Richmond Magazine / Traveling First Glass

A small posse of men hops onto the back of a truck, preparing for a long, bumpy, dusty ride. They’re looking for something special, something valuable — something rarely found outside of the Baja peninsula, at least in the Americas. The pale mountains rise gently around them, enveloping the team with the smell of warm, ripe fruit.

I’m seriously considering pitching a Sideways 2 to Alexander Payne after talking to John Haggai about Tazza Kitchen’s semi-annual wine trip. Stories abound from the collected adventures that Tazza co-founders Haggai, Jeff Grant and John Davenport have taken in the name of good grapes since 2012, leading the group to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and beyond, and ranging anywhere from a few days to a full week.

“We travel these regions and build relationships with smaller producers to bring in wines that are lesser known,” Haggai says. “Our standard is high quality with an interesting background — the winemaker, the family, their method. Then we educate our servers, who have to sell the wine to folks in the suburbs, where it’s mostly chain restaurants serving mass-market varietals … We really try to keep the experience informative and unpretentious.”

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