Poggio Antico


Poggio Antico is both a restaurant and a very good winery located outside of Montalcino. The first time I dined at Poggio Antico was for my 21st birthday. It was a boys’ day out of eating and drinking and touring wineries. However, it was a spur of the moment decision, and we spent much of the first half of the day driving and searching for some of my favorite wineries. At that time, many of the smaller wineries hadn’t caught on to the concept of tours, so we encountered a few disappointments. However, after a long morning, my father, my Uncle Matt, and I found Poggio Antico. We were tired, maybe a bit frustrated, and starved!

We drove up a long white road lined with cypress trees to arrive at Poggio Antico. The maitre d’ hotel Maurizio Tola greeted us. While Maurizio is no longer with Poggio Antico, and has gone on to explore his own opportunities, he was congenial, provided great service, and we later became good friends. We enjoyed a tasting menu that had creative takes using local, traditional ingredients and a 1985 Poggio Antico Brunello Riserva.

In conversation with the owner and founder of the restaurant Paola Gloder, she suggested a recipe for chicken liver parfait for this book, which made me smile because it took me back to my aforementioned 21st birthday dining experience. I remember when we asked Maurizio what we should try, he noted that people come from far and wide for the chicken liver parfait, which at the time made my father nervous: He knew my uncle (his brother) was such a picky eater that he did not even like seeing olives on the dinner table! However, to his surprise, my Uncle Matt was interested in it all, specifically the liver, and he finished every bit. The chicken liver parfait was the highlight of the meal, but the whole lunch was special. The service, wine, and company made my birthday a very special one, and the experience remains one of my fondest memories of my late uncle.

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Core Values: Not Just Words

One of the most rewarding lessons I learned in graduate school was the importance of culture and values in building a brand or company. I co-authored a case study that was eventually published about the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, where we studied the company’s rise to success looking at traditional business metrics like financials, operations, and strategy, but we also looked at the intangibles. We concluded that one of the core principles of their success was their people and the company culture. Four Seasons core values revolve around what they refer to as a “Service Culture” and those are are not just words. Their hospitality mentality is pervasive in all departments. It is not only meant to guide customer service principles, but also how employees are meant to treat each other. It guides hiring (and firing) choices, strategy, operational decisions, even where they choose to locate hotels. Ultimately, their strongest competitive advantage and greatest asset is their people. Many entrepreneurs and investors should appreciate the power of the right people, company culture, and the importance of core values in building an enduring brand.

Many of my investments have been much more focused on those principles rather than just conventional metrics like discounted cash flows or P/E ratios, and not only has it lead to sizable gains, but as an entrepreneur, consumer, and an investor, it is rewarding to own a small piece of something where customers feel a connection to the brand that is dedicated to a higher purpose beyond just what they sell. That idea also plays a role in employee satisfaction & ambition. Below, I have a selected a few retailers that I believe embrace culture and core values throughout their respective organizations.

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