The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 66 of 140

PORTRAIT OF AN INDUSTRY LEADER Niche and Nuance RICHARD ZELLER BRINGS ZING TO "THE OTHER GUYS" R ichard Zeller, COO of "The Other Guys" (TOG), says that the innovative company's "no time clock" work ethos doesn't mean that they can work as little as they like. "It means they can work as much as they like, when they like!" Established in 2004 by August Sebastiani, TOG rocketed to success on the wine side so quickly that they are now expanding into the spirits side of the business. "At TOG, we take an irreverent approach to things," says Zeller, "with whimsi- cal wine brands like Hey Mambo, moobuzz, Plungerhead, Leese-Fitch and Pennywise. We must have hit some hot buttons, because our sales three years ago were 100,000 cases— and now they're going to exceed three times that!" Working closely with company president and fourth generation family member August Sebastiani, Zeller, who's been with the Sebastiani clan for two decades now, recently took TOG into the spirits area with their division called 35 Maple Street, which has scored big with brands like Masterson's Straight Rye Whiskey (each bottle is hand-numbered and labeled) and Uncle Val's Botanical Gin. "We're getting ready to release Kirk & Sweeney, a 12-year-old rum that we sourced in the Dominican Republic. After that, we'll add a wheat whiskey and a barley whiskey to the Masterson's line and add a couple of different flavor pro- files—but not 'flavored'—to our gin line." Born in Chicago, Zeller considers himself a Los Angeleno through and through. "I root for the Lakers and the Dodgers, and I'm a huge college football fan. USC and the Oregon Ducks are favorites [his kids attended]. Of course, I spend more than half my life at our Sonoma headquarters." If you ask him to point to a single source of his success, he refuses to bite. "I think it's a combination of things: the right product, the right personnel and a little bit of swagger. We back that up with high-quality brands and great packaging that have won many awards. Best of all, all of our employees buy into the deal! When every- body from the front desk on up takes ownership, it's hard not to succeed." 66 / the tasting panel / november 2012

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