Food & Drink

Charlottean rules in wine world

Long before I met him, I learned to look for the words “An Eric Solomon Selection” on the back of wine bottles.

His wine choices resonate with me. I've learned to trust his palate and his ability to find and deliver exceptional wines that often are great bargains.

I'm certainly not the only Solomon aficionado. Influential wine critic Robert Parker Jr. is a fan, and Food & Wine magazine named Solomon “Best U.S. Importer” in 2006.

Several local restaurants even have special Eric Solomon sections on their wine lists.

Solomon travels so much he can be hard to catch. But I met with him recently to talk about his wine choices.

Solomon lives in Charlotte. He is engaging and vibrant and exudes commitment to his causes – not only finding wonderful wines from lesser-known regions and grapes, but also helping the winemakers he represents compete globally without sacrificing what makes their wines unique.

Solomon grew up in Greensboro. As a teenager, he was invited to understudy as the drummer in the London Symphony Orchestra, where he worked in a wine bar for extra cash.

The owners noticed his palate and his interest and sponsored him for the prestigious Institutes of the Masters of Wine program. He passed the rigorous four-year program. When he returned to the U.S., he had a unique set of skills and was snatched up by Heublein to head its French wines and ports division.

He spent 10 years with the corporate giant before leaving in 1989 to start his own company, European Cellars.

Solomon wanted the ability not to import just top wines and established brands, but to seek out and bring other winemakers to the attention of the world.

His fledgling company began with a fax machine in his bedroom and two clients. Today, it represents 150 producers, mostly from Spain and France, including several who have gone on to become wine superstars.

His motto is “place over process,” meaning wine should taste like where it comes from.

In addition to consulting with producers and creating custom blends like his French chardonnay Novellum, he routinely sets up tastings so the winemakers can try wines from around the world in their price points.

“It isn't enough to be the best $10 Spanish red wine,” he says. “The wine has to beat every other wine in the world selling at the same price.”

Solomon strives to find wines of such quality that a $10 bottle drinks like a $25 bottle, and it's his success at finding these gems that have made his reputation.