From Wine Enthusiast to CEO of Gabriel-Glas: Our Conversation with Tempe Reichardt
April 13, 2021
Written By Coravin
Tempe Reichardt, CEO of Gabriel-Glas, has been drinking high-quality wines since she was a teen. This early love for fine wines led to a colorful career as an international entrepreneur – establishing luxury wine and wine-related products in global markets.
It was during her 10 years in Europe that Tempe developed a relationship with René Gabriel. However, the pair didn’t talk about working together on establishing Gabriel-Glas North America LLC until Tempe sold her European-based business and returned to California. It’s a funny story involving Harley Davidson motorcycles and barbecue – we’ll let her tell it.
Listen to our conversation with Tempe covering what drew her to Gabriel-Glass, what’s so special about the brand’s universal wine glass, her upcoming travel wishes, and her favorite wine experience. And, once she convinces you that the StandArt Glass is all you need, shop for it on our Coravin marketplace.
From Wine Enthusiast to CEO of Gabriel-Glas North America
Lindsay Buck: Today I'm talking to Tempe Reichart, CEO of Gabriel-Glas North America, whose products we carry in our marketplace at Coravin.com. Welcome Tempe. How are things in beautiful Napa?
Tempe Reichart: Well, it is an absolutely glorious day here. I think it's going to be in the 70s. I'm not seeing a cloud in the sky. And I do intend to go for a swim when I close the office at the end of the day.
LB: Tell me how your wine career began.
TR: Well, interestingly, my eldest brother who's nine years older than I am, started a fine wine business in Michigan, before anyone in Michigan really knew what fine wine was. We were in the Eastern, sorry, the Western part of Lake of Michigan, which is bordering on Lake Michigan, and very provincial in many ways. And people didn't know good wine there. Different story in Detroit, but in Grand Haven, Michigan, very provincial. So my brother took a leap of faith. And he had this amazing wine store. And I'm nine years younger than he is. And so I was kind of forced into working for him as a relatively young person. I started working for him when I was about 16. And I was working summer vacation, the holiday rush periods as I was going through high school and college. And I just absolutely fell in love with wine. And I must say, I'm very spoiled because I had the family discount. I was buying really top wine at, you know, basically, wholesale prices. And so I can't drink cheap wine.
LB: It also sounds like you might have been drinking wine before it was legal too.
TR: Well, yes, and I won't name my brother's name, don't want the authorities coming after him.
LB: Yeah we don't want to implicate anybody.
TR: But, that is absolutely true. However, back in those days, the drinking age in Michigan was 18. He had me in the back room pulling corks, writing, tasting, recording tasting notes on these various wines. And so I really did develop a palate at an early age.
LB: Wow. There’s no better job to be able to cut your teeth at a young age, right?
TR: Absolutely. Then from there, I went off and had a separate career as a journalist, but the wine thing kept tugging at me. So I ultimately left Washington DC. And I've moved to DC as a journalist and came to California and got into the wine industry right away in California.
LB: Excellent. So what drew you to Gabriel-Glas and made you want to establish the business in North America?
TR: To give you a little background, René Gabriel, who is the founder and creator of Gabriel-Glas, is one of the top wine writers in Europe he is Swiss-German. He writes in the German language, but he's very well known in Europe. One of my businesses prior to launching Gabriel-Glas North America was exporting premium California Wine to Europe. So I lived in Europe for 10 years, I was working with really, really great wine producers. I got the attention of the press. So René was writing about the wines I was shipping into Europe, and he was also a customer of mine at the same time. So we developed this wonderful collegial relationship, and I ultimately sold that business in Europe and I moved back to California and the story is really very funny. My phone rang and I was recently returned to California. And it was René Gabriel. And he said, Tempe, I'm coming to California. I'm coming with three other Swiss guys. We're renting Harley Davidsons, and driving around California, and we want to come to your house for a barbecue. I said, “Well, René, you're in luck. Now, I live in Napa and I actually have a barbecue."
So he showed up and I knew absolutely nothing about his glass. It had just been launched in Europe and so the world wasn't aware of his glass. He said, “Tempe you are absolutely the perfect person to introduce my glass into North America.” I knew nothing about the glass world, right? I mean, I had beautiful wine glasses, I believe in great wine glasses, but I didn't know anything about the business of selling glass. So, I gave it some good hard thought and, of course, he didn't have any samples with him at that moment. I said, “René, please send me some samples.” From the moment I started drinking out of that glass, I was hook-line-and-sinker convinced. I had never had such a great wine drinking experience.
Simultaneously to my own awakening to Gabriel-Glas, I went running around Napa, saw some of my winemaker friends. And they all said, “Wow, this is really a sensational glass.” They were effectively placing orders with me. “I'll take 12,” and “I'll take 24 as soon as you have them.” At that point, I did not have pricing – I didn't have anything other than some samples and I'm getting orders for the product. So with that, I thought, okay, I'll take a leap of faith and I launched this brand into North America and, in doing so, I appointed my company the exclusive importer of Gabriel-Glas in North America. So that, of course, allows us to establish great collaborations with companies such as Coravin.
