Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Passing the Torch with Billy Weiss

We are thrilled to have Billy Weiss, Owner of North Berkeley Imports, joining Chef Daniel Boulud for the Passing the Torch event in August. Proceeds from this event will help passionate, hospitality-minded young people experience the business of great restaurants, hotels and craftsmen so they can lead the industry forward.

Billy is planning an incredible line-up of both French and Italian wines to feature and share his knowledge and passion. This event is a truly unique opportunity for guests to be introduced to unparalleled quality on the table and in their glass.

Blackberry Farm: North Berkley Imports believes that “A great importer is the maker of moments.” Does an event like this feel like one of those opportunities to “make a moment”?

Billy Weiss: Absolutely. Coming together for a fantastic cause and working with one of the greatest chefs in the world allows for the possibility of great moments where we hope our wines contribute. I have been fortunate to taste hundreds of famous and “cult” bottles, but the wines I remember best are always accompanied by meaningful moments and good friends. My company imports a famous grower Champagne called Egly-Ouriet, and understandably, I taste his wines frequently. My very favorite bottle is still the one I ordered when I took my wife to Boulud for the first time. The sensation of a place, the ambiance, always enhances the experience of the wine.

BF: What is your approach and inspiration for choosing wines for the Passing the Torch event?

BW: First and foremost, I want very much for my growers to shine and provide part of a memorable experience for the guests attending the event. I have spent the last six months locating limited cuvees and older vintages from my growers in Europe, and I am very excited to show them off. At North Berkeley Imports, we have built our reputation with French wines, but I have also been working in Italy for 15 years. Both regions give you wonderful expressions of terroir-driven wines and will pair beautifully with Chef’s cuisine. Sam Beall had tremendous appreciation for great wines from all over the world. The wines from France and Italy always featured prominently in his offerings at Blackberry Farm for both dining and events. We like to think the selections we have carefully made for this weekend are just the type of wines Sam would have shared with his great joy and enthusiasm.

BF: What do you think about when pairing multiple wines with the same course?

BW: I would like the guests to draw their own conclusions from the tasting experience. For me, there are no hard truths about wine pairing. I believe in a pure sensory experience when it comes to selecting my imports, and I try not to over analyze the wines. When making a buying decision, the most important question is very simple – does this wine taste good? When you begin pairing with wines who have all answered that question as “yes,” you are off to a great start. I try to pair wines that will complement each other and the dish, yet at the same time, are diverse in their profile of taste. Quite often you will find guests have very different opinions at the table as to which is the best wine for each pairing.

BF: Multiple pairings will give dinner guests a great introduction to a range of wines. What do you love most about introducing and sharing quality wines with likeminded individuals?

BW: North Berkeley Imports does not source from wealthy chateau owners or multinational wine companies. I really want to express the agrarian nature of our vignerons. In many ways, our growers are similar to the farmers who supply Blackberry Farm with their bounty. My guys and gals are tending to vines, transporting the crops, cleaning equipment themselves while personally caring for the wine during vinification, and then preparing the bottles for sale! It is the true farm-to-market process at work.