Among Bill's earliest memories as a child growing up in the 40's and 50's in Los Angeles, are Saturday night dinners and the special red wines chosen for that night. Bill's father's closest friend, Manuel Ramon Arteaga de Ponce de Leon, or "Arty" as his friends and family called him, was the reason the Smith family had added red wines to their Saturday night dinners.
Bill's parents were professional horsemen, riding instructors, and horse show judges. Arty was too. But Arty, born at the turn of the 20th century, had grown up in Cuba. He had been Captain of the Cuban National Polo team and then became a Cavalry officer for the Cuban army. While in the army, he had been sent to the French cavalry school at Saumur, where he learned military riding techniques and the world of wine.
Forced to flee Cuba when Batista came to power in 1933, Arty settled in Los Angeles. For the Smith family, weekends had always included horse shows. But after befriending Arty, the weekends also included the "Saturday night dinner" of Cuban foods, Spanish lessons for Bill, and wine Tastings of the newly emerging, excellent Cabernet Sauvignons of the Napa Valley. Today, Bill believes his interest in South America came from knowing Arty. Bill can recall many of the stories Arty told around the Saturday night dinner table. Horses, food, and wine were always the favorite topics to discuss and enjoy. And so began the habit of entertaining every Saturday night with good friends, good food, and good red wine.
Following graduation from UCLA, Bill was commissioned in the U.S. Army as an armored cavalry officer. The Vietnam War was rapidly escalating, and after two years in Germany, Bill was assigned as a company commander in the 1st Infantry Division. He was decorated with the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal, the Vietnamese Honor Medal 1st Class, the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal with four battle stars for his service in Vietnam.
Returning to civilian life, Bill began a 30 year career in insurance and financial services. His career took him around the world managing financial business and transactions. He worked both nationally and internationally and headed one of North America's largest financial organizations.
Bill attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Executive Program, where he met Jan, a fellow student. Jan, like Bill, was in financial services. After graduating, both took positions in New York.
The aftermath of the attack on The World Trade Center had a profound affect on both Jan and Bill. They had several friends who lost their lives in the attack, and after long consideration, they chose to make a complete change in the direction of their lives.
Both retired from financial careers, moved to their apartment in Paris and began careers in the wine business. They traveled France extensively, buying, selling, and trading wine. After a couple of years, they decided they really wanted to make their own wine - - a wine to be proud of, to share with family and friends, a wine to be cellared for years or enjoyed as soon as it was purchased.
Traveling to South America, Jan and Bill felt they had found a home in both Mendoza, Argentina and Punta del Este, Uruguay. Looking at the Valle de Uco, with hectares of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, a high and dry climate, and with the Andes mountains as the backdrop, Jan and Bill knew they had their opportunity in Argentina. This is the place to make great wines.bill at vistafloresestate dot com