Damon Goldstein likes a challenge. The co-founder of Truly Fine Wine (4060 Morena Blvd.) wooed a woman who was half a world away—now his wife, Sabrina Bochen—for more than two years. Then he started a wine importing and distributing company that tied the couple to Bochen’s homeland of the Rheingau in Germany.
That was a beautiful and romantic way to stay “close” to the enchanting and historic wine region. But bringing their view of small grower-producer wines to the American masses has been less beguiling.
“We’re in a tough category,” Goldstein admits. “Most people [think] ‘I don’t drink German wines, I don’t like sweet wines.’ I hear that every day. And 70 percent of German wines are pretty dry. They’re the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world.”
This is one of many facts Goldstein easily rattles off, as well as tidbits about the small properties he works with—some of which have been in existence for 600 to 700 years, run by seventh and eighth generations of the same family.
Goldstein clearly knows his winemakers well and notes that the company started with a “research project.” He and his wife researched more than 300 German winemaking properties, narrowing that down to approximately 20 to visit, then selecting eight to start working with in 2005.
This intimate knowledge makes buying from Truly Fine Wine an educational experience, but also a fun one. While many are happy to walk into a grocery store and pick up a familiar label, there’s much to be gained from shopping at a specialty store such as the one Goldstein runs with business partner Brian Donegan. In addition to the aforementioned Pinot Noir, they showcase Sekt (German sparkling wine) and wines ranging from bone dry to desert sweet. Both gentlemen are eager to share their passion for these wines and help customers find a new favorite.
While retail is a small branch in their tree, distribution is the main focus. Truly Fine Wine is in 10 markets across the U.S. and does exceptionally well here in San Diego, landing on innumerable lists around town.
“We’ve been really honored that people that really care about wine, love what we do and that helps carry it,” says Goldstein, citing relationships with Market Del Mar, Juniper & Ivy and the Cohn Restaurant Group, just to name a few. “The wine programs have evolved. When I started this company German Riesling was lumped into a category called ‘other whites.’ Now you see ‘Germany’ as a category on wine lists.”
Donegan, an Advanced Sommelier working on his Master Sommelier diploma, and Goldstein see a younger generation of wine drinkers helping their cause and elevating the wine scene, as it becomes an everyday beverage.
“The millennial group is a lot more inquisitive,” Donegan says. “I think they’re a lot more open to new experiences and new wines.”