January 11, 2011

A Vintage Career

Michael Preis ’01 is a vice president at Palm Bay International, the third largest importer of wine in the United States.

It’s the hugely fragmented nature of the wine industry that most appeals to Michael Preis ’01. “With thousands of brands vying for the interest of retailers and restaurateurs, it’s an incredibly dynamic place to generate brand awareness,” says Preis, a vice president at Palm Bay International, the third largest importer of wine in the United States. And there are other appealing aspects of the business, too, says Preis: namely, the wine.

Words of Wisdom: “Follow your passion rather than merely chasing dollars.”

Favorite Course at Columbia: Professor Michael Feiner’s High-Performance Leadership

The core of Palm Bay’s business lies in identifying quality wines around the world — often those produced by small family vineyards — and handling almost every aspect of bringing them to the US market. Palm Bay’s eclectic portfolio of wines caters to both fine, independent restaurants and such mass-market franchises as Olive Garden, which — according to Wine Spectator magazine — sells more wine than any restaurant in America.

Preis has seen the company triple its business during the ten years he’s spent working his way up through marketing. The lion’s share of imports come from Italy, but Palm Bay has branched out in recent years and now partners with more than 50 wineries in 11 countries, including Argentina and New Zealand. As part of his job, Preis routinely travels to wineries abroad and develops relationships with local winemakers. “The wine business is a conglomeration of all the things I really love: travel, restaurants, food, and good living,” he says.

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