Most wine drinkers think about how a wine will taste with a certain meal or other culinary ingredients. Ed Matovcik thinks about how a wine will taste at 30,000 feet.
Matovcik is president of Intervine, the largest supplier of wine to the airline industry.
“At 30,000 feet your nasal passages dry up, reducing sensitivities to taste and smell,” Matovcik said. “We have to look for wines that stand up to that elevation.”
The business flies somewhat under the radar in Napa, but is well known to its many airline clients around the world.
“In 20 years, we’ve helped serve 30 million glasses of wine at 30,000 feet,” Matovcik said. “If we can’t get every traveler to Napa or Sonoma, we can give them a taste of these really special places.”
Matovcik hasn’t always worked in the wine industry. From 1990 to 2006, he was chief of staff for Rep. Mike Thompson.
How did you end up in Napa?
I came here in 1990 to be Mike’s chief of staff. (After) 16 years, he became a brother and best friend to me.
What were you doing before you came to Intervine?
I spent four years at Beringer (now Treasury Wine Estates) as vice president of external affairs.
How many employees does Intervine have?
What’s new at your business?
We recently won the contract for U.S. Airways’ full in-flight wine program. We’re the only company in the world to manage an entire major airline wine program.
Do you miss politics?
I miss the people and the team, but I don’t miss the environment.
How do you pronounce your last name?
Matovik. The “c” is silent.
What job would you like to try/not try?
Try: We taste 20 to 30 different wines from all over the world every day of the week and thousands annually. Why try something different?
Not try: Kim Jong-il’s hairdresser.
What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m actually not bald. I just shave the middle of my head to make my bald friends feel better about themselves.
What was your childhood ambition?
To become a professional basketball player. In high school I stopped growing … and started reading.
What other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”:
Stephen Corley, Monticello Vineyards.
Tom Fuller, Fuller & Associates.
Bobby Knight, “man about town.”
More from Ed Matovcik
Which three people would you like to have dinner with?
My father Ed Matovcik, who died 25 years ago, my wife Cheryl Meyer, who he never got the chance to meet, and Cheryl’s mother (Ruth Meyer), who died before I got to meet her. I think they would all find each other pretty cool.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about Intervine?
We supply hundreds of thousands of full-size bottles of some of the finest wines in the world to airlines and cruise ships.
What was your first job?
Landscaper’s assistant when I was 12-16 years old.
What was the worst job you have ever had?
I’ve honestly never had a bad job. There was value and personal growth in all of them, though I may not have always seen it at the time.
How did you get into this business?
I was involved in helping wineries navigate the regulatory side of the business for a long time before I was recruited by Beringer (now Treasury Wine Estates). I was then recruited by Intervine.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
I think the biggest challenge most businesses face is staying relevant to your customers on a daily basis by constantly innovating creative and effective solutions to their biggest problems.
I can’t live without:
A wet nose and wagging tail to wake me up in the morning, and a good glass of wine to put me to bed at night.
What’s on your to-do list?
Spend a little less time in the air and a little more time at home.
Whom do you most admire in the business world?
Anybody who has the cajones to start a business from scratch, the smarts to understand that their employees are their most valuable resource, and the compassion to invest in their local community.
What is the one thing that you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
Dunk a basketball. Some rascals keep raising the hoop every year.
What’s your favorite gift to give?
A cheesy homemade movie that features something they did.
If you had to write the story of your life, what would you name the book?
“Save Your Money, Wait for the Movie to Come Out.”
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
At home with Cheryl and our dogs rather than in this hotel room.
What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?
Most businesses understand that they control their own destiny more than any outside force, be it government or community. But the more that we collectively understand the increasing competition that all of our Napa Valley businesses are facing from other wine regions both near and far, the better we will be able to provide jobs and remain viable.
What’s the most significant project you’ve been involved with in your career?
The most rewarding have been my time spent with Mike Thompson, my tenure as president of the Napa Humane Society, and my work on equal rights issues over the past 20 years.
What is your favorite charity?
All nonprofits that help senior citizens. People often think that poverty only wears a diaper. It also wears a hearing aid and uses a walker.