Frank Schoonmaker never went to business school. He never studied winemaking. He never finished college. He was never even in business before forming his own company. Instead of becoming a giant in his field and the most important figure in the wine industry for a generation, he should have fallen on his face. Instead, because of his strongly inquisitive personality he taught himself how things should be done and then hired competent people to do them.
In 1964 "Frank Schoonmaker's Encyclopedia of Wine" was published and it along with Hugh Johnson's "World Atlas of Wine" formed the go-to tandem for inquisitive young wine guys like me in the 1970s. The encyclopedia was an enlarged version of Schoonmaker's "Complete Wine Book" from forty years earlier with the entire volume done solely by Schoonmaker. It has been revised many times since then by different editors.
So we started by talking about Frank Schoonmaker, the war hero. In the late 1930s Schoonmaker was approached by officers of the OSS and he agreed to write reports detailing what he knew of German troop positioning in western Europe. He became a secret agent. Schoonmaker was ostensibly traveling in Europe anyway writing and practicing his wine business and because he was stationed in Spain he could mail reports to America from there more safely than elsewhere. Some of those reports became crucial in isolating German positions before the allies landed in southern Europe. After the war Schoonmaker was known affectionately as "le Colonel" in France, the rank he was awarded by our military after the war.
In 1975 Frank Schoonmaker Selections was liquidated after changing hands a few times between liquor and food conglomerates. Its final incarnation was as the representative of Souverain and Rutherford Hill wineries under the misguided ownership of Pillsbury. Frank Schoonmaker died in 1976.
Edward Kirsch is a retired wine salesman who lives here in North Hall County. He also happens to be one who was fortunate enough to be included on one of Frank Schoonmaker's European excursions as a young man. He would attest to the strength of Mr. Schoonmaker's all-business personality.
Please join us here on Friday the 14th from 5 to 7pm, when Henry Leung on Hemispheres Global Wines joins us with a tasting of two whites and four reds, one European and five California wines, accompanied by Henry's excellent commentary.
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