- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2000

Wine guru Michael Green has clinked glasses with Francis Ford Coppola, Donald Trump and a host of other glitterati. But spend a few minutes with him, and you would swear he would be just as pleased to share a bottle of Bordeaux with the next person he might bump into on the street.
Mr. Green, wine buyer and partner at Grape Finds wine shop in Dupont Circle, loves inoculating others with his zest for fermented grape juice.
"Wine is part of our American heritage," says Mr. Green, who calls having to sample 200 wines a week "an occupational hazard."
It's a heritage often seen as too complicated for the average consumer.
Nonsense, insists Mr. Green, whose effusive love for his trade is matched only by his willingness to share it with others. He has gone so far as to teach wine appreciation classes for prison inmates, using lemon juice to approximate the taste of acidic vintages. Alcohol is a no-no behind bars.
He also puts his money where his merlot is. His wine boutique, which opened in December, features a majority of vintages falling under $15.
"Some of the most inexpensive wines are some of the most … incredibly gratifying wines," says Mr. Green, who can uncork a bottle as if by instinct, barely looking while his hands work the corkscrew.
Grape Finds attempts to make buying wine easier by offering a limited selection of modestly priced product.
"We try to remove as many obstacles as we can for the average consumer to enjoy wine," says Mr. Green, who also serves as a wine consultant for Gourmet magazine and as a contributor to the Food Network's "Emeril Live."
Making the selection even easier, the owners hope, is the shop's user-friendly category system. A soft, fleshy merlot can be found in the SmoothFinds section. Chardonnay lovers might congregate under the CrispFinds label.
"Each wine has a story; they're like your children," Mr. Green says, a sentiment at once both banal and believable, at least when spilling out of his cultured lips.

He first sipped wine at the age of 4. He even remembers the meal gefilte fish with red wine.
You never forget your first.
Falling for wine came naturally for Mr. Green. For 40 years, his father managed the oldest wine shop in the country, Acker, Merrall & Condit in New York City, vintage 1820.
Around the shop, he taught himself a great deal about wine through public pressure.
"There is no better way to learn about wine than to be put on the spot," he says of how he expanded his vocabulary to describe a wine's flavor and texture.
He initially pursued a career in the arts, though, attending the Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in New York, then later majoring in theater administration.
While he was traveling through France at 21, it hit him to combine his wine passion with his livelihood. Since then, he has worked with a wine-importing company, run a food- and wine-consulting agency and even managed his father's old wine shop.
"I've been blessed to work in the wine trade for most of my adult life," he says.
His profession also has allowed him to share some intriguing company.
One of his most memorable moments came when he swapped wine anecdotes over dinner with Mr. Coppola in South Beach, Fla. The famed director said he got his first taste of wine at 5, when his parents slipped some into his ginger ale, Mr. Green recalls.
The director, known for his hearty appetites as well as his Oscar-winning films, including "The Godfather," "was like a 20-year-old kid talking about his first wine … I got goose bumps," Mr. Green says.
Another unforgettable evening came after he auctioned off his wine-tasting skills to benefit the Metropolitan Opera. The anonymous highest bidder had him whisked away to Florida, where he found himself a guest of Donald Trump and friends. Mr. Trump didn't stay long, but the evening's entertainment, provided by Tony Bennett, more than made up for the host's departure.

These days, Mr. Green is a frequent lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
"Education is a scary word when it comes to wine," the oenophile admits, but that doesn't stop him from trying.
Mr. Green also finds time to get a little dirty to keep in touch with his industry.
"At least once a year, I'm harvesting grapes somewhere," he says. "There's a connection that wine is not the type of product that you turn on the spigot and say, 'Let's make more.' It's remarkable and special.
"Abroad, you're tasting wine that hasn't been bottled yet," he continues. "You really have to have a forward-thinking palate."
Grape Finds co-owner Doug Campbell says Mr. Green "embodies all the beliefs that we all had [about the wine shop] … wine doesn't have to be complex to be enjoyed by a large number of people."
Part of Mr. Green's appeal lies in his knack for trimming away superfluous information.
"One of Michael's best skills is his ability to communicate … a large body of knowledge simply," his partner says.
"It's amazing how much he knows about wine," says Mr. Campbell, who first met Mr. Green at a wine lecture he was giving in New York City. "But it's equally impressive how happy he is to share such knowledge.
"You'll find people who know wine but will guard that knowledge and be a little snobby," he says. "Michael's the opposite."
As for Grape Finds, plans are being finalized for at least two other locations to be built in the coming year, though details are as secretive as a prized vineyard's fermentation techniques.
Mr. Green seems satisfied to linger in his new home for the time being.
"To have been lured down here has been absolutely exciting and challenging," the native New Yorker says.
Mr. Green learned a great deal from his father about wine, but one lesson resonates far beyond the vineyard.
"Be authentic. The best wines are, and the best people are," he says.

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