- Publish Date: Sep 16, 2010
Wine In The Boardroom A wine importer arrives on The Apprentice tonight. Imagine if one day you're wandering around Europe with your best friend, trying to figure out what's next in your career. The next thing you know, over some beers and tacos you've started a small company that brings tasty, family-estate-produced Spanish wines to the U.S. Not long after that, you're being stared down on national television by Donald Trump.
That sums up the past couple years of Steuart Martens, co-founder of Washington, D.C.-based Tradewinds Specialty Imports and contestant on tonight's season premiere of The Apprentice. While Martens is off to a great start in the wine business, already working with more than 20 different Spanish wineries in just two years, it remains to be seen how well he can perform in the eyes of the Don.
While we may not find that out for a few episodes (or more--contestants have to remain tight-lipped on the results), it's refreshing to learn that someone who's made his way to one of the most intimidating boardrooms of them all is a down-to-earth dude who loves cooking, eating and drinking wine. Whether it's a dive bar in D.C. with great tacos or a high-end eatery on an exclusive Spanish island, Martens is always on the lookout for a great food-and-wine experience.
Read on for our full interview with Martens, and don't forget to watch him on tonight's episode. Bottlenotes: Where did you grow up? Martens: The Greatest City in the world, Washington, D.C. What's the first time you remember drinking wine? The first wine I ever tried was Sangria in a Mexican restaurant with my family, can't remember if I love or hated it. I must have loved it to be where I am today! When did you start to like wine? I started really enjoying wine when I was around it a lot. I worked in catering in high school and college as summer jobs. Eventually, I began cooking a lot and used wine in certain recipes. I would replicate the things I made at work and at home, and taste wines along with what I'd cooked. Ultimately, it had to be in college after the wine-appreciation class I took. The professor who taught the class was incredible and his knowledge was infectious. Where do you drink wine mostly? Well, 'When don't I drink wine?' is the question. Mostly when I go out I drink Bourbon, and in the summer I love a good, cold beer. However, when I eat and cook I primarily stick to wine. Cooking is my passion; you will not find me in the kitchen without a glass of wine on the counter. After a day with "The Donald" yelling at you there isn't much better to come home to than a nice glass of wine to wind down with. What are your favorite varietals and regions? I am an equal opportunist when it comes to wine, [but] I typically stick to Spain, as that is what we focus on at Tradewinds. I have a deep affinity with old world Rioja and Ribera reds. I have also become a sucker for Oregon wines. I am trying to expand my knowledge with French and Italian wines, but still follow my heart back to Spain! What are your favorite kinds of food? I prefer a European diet--that is, I cook and eat what is in season. So many Americans buy crap produce and other comestibles that aren't in season. Why? There are so many great products throughout the year that come seasonally. I love eating, in particular French/Belgian bistro food, however I really do eat just about anything. However, there are two things I don't go near: tuna fish in a can ([though] I love fresh tuna) and mayo. The smell of canned tuna makes me projectile vomit. And mayo, well, what can I say? It's mayo--not a fan of it. What are your favorite things to cook? I am a grill master--veggies and, in particular, I make an incredible grilled hangar steak. Otherwise, I cook all things Mexican, and frankly if I had to pick one cuisine to live off of my entire life it would be Mexican. What are your favorite restaurants? Locally, Brasserie Beck in Washington, D.C. And if I can go anywhere, a small café run by a family in Paris. My all-time favorite two restaurants in the world are: Mixtec in Washington D.C., a total dive run by a crazy guy named Pepe; and on the island of Isla Mujeres, there is a restaurant called Minino's that will rock your world. [Mixtec was] once shut down once for rats. I never saw them, but the queso fundido and tamales are second to none. [At Minino's] the mixto ceviche will blow your mind. What is your favorite wine-and-food pairing? Rack of lamb with Chanarmuyo Malbec Reserve. And my all-time favorite, Ganeta Txakoli with Chesapeake Bay oysters. If you were stranded on a desert island, what one type of food/wine would you choose to have? Mexican, tacos and ceviche with really cold Txakoli or delicate Albariño. What are your favorite wine memories? Starting my wine company with my best friend Estebe over beers. If it isn't that specific one, it is traveling the world with Estebe and getting drunk with winemakers. Life is good! Do you have any wine-related disasters? Which one should I pick? Wine has gotten me in trouble multiple times, but it is also how I make my living. One time when we were first getting started and we did everything on our own, and dropped an entire pallet of wine off the back of a flatbed truck after driving it down to D.C. from New York. I wanted to get on my hands and knees, mop it up and try to re-bottle it. What is your motto for enjoying life? To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people; Earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better'; To have played and laughed with enthusiasm. --Ralph Waldo Emerson