John Kapon: Have bottle, will travel

  @FortuneMagazine May 6, 2013: 8:27 AM ET
ROA20 john kapon

John Kapon in the old family wine shop in New York City

(Fortune)

It is fitting that John Kapon -- a former hip-hop producer now tasked with securing old, rare, and very expensive wines -- loves aged things. His wallet, for example, has seen him through two decades; his briefcase (burgundy-colored, of course) has "as many scratches as I have miles." That's quite a few: As CEO of Acker Merrall & Condit, his family's nearly 200-year-old Manhattan wine shop, the 41-year-old spends about 120 days a year on the road, mostly courting the still-booming Asian wine market. He's the first wine-only auctioneer to surpass the $100 million in annual revenue mark. All those long flights and wine-sipping nights have taught Kapon a few trusty, timeworn travel habits.

My survival skills

Check the list. I put all the stuff I need to do in one folder on my laptop, and then, on the plane, I work through it. A lot of it is tasting notes, and in-flight is a great time to knock out some creative writing.

Get in late ... I like arriving in the evening, because no matter what, you're going to be tired from traveling, even if you get some sleep on the plane.

... Arise early. I try to keep mornings free when I'm on the road, both to catch up with what's going on back in the home office and also because it's the best time to explore.

Trust your tools. I bring a Chateau Laguiole Grand Cru wine opener (though I have to check it). Corkscrews are the lighters of the wine biz.

The bag system. I use four bags: suit, work, gym, and of course wine. If it's a two-night trip, I'll just bring the suit bag. When I'm traveling for a week or so, I bring my work bag. Better to not cram everything into a carry-on.

Find good pain. I like to have an end-of-afternoon massage -- a recharge before dinner. It's really a great way to stay on schedule and release the toxins from your body. I'm a big believer in shiatsu -- I like getting the crap kicked out of me, finding that good pain.

No extra rounds. Two keys to wine dinners: Drink a lot of water, and slow down. A great meal is going to be three hours -- sip slowly, savor, eat, hydrate, repeat. Then, after dinner: Go. To. Bed. That last round -- or two, or three -- isn't ending up anywhere good tomorrow.

This story is from the May 20, 2013 issue of Fortune. To top of page



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