The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, a hip new wine bar, 5th and Wine, bustles with a happy hour crowd. As THE TASTING PANEL stages lighting and flashbulbs flicker in the background, Cindy Leonard jokes with the staff, who greet her warmly and with genu- ine affection. Before long, one thing is evident: Personality is key for this Southwestern sparkplug. Statuesque and with a commanding presence that silently says she’s a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it, over the course of nearly a decade in SWS’s Phoenix office, Leonard has become one of the most influential wine Brand Managers in the area. Born in Virginia but raised in Scottsdale, Leonard graduated from Arizona State University with a journalism degree, and stumbled into the wine industry as a walk-on for Gallo in 1987, where she was bitten hard and quickly by the wine bug. “I remember handling 20-case will calls,” she muses, “and I just thought—my god, this is awesome!” Leonard spent much of her 20s in Los Angeles, first as a National Account Manager at Gallo and then as a Fine Account Specialist Supervisor for Rémy Amérique, where she learned not only the ins-and-outs of the wine business, but also was sure to dedicate time and energy into further- ing her own wine education with extension courses at UCLA and an endless quest for knowledge that served her well then, and continues today. In “There is nothing wrong with asking a million ques- tions,” Leonard attests. “You can’t pre-judge anything in this business, and it is so important to just always be a student of wine. But this is also a people business, and you have to know people—period.” As is apparent by the way she is received at 5th and Wine, Leonard is definitely a people person, a quality she put to use during the eight years she spent at Kendall-Jackson during the ‘90s, eventually becoming the brand’s first female Region Manager and overseeing Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and West Texas. “I didn’t even realize that I was the first woman in that position. I wasn’t going to have a Helen Reddy moment,” she laughs, referring to the singer whose feminist anthem, “I am Woman,” has had women bursting with fairer-sex-pride since the ‘70s. While at Kendall-Jackson, Leonard met the man who would become not only her mentor, but also close friend and current boss, Michael Jahn, Executive Vice President, SWS of Arizona. “He didn’t like me in the beginning,” admits Leonard, who came on board at Southern in 2000, and whose success has since changed Jahn’s tune. “We see eye- to-eye on a lot of things,” says Leonard, “in the sense that he and I look at a problem, and say, ‘Okay, let’s get this done.’” In the near-decade they’ve joined forces to “get things done,” Leonard and Jahn have relied on building and maintaining relationships with individuals in order to keep and bring brands into the Southern portfolio. When THE TASTING PANEL sat down with Leonard, she’d just returned from a trip to California, where she met face- to-face with the team at Jordan Winery in Sonoma, and, when she found she had some extra time on her hands, took a detour to Napa, where she visited with the team at Selene Wines. “We looked at the Selene collection and knew it would be a great opportunity,” explains Leonard. “We picked up distribution in a 24-hour period, and I really think Southern and Selene will be a good fit because we have so many resources. Sure, we can take care of the big guys like no one else, but we can also introduce people to boutique wines.” But for Leonard, nothing compares to being on-premise, dealing with the accounts directly, so she finds herself in the field two to three nights per week. “I’m the eyes and ears for my suppliers, and it is so important to focus on the on-premise, as well as making my suppliers happy.” 5th and Wine GM Scott Yanni chimes in, “Cindy knows what she’s talking about. She’s a strong woman, and she’s a great role model for women who take this business seriously.” Meet Me at the Corner of 5th and Wine Old Town Scottsdale has a new favorite hangout, 5th and Wine, where exposed beams, modern décor and value-driven food, wine and cocktail menus reign. There’s a happy hour that runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers any wine by-the-glass for just $5, a delectable selection of bruschetta and panini and a friendly and well-educated staff. “We really want to address the economic times, and that people are on a budget,” explains GM Scott Von. “And it’s more than just food; there are so many great wines out there that are affordable, and people don’t even know.” 5th and Wine General Managers “The Scotts” (Yanni on the left, Von on the right) have helped make this new restaurant an instant hit. april 2010 / the tasting panel / 103

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