A local wine connoisseur on his critically acclaimed
vintage and on improving with age.
- Written byJanine sharell •
Alex Guarachi was nibbling on the red pepper spiced edamame at Roy’s Restaurant in Woodland Hills last year when he first spotted his Guarachi Family Wines on a wine list. As he describes it, “I nearly fell off my chair! I felt like a rock star hearing his song on the radio for the first time. It’s a thrill.”
Equally exciting was when the esteemed Wine Spectator awarded the freshman release of his pinot noir 94 points and his cabernet sauvignon 92 points. Guarachi may be a neophyte winemaker, but he’s a veteran in the industry. For 25 years, he’s been at the helm of TGIC (Thank God It’s Chilean) Importers and is the reigning Importer of the Year, after being crowned by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Though the entrepreneur hails from Chile, his wines spring from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and come from the hands of his friend, famed winemaker and consultant Paul Hobbs. “It’s something I’ve never done,” says Guarachi. “It’s costly to find a winemaker, buy the best grapes and the best French oak barrels. It’s a huge investment, but exciting and challenging!”
As a kid in Santiago, he’d drink watered-down wine, a custom in many South American homes, but he certainly never envisioned it as his meal ticket. “My original plan was to go to school in the U.S. and play soccer. My ultimate goal was to be the next Pele.”
With a headful of curly locks, a soccer scholarship and $400 stuffed in his pockets, Guarachi bought a one-way ticket to California in the late 1970s. The trophies he scored while playing soccer for San Jose State are scattered throughout his Woodland Hills office. However, his athletic career was cut short when he got hurt, leading to a string of odd jobs. “My first job was hauling leaves to the dump. I got $30 and thought that was a lot of money.” It wasn’t long before Guarachi had an ah-ha moment.
“In those days you couldn’t find a bottle of Chilean wine in California, and I thought if I could bring Chilean wines here, I could make a living.” And TGIC Importers was born. “People said I was nuts trying to sell Chilean wine in the backyard of the California wine industry.” Lucky for us, they were wrong.
What’s in his glass?
OMAKA SPRINGS SAUVIGNON BLANC
“As the temperatures soar, this gem from New Zealand is a cool respite with hints of citrus and passion fruits.” ($15)
BODEGA NORTON RESERVE MALBEC
“This wine screams to be served alongside a perfectly grilled steak. The only thing hotter than the Valley temperatures is this Malbec, brought to you straight from Argentina.” ($16)
OPOLO SUMMIT CREEK ZINFANDEL
“This 100% zinfandel comes from Paso Robles and is one of my favorite wineries to visit. Opolo nails it when it comes to Zin. It’s a big wine, exploding with jammy black cherries and spice.” ($28)
Prices are approximate. The above wines, as well as Guarachi Family Wines, are sold at Woodland Hills Wine Company, Costco, BevMo! and Whole Foods. For more, go to tgicimporters.com and guarachifamilywines.com.
They’re roadside attractions.