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Peter Godoff

International wine broker Peter Godoff is the founder of The Wine Juggernaut.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Peter Godoff, owner of the wine brokerage and export business, the Wine Juggernaut, said wine has always been a part of his life.

“We always had great cooks in the family and we ate well and wine was on the table.”

“I understand the artisanal element,” of wine, he said.

“Wine to me is not only just growing grapes but it’s an expression of the winemaker’s style and taste. I love it.”

1. How did you get into the wine industry?

After leaving the winery that I moved to Napa Valley to work for, I thought I had a much better idea on how I could weather the recession affecting the direct-to-consumer wine business.

I decided to focus my sales efforts to where the future wine buyers were located — the Chinese. All of my business is export and 95 percent is to China.

2. How often do you go to China?

I’ve been several times. The Chinese love coming here. I have a pretty spot in Rutherford — I’m on Niebaum Lane. They come to my house and sit in the back and do wine tastings. You’ve got your feet in the soil and you reach out and there’s the grapes hanging on the vines.

3. Do you speak Chinese?

No. I don’t. Most of the time we are able to communicate in English.

4. What is the biggest challenge your business/industry has faced?

I work with international wine sales specifically the Chinese marketplace. Dealing with their unique politics, customs and practices required massive amounts of tolerance and patience. Learning to appreciate other cultures keeps everything interesting.

5. If you could change one thing about your business/industry, what would it be?

When I moved to Napa Valley, I felt it was very important to be an element for change and creative thinking if I was going to successfully grow the business I came here to work for.

What I sadly came to realize back then about many wineries was that it’s basically just like a game of musical chairs. They continually looked to replace the people that didn’t succeed for them with the exact same type of person that just failed at some other wineries.

I found it a dead end and it that it showed no creativity or guts, so I started my own company seven years ago on my own terms. Never been happier.

6. What’s your advice to someone who wants to get into your industry?

If this is your calling, then find someone who will understand that and foster that in you. And work and learn and taste. But do it 100 percent.

7. What was your first job?

My very first job was after school when I was a junior at prep school in Manhattan. I worked as a delivery and errand “associate” for two socialite very high-fashion milliners just off Fifth Avenue.

Working for them was a bit like being in the crazy party scene from “Breakfast at Tiffany” always a party with models and designers and clients in their luxe atelier.

8. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I invented the very first fat free, no cholesterol, 12 calorie/per oz. non-dairy ice cream product in the 1980s called American Glace. It was huge in the ‘80s. It was a great run and a fabulous experience.

9. What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: As a progressive and liberal thinker I would like to be a U.S. Senator from a totally “red” state so I could effect change and wake them up!

Not try: I’m a risk taker in my business life and it’s inevitable to sometimes make mistakes; however, I would not want to try any job so dangerous that if you made a mistake you’d die. I leave those to the professionals and adrenalin junkies.

10. What was your childhood ambition?

As a child, I loved those commercials of the Gallo Brothers riding through the vineyards and I remember wanting to do that. I always appreciated the good life.

Godoff can be reached at 917-509-3388.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.