Michael Asimos – Wine enthusiast, Jazz lover and seasoned traveler from Portland, Oregon. His unbridled interest in rare and sought after wines have made him one of America’s top importers of wines around the world.
Due to his success and in depth knowledge of international wines, Michael Asimos has created a loyal following of clients around the world that continue to grow his business.
1. What was your best/favorite subject in school?
Social Studies was my first love. New and remote civilizations in the far reaches of the world intrigued me from an early age. I remember bringing National Geographic magazines to class to show my teachers new cultures I wanted to learn about.
2. What was your first job?
My first job that I can remember was a summer job walking dogs. We lived in a decent neighborhood and one of the wealthier neighbors on my street had two labs he needed walking. They were always traveling and needed their dogs tended to. When he and his wife would return, they would always tell me stories of their trips to Europe and Africa. I was jealous! I think that really spurred my further desire to get out and explore.
3. Where and how did you first get into the industry you currently work in?
In college I worked at an Italian restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. I had to learn about wines and what pairs with the meals my customers were ordering. From there I just went down the rabbit hole learning all I could about wines and where they come from. Some people are obsessive about birding – the same is for me with wine. There’s so much to learn, even now. The industry continues to expand and surprise me every day.
4. How have those jobs prepared you for what you do now?
Having a good understanding of wine that my customers love better puts me in a position to recommend and source exactly what they want. Importing and exporting is the easy part. The challenge is constantly learning about what’s new in the world of wine. I have some clients that are even inquiring about the new system two chemists from San Francisco have created by making wine without grapes or using fermentation.
My time in the service industry during college really prepared me for exceeding my clients demands by offering something new and interesting that I think they will like. You have to get to know each client very well and deepen the relationships with them. I would not be where I am today without learning how to service customers in a restaurant years ago.
5. Describe the best day of work you’ve ever had.
The best day of business I ever had was working with a client out of St. Petersburg that wanted a very rare 1978 Montrachet. I sourced 4 bottles for him and shipped them a week later. It was a 5 figure day profit for me plus a very happy, returning client!
6. How do you keep yourself motivated?
I enjoy what I do so it’s easy for me to stay motivated. When you’re doing what you love, it’s not really work, as they say. Every now and then, however, I do enjoy visiting wineries around the world to see other people’s interests and passion for wine. A few of my favorite wineries to visit is Bodegas Ysios in Spain or the Chateau Pichon-Lalande in France which is the Holy Grail of wine for me.
7. What kind of business ideas excite you most?
I seek to develop more and more relationships with my current clients. When you start learning more about their needs, opportunities arise where you never would have seen them before.
8. Have you ever tried any unorthodox techniques to attract attention to your business?
Not really. Most of what I have done is referral based. My first “client” was a customer I had that sat in my section in college. She wanted a wine we didn’t have yet was listed on our menu. I suggested the closest bottle I could get my hands on that had similar tastes and notes. She had never tried it before and from there my business started one on one with her. She remains a client to this day. I guess my business really started by word of mouth through my reputation in the wine industry.
9. What personal achievement are you most proud of?
I’ve never been much of a braggart, but I am very astonished by how my wine company has flourished for decades. It still remains a small operation servicing lifelong friends and customers around the world.
10. What wisdom you would have liked to share with yourself when you first started out?
That’s a good question. I know many people suggest sticking with your passion and going from there but wine was never really my passion until I was introduced to it by taking a minimum wage job in college to pay for basic living expenses. My wisdom would be to stay open to opportunities and ideas as you live life; you’ll never know what passions you may develop as a result of keeping an open mind. My first passion was travel – now it’s a byproduct of my wine business! I get to visit clients and see the world all the while growing my relationships with them. So keep an open mind and get to know people, especially your customers!