Known as “Papa” to his friends, Jeff Papa left the baseball diamond behind to pitch wine for Rombauer Vineyards to distributors in the southeastern United States. He loves Ponte Vedra, a good round of golf and pairing wines with food.
What can you share about your background?
I was born in New York and grew up in upstate New York.
What was your experience with minor league baseball?
I played one year in Penn league and one year in Independent league. I loved the long bus rides and the comradery. I was not as good as I thought I was. I was a pitcher and my neck is still sore from watching balls fly over my head as batters were beating my best pitches all over the place!
What led to your interest in wine?
I started working as a bartender/buyer in a club in New York. Then through connections, went to work for a wine distributor and educated myself on wine.
Explain your email signature tag: “Wine is sold not bought!”
Wine needs to be sold and taught to restaurants and retailers to be able to be enjoyed by consumers. It is very important to educate the buyers and staff, share information and stories – it makes a difference to show how wines differ and really take the time to educate your consumers.
Tell us about your current role with Rombauer Vineyards.
I am the Rombauer Vineyards sales manager for the Southeast USA region. I work with our distributor partners and customers education and selling Rombauer’s portfolio of wines. I do a lot of market work, out on the streets working hand-in-hand with each of our distributors. I also spend a lot of time supporting local wine events in the area as well as hosting many wine dinners in restaurants and festivals in my region. I enjoy educating my customers on the Rombauer story and sharing our delicious wines!
Do you prefer red or white?
I like it all — no preference on red or white but I do drink depending on my food paring or my mood.
For someone new to wine, what’s a good way to get started?
You just have to get out there and taste. Try new and different wines — old and new world — and try all varietals. You will be surprised at how much is out there! And take the time to educate yourself on the wines you try; do a little investigative work. If you decide to make it a career, look to work at a wine shop or restaurant then get some experience working in a distributor learning wine and how to sell it.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
This is a great place to live. There is so much to do — beaches, golf, boating, fishing. This is a very good and growing market. I believe it is the best place I have ever lived. Prior to coming here, I lived in New York, North Carolina and several South Florida locations – Ponte Vedra is the best!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy golf and love to go to great eateries and, of course, drink great wine!
Would you like to tell us about your family?
I have a daughter who got married last year and moved from Houston to Denver. The rest of my family are my great friends and fantastic colleagues.