Day In The Life Of ……. Nicholas Pearce

Day In The Life Of ……. Nicholas Pearce

Wine Agent Extraordinaire. Family Man. Chef De Vin

Wine Agent. Negociant. Winemaker. Hostess with the Mostest. Family Man. Killer cook. There are many ways to describe Nicholas Pearce, the owner and brains behind Nicholas Pearce Wines ( . Not only does Nic have one of the most killer French wine portfolio’s in Ontario, he’s known for having a special knack for finding some of the best value wines out there.

Running a wine agency is hard work but Nic Pearce makes it look all too easy.
Step a day in the life of wine agency owner extraordinaire & wine negociant, Nicholas Pearce of Nicholas Pearce Wines.

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Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pearce + The Chase Hospitality Group

First a little background, Nic is an Ontario born and raised, chef, dinning room manager turned wine agency owner & negociant. Nic was educated in Bordeaux, and now owns and manages Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc (), known as NPW for short. Sommelier Krystina Roman sat down with Nic to learn how to start a wine agency, be successful and have fun doing it.

1. Take us through a typical day of yours?
The days always start early. I wake up with Benson (my 6 month old) before 6am, and then I setup my work station (iphone & lap top) and Benson’s toy station (blocks, cars, books). Benson plays, I work. I first start with the European emails due to the time difference and all the 2 am Sommelier emails.

After that, I focus on operations and administrative tasks with the team. We have an office team and a sales team, which is now 8 large so there is never a dull moment. It takes a lot of time, focus, trouble shooting with the LCBO and drivers to get everyone their wines on time.

2. How did you end up in the wine industry ?
My best buddy is a chef and when we were in university we wanted to open a restaurant. I decided I would have to be the wine guy. So I started to study wine from books and started tasting consciously rather then just drinking. In 2001, I ended up in England at Le Pont de La Tour ( ) where I was exposed to a whole team of Sommeliers (in action) and was in awe. It was my first time seeing a team of real Sommeliers doing service.

The older Sommeliers would offer to train me, helping me memorize regions and grape varietals each night. When I nailed the Bordeaux varietals for them, they passed me an ounce of very old Petrus in a ridiculously large Bordeaux stem. It was pretty cool and I remember it vividly.

After that, I finished my B-comm at the University of Guelph and then started studying with the International Sommelier Guild. I was managing the Cookworks Kitchen Studio (99 Sudbury) for 3 years while doing ISG. At night I was helping run corporate cooking parties and hands on cooking classes. I then moved to the other side and started managing the dining room at Mildred Pierce Restaurant while helping with the wine program.

3. Wait you’re a cook?
Ya! I have the classic techniques down and am lucky to be able to cook most nights for my family. Back in University, we cooked nearly every dish in the French Laundry cookbook. Me and a few buddies started a catering company called “Inspirations” and we used it as an opportunity to test and learn.

4. Before you started NPW where did you work?
In 2009, when I first moved back from Bordeaux, I started managing the Ontario Market for an agency based out west. Then in 2011, I started my own agency, Alliance Garagiste Wines. Then AGW evolved into Nicholas Pearce Wines aka NPW (

When I was studying and based in Bordeaux I worked with Maison Sichel ( ) in their export department. That is really where I learned the basics of exporting, distribution and most importantly, taking care of you clients, suppliers and staff. It was an amazing experience and I came back to Toronto with a network of wine producers that I wanted to work with and introduce to the market.

5. Why did you start an agency?
I always wanted to run my own company.
I had a strong network of small producers around the world, mostly French. However, a big catalyst was Julien Montagne from Clos Del Rey. He had just assumed control of a few old parcels of Carignan and Grenache from his father and started his own proper company. So that same year, I got my license and we starting bringing in the 2009’s and 2010’s. He had studied with me in Bordeaux, so it was like two student/friends realizing their dreams. We still laugh about it.

6. What has helped you more in running a business – education or experience?
Experience, but a solid education can help relieve a little doubt in yourself.
I have a Bachelors of Commerce from the Hospitality program in Guelph ( ) and I went on to the Bordeaux International Wine Institute (INSEEC) ( ) to complete my MBA Wine Marketing and Management. This education provided a solid foundation for me which I think is crucial. Doing the job has been the best learning experience in the end.

7. Any words of advice for anyone looking to start working in wine?
For a career in wine you have to get out there. Do a stage at a restaurant for example. Or volunteer at an agency. Immerse yourself and learn from the best. My best time ever was working at a winery. If you can afford the time I highly recommend doing a harvest somewhere and crushing some juice.

8. Skills needed to succeed in the wine industry?
Relationship management and good stress management. Also long term focus is key. The wine industry is not a short game, it’s a long game. It doesn’t make sense day to day, it doesn’t make sense week to week nor month to month.
It makes sense year to year.

9. What would you tell someone thinking of starting their own agency?
Rely on other agents to help you, and they usually will. Just ask. There’s no handbook for how to run a successful wine agency, you learn by doing.
Also hang out at the docks as there is lots to be learned there.

There are a billion great wineries out there that aren’t represented, go for it.

10. Any fun wine finds these days?
Bergecrac from Chateau Barouillet (
Also Muré ( ) from Alsace – Alsatian biodynamic/raw producer with insane value across the board.

11. Who inspires you within the wine community?
There are so many that come to mind with so many different sides of the business. Obviously Will Predhomme has been a big inspiration as a sommelier, partner & best buddy. We met in 2009 when I moved back from Bordeaux and started selling new wines around town. I think it was love at fist sight ☺

As far as journalists go, the Winealign crew at top notch, John, Sara, Michael, David, Trev, Remy… Also Jamie at Good Food Revolution.

In the education field, I have lots of respect for Bruce Walner and Somm Factory ( gang. I highly recommend their classes if you want to up your game.

As for the subscribers, our legendary Crew Sauvage, the biggest inspirers are Peter Boyd, Corey Ladouceur, Steve Sousa, Anne Martin, Katy Moore, Christopher Sealy, Alex McMahon, Josh Corea, Svetlana Atcheva, Norm Hardie, Jimson Bienenstock… I could go on forever.

On the agency side, I really have a lot of respect for anyone on this side of business that is trying to help push the envelope, introduce new cutting products, take care of their teams & suppliers while focusing on education and fun rather then pure dollars. Mark Cuff and Bernard Stramwasser come to mind along with about 10 other really great agencies that I respect a lot.

12. Most underrated grape varietal?
Picpoul de Pinet, Jacquères, Lagrein and obviously Gual along with all the indigenous Canary Island varietals. We are always trying to push the limits with Chenin Blanc.

13. Most underrated wine region?
Niagara and PEC have a lot of potential, but they also have lots of work to do on a global level. We live and breathe them here but we need to get them on the right tables, list & cellars around the world.

14. Whose cellar would you raid?
Nicolas Potel’s personal cellar in Beaune is mental. Nico of Roche De Bellene ( ) has been trading wine with amazing producers around the world for 30 years. He has crazy wines, lots of large formats & verticals. He would always have few bottles planned but will be the first to let you go a pick a few. It’s hard to raid when people like that are so willing to share.

Nicholas Pearce & Nicholas Potel