When he’s celebrating a special occasion, you might find Mark Gmur popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. He likes to pair steamed lobster with a “buttery” Chardonnay. With stone crab, he prefers to sip a crisp Chablis.
To be sure, Gmur savors fine wine. But Gmur, who’s a Certified Wine Educator, helps thousands of other people enjoy fine wine as well.
Gmur is president and founder of Austin-based The Mark Wine Group, which acts as a broker between wine producers and wine buyers. Last year, the company sold more than 90,000 cases of wine from more than 120 family-owned and independent wine brands — such as Bogle, Fess Parker, Gloria Ferrer and Mionetto — to customers like the Hilton, Marriott and Starwood hotel chains and the Fleming’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris restaurant chains.
This year, Gmur expects his home-based business to broker the sale of more than 100,000 cases of wine.
Gmur says his company, which launched five years ago, has “created a valuable service for the two major stakeholders in our business. First, we give voice to those family-owned wine producers who do not have a person to travel the country to see the national chains and pitch their wares. Second, we offer the national buyers an unbelievable selection of wines to choose from.”
He explains that competition in his business is intense, with much larger rivals employing big sales teams. The Mark Wine Group has just two employees aside from Gmur: his wife, Lisa Marks Gmur, who is the company’s communications director, and Gena Paez, who is the company’s sales operations manager.
Even with a staff of only three, Gmur boasts that his company provides wines “at the right place, at the right price, and at the right time.”
“I think the wine industry, more than any other industry, is very relationship-driven, and that is where we are very strong, having great, healthy partnerships with more than 70 national restaurant and hotel chains across the country,” Gmur says. “We understand what the buyer thinks and wants and are able to deliver.”
Gmur’s understanding of what wine buyers want has aged like a bottle of Bordeaux. He literally grew up in the hospitality business in his native Australia. Mark’s father, Silvio, worked as a food and beverage manager or general manager at restaurants and hotels in Sydney and Brisbane. Eventually, his dad acquired two restaurants in Sydney. Gmur worked at one of those restaurants until heading off to hotel management school in Switzerland.
Upon graduation from the Swiss program, Gmur plunged into the hospitality industry. His first two jobs were at two luxury hotels in New York City: the Four Seasons and the Waldorf Astoria. Gmur then relocated to Hawaii to become beverage director of the 62-acre Hilton Waikoloa Village luxury resort. From there, Gmur shifted to Hawaiian wine and liquor wholesaler Better Brands, where he spent five years as a sales vice president.
In 2007, Gmur ventured out on his own to form The Mark Wine Group. Why? Gmur says his experience in the wine business made it clear to him that the wines he dealt with “were coming mostly from the large multinational companies, the brands were often the same brands you would see at your local grocery store, and a lot of the wine lists looked the same, with the same boring wines.”
“I knew there were better, more interesting wine brands out there that had national distribution, a good name and great quality,” Gmur says, “but that just did not have the person to coordinate the sales to these chains at a national level.”
A lot of wine lovers undoubtedly would toast to that sentiment.