Long before Jorge Liloy became the director of portfolio sales management at MundoVino—a member of the Winebow Group that focuses on wines from Chile, Argentina, Portugal, and Spain—he was poised to begin a career in the field of medicine and dentistry. Born in Colombia and raised in New York’s tristate area, he studied biochemistry at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, and at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
While he was a student, Liloy worked as a server at the Grand Summit Hotel—a historic 150-year-old venue in Summit, New Jersey—which led to a bar manager role and, later, a position as the general manager, or GM, at the hotel’s restaurant, the Hunt Club. After graduating in 1987 with a certificate in medical technology and clinical science, he realized that he was more interested in continuing to forge a path in the hospitality industry than he was in medicine or dentistry—and he particularly wanted a job that would allow him to pursue his newfound passion for wine.
Liloy started chipping away at a variety of wine specializations, piling up certifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, the Society of Wine Educators, the Court of Master Sommeliers, and the Sommelier Society of America. He went on to become the GM and wine director at the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, also in New Jersey, and in 1992 he became the GM and wine director at Patria, a high-energy Latin American restaurant in New York City. By that time, Liloy had young kids, and the endless long hours and late nights prompted him to shift direction. He left Patria in 2003 and took a position at Billington Imports, an importing company based in Springfield, Virginia, as a brand manager and director of education. In 2009 he took the position of director of portfolio sales management at MundoVino that he holds today.
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“Knowing the culture, history, and hard work behind a wine or spirit makes enjoying it that much more meaningful,” Liloy says. “It’s this appreciation that we’re excited to share with our customers.”
Liloy’s main focus is the Miami market, where he promotes the portfolio’s luxury wines. He services both on- and off-premise accounts, with a focus on larger restaurant groups, and his sales strategy is simple: “Taste the wines in your portfolio with your clients, and they will believe in your product.” He adds that it’s important to share key details about the wine too, such as “where it comes from, the history of the [winemaking] family, and the terroir.” Liloy also emphasizes the importance of maintaining weekly communication with clients, providing superior customer service, and making oneself available to answer clients’ questions whenever they come up. His approach to sales, he explains, is strongly customer service–driven, an emphasis he attributes to his background in hospitality.
On days when clients haven’t requested specific wines, it’s up to Liloy to build a compelling bag of bottles from the 45 wineries and more than 400 products he represents. As part of his strategy, he often brings more than one bottle from the same producer to showcase a new vintage or to highlight different expressions. Today, Liloy is traveling with two bottles from Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina. He’s also showing two bottles from El Enemigo, a label started by Adrianna Catena—daughter of Catena Zapata’s founder, Nicolás Catena Zapata—and Catena Zapata’s winemaking director, Alejandro Vigil, as well as two bottles from Cousiño-Macul, a producer in the Maipo Valley of Chile. (The prices listed are MundoVino’s suggested retail prices for the Miami market.)
Bottle 1: Nicolás Catena Zapata 2013; $110
“Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic grape variety,” says Liloy. “It’s elegant, ages well, and tastes delicious.” The 2013 vintage is a blend of 75 percent Cabernet and 25 percent Malbec. “This wine is already a classic when it comes to high-end wines from Argentina.” Liloy recounts how its debut vintage, in 1997, bested big-name international wines such as Haut-Brion, Sassicaia, and Opus One in various international tasting competitions conducted by Master Sommeliers and journalists.
Bottle 2: Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay 2014; $110
This Chardonnay is from the latest vintage of the winery’s Vinos de Parcela, a calcareous, limestone-rich plot in its Adrianna Vineyard in Mendoza. “This [Chardonnay] shows that Argentina can produce world-class wines that could sit next to the best from any country,” Liloy says, citing the Adrianna Vineyard’s heterogeneous soils and high altitude. Liloy notes that the large amount of calcium carbonate in the soil contributes to wines that are full of minerality, with complex aromas. White Bones, he adds, has been compared to Grand Cru Chablis.
Bottle 3: El Enemigo Gran Enemigo 2012; $75
“This is a project with emphasis on Cabernet Franc,” says Liloy, noting that the grape has been grown in Argentina—specifically, in Luján de Cuyo—for more than 140 years. He describes Cabernet Franc as a refined grape that shines in both blends and single-varietal wines. He also says it’s expected to become Argentina’s next Malbec. This particular wine is a blend of 80 percent Cabernet Franc, 10 percent Malbec, and 10 percent Petit Verdot; it’s fermented in cement eggs and aged in large, neutral oak barrels.
Bottle 4: El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard Gualtallary Cabernet Franc Blend 2012; $120
Fruit for this cuvée comes from Gualtallary, within the Tupungato district. “The [vineyard sits at] about 5,000 feet of elevation,” says Liloy. “Its chalky soils give the wine lots of red fruit, berry aromas, great acidity; [it’s] a favorite with most of my clients.” He describes the wine as rich and mineral driven, with natural acidity that gives way to a long finish. “It’s a ‘Wow’ wine,” he says. Alejandro Vigil, the winemaker, was inspired by Saint-Émilion when he began El Enemigo—amazed by how balanced the region’s blends were. “He’s not imitating them,” says Liloy, “but [he’s] learning a great deal. He made the Enemigo wines in his own style and it’s working wonders.”
Bottle 5: Cousiño-Macul Finis Terrae Red Blend 2012; $30
Cousiño-Macul was founded in 1856 and still works with the original vines that were brought from Bordeaux in 1862. Today, Liloy is showing the Finis Terrae, which is a blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot, and 10 percent Syrah. “Cabernet Sauvignon is known as the best variety grown in the Maipo Valley,” he says, noting that the addition of Syrah brings spiciness to the wine. The blend is smooth and elegant—and an excellent value. “This could easily pass for a bottle of wine that [goes for] twice the price,” Liloy says, “and it expresses the terroir of the Maipo Valley.”
Bottle 6: Cousiño-Macul Lota Red Blend 2010; $80
Fruit for Lota comes from the estate’s oldest vines; it’s hand-harvested in small crates and then pressed in small baskets. “This is a wine that I love to present because it shows the best style of Cabernet [85 percent] and Merlot [15 percent] in a wine,” says Liloy. It has “complexity, dark fruit flavors, and soft cedar notes. I could go on and on!” First released in 2006 to commemorate the winery’s 150th anniversary, Lota is Cousiño-Macul’s icon wine. Liloy adds that the wine is often mistaken for an Old World blend when it’s presented at blind tastings.
Vicki Denig is a New York-based wine and spirits journalist and wine educator, discovering the world through the lens of a glass, one sip at a time. When not tasting or traveling, she can most likely be found running through Astoria Park or sipping on Cabernet Franc.