I have to admit that I loved learning that Tristan Dyer-Kindy, National Wine Director for Vino Volo had a completely different life before wine. With his good looks and engaging eyes, I wasn’t really surprised to learn that he was a model, actor and musician before finding his career at Vino Volo.“My first year in college I was in pre-law, but I quickly jumped ship, switched majors and went down the acting route,” he says. He even switched schools for a better program. After making many student films and a lot of voice over work, he added modeling to the mix. “I did a lot of print campaigns. I even had one international campaign that ran in Europe and Asia,” he adds. It turned out the school he was attending was more focused on stage and Dyer-Kindy had a dream. “I wanted to try my hand at film, so I packed up my car and drove to LA.”
A girl, and well, money ended his adventure. “That was a fun and interesting part of my life. It was a big leap to pack up and head cross country from Detroit to LA, but I ran out of money after a year and a half and instead of continuing to struggle, I headed home chasing a girl.” But the acting bug didn’t die. He continued acting after moving home and added a new outlet to his performance portfolio. “I got involved with a cover band called The X Generation. Originally we specialized in music from the 90s but then opened it up to other decades. We played a lot of festivals, college bars and weddings.”
And this is where and when the whole hospitality scene comes in. The music and acting was great but it couldn’t always pay the bills. “So, I waited tables for more predictable income,” says Dyer-Kindy of his re-entry into the restaurant scene. “My first job in college was as a maître d’, glorified host and coat check at the Whitney in downtown Detroit. It was an amazing scene with iconic dining room jazz room and so on. The kind of place with career waiters who had been working there for twenty plus years. Many were trained sommeliers. I really wanted to move into service because I saw how much money they made. And I worked my way up. The wine list was spectacular, and I got to learn and taste. Rather than having Boone’s Farm as my first taste of wine, I was trying Cru Burgundy and first growth Bordeaux. Of course, my young palate didn’t appreciate it, but it got me hooked.”
Dyer-Kindy actually grew up in a pretty small town an hour and a half from Detroit. “We had one stoplight,” he says, “and there really wasn’t much wine unless you count white zinfandel. Way more beer and hard liquor,” he adds. “I was big into sports, I played the French horn and I was a pretty good student,” he says, qualifying it with the fact that there really wasn’t much else to do. “My father was a music teacher and my mother worked most of her career in credit unions and banks.” His parent divorced when he was five. “I definitely went through some phases as far as what I wanted to be when I grew up. At one point, I wanted to be a marine biologist which is crazy because I am terrified of sharks.”
“I started managing nightclubs and doing a lot of promotions.” But as with many things, there was a downside – the hours and dealing with drunk people at 2 a.m. “The money was great, really great, but I really didn’t like the hours or the people.” And there was still that obsession, passion, whatever you want to call it, with wine.
That’s when he discovered Vino Volo. “I heard about this new wine bar opening up at Detroit International Airport, so I went in, interviewed and got the job. It was June 12th, 2008. I remember the date because it was my birthday,” Dyer-Kindy adds. However, he didn’t give up his night job. “It was a good opportunity. I started part time and kept the nightclub gig but after a few weeks I asked to come on full time.” And well, the rest is more or less a Cinderella story. “I worked my way up from part time server to GM of the Detroit Vino Volo and then they made me a fixer.” That meant traveling around to other Vino Volo’s to fix things. “I took over the Dulles store for 2 years and then headed to Bethesda to open the first non-airport location, then to JFK to fix that store.”
It wasn’t long before Dyer-Kindy was promoted again. He became District Manager of the Northeast which included Boston, New York, Philly, DC, etc. “Instead of working with individual store teams I was working with store managers.” And this is when things really ramped up. “We formed a committee to really fine tune the training and the practices that were initially designed 20 stores earlier. I wrote the position I now hold,” he adds. And everything kind of fell into place. “The person that was supposed to take a newly created job left and I put my name in the hat. I ended up doing multiple jobs at first – national sourcing and all store training. We eventually split the service and HR and now I am just focused on wine training and sourcing.”
When I asked about wine (i.e. intriguing grape varietals, food & wine pairings, etc…) I loved his answers. “I do love Beaujolais,” he said. “It’s still getting over a stigma but its been championed a lot by the SOMM community. I am into Swiss wines lately and Portuguese, especially the whites. I also love Riesling and Australian wines which I definitely think will be getting a re-boot with some different grape varietals. They are getting away from the norm.” Australia is also on his bucket list. “We really try and stay ahead of trends,” adds Dyer-Kindy about Vino Volo’s mission. And there are definite plans to take the company global. Vino Volo was recently acquired by Hojeij Branded Foods and they have a big presence in Europe. “That will add a lot to the work plate,” he adds. And travel which could shake things up at home.
Dyer-Kindy lives in Denver with his wife Lindsey (a physician’s assistant for the University of Colorado) and their 90lb American bulldog, Jack. They love traveling and recently adventured to France for the Women’s World Cup.
“The first half of this year has been crazy with travel,” he said, and pretty much all of it without my wife so I took a two week respite away from work to spend with time with her.” Just this year, he has traveled overseas to Uruguay, Argentina, and Japan.
“I am still getting over the jet lag and the food. I read that it is rude to not eat everything put in front of you so I kept trying to shovel it in.” he adds, “But I can’t say I loved everything,” referring to the Yakitori meal where the entire chicken was served from the ovaries to the eyeballs. “I love the Mark Wine Camps,” he adds,” they are nothing like the death march I did in Spain where we visited 13 wine areas in 12 days.”
So, what’s next for Dyer-Kindy? “With my three-month Zika quarantine over (from the trip to South America) we are trying for a baby,” he adds with a huge smile.
And Plans for Vino Volo? They’re concentrating on adding to their family, too, by focusing on growing business in the U.S.