Wine enthusiast

There are days when Jeff Zacharia '83 samples one hundred different wines.

Before lunch.

Evaluating more vintages in a few hours than most people try in a year, or even a lifetime, is all part of being president of Zachys, a legendary Scarsdale, New York, retail and mail-order wine emporium. It offers more than five thousand selections and reportedly does in excess of $30 million in business a year.

"I took a lot of notes at Kenyon my freshman year, but by the time I was a senior I took very few because I could absorb the information a lot better," Zacharia explains. "It's the same thing with wine. I've tasted enough wine over the years to form an opinion more quickly. It's just part of my job."

Jeff's grandfather, Zachy Zacharia, opened the business in 1944. (The elder Zacharia's unusual first name was bestowed by an immigration officer who couldn't pronounce his real name when he immigrated from Eastern Europe.) Zachys sold hard liquor only, and it wasn't until the late 1960s that wine made an appearance on the store's shelves. Jeff's father, Don, took a chance on three cases of Gevry-Chambertin after a salesman claimed wine would be a popular new trend. Don, concerned it wouldn't sell, priced each bottle at just twenty cents over the wholesale price. The wine was gone in three days.

But just as Don wasn't thrilled with the idea of taking over the business from his father at first, Jeff wasn't overly enamored with the wine business when he was at Kenyon. "I was reluctant to get into the business, because I saw that my dad wasn't really enjoying it in the early to mid seventies," Zacharia says.

Don remembers calling Jeff at the College to tell him about the amazing 1982 Bordeaux crop.

"In those days, Jeff was more interested in becoming an Outward Bound instructor than listening to me rant about the depth, color, and quality of 1982 Bordeaux, and showed mild interest," Don Zacharia wrote this year in The Zachys Gazette, a business newsletter. "Much has changed. After spending a half a year in the wilds of Utah eating berries and leaves, Jeff decided enough was enough, bought a pair of long pants, and came to work for Zachys. Today he is the president, and his reputation in Bordeaux is second to none. I no longer have a name in Bordeaux; I'm known only as 'Jeff's father.'"

While he was a Kenyon student, Jeff got a taste of the wine business during the summer, working at such well-known French wine destinations as Chateau Greysac, Chateau Meyney, Perrier-Jouet, and Chateau Haut Brion, where he is remembered for introducing Frisbee to the vineyard workers. Haut Brion was also the site of one of his fondest wine-tasting memories, when he tried one of their 1961 bottles.

"The wine lingered in the mouth long after you swallowed," he told Joyce Wadler of the New York Times. "It was elegant and silky. I don't remember the meal at all."

Zacharia fell in love with the business when he gave it a try after graduation. "After about a week, I found that everyone in the business--from the consumers to the wine producers--was genuinely nice. I loved it," he says. "I learned to study a lot of different disciplines at Kenyon, and the wine business was just like learning another new discipline. I felt prepared."

For someone whose life is so intimately tied to wine, it's fitting that Jeff was in Zachys the day he met his future wife, Frederique. His stepmother walked into the store with a Dutch architectural student and suggested that Jeff should take her on a date. They now have four children.

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