Don Holloway studied civil engineering at NC State in the 1980s, but he never pursued a career in that field. Instead, he makes his living selling fine wines to retail stores and restaurants.
“Think about traveling around the world to look at wine, then think about being an engineer designing bridges,” Holloway says. “It’s a long road from being in civil engineering to being in wine, but it’s been a good one.”
Holloway and his wife, Tracey Carithers, own a wine wholesaler in Raleigh called Juice Wine Purveyors. Holloway says the name is indicative of the places where he gets his wines — he says wine is frequently called “juice” in California and that wine dealers in England and France are often called purveyors. Hence, Juice Wine Purveyors.
“I mainly work with higher end California wines and French wines,” Holloway says.
While still a student at NC State, Holloway worked on an Interstate 40 construction project as part of an internship. But he had grown up the restaurant business, and went to work as a waiter at the Angus Barn in Raleigh after he got out of school. He credits the Eure family, which owns the Angus Barn, with teaching him all he knows about wine and beer. He took that knowledge with him into the wholesale wine business, working for about 10 years as the vice president for a wholesaler in Charlotte, N.C., before starting Juice Wine Purveyors about five years ago.
The company now has 25 employees and did about $8 million in sales last year, Holloway says. “I had put two wholesalers together from scratch, but done it for somebody else,” he says. “So it was kind of an easy step. It was not a big leap of faith.”
Holloway serves as the liaison between wineries and restaurants and retail shops. It’s a role that requires him to travel the world to sample fine wines and the food that often accompanies it. His favorite types of wine are burgandy and pinot noir.
Holloway says he once sold six bottles of a 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild for a total of $18,000, but adds that it’s not uncommon to sell expensive bottles of wine. He says that North Carolina ranks seventh among the states in fine wine sales.
“You’ve got this huge, educated populace,” he says. “They are buying more wine and more expensive wine. Wine was the only beverage that didn’t see a fall-off during the recession. Volume was up and gross was up. The last two years, it’s been dramatically up.”
Juice Wine Purveyors is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival during the week of homecoming. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.