Burr Ridge wine business flows through the family
Troy Clements is the owner of Pure Wine, a wholesale distributor of wine. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Name: Pure Wine
Employees: A tight-knit staff of less than 20, many of whom are longtime
Features: 800 wines from 20 different countries
Cost: Range from less than $10 a bottle to rare vintages at more than $200 a bottle
Customers: Include The Cellar Door and Lemon Tree Grocer in Downers Grove along with Standard Market and Hinsdale Wine Shop in Hinsdale.
Updated: December 12, 2012 7:56AM
BURR RIDGE — Troy Clements will tell you that he has the best job in the world.
As a partner in Pure Wine, a family owned wine distributorship based in Burr Ridge, he is making a living from his lifelong love of wine, good food and good company.
“Wine is an artistic thing . . . I always can’t wait for the next pour. Every varietal, every year is different,” Clements said.
Clements started Pure Wine in 2001 in Hinsdale along with his mother, Kathy Sarber, and his stepfather, Rick Sarber. The three still operate the business as president, vice president and chief financial officer, respectively.
“My mom grew up in a home where emphasis was put on the dinner table,” Clements stated. “My stepdad is an operations genius. All the things that I don’t enjoy, that’s what he’s great at.”
The three stress three primary principles: packaging, product and price. Clements selects the wines in the Pure Wine portfolio himself, rather than depending on the services of a sommelier.
“I trust my own judgment from years of being in the business. When I go to Napa, I stay for 10 days. I start at 7:30 in the morning, taste 40 barrels, have lunch, taste 40 more barrels, that’s how it goes,” Clements said. “Traveling to Italy, Spain, South America, you get a palate education. But the restaurant communities and retailers are the ultimate judge.”
Clements began accumulating his knowledge of wines while earning a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Arizona and working as a waiter in several fine dining establishments. Back in Chicago years later, he won a number of incentive prices awarded for selling the most wine. He then began working with area wine distributors, at one point attempting to form a subsidiary of a larger wine wholesale company.
He eventually struck out on his own, refinancing his house and flying to Napa Valley to stay with a friend. While there he obtained a crash course in wines and secured agreements with 20 wineries. A second trip resulted in agreements with 40 additional wineries.
“Wine is like fashion. It’s changing all the time. You have to keep your ear on the ground,” he said. “Nowadays Malbec wines are popular, whereas 10 years ago everyone was buying Shiraz from Australia.”
A long standing Pure Wine tradition that remains popular is tailgating at every Bears home game. The tailgates, which have operated for as long as Pure Wine has been in business, feature chefs, restaurant owners and a selection of wines and are open to the public. The tailgates are held on the far south end of the top level of the Waldron Parking Deck and feature Pure Wine’s distinctive orange H2 Hummer. Each tailgate draws an average of 40 to 60 attendees.
“Some people come for the tailgates that don’t even go to the game,” Clements said.