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Meet Christopher Swain of Leighton Beverages

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Swain.

Chris, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m originally from Dorchester, MA, relocating to San Diego in 2002 after getting a BA in English at Fairfield University, CT. After teaching for a few years in Chula Vista, Tierra Santa and La Jolla I spent the better part of the last 15 years working in restaurants, hotels, hospitality, tourism and retail operations. I played nearly every role in the industry and through these experiences developed a passion for fine wines from around the world – a thirst cultivated by my father’s interest in value-driven French wines and my experiences managing restaurants. I also gleaned a deep understanding of what consumers desire in their food, beverage and hospitality experience.

From 2010 to 2015 I led the creation and development of an artisan wine program for We Olive and & Wine Bar Co. in La Jolla, CA that continues to grow to over a dozen units nation-wide. in 2014 I completed my MBA at San Diego State University and decided it was time to represent the amazing artisan winemakers had previously been buying wine from. Leighton Beverages was born and now I market and broker wine for a dozen premium and artisan winemakers across San Diego County and into Orange County.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
NO! Haha. Anything but smooth…it’s entrepreneurial by nature so you can be sure there will be tremendous challenges along the way. You have to have thick skin and resiliency to make a small business work. Negotiating with suppliers, handling logistics, marketing and selling! Those are just some of the big challenges, but every day presents opportunity for problem solving and growth. The payoff is bringing incredible wines to market from families who dedicate their lives to these delicious wines – it’s incredibly difficult for small producers to compete when massive wine companies with huge budgets flood stores and restaurants with, generally crummy wine. We punch above our weight class, competing with much bigger businesses – but, who doesn’t love the underdog?! And our wine is much better anyway…

Leighton Beverages – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Leighton Beverages is a California wine brokerage that specializes in marketing, direct sales and brand development for California artisan wine makers. The company began in 2015 to give small production winemakers a “voice” in San Diego County. We’ve now expanded our sales territory to Orange County. I’m most proud we partner with such high quality people – from the winemakers and farmers to the purchasers and consumers that buy the wines, attend events, participate in social media, attend trade trips and tastings etc. – we have a knack for working with passionate, genuine, thoughtful, like-minded people.

What sets us apart is our product: All of our producers make delicious wine, but they do so sustainably and with a minimalist approach to farming and winemaking. Some use certified organic farming practices, others farm responsibly with a keen awareness of environmental impact. The wines are not made like large-scale wines. It’s incredible to me that the average person will regularly drink mass produced wine without knowing how it’s made and what it’s made from…the same person might shop at the farmers market every week, but the wine they are drinking may be heavily manipulated, with additives and chemicals from the vine to the glass.

From that perspective, Leighton Beverages small production wines are a much purer expression of fruit and land than their competition. In fact, the two products are only alike in that they start with grapes. Otherwise they are two completely different finished products in my opinion. And when you taste these artisans wines…. whoa! So distinctive, rich and representative of a place and time. You won’t think twice about the other stuff again.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Hmm…always a tough one. For me, success is an ever-changing, almost daily reevaluation of what makes me, and those I care about, happy. Of course, I establish personal and professional goals, but I perceive success as the contentment earned by pursuing my passion of wine and food on a daily basis. Hard work is how you earn that privilege to live life, happily, on your own terms. To me, that is success.

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