex has traveled extensively, developing many relationships with key clients around the country in existing markets and new ones that he has developed. Alex regularly travels to France to meet with suppliers and taste new vintages as well as to look for new wineries.

To further his education, in 2012 he spent a week at the famed Chateau du Trignon and Domaine Houchart helping to produce the new vintage. This helped develop his knowledge of the winemaking experience.

As of January 1st, 2014 Alex is now a Partner at David Milligan Selections and manages all day to day activities for the company.  We are thrilled to present Alex Milligan as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Alex for Whom You Know.  

Peachy Deegan: Please tell us about your first wine memory.
Alex Milligan: 
I think I was 7 or 8 and I snuck a sip from the dinner table. As you might expect, it was quite terrible. I don’t think I gave it another try for at least a decade.

What are your favorite bottles of wine and what do you like about each?
A tough question. For everyday drinking right now I’m in love with a delightful bottle of red that I import from Carcassonne called Esprit de Sarrail. But if you’re asking about all time greats I’ve always been in love with Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. I try to wait as long as I can and open it after about ten years. It gets a wonderful petrol nose and is very viscous, just delicious. I also love aged Riesling (I’m on a bit of an aged white kick right now).

Of course we imagine France is your origin of choice but what other countries do you feel are competitive with France in wine production?
These days, I am hard pressed to find a part of the world where there aren't at least one or two producers making incredible wine. I’ll always be a Francophile but I love Amarone. I have several American wine loving friends who have introduced me to some great bottles. 
I also love South African wine. Now to say they are competitive with France… I just don’t know.

What has your dad taught you about wine?
I think the answer is almost everything. He has really worked in almost every facet of this business and he’s told me stories about all of them and the real key is that this business is all about relationships. It’s one of the reasons I love my job. I meet so many interesting people and they meet so many interesting people, dinner is never boring.

Are there any good stories about your dad you'd like to share that he didn't tell us in his interview? 
A friend of his from the business once told me they went on a trip to Portugal back in the day to visit the Sandeman estate. At some point they had a bonfire and my father started leaping over it!

What are your criteria when you add a new vineyard to your portfolio at David Milligan selections?
We look at a couple factors, first and foremost is the wine delicious? I am very lucky that I can say I love all the wines I sell. I would be fine being able to drink just one of them for the rest of my life. Second, is the value there? I sell a couple high end wines but they are all made by the same vineyards that make great wines that are affordable and very drinkable. 
Third, is it a true expression of the place? Terroir is such an important part of the French wine experience and without it, I just don’t have as much fun. Finally, do I like the people? We mostly work with families and we build relationships to last. Most of our vineyards have been with us since the beginning 19 years ago.

Other than the vineyards what do you love about France and why?
The food obviously. On our yearly tour of France we are lucky to make our first stop in Sancerre. Now of course they make great wine, but Domaine Fournier has a wonderful secret. His brother owns the best restaurant in town. We usually sit down for a 6 to 8 course meal of small, fantastic dishes. Amazing every time.  
I also make sure to stop for lunch in Charolais in Burgundy, the only place for AOC beef. And finally there is the cheese. Epoisses and Vacheron Mont D’Or both hold very special places in my heart.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My mother for sure. Not only does she push me to excel but she leads by example. She is originally from Queens. She went to Cornell on scholarship and is now in the higher ranks of JP Morgan in the private bank’s trust division, and this was a job she started working toward only 20 years ago.

What are you proudest of and why? 
At the moment, probably Esprit de Sarrail. It’s the first winery that I found for the company and not only is it selling well but I thoroughly enjoy the wine for my own enjoyment.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I’m young so that’s a long list. I must admit I have fantasies of having my own retail shop. I’d love to sit on a tasting panel. I spend so much time with my own wines, I don’t get to try others nearly as much as I would like. There are so many underserved markets for importers like me, I think I may try to open a distributor one day but that would mean leaving NYC so maybe not. And then we get really tangential so I’ll leave that for another time.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Sadly none; I am one of the many unrecognized warriors toiling away, spending day after day drinking great wine and travelling the world without anyone thinking to recognize my work. 

What one word best describes you and why?
Maybe, Loyal, both at work and in my personal life I do whatever I can to improve the lives of those around me and help out when they’re in trouble.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Right now I’m really enjoying biking along the East River.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
I can’t tell you that; the others would be jealous!

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Someone I could trust. As our company expands and my father takes a step back I’m chronically short on time. Unfortunately with lots of work and little time, anyone I hire I would have to trust to get everything done without me looking over their shoulder.

What is your favorite drink?
A lovely glass of wine of course!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
That is a very difficult question. I can only narrow it down to about 10.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?
I just finished the Island at the Center of the World which is all about the original Dutch colony. I also really enjoyed The Poisoner’s Handbook which covers the early 1900’s and the advent of poisons (mostly in NYC).

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
The head of the SLA so I could fix the NY liquor laws.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
The Highline because it’s amazing.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I’m not exactly known for my athletics but I had a great sunset once, playing tennis at the courts around 96th st on the westside highway, so much fun and so beautiful.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Just walking around, or citibiking. There are so few cities that truly feel like walking cities, where there is so much happening on every block. Even in Boston or Chicago most of it is so spread out and empty streetside.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
That is a tough question. Past family members come to mind but for this game I’m going to say Jon Stewart. He is just the most impressive guy I’ve ever seen.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
When I was younger and still just getting into art I read a wonderful book about Duveen, I think it was actually a compilation of New Yorker articles from decades ago. It opened up my eyes to how much this one man had done to bring so many great works to the city. Immediately afterward I went to the Frick, which was his sort of crowning achievement.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
For a start I have tried to use David Milligan selections as a way to give to many different groups usually in partnership with one of my customers. I am also pouring wine at Taste of the Nation in Boston this year which is 100% for support of Share our Strength
I also personally take part in Children International and support which is an education program in Nicaragua that a college friend founded and runs.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?
Underrated: The parks and paths along the east river
Overrated: Food trucks, they don’t serve wine!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
The wine reviews in Champagne Wishes of course, It just had five amazing wines from little ole me!

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
It's on my list.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love photography. It’s actually been a second job on occasion.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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