The SOMM Journal

June / July 2018

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Page 60 of 132

44 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2018 There are many moving parts—and motivated people—involved in get- ting wines from a European producer to a restaurant guest in Florida or Nevada. Essential to the success of any brand, even a world-famous one, is the buyer-rep relationship. Case in point: GAJA. One might think that this icon of Piedmont could rest on its well- polished laurels, but GAJA and its U.S. importer Terlato Wine Group know that would be a huge mistake. The GAJA Brand Ambassador program was instituted in 2013 to shep - herd the stunning GAJA portfolio into front-and-center position on wine lists nationwide while keeping on-premise guests drinking some of the best Barbarescos, Barolos, and other luxury bottles Italy has to offer. GAJA Brand Ambassadors are appointed from the ranks of GAJA distributors across the country and are an integral part of what keeps this cherished producer in a league of its own. In 2017, the Brand Ambassador program built on its momentum and took another leap forward with the introduction of an Award of Excellence, bestowed upon on-prem - ise buyers in 11 markets in recognition of their passion for GAJA. Prestige accounts with strong GAJA programs were nominated for the award by Brand Ambassadors in their respective states. Among several other requirements, nominees had to feature wines from all three GAJA estates—GAJA (Piedmont), Pieve Santa Restituta (Brunello di Mon - talcino), and Ca' Marcanda (Bolgheri)—and pour at least two GAJA wines by the glass. The winners were personally selected from among the nominees by Owner Angelo and his daughter, Gaia Gaja, in coordination with Terlato. After the winners were an - nounced in February of this year, they received an award certificate and a magnum of GAJA signed by Angelo and/or Gaia. Additionally, a consumer event featuring GAJA wines and hosted by Gaia will be scheduled at the Grand Prize–winning account. We spoke with the wine directors at the Grand Prize winner and three other Award of Excellence recipients to get their take on what makes GAJA—both its wines and the people behind them—so special. A complete list of Award of Excellence winners can be found on page 47. Nicolas Nikic, General Manager and Sommelier of GAJA Award of Excellence Grand Prize winner Da Marco in Houston, Texas, poses with the GAJA Costa Russi. PHOTO: MICHELLE REED PHOTO: FELIX SANCHEZ THE GAJA AWARD OF EXCELLENCE BRINGS A NEW DIMENSION TO THE ICONIC ITALIAN LABEL'S BRAND AMBASSADOR PROGRAM by David Gadd Synergy Success for

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