LB: Can you explain the unique features of this StandArt and the Gold Edition glass?
TR: Okay, first of all, you'll see I've poured red and white white wine in Gabriel-Glas. It is a universal wine glass right? So it is appropriate for any style of wine. So when you come to a dinner party at my house, I serve you Champagne in this glass. And then white wine, red wine, dessert wine, what have you. It is also it's dishwasher safe, technically
Lead free crystal – crystal, not glass. Now, when I say it's dishwasher-safe, not all dishwashers and not all dishwasher loaders are created equal. So, exercise caution, but technically they can handle extremely high heat. The wineries we work with don't use soap, they wash with near boiling temperatures.
The broader base allows for the wine to have more surface to air contact so flavors and aromas emerge in the glass. Then this conical shape drives the aromas. So the shape of the glass allows for the full expression of the wine that's served in the glass. The trade and wine aficionados all around the country are around North America and the world really are very, very excited about Gabriel-Glas because of the way it performs.
In my right hand., this is what we call the Gold Edition glass and it is blown in the old fashioned manner by artisan glass blowers. This [the StandArt] glass is machine molded. This is what we call the StandArt glass. This is your workhorse glass for your Monday night wines. This glass [Gold Edition} is essential for your top wines. I feel cheated if I'm served Champagne in any other glass. I absolutely love this glass for Champagne. The Gold Edition is extremely light. It's an ethereal wine drinking experience and the StandArt is a little bit weightier and more practical for day to day.
LB: Awesome. I feel like that's controversial about having Champagne in a universal glass. What would be your argument about having Champagne and a regular glass as opposed to a flute?
TR: If you really want to enjoy the wine that you're drinking and be able to taste the full expression of the wine Gabriel-Glas is going do it. If you're talking to wine industry professionals, Many will say, “You know the flute has seen its day.” [The flute] is more about the visual and stifles the aromas to a huge extent.
LB: What does it mean when a glass is seamless?
TR: That's a really good question and I failed to mention that. Most wine glasses have a seam here at the base of the bowl, and then also where the stem affixes to the foot. And that creates the stress points in a wine glass. Gabriel-Glas is seamless so it's made so there are no stress points. The stem is actually fused. So it is actually a more durable glass. I'm sure we've all had the experience when polishing a glass where it'll often snap off.
LB: What do you think the best, the greatest advantages are to using the Gabriel-Glas in a restaurant environment?
TR: Well, there are many and we work with some top restaurants around the country. First of all, I mentioned the durability of the glass may pay a little bit more upfront for this glass but it won't break as frequently So ultimately, a restaurant gets more value for money. But from a training perspective, imagine training your staff on, this is what we serve Champagne. This is what we serve Riesling, in what we serve Chardonnay in, this is what we serve Cabernet in, and this is what we serve our dessert wines in. It becomes a big jumble for new staff. This creates total simplicity, for a restaurant team, there's no second guessing. Do I have the right glass that I'm putting before my guests? Right? It streamlines operations. It's more durable. But equally, and if not, more importantly, the guests will enjoy their wine more in this glass. It's a very aesthetic experience. So obviously, it's all about customer service. And you're giving your diners the absolute best experience as they're consuming their wine. Hopefully, you'll sell more wine.
LB: If anybody isn't convinced that they should be using a Gabriel-Glas, then they have not been paying attention because you've presented so well and it's such a beautiful product.
“We were schooled in a need to have varietal specific or, at least, a red wine glass and a white wine glass. That's what we had been told and it just simply isn't necessary. It's great marketing, but it's just not necessary.”
TR: When I first introduced this glass into the United States, no one understood really, the universal glass concept. We were schooled in a need to have varietal specific, or at least a red wine glass and a white wine glass. That's what we had been told and it just simply isn't necessary. It's great marketing, but it's just not necessary. So it was about winning hearts and minds when I introduced this glass into North America. But that happened very quickly, because the moment people put this glass in their hands, generally speaking, they fall in love with it. It's a very aesthetic way to drink wine.
LB: Well, I know that the Coravin team are big fans of the glass.
Our company mission at Coravin is to change the way the world experiences wine. What is your favorite wine experience? Since I know you've had many?
TR: Well, I would say my absolute favorite wine experience is drinking great wine with wonderful friends. I missed that in this pandemic. My husband and I are just dying to have a party – I, of course, have an unlimited supply of these glasses and I'm ready to have a party.
LB: Well, thank you so much for taking the time, Tempe. Everyone should check out the Gabriel-Glas glassware on the Coravin marketplace. So good to see you and best of luck with 2021.
TR: Thank you, Lindsay. And thank you so much for your enthusiasm for Gabriel-Glas. It's a treat doing business with the Coravin marketplace.