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News / Business / Clark County Business

Working in Clark County: Jenny Brown, majority owner, NW Wine Distributors

By Kay Richardson, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 25, 2017, 6:01am
5 Photos
Jenny Brown, majority owner of NW Wine Distributors, has been in the wine business since she started helping at her aunt’s winery as a child.
Jenny Brown, majority owner of NW Wine Distributors, has been in the wine business since she started helping at her aunt’s winery as a child. Photo Gallery

Jenny Brown loves her job even though she is on the road most days — anywhere from Walla Walla to the Long Beach Peninsula or north to Olympia. As a representative for more than 1,000 wines, making personal visits to her accounts — wineries — offers her the opportunity to see what new things they’re doing, pick up more information and decide how she might best promote their products to restaurants and lodges in Southwest Washington. And those folks love to see her coming. She meets with chefs to discuss wine pairings and menus for wine dinners. When one of the wines she represents gets an award from Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast, “it’s a big deal,” she said. “They’re tough graders. If one of our wines gets graded over 90, we’ll print it so customers know about it. It’s good for us when we sell their labels.”

Her best wine advice? “If you want to have a great wine experience, don’t skimp on the experience. Pair your $50 steak with a really great wine, either local or California or European. But I’m a wine snob. I will spend as much on wine as I will a good dinner.”

Business name: NW Wine Distributors.

1101 W. 11th St., Vancouver; 360-693-0085, www.nwwinedistributors.com.

Residence: Lincoln.

Age: “A proper vintage.”

Educational, professional background: I was educated in Clark County and traveled the world for business, then relocated back to the Northwest.

How — and when — you got started in your business: I have always been passionate about wine. As a second-generation Italian, my family had deep roots in the wine industry and I soaked it up nonstop. My grandparents made their own wine. My aunt, Mary Reinke, was the first female winery owner in the state of Oregon in the 1950s. I was involved in the business from picking to planting to working in the winery — and a lot of wine drinking. Italians give you wine from the time you’re a baby!

When the opportunity arose to purchase NW Wine Distributors in 2014, my partner, Neal, and I moved forward. The business had existed for 23 years at that point, so we knew that there was nothing but potential with the purchase of the business, which sells to wholesale customers.

Personal/business philosophy: Provide the best customer service possible. It’s the only way to set yourself above the competition. My personal philosophy is to hire people who are better than I am and treat them as I would want to be treated. In Italian they are “famiglia” — family.

Most rewarding part of job: Sharing our wine knowledge. From the simplest task of properly opening a bottle of wine to knowing what terroir does to the grapes is our passion. We offer our customers training, educational and tasting events, pairing classes, and tasting notes so they feel confident in their ability to sell wine to their customers.

Most challenging part of job: I need a twin! Having 28 hours in each day and eight days a week would all be helpful.

Something surprising about your work: When I think I’ve been asked for every wine imaginable, another one pops up! It’s amazing how many varietals and wineries there are in existence.

Best feature of my Clark County community: Where we are headed! With the exceptional leadership of Clark County, look at what we have coming: the waterfront, a hipster place to live, and a downtown and east side that are bustling! How exciting!

What would make your community a better place: Let’s be honest — a new bridge.

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You favorite travel destination: Italy, Cyprus, the desert and Walla Walla. We drive to Walla Walla every month and I still marvel at the drive up the Gorge. If you haven’t seen Cyprus, put it on a bucket list. Italy? Nothing better. And when I feel I might start to grow moss, we hop a quick flight to the desert to dry out!

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: Too many to name. The best part? We never have to travel to Portland for a quality dining experience. Best coffee, bakery, dining, taprooms and wine bars are all right here.

Hobbies: Running, golf, hiking, gardening, my dogs. If it’s happening outside, I’m up for it!

On your playlist: I love the Rat Pack and I listen to AC/DC when I run.

Best way to spend a spare 10 minutes: Exercising our Lab puppy or trying to explain to our Maltipoo why we got a Lab puppy!

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Increase our partnership with the community. We do tons of nonprofit partnering that is extremely important to our company. We all pitch in to make sure we help out where and when we can. I did just learn to flock a Christmas tree, so that’s off my bucket list for this year!

One word to describe yourself: Nonstop.

Person you’d most like to meet: Pope Francis. He runs an amazing business and continues to grow with the times and needs of the world — plus I really like his boss.

Columbian staff writer