There are times, when working on stories, that one comes across individuals who make an immediate impact. That impression and experience can, of course, be good and enriching, or it can be upsetting and frustrating. Both types of encounters provoke thought, in different ways, and while discourse with and exposure to jerks and zero-sum people can provide one with a level of amusement, I much prefer dealing with and learning from unselfish, self-secure subjects, people for whom life is a rollicking adventure, men and women confident enough to know that there is always something new to learn and that being kind and giving does not lead down the road to mediocrity. The world is a better place because of these types, and would, I am confident, be much more rewarding if the zero-sum cohort disappeared with haste.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with and/or talking to individuals — both in the beverage industry  — who make the lives of those around them better. They are passionate about their craft, they display infectious enthusiasm about what they are doing, and they are clearly and genuinely interested in what others do. They are worth knowing.

This woman makes some fine rum. (Courtesy Railean Distillers)


I’m referring to Kelly Railean and Joe Donelan (click on their names for additional words about them and what they do). I met Railean in December at her distillery in San Leon, Texas, took a tour of her workshop, and sampled her wares. I recommend you do the same. I have spoken with Donelan on the phone several times, each conversation thoughtful and attentive. The Brockhaus is partnering with Donelan Family Wines on an upcoming dinner benefitting an animal-welfare and shelter charity, a direct result of that pointed disavowal of the zero-sum mentality. In December, I had the pleasure of tasting Donelan’s 2014 Nancie Chardonnay, named after Joe’s mother, and it’s drinking well now. He’s built a business in California that honors his passions and his family, and, as has Railean, he’s added joy to the lives of many along the way.

Good people, making good things, doing good. I hope you have a multitude of such people in your life, and I hope you steer clear of that sad zero-sum trap.

Want more stories about wine and spirits and the people who make them? Read on:

A Chardonnay For Your Mother (and You)
Don’t Dismiss the Peat
Distinctive Whisky Enters a New Era
A Whisky Legend Visits Houston
A Rare Cask, Indeed
Austin Whisky, Strange Name
Here’s Your Texas Rum Goddess
A ZaZa Wine Guy Loves Great Service
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
Willamette, Dammit!
A Value Rioja
Drink Pink!
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek
Texas Master Sommelier Debunks Wine Geeks
A Bottle From Gigondas Changed This Houston Man’s Life

Oil Man Falls in Love, and the Rest is Good-Taste History
Ryan Cooper of Camerata is a Riesling Man
Mixing It Up With Jeremy Parzen, an Ambassador of Italy
Sommelier at One of Houston’s Top Wine Bars Loves Underdogs