South Story – Part 1

This is the beginning of the story of how South came to be. I will space it out over time so it doesn’t get too boring!

Last year, I was working at Fosters Wine Estates, a large Australian wine company that owns many major Californian and Australian wineries like BeringerPenfolds, Stags Leap and Rosemount.

After more than 5 years working for Fosters (and the company it took over in 2005 called Southcorp), I started to think I needed to indulge my entrepreneurial ambitions.

I had been in the US 10 years working in marketing and PR roles, mostly in the wine business and I had long thought about opening an Aussie/Kiwi wine bar but as a marketing person, didn’t have the operational background to actually put it together.

But fortuitously, a good friend of mine, an Aussie named Shelli Anne who owns that fabulous Billion Dollar Babes (traveling designer sample sales), told me I had to meet Anna. I think her exact words were, “you girls will love to go out to lunch and drink wine together”.

So we arranged to meet at a wine tasting at Hotel Vitale and drank lots of wine and hit it off immediately (some would say too much wine, particularly those that went out to dinner with us that night).

We have much in common, both of us come from winemaking families (myself from Western Australia, Anna’s from the Hawkes Bay in NZ), we both have lived in the US for 10 years, me here in the Bay Area, Anna in New York and San Francisco.

Anna had also visited Perth and Margaret River where I am from and has family ties there so, other than just sharing a love of food and wine, we also shared common bonds from our homes.

Not long after that, my husband and I joined Anna and James in Napa Valley for a weekend of eating and drinking. It was that weekend that the conversation turned to my idea of a down under wine bar.

I told Anna about  it and she immediately started firing operational questions at me (that I basically had trouble answering) and right there and then I knew I needed her as a partner.

I have spent most of my 16 working years in the corporate world whereas Anna had spent all of her career in restaurants, including owning her own restaurant called Stella in New York.

My husband Clint claims it was his idea for me to ask her to be my business partner, isn’t it funny how history gets rewritten among couples? (a whole different blog). So, suffice to say, by the end of the weekend, which incidentally was Thanksgiving 2006 (which is late November for you non Americans), a partnership was born.

Next installments will cover how we named it “South” (and the truly awful names that came before we decided on this) , how we got Luke involved, and how South morphed from a wine bar to “food and wine bar”

Cheers, Liz

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