Word on the street is that longtime DABC fine wine coordinator Brett Clifford is cleaning out his desk for the last time today. In a state where most people think it's still impossible to get a drink, Clifford created and grew a fine wine collection that wowed visitors and allowed Utah's fine dining scene to flourish.
He's leaving "without a cake." When I called DABC trying to speak to him on his last day, I was told, curtly, "He isn't with us anymore." When I talked to Vickie Ashbie, the department's public information officer, I was told, "Brett's leaving by his own choice. Actually, he already retired. He came back for awhile and now he's retiring again."
Wine brokers, as always, don't want to be attributed with any quotes that might rile or even snag the attention from the DABC. (And how awful is that?)
Off the record, most agree that Clifford was an important champion of fine wine and an advocate of small wineries that have a hard time competing in a market dominated by giant brands.
As wine consumers know, there are several tiers of brands in wine–the big grocery store-type wines, the established elite brands and the smaller-production, hand-crafted wines. Think Target vs. Chanel vs. a hand-knit sweater. They're all clothes, but they're not the same. They appeal to different markets and they are sold differently.
Brett Clifford got that. And though I have heard complaints that Utah wine was ruled by one palate, I wonder how the troubled DABC is going to replace him.
Adios, Brett. And cheers!
Thanks to basicjuice.com for the photo.